By Mario Galgano – Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are often considered from the outside as very similar Baltic states. However, that perception is erroneous from the point-of-view of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
Even in the religious sphere, fundamental differences arise among the three nations. Catholics in Estonia and Latvia are minorities, while Lithuania is predominately Catholic.
The German Bishops’ Conference has been supporting the Catholic minority in Northern Europe for several decades, as well as in the Baltic states after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
According to the managing director of the Bonifatiuswerk, Ingo Imenkämper, the German Church seeks to support local Catholics in the region and help them find hope for the future.
“This is also done together with the German Eastern European aid organization Renovabis for larger projects,” Imenkämper told Vatican News.
In Estonia, Catholic number around 6,000 among the 1.3 million inhabitants. The small minority lives in ten parishes, according to the Papal Yearbook of 2021.
“Ours is a small flock, but one that is growing step by step,” says Bishop Philippe Jourdan, the Apostolic Administrator of Estonia.
Since 2005, Estonia has had its own bishop for the first time in 70 years. His consecration was, after that of the martyr Archbishop Eduard Profittlich in 1936, the second Catholic episcopal consecration in Estonia since the Reformation and the first since World War II.
The challenges and concerns of the Catholic minority are the same as their fellow citizens in each country.
“The repression in Ukraine is also a direct threat to us, since we border Russia,” says Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs of Riga.
Latvia plans to reintroduce military service in 2023 in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Latvia had abolished compulsory military service in 2007.
In Latvia, a parliamentary resolution also requires that all objects glorifying totalitarian regimes be dismantled by 15 November.
The Soviet Victory Monument in Riga was already demolished at the end of August. Latvia holds its next parliamentary elections on 1 October. Nineteen parties are running for election.
By James Blears
The incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party, seeks to be re-elected for another four-year term as President, while Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, better known as Lula, of the Workers Party, is determined to make a comeback. Lula was President between 2003 and 2010.
The campaign has been polarizing with Bolsonaro, aged 67, who is a former Army Captain, accusing ex-metal worker and union leader the 76-year-old Lula of being a thief.
Lula spent nearly 2 years in prison, due to his 2018 conviction on corruption and money laundering charges.
The Supreme Court quashed that Conviction a year later.
Lula has retaliated by calling Jair vermin.
Putting barbed rhetoric and election jibes aside, more than 700,000 Brazilians died due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while acute poverty has significantly increased and the economy is only slowly recovering.
De-forestation of the Amazon Rainforest is at fifteen year high, and whoever wins needs to invest heavily in social welfare programs.
There are also simultaneous elections for Congress, State Governors, and State Legislative Assemblies.
More than 156 million Brazilians are eligible to vote, using the electronic system which has been in place since 1996.
Bolsonaro has questioned its reliability already, but observers say it has not produced a false result yet.
Lula is ahead in most opinion polls, but a winner in round one would have to gain at least fifty percent of the votes.
If this threshold isn’t met or exceeded, then there will be a second-round runoff on 30 October.
By Sr. Gini George, SSpS
Our next station is the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls.
Rich in history and art, it is a unique place that implants a sense of peace and immanence.
After the apostles Peter and Paul, St. Lawrence is regarded as the most prominent of all the martyrs of Rome.
St. Lawrence was a Roman deacon under Pope Saint Sixtus II.
He suffered martyrdom in the year 258 during the persecution of Emperor Valerian.
As a deacon, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.
When Lawrence knew he would be arrested, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum.
According to tradition, he was roasted to death on a gridiron.
The basilica dedicated to him began its existence as a small oratorium, built in the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine, on the spot where the saint was buried.
Towards the end of the 6th century, Pope Pelagius II had an actual church constructed at this site.
In the 13th century, it was Pope Honorius II who had a new church built, in front of the existing structure.
The two churches were later united into one structure and many other modifications were carried out through the following centuries.
The crypt contains the remains of St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, and St. Justin.
The pilgrimage to this basilica helps us to reflect on the fact that following Christ is not a sad journey full of suffering, but the discovery of real joy and true freedom.
St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, St. Justin, and the hundreds of martyrs have shown us the way.
By Sr. Gini George, SSpS
Our pilgrimage brings us to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
The basilica, initially built by Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, is home to the most treasured relics of the passion of Christ.
It has been rebuilt and modified through the centuries, and its present appearance as a baroque church is the result of rebuilding between 1741 and 1744.
The façade is brought to life with a series of balusters and statues of the four Evangelists, St. Helena and Emperor Constantine.
According to the traditions, St. Helena traveled to the Holy Land around the year 326, and she destroyed the temples dedicated to Jupiter and Venus that Emperor Hadrian had built in the 2nd century on the site of Calvary and the Sepulchre.
She left part of the Cross in Jerusalem, sent a part to Constantinople, and brought the rest to Rome with other relics of the Passion.
Inside the church is a chapel which continues a collection of relics, including:
· A nail used in the Crucifixion;
· Two thorns from Christ’s Crown of Thorns;
· A finger that is said to have belonged to St. Thomas, who at first doubted the Resurrection, and then placed his finger in the risen Christ’s wounds;
· A fragment of the cross of the “Good Thief” who was crucified with Jesus;
· Three fragments from the True Cross;
· A reliquary containing small pieces of the Scourging Pillar; the Holy Sepulchre; and the crib of Jesus;
· The Title of the Cross: the inscription engraved on the Holy Cross shows the word “Nazarene” written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
St. Helena returned to Rome bringing not only the relics but also some soil from Calvary.
She sprinkled this earth on the floor of the first chapel, which bears her name.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem remains an important religious site for both Rome and the Universal Church.
On our pilgrimage, try spending a little longer in this church to reflect on the triumph of the Cross, which is our only banner as followers of Christ.
By Linda Bordoni
Entitled “John XXIII. Vatican II a Council for the world” by Fr. Ettore Malnati and Marco Roncalli, the book – in the words of Pope Francis who wrote the preface – reviews the history of the Council in light of the ecumenical developments it triggered and of the current synodal process.
The Pope says he is honoured to have been asked to present this book for a number of reasons.
“The main reason is the Holy Pontiff John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council – which were so decisive for the Church, for its development and its approach to the contemporary world, for its ecumenical journey” he writes.
The introduction to the book also features a reflection by Brother Alois, the Prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taizé, and Pope Francis says he is grateful for the work that is the fruit of sharing.
And he expresses admiration and gratitude to the theological and pastoral gifts of the authors, Father Ettore Malnati whom, he says, continues to live his priesthood in the service of the laity and of culture divulging “the teachings of the Pontiffs”, and of Marco Roncalli, historian, journalist and great-grandson of Pope John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli).
Roncalli is the author amongst other works, of several books written in collaboration with late Cardinal Luis Capovilla, personal secretary of John XXIII.
“Marco Roncalli was still a young boy when he came to Taizé for the first time, accompanying his grandfather Giuseppe”, the Pope recalls.
At a time in which the world was turning away from Christianity “and manifesting, indifference rather than aversion,” he continues, the Council was born from the question “how can we speak of Jesus to the men and women of today?”
Since then, he notes, we have come a long way, which has not been without difficulties and disappointments. Even today, he warns, we risk falling into the temptation of discouragement and pessimism when we fix our gaze on the evils afflicting the world instead of looking at the world with the eyes of Jesus.
Reviewing the history of the Council, and especially living the present in the spirit of the Synod, with an open and free heart, the Pope says, is the way to avoid becoming discouraged and to make room for God.
“From the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council we have received much,” Pope Francis says, pointing to an increased awareness of the people of God, “a central category in the Council texts, that is recalled no less than one hundred and eighty-four times.”
This, he explains, helps us understand the fact that the Church is not an élite of priests and consecrated persons and that each baptised person is an active subject of evangelisation.
“One would not understand the Council, nor the current synodal path, if evangelisation were not placed at the centre of everything”, he writes.
The book, “Giovanni XXIII. Il Vaticano II un Concilio per il mondo”, in Italian, published by Bolis Edizioni, is scheduled to be in bookshops on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council which took place on 11 October 1962.
CNA Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Friday told young people to let their true beauty shine, the beauty that is a reflection of divine beauty.
In a message to participants in the Ursuline Global Education Compact, the pope said Sept. 30 that one could not educate “without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty.”
“The beauty we are talking about is not turned in on itself like that of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and drowned in the lake in which he saw himself mirrored.”
Instead, Pope Francis told students he was speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty.
“The beauty that Jesus revealed to us is a splendor that communicates itself through action; a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made.”
Pope Francis told the students he wished them “a healthy restlessness” to be open and courageous like St. Ursula, the “little bear,” who dared to embark on a long journey with her companions and fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom.
Finally, Pope Francis said he hoped to see participants at next year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon, “which promises to be a great sign of hope and beauty for all the young people of the world.”
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By Thaddeus Jones
Greeting athletes, managers and officials participating in the International Summit on sport, Pope Francis on Friday afternoon praised the noble goal that inspires them: “promoting the notion of sport as something for everyone; sports that are “cohesive”, “accessible” and “fit for every person”.
He addressed them in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican as the meeting “Sport for all. Cohesive, Accessible and Tailored to each Person” came to its conclusion. The event was organized and promoted by the Dicasteries for the Laity, Family and Life, and Culture and Education in collaboration with the John Paul II Foundation.
Leaders and delegates from various sporting institutions, organizations, and athletes – amateur and professional – met over Thursday and Friday at the Vatican-sponsored meeting, representing 40 countries and people of various faiths. Refugees, former detainees, people with physical and intellectual challenges made up the great diversity of participants, all united in the importance of sport for building personal character and maturity, uniting peoples and building peace.
Pope Francis handed a delegation of the participants the final Declaration on sport that was signed during the meeting and that outlines the common goals they wish to achieve and the tasks and responsibilities needed to go forward in this task.
To achieve these “lofty” goals, the Pope said we need to “play as a team, to work together” in unity. And the Church is very interested here as it also aims to create environments and activities that become places of personal encounter for people and offer “a formation in virtue and fraternity.” Church schools, parishes and youth centres aim to offer this formation through participation in sports as well, he added.
Placing the human person at the centre of sports is key, the Pope said, if sports are to generate a sense of participation, sharing, belonging, and community, especially for the very young. Sport, he added, “gives joy, fosters sociability and engenders friendships, while also being formative.”
“Sport can be a symbol of unity for a society, an experience of integration, an example of cohesion and a message of concord and peace…If the world of sport conveys unity and cohesion, it can become a formidable ally in building peace.”
Addressing athletes, the Pope recalled how they can be positive role models for younger people, especially uplifting the marginalized through sports which can “become a way of personal and social redemption, a way to recover dignity.”
“Sport, then, should be considered and promoted as a life-giving activity. In fact, if organized well, it contributes to the formation of mature and successful personalities, and thus becomes an important aspect of education and socialization.”
The Pope warned of challenges in the sports world when it becomes a “machine” only for business, profit, and showmanship, thereby threatening its positive and wholesome role as an “educational and social good.”
He said it is important that sports remain accessible to all, by helping people overcome the physical, social, cultural or economic barriers that can hinder access to them.
“We should be committed to giving everyone the opportunity to play sports, to cultivate – one could say to be “trained” in – the values of sport and transform them into virtues.”
Accessibility goes together with acceptance, the Pope added, saying it is important for people to find welcome, a helping hand, and an open heart ” to give everyone the opportunity to challenge themselves by playing sports, to measure their limitations and put their potential to good use.”
In finding the right sport, people can develop their talents no matter what the context or physical and psychological challenges they may be experiencing. Athletes know this well, the Pope remarked, as no one is a superman or superwoman, we all have limitations but do our best. And this requires personal asceticism and discipline for character and abilities to flourish. He added, “at the root of this quest is the yearning for that beauty and fullness of life that God dreams of for each of his creatures.”
The Pope encouraged everyone “to strive to make sport a home for everyone, something open and welcoming,” saying he is close to them in this mission and the Church supports them in these efforts.
“In this home, never lose the family spirit, for in this way, we may find brothers, sisters and friends in the world of sport.”
By Stefan J. Bos
The Golden Doors opened in the St. George’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, where Russian President Putin walked in to make his long-awaited announcement.
He told the Russian deputies and other dignitaries that four occupied territories in Ukraine are now part of Russia.
Friday’s elaborate ceremony came after his forces suffered massive defeats on the battlefields of Ukraine. He even asked for a minute of silence for fallen soldiers.
Putin told those gathered that Russia includes four territories that he suggested represent Russian culture and values. And he lashed out at the West for not sharing his views.
Soon after, he signed the document officially annexing the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhiathe regions into Russia. It echoed Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, following a discredited referendum.
The ceremony came shortly after authorities said nearly two dozen people were killed when a suspected Russian rocket strike hit a civilian convoy.
The cars headed to pick up relatives trying to flee Russian-occupied territories annexed by Moscow on Friday. The strike happened near the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is still under Ukrainian control.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the area, which hosts Europe’s largest nuclear power plant controlled by Russian forces.
A massive crater beside a row of vehicles testified to the violence of the attack.
Footage posted on social media showed a horrific scene with dead and injured people lying on the road on the south-eastern outskirts of the city.
In one video, taken from inside a nearby building, a woman can be heard sobbing, repeatedly saying: “Dead people are lying there.”
And with Putin annexing more territories and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of men to defend them, many more people are expected to die in Europe’s most significant armed conflict since the Second World War.
Rome Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 08:37 am (CNA).
After a break of over two months, the Vatican trial on financial corruption in the Secretariat of State continued this week with the interrogation of witnesses for the prosecution.
The court reconvened Sept. 28, 29, and 30, to begin the questioning of the first of what the prosecution expects to be a total of 41 witnesses it will call.
The witness list includes Vatican gendarme Stefano De Santis, who assisted the Vatican’s now chief Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi during the trial’s preliminary investigation; he is expected to testify at the next scheduled hearing on October 12.
A British-Italian architect, Luciano Capaldo, has been called to testify by the prosecution the same week. Capaldo was the registered director of the holding company London 60 SA Ltd, through which the Secretariat of State controlled the London property after its purchase.
The building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London is at the center of the Vatican’s historic corruption trial, which began at the end of July 2021.
The Vatican has charged 10 people with crimes, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State. Becciu was questioned in May.
The London investment property was purchased by the secretariat in stages over several years for a reported £350 million pounds.
In July, the Vatican confirmed the London building had been sold to Bain Capital for £186 million ($223.6 million).
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) reported that the losses from the sale were absorbed by the savings of the Secretariat of State and therefore did not touch the pope’s charitable fund, Peter’s Pence.
The hearing on Wednesday consisted of the second half of the questioning of defendant Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official at the Secretariat of State.
Thursday’s audience opened with the questioning of defendant Nicola Squillace, the lawyer of businessman and fellow defendant Gianluigi Torzi.
In the course of the trial, the only defendants who have not taken the stand are Gianluigi Torzi and Cecilia Marogna.
The Sept. 29 hearing then continued with the first witness, Roberto Lolato, who was called to testify for the prosecution as an expert witness.
Prosecutors asked Lolato to examine the financial operations carried out by the Secretariat of State in relation to the purchase of the London building as a technical consultant.
On Friday, the Vatican’s auditor general, Alessandro Cassinis Righini, testified.
Righini had been acting auditor general since June 2017 and full auditor since May 2021.
He succeeded Libero Milone, who served as auditor general from 2015 until he was dismissed in 2017, just two years into a five-year mandate.
Milone was hired as the Vatican’s first auditor general in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State.
Three months after stepping down, Milone claimed that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work and accused Cardinal Becciu of targeting him after he launched an investigation into a possible conflict of interest.
A Sept. 30 statement from Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, claimed the suspension of the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit in April 2016 “was not an autonomous choice of the then-sostituto Monsignor Becciu, but a position taken by the Secretariat of State.”
Righini was questioned Sept. 30 about the external audit ordered by Cardinal George Pell, then prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, and reportedly opposed by Becciu.
He also answered questions about meetings he took part in with secretariat officials regarding financial investments.
Righini said he was surprised that the Secretariat of State considered making an investment in an oil company in Angola given its evident conflict with the teachings of Pope Francis in his environmental encyclical Laudato si (the investment eventually fell through).
Funds originally earmarked for the Angola investment were reportedly rerouted into the London building purchase.
The auditor general said Pope Francis did not know anything about the London investment. But later, under additional questioning, he revised his statement to say he could not be 100% certain the pope knew nothing.
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By Nathan Morley
A deadly suicide bombing in Kabul has left at least 23 people dead and dozens more injured.
The attack took place early this morning inside the Kaaj Training Centre west of Kabul. The bombing claimed the lives of dozens of teenagers and seriously injured many others.
The victims were preparing to sit a university entrance exam.
As it stands, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement, UNICEF said it was appalled by the horrific incident, adding that children and adolescents should not, and must never be, the target of violence.
The organization said violence in or near educational institutions was never acceptable and such places should be havens of peace where children can learn, be with friends and feel safe while building skills for their future.
UNICEF also reminded all parties in Afghanistan to adhere to and respect human rights and to ensure the safety and protection of all children and youth.
This atrocity is the latest in a series of violent incidents since the Taliban took power in 2021 after the hasty US-led pullout from the country.
Earlier this month, two employees of the Russian diplomatic service were among six people killed in a suicide blast near the Russian Embassy.
In 2020, teenage students were among a group of people killed in an attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State at an education centre in the Afghan capital.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis, on Friday, sent a message to participants at the Ursuline Global Education Compact during the closing session of their meetings.
Addressing the students, he encouraged them to carry out their projects with enthusiasm, while recalling that he considers his school experiences as both a student and as a teacher to be among the most beautiful and important periods of his own life.
Pope Francis acknowledged the initiatives implemented, as well as those in the pipeline, concerning the protection of the environment, sustainability, human fraternity and attention to the poor and vulnerable.
He credits these initiatives to the young people who, he says “are awake rather than asleep”, adding that they are active participants in the Global Education Compact which he launched 3 years ago as “an alliance open to all and aimed at educating ourselves and others in universal fraternity.”
Pope Francis went on to hold up two important aspects to the young students: being and doing, taking a cue from “a beautiful girl” named Ursula – a woman of exceptional beauty, admired by princes and knights and many young people – including St. Angela Merici, who, together with her companions, began her work in education under the name “Ursulines.”
“The first thing I wish to tell you, dear young people, is allow your beauty to shine!” urged the Pope, inviting them to embrace true beauty – not like that of worldly fashion. He encouraged the students to “show forth that beauty which has always belonged to us, from the first moment of creation, when God made mankind in his own image and saw that it was very good.”
He explained that this beauty must both be shared and defended, for if it is true that beauty will save the world – as Prince Myshkin said in Dostoyevsky’s short story The Idiot – then we must be vigilant so that the world also saves beauty.
To achieve this, he invited the young people to embrace a “global beauty compact” for “there is no education without beauty”.
“We cannot educate without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty…I would say that an education is not successful if you do not know how to create poets. The path of beauty is a challenge that must be addressed”
The Pope then warned against a beauty turned in on itself like that of Narcissus who fell in love with his own image and drowned in a lake in which he saw himself mirrored, or the beauty that “come to terms with evil” like Dorian Gray who, when the spell ended, found him with a disfigured face.
Instead, noted the Pope, “we are speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty. Indeed, our God is inseparably good, true and beautiful. And beauty is one of the privileged ways of finding him.”
On the second aspect – doing – Pope Francis highlighted that the beauty Jesus revealed to us is a splendour that communicates itself through action. It is “a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made.”
In this regard, he exhorted the students not to become “sleeping beauty” in the woods, highlighting they are called to act and to do something, because “true beauty is always fruitful, it pushes us outwards and gets us moving.”
Pope Francis then expressed his wishes for “a healthy restlessness” in their desires and projects, which pushes them to keep on walking and never have the sense of having “arrived.” He also urged them not to cut themselves off from the world, by refusing to grow up or by being afraid to face the world.
Like St. Ursula, the “little bear” who was “open and courageous,” and who fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom, Pope Francis prayed that they too may be like “little bears” who never shy away from their responsibilities.
“If young people do not change the world, who will?”
To the young people who are willing to change the world but ask “how?” Pope Francis offered some recommendations. He encouraged them to defend the “scarred beauty of so many outcasts of our world” by welcoming the most vulnerable and marginalized and looking at those who are different as a treasure and not as a threat.
He further urged them to defend the wounded beauty of creation, but protecting and common home and adopting environmentally friendly lifestyles. In this regard, he invited them to read the message that he addressed to the young people in Prague for the “EU Youth Conference” in July this year.
Concluding, Pope Francis expressed hope to see the participants at the Ursuline Education Compact at the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon and prayed that God might bless them, their teachers and their endeavours through the intercession of Saint Ursula.
By Christopher Wells
In a year that saw Pope Francis’ historic “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada, the nation’s Bishops have renewed their commitment to working with indigenous peoples on the path of reconciliation and healing.
“2022 has been a historic year for listening, learning, and working to rebuild longstanding relationships that have been profoundly damaged by the legacy of residential schools,” said Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
In a statement issued by the CCCB following their annual Plenary Assembly – their first in-person meeting since 2019 – Bishop Poisson noted the Pope’s apology “on behalf of the Church for the sins of her children”, in which the Holy Father “acknowledged the catastrophic impact of the residential school system.”
During his visit to Canada in late July, Pope Francis called on the local Church “to promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to favour processes of healing and reconciliation.”
At the Plenary Assembly, the Canadian Bishops pledged to continue in their commitment to foster healing and reconciliation, especially through concrete actions.
These include supporting the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, aimed at raising 30 million Canadian dollars over the course of five years; fostering greater understanding of Indigenous cultural, linguistic, and spiritual traditions and values; and providing documentation or records that will assist residential school survivors in finding truth.
During their four-day Plenary Assembly, which took place from September 26-29, the Bishops of Canada also discussed the upcoming Synod on Synodality ahead of the “continental phase” of the synodal process, which will culminate in Rome with the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
The Bishops also received an update “regarding the launch of the Canadian Reporting System for Sexual Abuse or Cover-up by a Catholic Bishop.” This latter initiative, the Bishops say, “demonstrated a commitment by the bishops to responsibility, accountability, and transparency in matters of clergy sexual abuse.”
By Sr Rosalind Arokiaswami, IJS
This is my first experience in a foreign country, one which in these last years has suffered through the Covid pandemic and the military coup of 1 February 2021, which in May resulted in the outbreak of a civil war that is still ongoing today.
This last event led to rather widespread demonstrations, protests and disorder in many parts of the country, while many people are fleeing into the jungle to save their lives.
Many religious congregations living and working in Myanmar have openly expressed their protest at the situation. One needs but to remember Sr Ann Rose Twant and her courageous gesture of kneeling in front of a soldier brandishing a rifle.
Regarding my first experience, I had contrasting feelings. On the one hand, being from another country, I was indebted to the authorities for giving me permission to work here. I was aware that my visa could be revoked and that I thus risked being sent to my country of origin. At the same time, I was fully aware that I had to be very prudent in my manner of speaking, due to the danger of being reported to the authorities.
After living through the effort of integrating into this new reality and learning a language I didn’t know at all, here was more trial: God challenged me to be ready to suffer with my people, whom he himself had entrusted to me.
I must say with humility that I had, and still have, moments of doubt and anxiety. Sometimes I asked myself if I had the patience and above all the faith to trust in God who will not disappoint us. This situation was a tried and true test of my faith. Blessed Barré  said: “Even when everything seems to be against every hope, continue to hope in him”. The question is whether or not I am ready to trust these words of my founder.
Slowly but inexorably, in a way unknown to me, I realised how God places me in situations in which he wants me to prove my fidelity to him. Facing situations I had never faced before and doing everything alone, I realised that “God’s excess of love” was, and is, our only certainty. This was the decisive moment on my journey of faith to discover that “there was no going back”. From that moment, I decided to be ready to give my life for the people, especially for the poor. With this awareness (epiphany, I would say), in an inexplicable and providential way, I felt inside me a certain peace and calm which I had never experienced before.
So, looking at the situation in Myanmar, there is no guarantee that my life is safe. Unable to stop the civil disobedience and the people’s protest marches, the military began shooting into the demonstrating crowds. Many young people lost their lives. Many young women were killed and raped mercilessly. A great number of people is still fleeing and many of their homes were set on fire.
In this context, there is no guarantee that my life can be spared. I could die in a bomb explosion or be killed by a single bullet. It could seem scary, but this is the reality we are facing. If it is God’s will for me, I am prepared: just as Jesus gave his life for his sheep, so am I ready to give my life for the people with whom I live.
Due to the military repression, many people have lost their jobs and are unable to support their families. Merchants, without scruples, have taken advantage of the situation and raised food prices. The vast majority of the population is on the brink of starvation. If this situation continues, the result will be evermore disastrous, and the poor will be those hardest hit. It is painful and heartbreaking to see so many people starve to death for lack of food.
In light of this situation, the vast majority of the population considers the religious sisters’ presence a blessing. They appreciate our presence and support. They know that there is someone to whom they can turn at any time, to vent about their worries, their anxieties, their frustration and their mental unease. We are unable to support them financially, and they know it. Nevertheless, seeing us and our presence is in itself a blessing. In Asian culture, this aspect is very present among Buddhists, Catholics and even Hindus. It is here that I understood Blessed Barré’s prophetic insight when he asked his teachers to live with and among the poor, and to immerse themselves in their situation. “To be with them”. This is all that is expected of us. At the same time, I realised that we are being evangelised by the people with whom we live. Often, they are the best teachers for us, and I can learn a lot from them.
This became a reality when, at the end of June 2021, I went to Yangon to renew my visa and passport. I wasn’t sure whether or not my visa could be renewed. Before leaving for Yangon, I told my people to keep me in their prayers. Their spontaneous response melted my heart. They told me: “Don’t worry, sister; everything will be alright and you will get your visa. God will not disappoint you. He wants you to continue to be with us. He knows our hearts”. I realised that they were teaching me faith. Although they are poor, humble and uneducated, their faith was stronger than mine. I understand now that if God wants me to continue to serve his people, he will do what is necessary. I have nothing to worry about, only to constantly call on him to increase my faith.
 Editor’s Note: The Institute of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus was founded by Fr Nicholas Barré, a religious Minim (1621-1686).
By Linda Bordoni
Referring to the findings of a just-published report by the OCSE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk warned that intolerance and discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism and bias against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions are on the rise across the globe.
Addressing the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference in Vienna, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) said the report shows the “most recent hate crime data reveals that 51% of all incidents reported to the Office were anti-religious hate crimes.”
In particular, he noted, “the challenge of intolerance and discrimination against Christians is an increasing challenge due to a growingly hostile atmosphere against Christians.”
Msgr. Urbańczyk said that Christians are increasingly targeted also in countries where they represent the majority, contradicting the erroneous assumption that only ‘minorities’ can become victims of intolerance and discrimination.
“The Holy See is alarmed by the rising number of attacks targeting synagogues, mosques, churches, other places of worship, cemeteries and religious sites.”
He explained that most of these despicable acts of violence are motivated by anti-Semitism and by anti-religious bias.
“Attacks on places of worship,” the Holy See Observer said, quoting from the report, “go against both the letter and spirit of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”
“They must be protected to ensure communities know that their past is respected, and their future is safe.”
Msgr. Urbańczyk said that anti-Semitism or intolerance against Christians, Muslims and members of other religions “existed well before the digital era, but the Internet and especially the widespread use of social networks has led to its dramatic increase and a fundamental shift in the way it is carried out.”
He reflected on the sense of insecurity caused by these phenomena, which, he said, “have a negative impact on the daily lives of Christians and members of other religions, as well as on their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
He called for a recognition of these challenges and of the fact that they are of mutual concern.
“While their most profound impact is on the lives of the targeted community, the problem needs to be recognized and addressed by our societies as a whole.”
In fact, Msgr. Urbańczyk continued, “Whenever any religious community is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious beliefs, the well-being of society as a whole is endangered and each person’s exercise of rights is diminished.”
Finally, he said the Holy See highlights “a glaring omission” on the part of participating States in fulfilling what they agreed to undertake at a landmark OCSE Ministerial Meeting in 2014.
During that Meeting in Basel, OCSE political bodies pledged to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination on all grounds, hate crimes and other forms of intolerance.
This tasking, he concluded, despite the efforts of some Delegations to re-interpret the existing commitment, remains an obligation incumbent on us all, in order to enhance “our efforts to combat intolerance and discrimination, including against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions.”
By Vatican News
Pope Francis on Friday appointed 10 new members to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
The Holy See Press Office said the Pope has appointed as Members of the Commission: Bishop Peter Karam, Bishop Thibault Verny, Fr. Tim Brennan, MSC, Sister Mary Niluka Perera, RGS, Sister Annah Nyadombo, HLMC, Dr. Irma Patricia Espinosa Hernández, Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Dr. Anne-Marie Emilie Rivet-Duval, Ms. Teresa Devlin, and Ewa Kusz.
The 7 women and 3 men join 9 other Members who have been reappointed, along with 1 other member who was appointed for a 3-year term last year. Half of the Commission’s Members and men and half are women, while 6 hail from Asia/Oceania, 6 from Europe, 4 from the Americas, and 4 from Africa. The Members include 3 bishops, 3 religious sisters, 2 priests, 10 lay Catholics, and 2 members of other Christian Churches.
The Commission became a part of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in June with Praedicate Evangelium, the new constitution for the Roman Curia.
In an interview with Vatican News’ Christopher Wells, the President of the Protection Commission, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, shared his thoughts on the renewed mission entrusted to the Commission by Pope Francis.
Here follows a transcript of the interview:
Cardinal O’Malley: The Holy Father began the commission very early on, and during our time there has been a lot of evolution, shall we say, in the work of the Commission. But now that the Commission is actually no longer just an independent body, but has been embedded in the Curia itself, it is a very special opportunity for us to carry on a mission of promoting a culture of safeguarding in the Curia itself.
We feel that for the Holy See and the Roman Curia, it’s very important that these entities model for the whole Church the very highest standards of safeguarding. And so we’re happy to be a part of that effort to try and promote that safeguarding within the Church.
Certainly in the Holy Father’s meeting that he had with us, he gave us new responsibilities around guidelines, which of course are very important. And in the past, we had a lot of our members working diligently on studying guidelines and trying to catalogue what different countries were doing.
Now the Holy Father wants us to become even more involved directly with the individual Bishops’ Conferences, to help them to make sure that the guidelines are the very best possible ones, and to also look at how implementation is taking place. And then the whole area of the implementation of Vos Estis, Article two, to make sure that there are stable and accessible systems of reporting of accusations of abuse in the local Churches, and an outreach to the victim survivors.
We know that in many parts of the world that are very short on resources and where this theme has not been discussed very much in the past, it will be a big challenge to try and work with them and help them to find the resources and to have these kinds of centers that will be able to serve the local populations there and and promote safeguarding in those countries.
Q: You’ve already alluded to perhaps the biggest organizational shift: that the Commission is now embedded in the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Can you tell us, in practice, how is the work of the Commission going to change?
We’ve always tried to collaborate with the CDF (ed. formerly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). And in fact, in our first iteration of the Commission, one of our members was from the CDF and of course Monsignor Oliver had come to us from the CDF.
Right from the beginning, we’ve tried to make it very clear that the Commission doesn’t have any role in individual cases or the legal or juridical challenges of the whole area of safeguarding. But certainly, this new configuration shows how the protection of minors and prevention has a natural connection with the system of justice.
So, at the beginning, we’re going to have a lot of dialogue to see how we can better define our roles and how we can work closely, but independently in this new configuration of being part of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Q: In that broader context, then, what is the significance of changing the status of the Commission from, as you said, a basically independent body to being within the heart of the Curia now and its relationship with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith?
Obviously, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is the one that has the greatest responsibility for child protection in all of the cases. So, having us closely associated with them is important.
Hopefully it will help for us to bring a pastoral component to their work and their work will help us to have a greater understanding of the reality of abuse and what is taking place throughout the world, because all the cases are reported to them.
Q: You’ve spoken about the pastoral component and obviously the victims and survivors of abuse are at the heart of the Church’s pastoral concern. How is the Commission continuing to ensure that they—the victims and survivors and their well-being—remains a priority?
Right from the beginning, we’ve always had victims on the Commission as members: victims and parents of victims. And, of course, with our latest iteration, there also will be victims represented on the Commission. But, the individuals who work on the Commission are people that are in constant contact with the victims’ groups and individual survivors in their own countries.
I myself have met with hundreds of victims, literally, over the years, and we find that is so important. When we get involved with education of leadership in the Church, what we always urge is for our bishops and religious superiors to meet personally with survivors so that they can understand what they have gone through.
This has been, I think, a very important part of our work, bringing survivors together with the leadership in the Church. It’s something that all of the members are very, very concerned about. We want the Commission to be the voice of the survivors in the community.
Q: With that perspective and understanding with the victims and survivors as a priority and the pastoral concern of the Church, for the immediate future, maybe even in the medium- and long-term future, what are the next steps for the Commission? What are you doing now and working towards?
We had a Zoom meeting last week with our new members, and next month we will have a plenary session with all the members here in Rome to be able to talk about the task going forward and to look at the new responsibilities that the Holy Father has given to us. It’s an exciting time for us.
We are trying to secure more resources for the work of the Commission. And we hope to be able to help the Bishops’ Conferences in developing countries to get the resources that they need in order to have the the centers that the Holy Father wants every Bishops’ Conference to have to make sure that there is a way for reporting and the accurate implementation of the protocols. We’re very big on that.
I always say that when people improvise, no matter how much goodwill they have, they’re going to make many mistakes. And those mistakes will cause a lot of suffering. It’s a very complicated issue, because you have the the rights and the needs of the survivors, but also the accused, the community, the relationship with the civil government. The trainings and screenings that need to be part of any serious program of safeguarding.
But when all of those things are done, we see that the Church does become a safe place for children and young people.
Q: On a more personal note, you’ve been a bishop now for almost 40 years, a Cardinal for 16 years. And you’ve said in the past much of your episcopal ministry has been focused on facing clerical sexual abuse in the Church. How do you continue in your ministry, and what words of encouragement would you have for the women and men, especially in leadership positions, who are in a similar position and often have to take into account those complex situations and make hard decisions?
It’s not an easy ministry. And yet, I am convinced that it’s the most important ministry that I have right now. The Church exists to evangelize. But how can we evangelize if People do not trust us? Martini has a wonderful book where he talks about Jesus’s priorities, and he says Jesus’s first priority was mercy. And that makes sense because mercy is the context in which the Gospel can be announced, because people need to know that we love them.
When Pope Francis was installed as Pope, it was his sermon on Saint Joseph was so beautiful where he said: like Joseph, we have to protect the gifts. This is what the function of the Church is.
We must protect the gifts, protect our children. Only then will we have the credibility and deserve to be heard by our people. So I see this as such an important part of our ministry.
It allows us to evangelize because people will understand that we do love them and that we want the Church to be just the safest place possible for our young people.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis has called for everyone to reorient our lifestyles in a conscious, responsible manner to ensure that no one is left behind and everyone receives food, both in quantity and quality.
The Holy Father made this call in a message addressed to Mr. Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on the occasion of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, celebrated annually on 29 September to promote collective action to reduce food loss and waste.
“Both the loss and the waste of food are truly deplorable events because they divide humanity between those who have too much and those who lack the essentials,” said the Pope, “because they increase inequalities, generate injustice and deny the poor what they need to live in dignity.”
Pope Francis said that when food is not properly used, either because it is lost or wasted, we are at the mercy of the “throwaway culture”, which translates into a “disinterest in what has a fundamental value or attachment to what lacks importance.”
He stressed that it is “shameful and worrying” that multitudes of people do not have access to adequate food or the means to provide it for themselves – a basic and fundamental right of every person – while food is thrown away in the garbage or spoiled due to the absence of resources to purchase it.
“The cry of the hungry, deprived in one way or another of their daily bread, must resound in the centers where decisions are made, and it cannot be silenced or stifled by other interests.”
Pope Francis pointed at the latest data from the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, which revealed that in the last year, the number of hungry people in the world increased significantly due to the multiple crises facing humanity.
In this light, he reiterated his appeal to “gather in order to redistribute, not produce to waste”, insisting that “to throw food away means to throw people away.”
He called on the international community to put an end to the lamentable “paradox of abundance,” denounced by St. John Paul II in his 1992 address at the opening of the International Conference on Nutrition.
“There is enough food in the world for no one to go to bed with an empty stomach! More than enough food resources are produced to feed 8 billion people.”
The Pope noted this concerns social justice, in the way in which “the management of resources and the distribution of wealth is regulated”, and highlighted the scandal of large producers who encourage compulsive consumerism to enrich themselves without considering the real needs of human beings.
“We must stop treating food, which is a fundamental good for all, as a bargaining chip for a few,” Pope Francis insisted.
The Holy Father went on to point at the added harmful effect of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and by extension, to climate change, caused by food waste or loss.
He noted that the earth that we exploit groans because of consumerist excesses and “begs us to stop mistreating and destroying it.”
He further urged everyone to consider young people, who are asking us to think of them, “to sharpen our eyes and enlarge our hearts, giving the best of ourselves to care for the common home that came from God’s hands which we must safeguard, responding with good works to the evil we do to it.”
Concluding his message, the Pope invited everyone, as a matter of importance, not to be satisfied with “rhetorical exercises which end up in declarations that later fail to be carried out due to forgetfulness, pettiness or greed.”
Here, he reiterated the urgency for States, multinational companies, associations, and individuals to “respond effectively and honestly to the heart-rending cry of the hungry who are demanding justice,” and to reorient our lifestyles so that no one is left behind and everyone receives the food they need.
“We owe it to our loved ones, to future generations and to those who are stricken by economic and existential misery,” the Pope said.
By Mario Galgano – Tallinn, Estonia
Even though Estonia is a small country, it is still not easy for the Catholic minority to attend Mass. Many of the faithful face long car rides to receive Communion or to talk to a priest.
Bishop Philippe Jourdan is the Apostolic Administrator in Estonia. He and theologian Marge-Marie Paas are the postulators for the Cause of Beatification of Archbishop Eduard Profittlich, SJ, whose ministry in Estonia in the 1930s has left a strong imprint on the country’s faith.
Ms. Paas was head of press communication on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit in 2018; she is now responsible for drafting Archbishop Profittlich’s positio and will continue to take care of official communication on the beatification process.
Ecumenism plays an important role in the Baltic country.
The two Estonian Orthodox Churches—the Orthodox Church linked to Constantinople and the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate—actively participate in talks between the different denominations.
Topical political issues are avoided, as a member of the Catholic minority told us. Catholics in Estonia are mostly foreigners or local converts.
Ms. Paas is one of them; an Estonian convert to Catholicism. She is also involved in ecumenical work.
“Dialogue and listening,” she says, “are important factors in achieving peace.”
“In Kodasema, the geographical center of the country, we have a Catholic youth center,” Ms. Paas explains.
The building stands in the middle of a forest—away from the world—and is available for young people to use.
It was then-Father Profittlich who began its construction: the Jesuit arrived in 1931 as Apostolic Administrator in Estonia and was appointed Archbishop in 1936.
After the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had been practically eliminated.
On 15 April 1783, the Catholic community in Estonia became part of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mahiljou, until the Diocese of Riga was created on 22 September 1918.
Against the backdrop of the Holy See’s growing commitment to dialogue with the Orthodox Churches in those countries, the Vatican’s “Commissio pro Russia” created Estonia as a special Apostolic Administration on 11 May 1931, and Fr. Eduard Profittlich was appointed Apostolic Administrator ad nutum Sanctae Sedis.
Despite pastoral difficulties due to the small number of Catholic faithful with their multilingualism and their dispersion throughout the territory, this new legal status allowed a fruitful development of the Catholic Church in Estonia.
The Estonian public soon began to take an interest in the work of the new bishop: even people belonging to other denominations came to listen to his homilies.
With the forced annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union on 17 June 1940, Soviet laws on religion were imposed with coercive administrative measures.
Pope Pius XII sent a letter of encouragement to Archbishop Profittlich on 12 March 1941, as persecution in Estonia escalated into a campaign of terror, in which more than 60,000 people would be arrested, deported, tortured and killed.
Eventually, Archbishop Profittlich was deported after being accused of espionage on behalf of Germany.
Of what happened thereafter, nothing more was heard for a long time.
Only after Estonia’s proclamation of independence on 30 March 1990 did the country’s Supreme Court notify (on 12 June 1990) the Catholic community in Tallinn of the full rehabilitation of Archbishop Eduard Profittlich.
Archbishop Profittlich was sentenced to death on 21 November 1941, and died as a martyr on 22 February 1942, in the Kirov Prison in Siberia from exposure, ahead of his scheduled execution.
By Francesca Merlo
Addressing the members of the Fraternidad de Agrupaciones Santo Tomás de Aquino International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right, (FASTA), on the occasion of their 60th anniversary, Pope Francis stressed his desire to contribute to the teachings that arose from the Second Vatican Council.
“One of the novelties of the Council was to become aware of the rights and duties of the laity with respect to the evangelizing mission, which they also possess, as sons and daughters of God through baptism”. The Pope noted that it is always surprising to see how the Holy Spirit makes His way into every reality of human beings through the talents He inspires in the disciples of Jesus. With that in mind, the Pope continued, “today we see how your Fraternity has embraced the conciliar message and initiated various projects for the evangelization of culture, youth, and the family, creating a great variety of educational institutions, such as schools, universities and university residences in different parts of the world”.
Pope Francis went on to note that the historical context in which their patron saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas, lived “also had its challenges”. At that time, the writings of Greek philosopher Aristotle were also being discovered, he noted, adding that “some were reluctant to study his works, as they feared that his pagan thought was at odds with the Christian faith”.
However, continued the Pope, “St Thomas discovered that most of Aristotle’s works were in harmony with Christian Revelation. That is, St Thomas was able to show that there is a natural harmony between faith and reason”. This richness is essential to “overcome fundamentalism, fanaticism, and ideologies”, stressed the Pope.
Another testimony that St Thomas left us was his profound relationship with God, which is manifested, for example, in his adoration of Jesus in His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Pope Francis noted that “his spirituality helped him to discover the mystery of God, while his talents made him shape it in writing”. This is an important fact, stressed the Pope: to uncover the Lord’s presence in the world, in events, it is necessary to pray, to have one’s heart united with that of Jesus in the shrine”.
Pope Francis then went on to stress to those present that in living out their charism, “which you concretely realise through education, it is important that you remember that teaching is precisely one of the works of spiritual mercy”. Education, he continued, “offers a meaning, a narrative to every element of human life. It does not end with sharing knowledge or developing skills, but, as its etymology shows, helps to bring out the best in each person”.
Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis expressed his desire to entrust each member of FASTA to the protection of our Blessed Mother, remembering the maternal dimension of the Apostolic work of their late founder Brother Aníbal, whilst “Mary teaches us to be evangelizers of culture, youth and families by bringing divine tenderness”.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis has sent a message on the occasion of the Mission Festival taking place in Milan, Italy, from 29 September to 2 October.
In a letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and addressed to Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan, the Holy Father extended his greetings to the participants, expressing appreciation for the beautiful initiative themed: “Living by gift.”
“In this change of epoch,” the Pope said, “it is important to show the missionary trait of the faith and the Church in order to announce also to the people of today that God is always with us and loves us.”
The event, promoted by Fondazione Missio Italia (pastoral body of the CEI) and CIMI (Conference of Italian Missionary Institutes), is hosted by the Archdiocese of Milan.
In the message, Pope Francis expressed hope that these days of celebration and prayer, listening and discussions, may foster in everyone the awareness that mission is not an appendage of faith, but “is the heart of the life of the Church” – something that cannot be eradicated from one’s being if one does not want to self-destroy.
“I am a mission on this earth, and that is why I am in this world.”
He urged that everyone must recognize themselves as branded by that mission to “enlighten, bless, enliven, uplift, heal and liberate.”
Amid the contemporary challenges and the tragedy of wars, Pope Francis highlights the necessity of witnessing to peace – a significant aspect of mission – which should be lived in the first person, individually and as a people, anchoring our actions to Jesus’s words “Peace be with you, I leave you my peace, I give you my peace.”
“We Christians are sure that genuine peace is a gift of the Risen One, a gift we are called to give in turn to others, weaving together truth, justice and mercy.”
He added that “truth is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy”, and all three combined are essential to building peace. Thus, the witness to peace is a commitment to be lived every day, in different settings, so as to be “door-to-door” missionaries.
The Holy Father went on to encourage everyone, especially young people, to “to fix their gaze on the vast existential horizons in order to bring the liberating proclamation of the Gospel to where man is fatigued, disappointed and lost.”
He noted that in the gaze of our most tried and marginalized brothers and sisters, we read the deep and pressing desire for a life marked by dignity and love.
Therefore, he continued, we need disciples convinced in their profession of faith and capable of passing on the flame of hope to the men and women of our time.
Concluding his message, the Pope invited everyone to cultivate the missionary spirit to spread the fragrance of God’s love everywhere with renewed apostolic zeal, in imitation of Our Lady who went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Finally, extending good wishes for the significant pastoral event, the Pope invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lord upon all.
By Salvatore Cernuzio
A Dutch magazine on Thursday revealed serious accusations of sexual abuse of minors by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, the former Apostolic Administrator of Dili, Timor Leste. According to De Groene Amsterdammer, an independent weekly news magazine, numerous people have come forward, under condition of anonymity, with allegations of sexual violence suffered at the hands of the bishop, now 74 years old, when they were still minors.
Bishop Belo won international recognition for his efforts to promote respect for human rights and self-determination for the people of Timor Leste during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999).
According to De Groene, the first charges against the Salesian bishop emerged in 2002. That same year, John Paul II, in the later years of his pontificate, accepted Ximenes’ resignation as apostolic administrator of Dili, Timor Leste “in conformity with canon 401, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law,” which indicates that “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”
In January 2003, Belo left Timor Leste for Portugal. In June 2004, he was assigned as “assistant to the priests” in Maputo, Mozambique, where he also dedicated himself to teaching catechism. He has subsequently returned to Portugal. According to statements by Bishop Norberto Do Amaral, the president of the Episcopal Conference of Timor Leste, also reported by De Groene, Belo is subject to Vatican-imposed travel restrictions.
On this last point, the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued a statement to journalists, clarifying, “The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was first involved in this case in 2019. In the light of the accusations it received concerning the bishop’s behavior, in September 2020 the Congregation imposed certain disciplinary restrictions upon him. These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with Timor Leste.” Bruni added, “In November 2021 these measures were modified and reinforced. On both occasions, the measures were formally accepted by the bishop.”
Rome Newsroom, Sep 29, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has said that he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.
Speaking to Jesuits during his trip to Kazakhstan earlier this month, the pope said a Ukrainian military chief and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s religious adviser came to him with a request for help.
“This time they brought me a list of more than 300 prisoners. They asked me to do something to make an exchange,” Pope Francis said, according to a transcript published by the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica on Sept. 29.
“I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”
The pope did not specify when these conversations about a prisoner swap occurred. He spoke about the exchange in a private conversation with 19 Jesuits in Nur Sultan on Sept. 15 — six days before Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine and Russia had conducted a prisoner swap involving nearly 300 people.
Zelenskyy said that the exchange had been under preparation for a long time. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres specifically thanked Turkey and Saudi Arabia for their roles in facilitating the prisoner swap, which involved the return of 215 Ukrainians and 55 Russians and pro-Moscow Ukrainians. It was the largest prisoner exchange since the war began.
In his meeting with the Jesuits, Pope Francis also recalled how he attempted to call Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.
He said: “I recall that the day after the start of the war I went to the Russian Embassy. It was an unusual gesture; the pope never goes to an embassy. He receives the ambassadors personally only when they present their credentials, and then at the end of their mission on a farewell visit. I told the ambassador that I would like to speak with President Putin, provided he left me a small window for dialogue.”
The pope underlined, “from the first day of the war until yesterday, I spoke constantly about this conflict, referring to the suffering of Ukraine.” He later added that in his public statements, he has called “the invasion of Ukraine an unacceptable, repugnant, senseless, barbaric, sacrilegious aggression.”
Pope Francis also said that he believes “international factors … contributed to provoking the war.”
“I have already mentioned that a head of state, in December last year, came to tell me that he was very concerned because NATO had gone barking at the gates of Russia without understanding that the Russians are imperial and fear border insecurity. He expressed fear that this would provoke a war, and this broke out two months later,” the pope said.
Among the Jesuits who met with Pope Francis in Kazakhstan were priests who served as missionaries in Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan.
Father Bogusław Steczek, the superior of the Russian Region of the Society of Jesus, told the pope of the Jesuits’ pastoral work in Moscow, Kirov, St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and Siberia.
“We are working on geographical, cultural, and religious frontiers,” Steczek said. “Now, in order to go forward with courage, we ask your apostolic blessing.”
Angella Rwezaula and Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
On the feast day of the Archangel Gabriel, patron saint of telecommunications, various members of staff in the Dicastery for Communication have received high honours from Pope Francis for services to the Church’s communications ministry.
29 September was a great day for members of the Dicastery for Communication staff as some of them were recognised for excellent and long service at Vatican Radio and within the dicastery, respectively.
Fr Richard Mjigwa, a Tanzanian religious priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, received the “Cross of Honour” medal and a certificate for his work at Vatican Radio’s KiSwahili Service. He received the award at a colourful ceremony attended by all the various branches of the Dicastery for Communication. Dr Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery, presented the awards.
Fr Mjigwa becomes the second African at Vatican Radio to receive a papal award. Tanzanian national Mrs Thabita Janeth Mhella, who retired as a journalist of Vatican Radio’s KiSwahili Service, received a papal award just before retiring on 29 September 2016.
Fr Mjigwa has worked for Vatican Radio since 2008.
The “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” medal, in Latin, signifies “For Church and Pope.” It is an award established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. The award is for deserving clergy or lay persons and is for services done for the Church and its head.
On 27 September 1992, the KiSwahili Language Service began daily and regular broadcasts on Vatican Radio to Africa. The language was first heard on Vatican Radio on 6 November 1961. Pope Saint John XXIII inaugurated the Swahili broadcasts to Africa. After that, Swahili was broadcast on Vatican Radio from time to time, by some Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) until 1992 when regular broadcasts began.
Today, administratively, KiSwahili and the English Africa Service at Vatican Radio function as one department.
KiSwahili, a Bantu language, has long been recognised as one of the world’s top 10 most spoken languages. In Africa, KiSwahili is the most widely used native language. It is spoken in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and Zambia. It is estimated that there are more than 200 million KiSwahili speakers in Africa and the Middle East.
On 7 July 2022, UNESCO and the world celebrated World KiSwahili Language Day, which will now be commemorated annually.
Swahili also known by its native name KiSwahili is a mixture of languages from different countries and takes 40% of its vocabulary from Arabic. It was initially spread by Arab traders along the eastern coast of Africa.
KiSwahili and the English Africa daily programmes can be downloaded and listened to at any time of the day or place. A new daily bulletin of the two language services is uploaded every evening.
Dowload the daily podcast from the Vatican news website on the podcast section: www.vaticannews.va.
Furtherstill, the two Vatican Radio’s language services of KiSwahili and English Africa Service are retransmitted on various Catholic FM radios daily.
Over 40 Catholic FM radio stations in Africa and many others from the Radio Maria Network retransmit the Vatican Radio’s English and KiSwahili language programmes every evening. Catholics across Africa are therefore assured of reliable and verified news about the Pope, Holy See and news about the African Church daily.
Listeners can also download the Radio Vaticana App on play store.
Some listeners in Africa continue to pick Vatican Radio broadcasts via shortwave frequencies. The shortwave frequencies are sometimes boosted when major events such as Christmas, Easter or canonizations occur.
Contact KiSwahili and the English Africa Service – at this email: inglese.africa@spc.
Laudetur Iesus Christus,
Praised be Jesus Christ!
By Vatican News
A press briefing at the Holy See Press Office on Thursday revealed a new organizational make-up and mission of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that reflects directives issued by Pope Francis in the new Apostolic Constitution, Praedicate Evangelium.
The Constitution entrusts the Dicastery, headed by Cardinal Michael Czerny, with the objective to “promote the human person and their God-given dignity, human rights, health, justice and peace” in all areas of public and social existence, in “the common home entrusted to our one human family.”
After the first five years of experience since it was established by Pope Francis in 2017, a thorough evaluation was carried out with the aim of reconfiguring the Dicastery.
Presenting the changes made at an organizational level, Cardinal Czerny and the Dicastery’s Secretary, Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, said that their task is to listen, dialogue and reflect in a synodal manner in an effort to serve integral human development by feeding the results back to the particular Churches that deal with the promotion, protection and full development of God’s people.
They explained that the Dicastery staff is now organized in three program sections:
– Listening-Dialogue: the two-way bridge with the local Church and its various ministries promoting integral human development
– Research-Reflection: to the challenges are applied the many needed disciplines and Catholic social teaching in search of responses
– Communication-Restitution: tangible useful results are formulated, restored to the “field” and shared in wider communication.
Thus, three support teams have been appointed:
– General Secretariat
– Evaluation and Planning
– Administration and General Services
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