That numinous healer who preached Saturnalia and paradox
has died a slave’s death. We were maneuvered into it by priests
and by the man himself. To complete his poem.
He was certainly dead. The pilum guaranteed it. His message,
unwritten except on his body, like anyone’s, was wrapped
like a scroll and dispatched to our liberated selves, the gods.
If he has now risen, as our infiltrators gibber,
he has outdone Orpheus, who went alive to the Shades.
Solitude may be stronger than embraces. Inventor of the mustard tree,
he mourned one death, perhaps all, before he reversed it.
He forgave the sick to health, disregarded the sex of the Furies
when expelling them from minds. And he never speculated.
If he is risen, all are children of a most high real God
or something even stranger called by that name
who knew to come and be punished for the world.
To have knowledge of right, after that, is to be in the wrong.
Death came through the sight of law. His people’s oldest wisdom.
If death is now the birth-gate into things unsayable
in language of death’s era, there will be wars about religion
as there never were about the death-ignoring Olympians.
Love, too, his new universal, so far ahead of you it has died
for you before you meet it, may seem colder than the favors of gods
who are our poems, good and bad. But there never was a bad baby.
Half of his worship will be grinding his face in the dirt
then lilting it up to beg, in private. The low will rule, and curse by him.
Divine bastard, soul-usurer, eros-frightener, he is out to monopolize hatred.
Whole philosophies will be devised for their brief snubbings of him.
But regained excels kept, he taught. Thus he has done the impossible
to show us it is there. To ask it of us. It seems we are to be the poem
and live the impossible. As each time we have, with mixed cries.
This poem first appeared in the March 26, 1993, issue of Commonweal
CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2021 / 06:43 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami stressed this week that despite public health distinctions created over the past year, priests are essential for the Catholic community.
On March 30, the archbishop celebrated the annual chrism Mass – when priests renew their vows and the archdiocese blesses its parishes’ holy oils – at St. Mary Cathedral.
Archdiocesan priests and seminarians were present at the Mass. The archdiocese has 55 current seminarians, including eight deacons who will be ordained priests on May 8.
In his homily, Wenski urged priests not to preach themselves but the Gospel of Christ.
He said that this time last year, a few seminarians had expressed concern about their priestly vocations after clergy members were deemed “nonessential” by the government – leaving them unable to celebrate public Masses.
However, he said, priests continued to offer private Masses and find creative ways to be spiritual leaders to their flocks.
“Even when we were ‘locked down’ we were still open – and I applaud not only the resilience but also the creativity of the priests of this Archdiocese to adapt to the circumstances and to serve and to find new ways of being present to your people,” he said.
“One priest told me that he worked harder during the lockdown – making phone calls, sending emails, learning new skills with livestream Masses and ZOOM – than he had worked prior to the pandemic.”
Since public Mass resumed in the area at the beginning of this month, the archbishop noted, there has been no known COVID-19 transmission connected to Masses.
“I thank you for your hard work, I thank you for your efforts to follow our protocols. Let’s keep it up until we put the coronavirus pandemic in our rear-view mirrors,” he said.
He also expressed appreciation for lay people’s love of priests. While this year’s Chrism Mass was unable to include lay people due to social distancing requirements, he said, one of the highlights in the past has been the recessional hymn, when people would express their gratitude for priests with a big round of applause.
“That was always a big shot in the arm for all of us,” he said.
“And the people of God do love their priests (and hopefully their bishops – despite what you might read on those blogs). If it was once true that the people placed us on a pedestal as if we were some plaster saints, it is certainly not true now. But they genuinely do love us ‘warts and all.’”
The laity can also offer fraternal correction and administrative advice to priests, Wenski continued. He encouraged priests to humbly listen to their parishioners, who will generally accept a priest’s flaws but will challenge hypocrisy and other scandalous behavior.
“Most understand that we were not trained as MBAs and so they want us to know what we don’t know and to count on their expertise to assist us in our stewardship of their parishes. They will generally forgive most of our faults and foibles, but not arrogance or greed,” he said.
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Chicago, Ill., Mar 31, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Amid a plan to merge and close dozens of parishes, the Archdiocese of Chicago has disproportionately closed parishes that minister to black Catholics due to low attendance, according to an archdiocesan official.
“There have been disproportionate numbers of closings in the Black Catholic community, but this is going on all across the Diocese,” Cliff Barber, chief strategy officer of the archdiocese, said in a March 29 interview with the Chicago Crusader, a publication that focuses on the African American community.
“There has been some shared pain here, but it’s just been disproportionate in the Black Catholic community.”
Barber also heads the archdiocese’ Black Catholic Initiative, which seeks to support the Black Catholic community in the city. Barber said there are about 6,000 Mass-attending Black Catholics in the archdiocese, heavily concentrated in the south and west sides of the city.
The Chicago archdiocese has been closing and merging parishes for several years, with the latest round of mergers announced March 9-10.
One such parish is the predominantly African-American St. Peter Claver Mission, which will join the parishes of St. Benedict and St. Walter under a new parish name.
The Chicago archdiocese lists nearly forty parishes on its website as ministering specifically to the black community; Baker said there are nearly 800 predominantly Black Catholic parishes across the U.S., most of which are located in the east and south.
Overall, the church closures and mergers are part of Cardinal Blase Cupich’s project “Renew My Church,” which he announced in 2016. At the time, around 100 parishes were expected to close due to a shortage of priests and church buildings in need of repair.
Barber told the Crusader that the Black Catholic Initiative is relaunching itself in 2021 with an updated mission.
Chicago has been home to communities of Black Catholics for several hundred years. Following the evangelization of black slaves and freed men by Jesuit missionaries in the decades before the American Revolution, large African-American Catholic populations settled in cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and numerous cities throughout the South.
Chicago has at least one prominent African American Catholic who may someday be canonized — Venerable Augustus Tolton, who was born a slave in Missouri and was the first African-American priest. He was ordained a priest in the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran on Holy Saturday 1886, and was sent back to serve in Illinois in the Diocese of Alton. He worked at a parish in Quincy, but met with opposition from a white priest, and in 1889 secured permission to transfer to the Archdiocese of Chicago.
In Chicago he founded a black parish, Saint Monica’s. He died July 9, 1897 from heat stroke and heart failure, at the age of 43.
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Rome Newsroom, Mar 31, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis has said that the martyrdom of an Italian Catholic judge in 1990 showed the mafia’s “intrinsic denial of the Gospel.”
In the preface to a new book, published March 31 by Vatican News, the pope reflected on the lessons of Rosario Livatino’s life and death.
The pope, who recognized Livatino as a martyr in December, recalled that the judge was shot dead by young men paid by two Sicilian organized crime groups, the Stidda and Cosa Nostra.
He said that Livatino’s last words were: “Picciotti [young mafiosi], what did I do to you?”
“They were the words of a dying prophet, giving voice to the lament of a righteous man who knew he did not deserve that unjust death,” the pope wrote.
“Words that cried out against the Herods of our time, those who, not looking innocence in the face, enlist even teenagers to become ruthless killers on death missions.”
Referring to the mafia’s distortion of Catholic piety, the pope described Livatino’s final words as “a cry of pain and at the same time of truth, that with its strength annihilates the mafia armies, revealing the intrinsic denial of the Gospel of the mafia in every form, in spite of the secular ostentation of holy pictures, of sacred statues forced to disrespectful bows, of religiosity flaunted as much as denied.”
The pope’s comments came as the new archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia, launched a crackdown on the mafia’s use of religious images in his archdiocese.
Battaglia ordered this week that two paintings with ties to a mafia boss be removed from a church in the Naples suburb of Marano di Napoli.
A press release posted to the archdiocesan website March 29, said that the images of Our Lady of Pompeii and St. Rita, venerated for “several decades” in the Church of Maria Santissima della Cintura e della Consolazione, were being replaced after the archbishop became aware that underneath the paintings was the inscription, “in devotion of Lorenzo Nuvoletta.”
Nuvoletta was associated with the Sicilian Mafia and the boss of the Nuvoletta clan, a powerful Neapolitan Camorra clan operating from Marano di Napoli. He was arrested in 1990, and sentenced to nine years in prison. He died from liver cancer in 1994.
The archdiocese wrote that the paintings would be replaced with images of the same saints, explaining the decision by saying that “the bishop is entrusted with the care and protection of the faith of the many faithful who go daily to pray in that church.”
The Camorra-linked paintings were removed “so as not to disturb the faithful themselves by disorienting them with actions that could even remotely be traced back to an ambiguity between the Gospel and life,” it said, and “to reaffirm the primacy of conscience, illuminated by faith, which invites us to love truth and justice.”
Pope Francis wrote in the book preface that Livatino was “a bright point of reference for the men and women of today and tomorrow, especially for young people who, even today, are enticed by the sirens of the mafia to a life of violence, corruption, oppression and death.”
“His martyrial testimony of faith and justice is a seed of concord and social peace, and an emblem of the need to feel and be brothers and sisters, and not rivals or enemies,” he said.
Livatino will be beatified in the Archdiocese of Agrigento, Sicily, on May 9.
After a controversy erupted earlier this year over the translation of Livatino’s relics from his hometown to the Cathedral of Agrigento, it was announced Feb. 19 that the martyred judge’s body would remain in the town of Canicattì, about 25 miles northeast of Agrigento.
Livatino is buried in the chapel of the Canicattì cemetery, a town of about 35,000 people and his birthplace.
Pope Francis quoted his predecessor, St. John Paul II, who visited Agrigento and other places in Sicily in 1993.
At the end of Mass said in the Valley of the Temples, John Paul II said, “Let there be concord in this land of yours! May there be harmony without death, without murder, without fear, without threats, without victims! Let there be concord!”
“After so many times of suffering you finally have a right to live in peace,” John Paul II continued. “And those who are guilty of disturbing this peace, those who carry on their consciences so many human victims, they must understand, they must understand that innocent killing is not allowed!”
Pope Francis wrote: “The sweet aroma of Christ that spreads from the martyred body of the young judge then becomes a seed of rebirth — as has already happened for some of his killers and principals, today on the path of penance and conversion — for all of us…”
“To Rosario Angelo Livatino, today also through his beatification, we give thanks for the example he leaves us, for having fought every day the good fight of faith with humility, meekness and mercy.”
Livatino did everything “always and only in the name of Christ, without ever abandoning faith and justice, even in the imminent risk of death,” he said. “This is the seed that was planted, this is the fruit that will come.”
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Madrid, Spain, Mar 31, 2021 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- To help Spanish monasteries and convents sell their goods amid the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cloister Foundation has launched a “Masters in Craftsmanship” campaign to promote the online sale of the handmade products of the monks and nuns.
In a press release, the Cloister Foundation noted that “at a time when the world is concerned about a healthy diet without additives, products made with care and craftsmanship are especially valued, and there are people who have been guarding centuries-old recipes who dedicate their lives to prayer and to work done with care and without haste.”
“These monks and nuns are ‘Masters of Craftsmanship.’ Through their contemplative life they give a breath of fresh air to the rest of the world. And they need our encouragement today,” the foundation stressed.
The foundation has set up an “online turnstile” on its portal to be able to buy from home the products made in convents and monasteries, and thus continue to help contemplative life without the need to go anywhere.
Cheeses, jams, wines, Trappist beers, sweets, and other products can be bought through the website.
Vatican City — Knowing that Rome, like all of Italy, would be under varying degrees of lockdown during Holy Week and Easter, Fr. Luigi D’Errico asked youngsters in his parish to draw illustrations and write a series of reflections on the Way of the Cross.
It was a way to involve the nearly 500 adolescents, who were often stuck at home given all the restrictions against larger gatherings for parish activities and liturgical celebrations, he told Vatican News March 30.
What they didn’t know was that their personal reflections on the crosses they bear and the comfort they find in Jesus would be among those chosen for the Way of the Cross meditations at the Vatican, he said.
“It started as a catechetical activity and then the invitation from the Secretariat of State came to try and help the pope” in contributing to the meditations, commentary and prayers for the late evening ceremony on Good Friday April 2, he said.
Like last year, the Way of the Cross commemoration will be held in St. Peter’s Square without the presence of the public. Fifteen young adults, some of them catechists, will take turns in pairs carrying the cross and a torch. Another 70 young people will be present to represent everyone who contributed to the reflections.
Every year, the pope asks a person or group of people to write the meditations that are read aloud for the 14 Stations during the nighttime ceremony, which he presides over.
This year the pope asked for texts and drawings from a troop of Italian scouts in Umbria, two group homes for disadvantaged young people in Rome and D’Errico’s parish of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, which organizes extensive programs with people who are differently abled and runs shelters for the homeless and women and children survivors of domestic abuse.
Pope Francis chose the voice of young people, D’Errico told Vatican News, because, like a father or a mother, he is keenly aware of the many different experiences and challenges facing the whole human family.
Even though everyone is suffering because of the pandemic and its impact, he said, young people have not been a priority because they are “the least likely to become infected and die and, therefore, [people believed] we have to worry about them less.”
Instead, the social distancing, the solitude and increased stress on families is very hard on young people, who grow by being with others, he said; so, this special opportunity the pope has given them is a way of “seeking to be by their side.”
The young people were free to choose a station that spoke to them most, the priest said, and many struggled with the incomprehensibility of God letting his son be tortured and killed.
Many of them find a similar kind of anguish and pain in their own lives, he said, as they witness their parents’ struggling, see other families in their parish lose a loved one or be hospitalized for COVID-19 or sacrifice seeing their own grandparents to keep them safe.
For instance, the meditation for the ninth station — Jesus falls for the third time — details not being able to visit grandparents in the past year and how much they miss them, volleyball practice, scouting and even school.
“This miserable feeling of loneliness at times becomes unbearable. We feel ‘abandoned’ by everyone, no longer able even to smile. Like Jesus we find ourselves flat on the ground,” it says, adding a prayer that Jesus shine his light on them when they get lost in dark thoughts.
Many kids at one of the group homes that made the illustrations felt a connection with the scenes when Jesus’ meets his mother and where Jesus receives help from Simon of Cyrene, Fabrizio Gessini, the home’s director, told Vatican News. That helped them reflect on subjects they hadn’t really talked about before.
Mary’s suffering definitely struck a chord with many of the kids, D’Errico said, because of the pain they feel when they see their own mothers struggling or in tears. “They understood this profoundly,” he said.
For the fourth station — Jesus meets his mother — the meditation conjures up images of a mother who brings her child to soccer practice, English lessons and catechism classes and who never holds back on a large supply of warm hugs.
“In the evening, even if she is tired, she helps me do my homework. When I have nightmares, she sits with me, calms me down and waits for me to go back to sleep,” it says.
She always listens, and even if the child doesn’t know how to express his or her suffering, “one look is enough. She understands immediately and helps me to work through all my problems,” it says.
For the 11th station — Jesus is nailed to the Cross — the meditation reflects on how a group of scouts gave up spending Christmas with their families so they could serve lunch to those in need.
It seemed like a huge sacrifice to miss opening presents, playing games and eating at home with family, but instead, they received so many smiles, stories and joy from the many people they helped, making that Christmas “unforgettable.”
One young person wrote about seeing his or her grandfather be taken away by medics outfitted like “astronauts” after experiencing difficulty breathing.
“That was the last time I saw my grandfather,” the meditation said. “I prayed for him every day. That way I was able to be there with him during his final journey on this earth.”
Millions of people who follow the ceremony online or on television will be asked to reflect on the crosses young people carry every day.
These crosses may be heavy or light, big or little, but they are real and often it seems like only Jesus knows and takes them seriously.
“Only you know how hard it is for me to learn not to be afraid of the dark and all alone,” to wake up every morning having wet the bed, to speak as well as others, to get math problems right, to hear parents argue, to be made fun of, and to realize how many children are hungry, forced into armed conflict or exploited, says the meditations’ introduction.
Praying to Jesus, who once was a child, too, the introduction asked that he “help us to carry our daily crosses as you carried yours.”
“I thank you, because I know that you are always close to me and that you never abandon me, even when I am most afraid. And thank you too, for sending my guardian angel to light and guard me every day,” it said.
CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2021 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Religious groups that speak on controversial topics are at risk of being removed from social media platforms and need to prepare, a legal education group says.
While a “de-platforming” event can pose significant operational problems, there are also ways to organize broad-based efforts to respond when a group faces sanctions from influential internet companies such as Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter.
“It seems likely that religious groups and individuals will face mounting threats from tech companies. Their views on marriage, sexuality, life and other moral issues are unpopular among the Silicon Valley set,” Josh Holdenreid, vice president and executive director of Napa Legal Institute, said in a March 28 opinion essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Big Tech Censors Religion, Too.”
“Religious groups should refuse to silence themselves, change their views, or otherwise back down. Censorship is a symptom of a national collapse in civic culture. Curing the deeper disease will take all the courage and conviction we can muster,” he said.
Napa Legal is not a legal group, but aims to help educate faith-based non-profits on finances, corporate, tax and philanthropic issues, and some legal matters.
Its March 26 white paper briefing, “De-platforming: the threat facing faith-based organizations,” summarizes the problem and offers suggestions. According to the briefing, faith-based organizations have faced removal from important internet platforms “at least weekly” since the beginning of 2021.
“Big tech’s unpredictable de-platforming of faith-based organizations and their leaders has become so frequent that faith-based organizations can no longer rely on continuous service from these companies, particularly social media providers,” said the report. “Faith leaders must respond decisively to the changed landscape.”
“While policy debates over content moderation continue, faith-based nonprofits need to understand who is being de-platformed, why, and what strategies are effective for overcoming de-platforming,” it continued.
“Organizations centered around important cultural and policy issues are at greater risk of de-platforming,” said the briefing. “For example, pro-life organizations, pro-family organizations, Christian organizations addressing issues related to human sexuality, and faith-based news organizations have been targeted more often than organizations that run tutoring programs or soup kitchens.”
Holdenreid cited several examples of this de-platforming. The online book and retail seller giant Amazon removed Ryan T. Anderson’s book, “When Harry Became Sally,” which critiques transgender medical, philosophical, and political claims. TAN Books was blocked from running Facebook ads for several books: Paul Kengor’s anti-communist critique “The Devil and Karl Marx”; Carrie Gress’ cultural critique “The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity”; and Kimberly Cook’s critique of feminism, “Motherhood Redeemed”.
In October 2020, ahead of the U.S. presidential elections, a third-party Facebook factchecker claimed the Susan B. Anthony List made “misleading claims” about Joe Biden’s position on late-term abortions. The claim interfered with the pro-life political group’s ability to run its paid political ads on Facebook
Holdenreid said its response proved successful: “the group went on a media blitz, securing both a reversal and an apology.”
“When posts are removed, ads are blocked, and accounts are banned, public pushback and media criticism often lead tech companies to rethink their actions,” he said.
Twitter has also drawn criticism.
Holdenreid cited the blocking of a tweet of Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin critiquing an assisted suicide push. The social media giant Twitter in January said it erroneously blocked the tweet, having mistaken it for a comment encouraging suicide.
That same month, Twitter blocked a post by the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family’s outlet the Daily Citizen for its comments describing a transgender Biden nominee as a man who believes himself to be a woman.
A similar Twitter post from Catholic World Report, excerpting a Catholic News Agency report, described the nominee as “a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman.”
Twitter told CNA it blocked the Catholic World Report post in error. However, the Daily Citizen twitter account has gone unused since January. Twitter told the account owner that the account was suspended for “hateful conduct,” under which category Twitter includes “misgendering” of self-identified transgender individuals. Focus on the Family unsuccessfully appealed this ban.
The Napa Legal briefing said that organizations that are removed from social media platforms often receive “little or no explanation” for the removal. Some of these organizations indicated their attempts to communicate with big companies, in Napa Legal’s words, “seemed to fall into a ‘black hole’.”
De-platforming often impacts all functionality. Contacts, followers, and historical publications and posts for an account can become completely inaccessible, the briefing warned.
Sometimes organizations can have their accounts restored.
“Public pressure and media attention can help,” Napa Legal said, attributing successful restoration efforts to public support, “particularly through media coverage and related grassroots pressure, rather than to the tech company’s own appeal process.”
Commentary on the coronavirus epidemic and claims about vaccines can also lead to suspension.
Holdenreid noted YouTube’s ban on the channel of LifeSiteNews.
Google, YouTube’s owner, later said it had banned LifeSiteNews for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy, including “content that promotes prevention methods that contradict local health authorities or “(the World Health Organization).” Channels that receive three strikes in a 90-day period will be permanently removed.
Most Catholic authorities have emphasized the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic and the moral permissibility of using COVID-19 vaccines if they use material of morally compromised origins, such as cells derived from an aborted fetus. However, LifeSiteNews has published some opinion and commentary that questions the pandemic and the use of the vaccines.
Previously, YouTube put a strike on a LifeSiteNews video of a Catholic bishop who has taken a strong position against the COVID vaccine, which he considers unethical. It also deleted a video of a Canadian physician who objected to what he sees as the “unfounded public hysteria” over COVID-19.
LifeSiteNews was previously suspended from Twitter for a period beginning in 2019 for its reports on a Canadian transgender activist who is biologically male but identifies as a woman. It also faced Twitter suspensions for reporting on Biden’s transgender nominee.
Napa Legal’s briefing listed several other “de-platforming” events. The briefing recommended that organizations self-assess their de-platforming risk. If the risk is significant, they should plan for the possible event to reduce the potential harm to the organization and its constituents and to increase the chances of a favorable resolution.
Organizations should intentionally connect to and support other faith-based groups.
“Don’t dilute your religious message or succumb to pressure not to share the truth,” said Napa Legal. “We need the truth more than ever, and the efforts to de-platform highlight that. Rather than acting out of fear, organizations should be prudent and plan ahead.”
The legal education group recommended consulting its March 4 briefing, “What to Do If Your Nonprofit Relies on Big Tech.”
In 2017 the Ruth Institute, a non-profit group dedicated to studying and explaining the effects of the sexual revolution, claimed that its ability to process donations online was cancelled because of its views on sexuality. Its payment processor Vanco said the group had been flagged for affiliations that promote hate, violence, harassment or abuse. The Ruth Institute strongly objected to such characterizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed mainstream Christian-friendly groups like the Ruth Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom as “hate groups” for their “anti-LGBT” stance. The center lists the groups alongside white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
In this live conversation, the final in a series of four, NCR engagement editor Brittany Wilmes speaks with Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr about Lenten spirituality.
Background reading (and viewing):
Vatican City, Mar 31, 2021 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The U.K. court ruling that overturned an account seizure request by Vatican City prosecutors has raised questions about the reliability of the Holy See’s judicial system.
The verdict by judge Tony Baumgartner overturned an earlier decision seizing the British accounts of the Italian broker Gianluigi Torzi. Torzi was involved in the Secretariat of State’s luxury real estate investment in London.
Torzi was arrested by the Vatican last summer on two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering.
In his ruling, Baumgartner often used the words “misrepresentation” and “mischaracterization” in relation to the Vatican’s request for the accounts seizure (known as a “restraint application”).
In his conclusion, Baumgartner noted that “an applicant to this court for a restraint order relying on external requests should be careful in relying upon facts unverified or unsupported by direct evidence, and should not unhesitatingly rely upon assertions that are not properly established on the facts.”
He also pointed out that “applications of this nature often are brought with haste because of the fear of the real risk of dissipation of assets, but the restraint application was not an application prompted by discoveries made in a new investigation, or even in an investigation that was unfolding.”
This is the third time that Vatican prosecutors have received a negative response from authorities abroad.
The first concerned Cecilia Marogna, who allegedly misused Vatican funds intended for humanitarian activities. Marogna, an Italian citizen, ended up in prison in Italy, while Vatican prosecutors also submitted a request to extradite Marogna to the Vatican. A lower court validated the arrest. But the Supreme Court of Cassation canceled the arrest because the request had no specific motive and “lacked the specific cautionary needs.”
The second was the search and seizure in Fabrizio Tirabassi’s apartment. Tirabassi, an official of the Secretariat of State’s administrative section, was one of the five Vatican officials suspended when the London investigation began. Rome’s public prosecutor initially validated the seizures in his apartment following a Vatican request.
But the measure was later declared null since the search and seizures were part of an “out of the ordinary request,” with “evident and substantial” illegitimate actions, such as that the seizure order came directly by the prosecutor without the validation of a judge.
The Baumgartner ruling is more significant than the other two because it is the first time that a third-party judge has looked into the documents and challenged the professionalism of Vatican prosecutors.
Baumgartner wrote that the Vatican’s “non-disclosures and misrepresentations are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” to reverse the assets’ seizure was appropriate.
The prosecutors, Baumgartner said, maintained that Torzi “‘dishonestly and secretly’ decided to issue himself controlling shares in Gutt (one of the societies that intervened in the purchase) to prevent the Secretariat from acquiring the whole of the interest in the Chelsea Property until the Secretariat agreed to pay him a further EUR 15,000,000 [around $17.6 million].”
But the judge concluded that the allocation of 31,000 shares of Gutt “is improperly characterized as secretive and dishonest in the Letter of Request, and that (…) is a misrepresentation of the facts.”
The British judge also noted that “the Letter of Request is conspicuously silent about [senior Vatican Secretariat of State official] Archbishop Peña Parra’s involvement throughout, a matter I find of some surprise given it emerged after the restraint order had been made that he is said to be the subject of the blackmail” — the alleged extortion of the $17.6 million.
The investigation has not yet led to an indictment, but questions have arisen regarding Archbishop Peña Parra: If he was aware of and endorsed the controversial financial operation, why wasn’t he too included in the investigation?
Most importantly, the British judge’s ruling could mark a serious setback for the Vatican judicial system’s credibility on the eve of the Moneyval report on the Holy See.
Moneyval is the Council of Europe’s committee that evaluates if member states are adhering to international standards. Moneyval will issue its fourth progress report on the Vatican at the end of April. This report will discuss the Vatican judicial system’s effectiveness in countering money laundering and the prevention of financing terrorism, so the Vatican prosecutor will be under strict scrutiny.
Many argue that the Vatican prosecutor’s reliability is in question since he conducted his investigation disregarding the rights of the people involved.
This began with Torzi’s arrest at the Vatican. He went with his lawyers for an interrogation but found himself thrown in a cell for 10 days.
Then there was Raffaele Mincione, an Italian citizen taken from a hotel and placed in custody in Italy. He has filed two lawsuits in London against the Holy See.
There are also possible lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; since some of the defendants have been arrested or subjected to search and seizures without even knowing the charges against them.
Six people were first suspended and then demoted from (or not renewed in) their positions because of the London investigation. They had no notice of the charges against them until the prosecutors had interrogated them. Still, they do not know if they will face trial.
The Holy See is part of an international system and signs declarations, memoranda of understanding, and international conventions. Yet the Vatican state is an absolute monarchy, with a judicial system working under the decisions of an absolute monarch.
What if the activism of the Vatican tribunal backfires against the Holy See? What if any state hostile to religion uses these procedural mistakes and human rights failings to attack the Holy See and the Catholic Church in a broader sense?
These are the reasons why the Baumgartner ruling sends an alarm signal that the pope cannot ignore.
The killing of priests and other Christians in Nigeria continues at an alarming rate. A recent shooting in a church in Benue State yesterday adds to the thousands of others killed in the nation in the past year alone.
Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban and at least six others were killed by gunmen in an attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benue State, Nigeria, the Diocese of Katsina-Ala confirmed Wednesday. Fr. Fanen had just offered Mass in his parish church of St. Paul Ayetwar in eastern Nigeria and was preparing to leave for the Holy Week Chrism Mass when he was shot in the head by gunmen on March 30.
Catholics in Nigeria are all too familiar with these kinds of tragedies. In March 2019, Fr. Clement Ugwu was returning to his parish when he was attacked by gunmen close to the parish house.
Members of his community who came out from their homes to see what was happening after gunshots were fired all ran for safety. A few days later, Ugwu’s body was found nearby.
The killings of Fr. Fanen and Fr. Ugwu are part of the growing attacks targeted at priests across the country. Nigerian priests currently live in fear of attacks or abduction for ransom by gunmen and even terrorists from Boko Haram, a jihadist terrorist organization.
For instance, since the insurgency started in 2009, the Boko Haram terrorists have carried out coordinated attacks on Christian communities including bombing churches, as well as abducting and killing both priests and religious. Reports say more than 30, 000 people have been killed with more than 2 million displaced from their homes.
In January 2020, Boko Haram executed pastor Lawan Andimi, who had been abducted and held in captivity for more than two weeks. Andimi was a leading official of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the region where attacks have been intense.
But gunmen and armed bandits have been largely responsible for recent attacks which sparked outrage among the Christian communities and organizations both in the country and abroad.
There have been more recent attacks also. On Jan. 16, Fr. John Gbakaan’s body was found with bruises and machete cuts. Fr. Gbakaan, a priest in the diocese of Minna, in Nigeria’s middle-belt region, was abducted alongside his brother by gunmen on their way back following a visit to his mother.
The gunmen had demanded N30 million [ around $81, 000] and later N5 million [$13, 800] for their release. Fr. Gbakaan’s brother has not been seen since Fr. Gbakaan was killed, and the attackers have not been arrested.
So Fr. Ugwu’s killing is not isolated as his diocese has witnessed several attacks and killings of priests by gunmen. Six months after the killing of Fr. Ugwu, another priest in the diocese, Fr. Paul Offu, was attacked and killed by armed men suspected to be Muslim cattle herders.
In September 2019, hundreds of priests from the diocese marched and protested along major streets in the city against the frequent abduction and killing of priests. Their protest was in the wake of the killing of Fr. Offu.
About ten priests have been killed across Nigeria by armed men and bandits since 2018.
In 2018, two priests and 17 of their parishioners in a rural community in Benue state, in Nigeria’s north central region, were killed by armed men suspected to be members of the Fulani cattle herders.
A few days after the attacks, thousands of Catholics and bishops marched along the street to protest the killing and growing insecurity in the country.
Amid the growing attacks, priests and parishioners say they are scared of going to church because they don’t know who would be the next victim.
The attacks on priests have also been worsened by the growing insecurity in the country. The government has been accused of not doing enough to protect citizens across religious and ethnic lines.
Back in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to tackle insecurity once he was elected. But security has not improved under his watch despite efforts of the military to tackle Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.
Fr. Ugochukwu Ugwoke says insecurity in Nigeria has become a great concern and that priests feel unsafe going about their different ministries.
“I have never seen insecurity go this bad before in the country,” he said. “The present administration has not done enough to protect lives and property because even at home we are not safe and when we go out, we are also not safe.”
Fr. Ugwoke adds that the inability to arrest and prosecute the gunmen who attack priests and Christians has emboldened them to continue their killing spree.
“Today in Northern Nigeria, many people live in fear, and many young people are afraid to become pastors because pastors’ lives are in great danger,” said Rev. John Hayab of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “When bandits or kidnappers realize that their victim is a priest or pastor it seems a violent spirit takes over their hearts to demand more ransom and, in some cases, go to the extent of killing the victim. We are simply pleading with the federal government and all security agencies to do whatever it will take to bring this evil to a stop.”
In addition, foreign governments and organizations have condemned the regular attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
The UK-based Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust says more than 1000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2019 alone. The organization further reported that at that point 6,000 Nigerians had been killed and 12,000 displaced since 2015.
According to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List, more Christians were killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in 2020—3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, while it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed at 270, according to the report.
Last year, the United States designated Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom, alongside China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. This designation is for nations that engage in or tolerate “systemic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” If they fail to improve their records, sanctions can follow.
The Vatican has reacted to the attacks on priests with Pope Francis calling for prayers over insecurity in the country.
“Let us also seek intercession for all the situations in the world that are most in need of hope: hope for peace, for justice, hope for a dignified life,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus broadcast through his official Twitter handle. “Today, I would like to pray in particular for the population of the northern region of Nigeria, victims of violence and terrorist attacks,” he said.
As the U.S. marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in April, the Diocese of San Jose, California, issued a statement March 29 in support of those communities, given a spate of crimes throughout the country targeting them.
“The Asian community has been on my mind and in my prayers recently, given the disturbing rise of anti-Asian animus, prejudice, aggression and violence,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose in the statement.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate released figures in mid-March saying it had collected reports of 3,800 hate crimes throughout the U.S. in the past year against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Some of the more known reports include general harassment in public, such as being told to “go home” or to get out of the country, at restaurants and in grocery stores and possibly life-ending ones such as the killing of six women of Asian descent during a March shooting spree in Georgia.
Authorities have said that even though the suspect under custody in the killings said the shootings were sexually motivated, they still have not discarded the possibility of bias.
Stop AAPI Hate says on its website that reports of hate against Asian American and Pacific Islanders “has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic” as some falsely blame those communities for the spread of the virus, first documented in China, and some politicians fanned the flames of hate against Asians during a contentious 2020 election season.
“It is disgraceful to see this in our American society in our modern times,” Cantú said. “We have come so far in our country since the eras of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment camps of generations past. And yet, we manage to take steps backward into prejudice, discrimination, and even violence.
“This is sad and disgraceful. Anti-Asian hatred not only hurts Asian Americans; it tarnishes the dignity of all Americans.”
The U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by Republican President Chester A. Arthur May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. Chinese immigration was regulated until the 1920s.
On Feb. 19, 1942, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II. They were kept in camps until 1945.
Cantú in his statement urged Christians observing Holy Week this year to see what’s happening in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities under the light of faith, recalling “how the crowd turned against Jesus, calling for his violent execution.”
“Jesus stands with our Asian community,” Cantú said. “The church stands with our Asian communities. We are brothers and sisters to one another, members of a common human family, with dignity and worth.
“Asians and Pacific Islanders bring tremendous gifts that enrich American culture and society, and our church. Let us embrace them, celebrate them, and love them as brothers and sisters!”
Rome Newsroom, Mar 31, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The massive Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is undergoing restoration ahead of its 90th anniversary this year.
Standing at nearly 100 feet tall, the statue of Jesus is numbered among the contemporary “Seven Wonders of the World.”
The statue was illuminated for the first time on Oct. 12, 1931, the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil.
Brazil’s Catholic population — the largest of any country in the world — funded its construction with donations from parishes across the country.
The monument officially became a sanctuary for Catholic worship on the same feast day in 2006. The chapel at the base of the statue offers Mass and Eucharistic adoration to the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who usually visit each year.
Architect Cristina Ventura is in charge of the Christ the Redeemer statue’s restoration this year. Her team will conduct a complete X-ray of the statue, which was constructed with thousands of small triangular hand-cut stones, to identify areas in most need of repair after exposure to the elements.
She told local media: “To be here is important, it is a very strong symbol. Christ the Redeemer embraces the Brazilian population so it is a responsibility, a great privilege, to be there.”
The statue took nine years to construct, from 1922 to 1931. A large heart is molded in the interior of the statue to signify the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
For its inauguration, Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph and founder of Vatican Radio, was engaged to illuminate the statue remotely from Italy by the pulse of electromagnetic waves, according to ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian language news partner.
The idea of placing a religious monument on the top of the city’s Mount Corcovado was first proposed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Pedro Maria Boss, in the mid 19th century, but his appeal to Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, was not heeded.
After the fall of the monarchy and establishment of a republic in Brazil in 1889, the project was not discussed again until the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro officially proposed it in 1921.
The first sketches of the statue depicted Christ standing atop a globe holding a cross, but ultimately artist Carlos Oswaldo’s design of Jesus with outstretched arms was selected.
The Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa led the project, together with the sculptor Paul Landowski who further shaped its Art Deco style.
“The statue of the Divine Savior will be the first image that will emerge from the darkness in which the earth is immersed and will receive the salutation of the star of day, which, after enveloping it with its radiant glow, will form a suitable halo around his head at sunset,” Silva Costa said.
Rome Newsroom, Mar 31, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- During his recent visit to Iraq, Pope Francis gave a donation of $350,000 to the Chaldean Catholic Church to support local families affected by conflict and the pandemic.
Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako told Agenzia Fides that the pope’s gift was “intended to be a sign of how real and concrete is the pope’s love for all the Iraqi people.”
Sako, who is the Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said that $250,000 will be managed by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Baghdad. The remaining $100,000 has been divided between the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul and Syriac Catholics in Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh.
Sako said that the Church had already distributed 12,000 packages of food to people throughout the country, to “Christian and Muslim families, and those belonging to all the other faith communities present in Iraq.”
Pope Francis visited Iraq March 5-8. During the historic visit, he traveled to meet with Christians in Baghdad, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Erbil, and Mosul. He also met political and religious leaders, including Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Sako wrote a letter to Pope Francis thanking him for his visit and the donation. He said he would have liked to come to Rome to thank the pope in person but he was prevented by the coronavirus pandemic and complications with travel.
He said that Francis “sowed awareness of the importance of accepting and respecting diversity, behaving as different brothers, called to love each other and help each other to build situations in which every man lives with dignity, freedom and equal rights and duties.”
“We hope that this line of behavior, as indicated in your speech in Baghdad, also inspires the intentions of the great world powers,” he added.
Sako also wrote that the pope’s prayer in Baghdad, that “‘Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart,’ left a profound echo that is indelibly impressed on our memory.”
“For us, your Christian daughters and sons, your visit has fulfilled a great dream, and has given us strong support to stay, communicate with others, hope, and build trust,” Sako said.
“We are immensely grateful for your phrase ‘you are a living and strong Church,’ which encouraged us to hope and to move forward with enthusiasm.”
Holy Thursday 2021
As we enter enter the Triduum, Scripture comes true in our hearing and in our doing. Here is a short reflection for where the communal ritual of the foot washing is not held because of COVID-19.
The virus not only prevented us from gathering this past year, it also deprives us of one of the more intimate sacramental moments we have as church when we are invited to touch, wash and dry one another’s feet. Distant from each other or virtually present, we are still on holy ground, like Moses at the burning bush. God is with us, so let us imagine we are removing our shoes and socks to expose our feet to show how vulnerable we are to this world, to God and to one another.
John, the most liturgical of the Gospels, oddly substitutes the washing of the feet for the institution of the Eucharist. On the night before he died, Jesus wanted to show his disciples the meaning of the Eucharist in an unforgettable way. He performed the lowest task of the lowliest servant by kneeling to wash their feet. It was his final parable. He came to serve not be served, to give his life as a humble servant. “Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4). Let us imagine we are preparing to take towel, bowl and pitcher to lovingly wash the feet of a stranger or someone we know? Whose feet will you wash? Who will wash your feet?
What inspired Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet? One chapter before, it was Mary of Bethany who knelt to anoint his head and feet with precious oil. On another occasion, a woman came and knelt, washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Jesus wanted his disciples to know this same outpouring of loving service as the essence of the Gospel of mercy they were to take into the world. Women inspired the Gospel of loving service. Let us pause to thank and reverence the women in our lives and all women.
Our feet are the essential workers of the body. We reflect on all the men and women who served us this past year by being there, standing at counters in grocery store checkouts, in classrooms, by delivering mail and packages, standing in hospital rooms and at their posts in a hundred ways to keep our world going. Let us pause to thank and reverence those men and women who stood by us quietly and humbly served us this past year.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good tidings” (Isaiah 52:7). God gave us feet to make us evangelists. Wherever our feet take us, we have the chance to be good news to others? Let us reflect on this past year. Have our actual or virtual feet, phone calls, emails or texts, brought joy and encouragement?
By this ritual commemoration of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, we are again baptized for service. The Catholic Community is defined by service. Others will know us by our feet, standing with the poor, marching for Justice, going wherever we are needed to serve. This ritual comes true when we take it from our homes and churches into the streets of our towns and cities, into the pathways of this world wherever we go. God is present in all things and in all people. Let our feet find and serve him and our brothers and sisters.
We rejoiced when we heard them say, “Let us go to the house of the Lord. Even now our feet are standing in your courts” (Psalm 122:2).
By Lisa Zengarini
In his Easter Message, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), has called upon the faithful to continue to be “a Church that goes forth with a message of hope and joy”, and to face this difficult time of pandemic with the humble power of love that Jesus showed.
Archbishop Gagnon begins his letter recalling the example of Mary Magdalene who, he says, was “not only the first disciple to see the risen Lord, but she was a missionary disciple – a running disciple”. He then notes that, in spite of the suffering and difficulties experienced over the past year, “Christian families continue to be places where faith lives and even flourishes” and that with the vaccines now being distributed and the gradual opening-up of the churches in the country “there is a new sense of hope”.
He goes on to say that in the Church, this hope is reinforced by the Easter celebrations symbolized by the Paschal Candle, that calls on Christians to be, in turn, “signs of hope” and of renewal in the Church in the post-pandemic world: “The lessons we have learned over the past year must play a part in this renewal, especially how important, beautiful and valuable our faith really is; how vital the sacraments are to us; how hopeful the Word of God is to us”, the message emphasizes.
Reminding that Pope Francis has dedicated 2021 to St. Joseph, who is also Patron Saint in Canada, Archbishop Gagnon urges Canadian Catholics to turn to this humble servant of the Lord for help in “the great task of community building”, both in the Church and the wider community.
The message then emphasizes again the vital role of families in nourishing and keeping the faith alive, so that they can rebuild their disrupted communities, recalling the example of the Christian communities in Iraq recently visited by Pope Francis: “This domestic Church is so very important for the wider Church community and the world and we must build upon the fruits that have blossomed over this pandemic period”, Archbishop Gagnon says. He reminds that in the current “Year of the Family, Amoris Laetitia”, the Holy Father calls upon the faithful “to renew their pastoral commitment to place the family at the centre of the Church and society – a source of joy and generous love even in trials and difficulties”.
“This Easter, perhaps more than ever, there is good reason to be hopeful in our faith and to live a true Christian realism where we clearly acknowledge the reality of our present situation with all its lights and shadows”, the message concludes. “An Easter Faith means simply to believe that God’s hand can be found everywhere and, in every event, however happy or sad, knowing, as St. Paul says: ‘…that all things work together for good for those who love God’”.
Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2021 / 10:16 am (CNA).- In his remarks on the State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted the lack of a section on reproductive health; he promised that the agency would produce an addendum on the subject – an issue the Trump administration removed from its annual human rights reports.
In 2018, the State Department removed the “reproductive rights” section from its 2017 human rights report, replacing it with statistics on “coercion in population control.”
“For many years, our human rights reports contained a section on reproductive health, including information about maternal morality, discrimination against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, and government policies about access to contraception and skilled health care during pregnancy and childbirth,” Blinken stated on Tuesday.
Blinken said that he asked for an addendum on reproductive health to be produced later in 2021. “And we are restoring the practice of documenting these rights in 2021 and future years,” he said on Tuesday.
Pro-life leaders have warned that the term “sexual and reproductive health” commonly includes abortion and contraception in international diplomatic parlance; previous State Department human rights reports included information on abortion laws in their respective sections on reproductive health.
On Tuesday, Blinken mentioned steps taken by the Biden administration to resume funding of international pro-abortion groups and to withdraw from an international pro-life statement.
Biden in January repealed the Mexico City Policy, allowing U.S. global health assistance to once again fund international pro-abortion groups. The U.S. also withdrew from the Geneva Declaration, an October 2020 statement signed by the U.S. and 31 other countries stating that there is no international right to abortion.
“It is one of many steps – along with revoking the Mexico City Policy, withdrawing from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, resuming support for the United Nations Population Fund – that we are taking to promote women’s health and equity at home and abroad. Because women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights,” Blinken stated.
In 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of an advisory group on human rights; legal experts explained to CNA the need for the group to rediscover fundamental human rights amid a proliferation of rights claims on the international stage.
The group produced a report in 2020 saying that religious freedom was “foremost” among human rights, along with “property rights.”
Blinken on Tuesday said that the Biden administration would repudiate that “hierarchy” of human rights.
“Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded State Department advisory committee, do not represent a guiding document for this administration,” he said.
In his remarks introducing the 2020 report, Blinken also condemned the “genocide” in Xinjiang, committed against “predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups.”
The military coup in Burma occurred too late to include in the 2020 report, he said, but he mentioned the beatings of “nonviolent protesters” and members of the military shooting protesters, including children.
Cleveland — A group of Catholic peacemakers who acted to symbolically disarm nuclear weapons at a Georgia naval submarine base in 2018 are the first recipients of a new award for Christian nonviolent action established by DePaul University.
The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will receive the Berrigan-McAlister Award during online ceremonies May 5, said Michael Budde, professor of Catholic studies and political science at the Vincentian school in Chicago.
“They are exemplars today of people who have made comparable sacrifices over the years to answer questions of peace and justice,” Budde told Catholic News Service.
The Kings Bay group includes several members of the Catholic Worker Movement and longtime peace activists, among them Elizabeth McAlister, one of three people for whom the award is named.
The award also is named for McAlister’s deceased husband, Phillip Berrigan, a former Josephite priest, and his brother, Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, who died in 2016.
Budde said the award will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Berrigan’s birth May 9, 1921.
The six other Kings Bay Plowshares participants are Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly of the Bay Area in California and Catholic Workers Mark Colville of New Haven, Connecticut; Patrick O’Neill of Garner, North Carolina; Carmen Trotta of New York City; Clare Grady of Ithaca, New York; and Martha Hennessy of Vermont, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day.
Budde said the award was established because of the Vincentian order’s commitment to peace, justice and the integrity of creation and the long connection the university has had with the Berrigans.
Berrigan taught courses and led student retreats while in residence at the school in the mid-1990s and his brother led a week of seminars about that time as well. McAlister spoke at the school several times.
DePaul is one of two repositories for the brothers’ personal papers. The other is Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
In addition to the award ceremony, the celebration includes a screening online of a new film on the Berrigans, “Devout and Dangerous,” May 4. Film director Susan Hagedorn and Berrigan-McAlister family members will join the event.
Registration is required at http://berriganmcalister.eventbrite.com.
Grady, Hennessey, O’Neill and Trotta are serving prison terms of various lengths in federal facilities. Colville is scheduled to be sentenced April 9. McAlister, now 81, was sentenced to time served and is living with family in Connecticut. Kelly remains in federal custody, but his whereabouts are uncertain.
All were found guilty of charges stemming from their entry into Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys, Georgia, the East Coast home of the Trident submarine. the night of April 4-5, 2018. There they read Scripture, prayed and spray-painted peace messages on a missile display and a building exterior before being arrested after several hours on the base.
The Navy’s fleet of Trident submarines carries about half of the U.S. active strategic nuclear warheads, according to military observers. Military officials have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of nuclear weapons at the base.
The Berrigan brothers and McAlister became well known beginning in the 1960s for their protests of the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, racism and business practices that they believed promoted injustice and poverty.
The Plowshares movement began in September 1980 when the Berrigans and six others entered a General Electric factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they hammered on two nuclear weapons-related systems, poured their blood on documents and prayed for peace.
By Vatican News staff writer
On Wednesday afternoon, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine was administered to a group of more than one hundred people housed in the dormitory of the Missionaries of Charity of San Gregorio al Celio and others residing in other Roman structures.
The Office of Papal Charities, in response to Pope Francis’s appeals that no one be excluded from receiving the vaccines, organized an initiative of providing 1,200 of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society with an opportunity of getting vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – the same administered to the Pope and the employees of the Holy See.
The vaccines were administered at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. Present to welcome those the group vaccinated on Wednesday was the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office said that in coming days, other groups of people will receive the vaccines, accompanied by volunteers from the Community of Sant’Egidio, Caritas Rome, the Missionaries of Charity and other associations.
Baltimore — After decades of criticism for its unabashed support of the Confederacy, “Maryland, My Maryland” is closer than ever to being removed as the official song of the “Free State.”
The Maryland General Assembly has voted to get rid of it and now the legislation goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan Jr.
It’s not known if or when Hogan will sign the measure, but The Associated Press reported March 30 that a spokesman for the governor said the state’s chief executive does not like the song. The bill had not yet reached Hogan’s desk.
A Baltimore-born Catholic named James Ryder Randall was inspired to write the poem that would eventually become the state song after the professor of literature at Poydras College in Louisiana’s Pointe Coupee Parish, read a newspaper report about the Pratt Street Riot in Baltimore in 1861.
The violence erupted after an angry mob of pro-Southern Baltimoreans hurled paving stones, bottles and rocks at soldiers from the 6th Massachusetts Regiment that was traveling through the city on its way to defend Washington at the outset of the Civil War.
Several civilians were wounded or killed during the melee, including one of Randall’s friends. It is considered the first blood spilled in the Civil War.
The poem’s verses refer to newly elected President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant” and a “despot.” They violently encourage Maryland to “avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore” and refer to the Union as “Northern scum.”
Fr. Raymond Harris, pastor of Holy Family in Randallstown and a member of Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori’s working group on racism, said he can’t understand why any Marylander today would want to sing a song that celebrates the Confederacy.
“Part of dealing with racism and reconciliation is that we must deal with the truth,” Harris said, “and part of the truth of the Confederacy was that it was raised up to perpetuate the institution of slavery as part of the economy and it treated enslaved peoples as commodities. To continue to celebrate that in song is really against the dignity of human beings.”
Harris said there is a need to embrace national unity.
“The Civil War is over,” he said.
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, legislative lobbying arm of the state’s bishops, said the move by lawmakers “reflects an awareness of the pain and impact that words have.”
She noted that in his 2019 pastoral letter, “Journey to Racial Justice,” Lori “calls for us as Catholics to make an ‘honest examination’ of our own past. We see the General Assembly doing that as a legislative body, and seeking to end the pain caused by the lyrics of this Civil War-era song.”
Quoting the U.S. bishops’ 2018 letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” Kraska said the lawmakers’ vote is an example of “conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change, and the reform of our institutions and society.”
There have been numerous efforts going back to the 1970s to remove “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song, but none has come this far.
Set to the tune used in the Christmas song “O Tannenbaum” (“O Christmas Tree”), the song wasn’t officially adopted until 1939.
In written testimony submitted in favor of the legislation to remove the song, Edward Papenfuse, a former archivist for the state, noted that Republican Gov. Harry Nice vetoed legislation to make “Maryland, My Maryland” the state song. The General Assembly passed the bill again and Democratic Gov. Herbert O’Conor ultimately signed it into law.
Papenfuse said the song has been labeled the “Marseillaise of the Confederacy” and was sung by soldiers charged with defending the institution of slavery. In addition to stirring sectional prejudice, Papenfuse said Randall’s words glorify the actions of the mob.
“They enshrine a world in which slavery was considered righteous and mob violence a virtue,” he said.
Following the Pratt Street Riot, Lincoln put parts of Maryland under martial law and suspended habeas corpus. During the Civil War, some journalists who sided with the Confederacy were arrested. Among them were Michael J. Kelly and John B. Piet, publishers of The Catholic Mirror, predecessor to the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Baltimore Archdiocese.
Kelly and Piet were twice arrested for printing works of a “treasonable character.” They were detained at Fort McHenry during one of those arrests.
Fr. Donald Sterling, pastor of New All Saints in Liberty Heights and a member of Lori’s working group on racism, told the Catholic Review “something different needs to be drafted” for a state song, one “that is inclusive and acknowledges the mistakes that have been made as we move toward unit.”
Sterling suggested it would be “conceptually interesting” to show in song that Maryland is “all inclusive.”
Several alternatives to “Maryland, My Maryland” have been proposed, including one composed by two staff members and a former student of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville.
Vatican News Service and Agenzia Fides
Thousands of residents of a slum in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, require emergency assistance after a fire engulfed the whole township, the country’s authorities confirmed this week.
Due to its location, Susan’s Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, is the landing place for hundreds of canoes and boats that everyday unload goods from the hinterland, such as charcoal or vegetables, destined for Freetown’s central markets.
The Catholic Diocese’s Caritas Freetown said it was doing what it could but the needs outstrip resources. The church organisation has launched a 21-day emergency programme.
“So far, we have provided an average of 3 000 meals a day to the needy population, and we will continue to do so for 21 days. Seven refreshment and coordination points have been set up where volunteers from the organisation provide displaced people with food, drinking water, blankets and basic clothing,” said Ishmael Charles, head of programmes at Caritas Freetown.
Bad weather has also brought heavy rains that have aggravated the conditions for people who were already without shelter. Many people are sleeping outside in the open.
Over the years, about 11 000 people have found shelter in Susan’s Bay, a sort of ‘shantytown’ of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. With time a large community, mainly engaged in informal trade and fishing, has emerged. Built with metal sheets and salvaged material, the densely populated Bay has developed in a chaotic and disorderly manner, without an urban plan or an evacuation or rescue plan.
The situation is very difficult,” explained the Caritas official, Charles. Freetown Mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has called for planned settlements.
“The whole community has been wiped out,” Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said. “Once again, there was no access for the firefighters. A six-storey building under construction blocked all available access”, she denounced.
She maintains that “disaster risk reduction cannot occur without effective urban planning and a building permit regime focused on reducing human-made environmental risks. “Join us in praying for the victims”, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr implored.
By Lydia O’Kane
Over the past year, many people have been coming together to lend their help and support to each other as the invisible enemy that is COVID-19 continues to spread.
One has only to look at the thousands of people volunteering at vaccine centres, helping to ensure the process of administering inoculations runs smoothly.
Healthcare workers too continue their vital jobs on the front lines along with hospital chaplains who are there to comfort the sick, the dying and their families.
Added to that are the prison chaplains who are there to offer pastoral care and support to those in custody.
As the spread of COVID-19 continues unabated, its impact is being keenly felt by those in prison.
For those in custody, their lockdown is a continuous one until the day they are released. But now, added to this isolation and due to the pandemic, they are not able to receive visits from loved ones, and they fear for their families and friends outside who have succumbed to the virus.
Around Ireland, there are twelve prisons, are served by 24 prison chaplains. According to the Irish Prison Service, the total number of prisoners who tested positive for Covid-19 from March 2020 to 20th January 2021 is 51. Twenty-six have been prison-based transmission and twenty-five community transmission.
Currently, Irish prisons are COVID free, and the service has been widely praised for its response to the pandemic, which has led to them to submitting a paper to the World Health Organization serving as a model of best practice for keeping COVID-19 out of prisons.
Prison chaplaincy has a role primarily to those in custody, but it also provides support and pastoral care to prison service staff and has been seen as an essential prison service throughout the outbreak of the virus.
So how has the prison chaplain’s role changed during the pandemic? Head Chaplain with the Irish Prison Service, Seán Duggan, responded to that question, explaining that the chaplaincy has embraced and made strides in the whole area technology.
Normally those in custody would be able to converse with a chaplain in various areas of the prison, but due to current Public Health measures, new and innovative ways to reach out to inmates are also being used: one such idea is the Tele Chaplaincy. According to Mr Duggan, “a prisoner in his or her cell has the facility to ring their own prison based chaplain for a confidential conversation.” He points out that technology has not replaced the presence of chaplains, but it is being used to assist and support their work.
Another area where technology has flourished has been in the streaming of religious celebrations and opportunities for reflections, which are streamed into the TV system of the prisons throughout the country.
From the time a person starts his or her journey, said Mr Duggan, they will go through all the life experiences that those in communities outside have to cope with, including bereavement, trying to adjust to new situations, trying to keep their family relationships going, and keeping in contact with their loved ones.
In addition, he noted, the chaplain is often seen as the “voice of the prisoner” in the many day to day aspects of prison life, and in the area of advocacy on behalf of those in custody.
Asked if prisoners have felt a sense of anxiety as a result of the pandemic, Mr Duggan said that just as in many communities, there has been “worry and concern” about COVID-19.
One of the areas that has impacted prisoners during the outbreak has been the suspension of prison visits, which the Head Chaplain said has led to the introduction of video calls for those in custody and their loved ones in the community. “It’s important to say,” he points out, that “video calls are no replacement for the physical visit to the prison, and there are pros and cons to it, but it has been an important support and a way of keeping in contact with their loved ones in the family.”
Another challenge that the Chaplaincy continues to respond to is the whole area of bereavement and helping people to deal with their grief.
Mr Duggan highlights that with the advent of webcams in churches, it has meant that those in custody have the opportunity to follow the funeral of a loved one or friend. Chaplains, he said, are also on hand to accompany prisoners during a time of bereavement.
“These are difficult life experiences and there’s no easy way to deal with them, but what is important for those in custody is that they know they have a chaplain there always to access… and that has been the case throughout the pandemic; it has never ceased,” he said.
Mr Duggan noted that although there has always been an uptake in Chaplaincy support, the demand in Irish prisons has increased with the onset of the pandemic, coming in many different forms and especially around the area of pastoral care and spiritual support.
What has come to the fore, since the beginning of the pandemic, is that more Chaplains are needed within the prison service, and Mr Duggan hopes that one of the areas of learning arising out of the pandemic will be the “unique role and contribution that Chaplaincy continues to make, and also the need and demand that is there among the prisoner population.”
As Easter fast approaches and in the context of the current restrictions, Seán Duggan and his team have been busy making sure that those in custody have the resources they require for Holy Week. Prayer texts are being provided and Masses will be streamed into prisons commemorating Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Washington D.C., Mar 31, 2021 / 08:23 am (CNA).- Arkansas is set to ban gender-transitioning procedures for children, including the use of cross-sex hormones, surgeries, and puberty-blocking drugs.
The Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 on Monday to pass House Bill 1570, known as the “To Create The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.” The bill has not yet been signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), but he is expected to sign it into law.
The bill states that “A physician or other healthcare professional shall not provide gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen (18) years of age,” and that “A physician, or other healthcare professional shall not refer any individual under eighteen (18) years of age to any healthcare professional for gender transition procedures.”
The SAFE Act describes gender transition procedures as cross-sex hormonal treatments, surgeries including mastectomies and vaginoplasties, and drugs that are prescribed with the intent of stopping or delaying puberty in a pre-pubescent child.
Further, the bill also bans the use of public funding of gender transition procedures of children under the age of 18. Insurance companies in Arkansas will not be required to cover gender transition procedures, nor will they be allowed to cover the gender transition of a minor.
Chase Strangio, who is the deputy director for transgender justice for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), referred to the SAFE Act as “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature” and said that this legislation and similar bills are “potentially genocidal” for trans-identified people.
On its Twitter account, the ACLU claimed on Monday that “Arkansas has become the first state to ban health care for trans youth,” and that “our rights and lives are under attack.” While the legislation banned gender-transitioning for children, it did not apply to general health care procedures for youth identifying as transgender.
“This is one domino we cannot let fall,” the ACLU tweeted on Tuesday evening.
Last week, Arkansas became the second state to ban biological males who identify as female from competing on sports teams for women and girls.
“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” Hutchinson said in a statement after signing the bill. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
On Wednesday, President Biden tweeted on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, saying that “Transgender rights are human rights — and I’m calling on every American to join me in uplifting the worth and dignity of transgender Americans. Together, we can stamp out discrimination and deliver on our nation’s promise of freedom and equality for all.”
By Lisa Zengarini
In their Easter message, the two Catholic and Anglican Primates of Ireland have highlighted the true nature of Easter hope given by the Resurrection, pointing out its many signs around us as we experience this difficult time through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the joint statement, Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell of Armagh, note that Easter is strongly associated with hope, but not in the sense in which it is often understood in our society today. One of the physical signs of this hope is Spring, which brings “the promise of new life” and happens to fall in the Easter season, at least in the Northern hemisphere.
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality – they write -. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself”.
According to the Irish Primates, God has given many other signs of beauty and joy in the world that arouse our “yearning for eternal fellowship” with Him and “prepare us to find it unexpectedly, in the servant life and death of Jesus Christ”. These signs can be found not only in nature or in music, but also in our human lives, even today, during this difficult time of pandemic, in which Christians and others, “have found ways of making the best of a bad job by helping one another in ways that we haven’t been used to doing before”.
The two Archbishops of Armagh further note that this past year has given the opportunity “to show our appreciation and admiration for people who we don’t usually think about”: not “sports people, or billionaires or even politicians”, but “nurses and delivery drivers and people toiling in cavernous warehouses and food factories for very low wages. People – they say – that serve the fundamental needs of God’s world”. “In its own way their hidden service is a shadow of the resurrection life; the life of heaven, God’s place. Our sure and certain hope”, the message concludes.
Rome Newsroom, Mar 31, 2021 / 07:25 am (CNA).- A Catholic priest and at least six others were killed by gunmen in an attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benue State, Nigeria, the Diocese of Katsina-Ala confirmed Wednesday.
Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban had just offered Mass in his parish church of St. Paul Ayetwar in eastern Nigeria and was preparing to leave for the Holy Week Chrism Mass when he was shot in the head by gunmen on March 30.
According to a statement by Fr. Fidelis Phelle Akjmbul, chancellor of the Diocese of Katsina-Ala, the body of the priest and those of six other victims were recovered after “there was pandemonium among the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the parish premises.”
“Fr Ferdinand went out to find out the cause of the confusion. He was shot in the head as he tried to take cover after sighting armed gunmen,” said the letter from the chancery dated March 31 and obtained by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.
Local authorities in Nigeria’s Benue State confirmed that bandits had attacked St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Aye-Twar village.
The unidentified gunmen who attacked the parish also raided the Aye-Twar village and set many houses on fire, according to multiple media reports.
Ngugban was ordained to the priesthood in 2015. The diocese noted that he was on his way to “renew his priestly vows alongside his brother priests” in the Chrism Mass at St. Gerard Majella Cathedral when he was killed.
He had served as the assistant priest at St. Paul parish since 2018, where he helped care for the many internally displaced persons hosted by the parish. Ngugban previously was the assistant cathedral administrator for the Diocese of Katsina-Ala from 2015 to 2016 and a priest of St. Peter parish in Gbor-Tongov from 2016 to 2018.
The murder comes days after another Nigerian priest, Fr. Harrison Egwuenu of the diocese of Warri, was released after a week-long kidnapping by gunmen. He is still recovering from the trauma, according to the diocese.
The funeral arrangements for Fr. Ngugban and the other victims will be forthcoming.
“May the soul of Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban and his companions rest in peace,” Fr. Akjmbul said.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.
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