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Papal investigators meet with laity, priests and religious of Osorno

Osorno, Chile, Jun 15, 2018 / 02:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As part of their special mission to help bring healing to the troubled Chilean diocese of Osorno, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu are holding several pastoral meetings this week which they say are aimed at listening.

Speaking to Chilean media at the airport after landing in Osorno, Scicluna said they came “to convey the special closeness of the pope to the beloved people of Osorno. We are going to have a lot of discussion and will listen to our brothers, which is the most important [task] for us.”

Similarly, Bertomeu said they are “happy to be here in Osorno,” and voiced hope that they would be able “to communicate the Holy Father's request for forgiveness in peace, in concord and in harmony.”

Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and the Vatican's former top prosecutor on cases of clerical abuse, is currently in Osorno with Bertomeu, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for a June 12-19 pastoral mission to the Chilean Dioceses of Osorno and Santiago in order to advance “the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile.

After spending two days in Santiago, in which they led a day of formation on the guidelines to be followed in investigations into sexual abuse in the Church, the pair arrived to Osorno June 14, where they will stay until June 17, and will hold a number of meetings with different communities in the diocese.

Immediately after landing in Osorno Thursday, Scicluna and Bertomeu held meetings with two groups of local Catholics - the “Catholic Faithful of Osorno” and a group of lay men and women from the diocese.

On Friday the pair met with clergy from Osorno, including priests and deacons, as well as the communities of Santa Rosa Parish and the Parish of the Holy Spirit.

They will meet with another parish community Saturday, and that afternoon will speak with religious men and women from Osorno. The day will close with a second encounter at a parish, after which there will be time for adoration.

On Sunday, Scicluna and Bertomeu's last day in Osorno before heading back to Santiago, they will celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of San Mateo, after which they will meet with all parish communities in the diocese to pray for peace and reconcilation.

Scicluna and Bertomeu will then go back to Santiago for two days before returning to Rome June 19.

Osorno has been at the center of the Chilean clerical abuse crisis ever since Pope Francis' 2015 appointment of Juan Barros Madrid as the diocese's bishop – a move that was met with heavy opposition due to accusations he had covered up the crimes of notorious Chilean abuser, Fr. Fernando Karadima.

Francis had initially defended Barros, saying he believed the accusations against him were “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January. However, after new evidence was presented and news of old evidence resurfaced following his trip, the pope in February sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile to investigate, resulting a 2,300-page report on the crisis which prompted the pope to pen a letter to Chilean bishops in April saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the case.

Since then, Pope Francis has met with all Chilean bishops and two groups of Chilean abuse survivors at the Vatican.

On Monday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted Barros’ resignation and that of two other Chilean bishops. Every active bishop in Chile had submitted his resignation at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country's bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.

Scicluna and Bertomeu, whose current visit to Santiago and Osorno coincided with the news of Barros' resignation, have from the beginning stressed that they have come to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the pope, to provide formation on how to respond to abuse, and to listen.

In a June 13 press conference before heading to Osorno, Scicluna said that “to recognize and admit the whole truth, with all of its painful repercussions and consequences, is the point of departure for an authentic healing, both for the victim and the abuser. These brothers and sisters deserve our special attention and assistance.”

He also defended the papal nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, who has been accused of inaction when presented with abuse allegations, saying “we have a wonderful collaboration with the nuncio.”

In comments to Chilean media after landing in Osorno, Bertomeu backed Scicluna's defense of Scapolo, saying “the nuncio has a very complicated role, because he has a role as a representative of the Holy Father before the Chilean state and then there are also actions which can also be easily misinterpreted,” La Cooperativa reports.

“I myself am aware that in any moment of the day I can do something which can be misinterpreted, so I think that the procedures of justice must be respected before condemning someone and one must be a little more sure,” he said, adding that “until now the nuncio has acted correctly.”

 

Archbishop: Russian invasion of Ukraine is a ‘silent war’

Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2018 / 01:34 pm (CNA).- Speaking at the end of a closed-door meeting on religious freedom at the US Embassy to the Holy See, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church, stressed that “it is a matter of fact that the war in Ukraine has become a silent war.”

The meeting took place June 14, and was the first in a series of meetings dedicated to religious freedom hosted by the US Embassy to the Holy See.

In her initial remarks, Callista Gingrich, US Ambassador to the Holy See, strongly condemned Russian aggression on the Ukrainian territory.

“The facts,” she said, “are truly astonishing.  Today, Russia ranks among the worst violators of religious freedom and human rights.  There is no sign that its persecution of religious minorities and foreign missionaries is coming to an end.  And what is perhaps most troubling is that this repression is not limited to its own borders.”

Ambassador Gingrich noted that “it has been four years since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine, and occupied and attempted to annex Crimea,” and stressed that “these unjust actions, launched under the pretense of ‘defending Russian-speaking people’, have in reality been disastrous for the people living in these regions.”

The head of the biggest Eastern Catholic, or sui iuris, Church in the world, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said at the meeting: “my mission is to convey to the top leaders of the world today the voice of suffering people of Ukraine.”

Shevchuk mentioned current problems in Ukraine, among them the fact that there are thousands of children in direct exposure to explosive material, a constant risk of being targeted for airstrikes, and the pollution of water supplies stemming from underground nuclear explosions during the Soviet era.

“Very often,” he said “the future of our nation is discussed without us. I think that is a big mistake, and I think it is important to make us partners of such a process.”  

Major Archbishop Shevchuk saw in the Holy See’s diplomatic presence in the world “a special possibility to share our stories, to speak out on behalf of our people.”

The head of Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church also spoke about the need for religious reconciliation in Ukraine.

“We do not just need to pray for reconciliation. We need to do effective acts of reconciliation. This is crucial,” Shevchuk said.

He added that “reconciliation does not mean to be reconciled with the aggressor, reconciliation does not mean to be reconciled with lying or fake news.”

Shevchuk also noted that “chaplains are in the frontline to help soldiers to be converted to love, not to hatred,” and stressed that “the process of justice and reconciliation should start. We try to foster that process, we preach forgiveness even for our enemy, and we try to share the experience of other countries. We are convinced that dialogue can heal the wounds."

The archbishop emphasized the need for ecumenical dialogue in Ukraine, especially with Orthodox Christians, who are deeply divided in the country, especially after a disagreement over the relationship between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches. That disagreement has become a contentious debate involving the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

“Ecumenical dialogue,” Shevchuk underscored “is crucial for Ukraine, because Ukraine is a multiethnic and multi-religious country and there is also a painful situation of an internal division between the Orthodox.”

Shevchuk said that “of course there is some sort of competition between Churches, especially those who would call themselves as Orthodox; of course, there is a sound risk of the instrumentalization of the Church for geopolitical proposals; of course there are some facts that even Orthodox priests took up arms against Ukraine’s army; but nevertheless I think that the consciousness that religious peace is a common good of all of us is prevailing right now.”

The head of Greek Catholics of Ukraine discussed the roots of the current disagreement: a request from some Ukrainian Orthodox Churches  for independence from affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Churches.

“Of course,” he said, “Ukrainian Orthodox Churches which are not in communion with the Moscow patriarchate are trying to come out of isolation within worldwide Orthodoxy; of course, they would look toward the mother Church, the Church of Constantinople.”

“There are some inner tensions in each Church as well, but thanks to be to God until now we have religious peace among us,” he added.

The archbishop expressed regret that “there is no bilateral dialogue” among the Churches, as “there is no alternative to dialogue. With no dialogue, there is just confrontation.”

He then praised a Ukrainian NGO, the “Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations” that “can help us to meet and to cooperate together for the common good of the Ukrainian society."

He added that, despite Ukraine’s struggles, he has hope.

“We are Christians, we trust in God’s providence. Only God is the master of peace, and there is no peace without justice,” he concluded.

The US Embassy to the Holy See will co-sponsor a June 25 conference on religious freedom, which will take place at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome.

 

 

New York Archdiocese announces appeal over Fulton Sheen court decision  

New York City, N.Y., Jun 15, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of New York announced on Friday that the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are appealing a court decision that would allow Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s body to be moved to Peoria, Ill., as his cause for beatification proceeds.

The Trustees, who oversee archdiocesan seminaries, “believe that the recent court case concerning the earthly remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was again incorrectly decided, and will seek an appeal of that decision along with a stay on moving the remains while the appellate court considers the case,” said a June 15 statement.

“At issue in the case, as the appellate court noted in its reversal of the trial court’s original decision, is what were Archbishop’s Sheen’s personal wishes concerning his final resting place,” the statement said.

“As Trustees, it is our responsibility to respect those wishes, and we believe that this most recent decision once again fails to consider those wishes and instead relies on the speculation and conjecture of others.”  

Last week, the Superior Court of New York ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Venerable Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The body of the late archbishop is currently in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Judge Arlene Bluth, ruled that “the location of Archbishop Sheen's final resting place would not have been his primary concern” and that “it makes no sense, given his lifelong devotion to the Catholic Church, that he would choose a location over the chance to become a saint.”

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s canonization in 2002 after Archdiocese of New York said it would not explore the case. In 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtues of the archbishop.

However, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at the age of 24. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the Archdiocese of New York Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.

Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood. In 2016, she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria.

An initial court ruling had sided with Cunningham, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling, saying it had failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C. Franco, a witness for the New York archdiocese.

Msgr. Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Cooke had offered him a space in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The appeals court ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

In the New York Superior Court decision, Bluth ruled that “Mrs. Cunningham has offered a sound reason and a laudable purpose for her petition” and that Sheen “would care much less about the location of his earthly remains than his ability … to continue to serve man and God on a grand scale after his earthly demise.”

Both the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York have voiced prayers that the beatification cause may move forward in a timely manner.

Archbishop Sheen served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living”.

In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.

Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.

In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.

The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.
 

 

Prime suspect arrested in murder of Philippines priest

Manila, Philippines, Jun 15, 2018 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The primary suspect in the killing of Filipino priest Father Richmond Villaflor Nilo was found and taken into custody Thursday night.

According to media reports, the suspect, Adell Roll Milan, was identified by an altar boy who had been preparing to help Fr. Nilo celebrate Mass on June 10, when two unidentified gunmen shot Nilo four times through a window of Nuestra Senora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza.

Nilo, 43, was the third priest of the Nueva Ecija province to be killed in the past six months. A parish priest in the northern Philippine Diocese of Cabanatuan, he was active in an apostolate for the deaf and mute. He also served as the financial administrator for the diocese.

Police said possible motives for the killing include a land dispute and the priest’s advocacy for rape victims.

Authorities announced the arrest the same day as Nilo’s funeral.

 

Pope Francis says exploiting women is a 'sin against God'

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Friday, Pope Francis issued a scathing critique of the ways in which women are often exploited and mistreated - whether it be through a revealing television ad, or when getting a job is contingent on sexual favors.

He said there is a tendency in many environments to view women as “second class” or as an object of “waste,” and called the ways in which women are at times abused and enslaved “sins against God.”

The pope offered his June 15 daily Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence as a prayer “for the women who are discarded, for the women who are used, for the girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job.”

He took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.”

Women, he said, are “what is missing in every man in order to be the image and likeness of God.”

The “doctrine on women” introduced by Jesus in the Gospel, he said, “changed history,” because up to that moment, the woman was “second class...she couldn't even enjoy full freedom.”

“The woman before Jesus is one thing, the woman after Jesus is another. Jesus dignified woman and put her on the same level as man,” Francis said, stressing that “both are 'the image and likeness of God,' both; not men first and then women a bit lower, no, both.”

“And man without woman beside him – as a mother, sister, wife, colleague, friend – that man is not the image of God.”

In the Gospel a certain “desire” for women was alluded to, the pope said, explaining that this desire is not a bygone sentiment, but is something seen in everywhere in daily activities.

“In television programs, in magazines, in newspapers, they show the woman as an object of desire, of use,” he said, comparing the publications to a “supermarket.” In order to sell a certain type of tomato, he said, using food as an example, women become an object, and are “humiliated, without clothes.”

And the problem is not distant, but it happens “where we live.” It's enough to go to an office or a business and one will see that a woman is “the object of that disposable philosophy,” as if she were “waste material” and not a real person.

“This is a sin against God the creator,” the pope said, because “without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God.”

Francis said there is currently “a fury against women, a terrible fury, even without saying it.”

“How many girls, in order to have a job, have to sell themselves as a disposable object? How many?” he asked, noting that this is not just a problem in faraway countries, but it happens “here in Rome.”

If one were to do a “night walk” in certain areas of Rome, he said, they would see that “many women, many migrants, and many non-migrants” are exploited as if they were in a marketplace. Men approach these women, he said, “not to say 'good evening,' but 'how much do you cost?'”

Pope Francis said it would do everyone good to look at these women and think about the fact that they are “slaves of this mindset of waste.”

“Everything happens here, in Rome, it happens in every city; anonymous women, women, we can say, without an expression because the shame covers her gaze, women who do not know how to laugh” and who often do not know the joy of being mothers, he said.

But even without going to these areas, in normal daily situations “there is this awful mentality” of viewing women as “a second class object.”

“We have to reflect better,” Francis said, because entertaining this mindset toward women means “we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together in his image and likeness.”

The pope closed his homily voicing hope that the day's Gospel passage would help Catholics to think more about “the market of women; yes, trafficking, exploitation, which we see,” but even in “the unseen market, what is done and not seen. The woman is trampled because she is a woman.”

He reminded Mass-goers that Jesus himself had a mother, and had “many women friends who followed him to help him in his ministry.” Jesus also found many women who were “despised, marginalized and discarded,” however, he raised them up with “tenderness,” and restored their dignity.