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Sodalitium Christianae Vitae elects new superior general

Aparecida, Brazil, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Colombian José David Correa González has been selected as the new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society of apostolic life.

The selection took place during Fifth General Assembly of the Sodalitium, which is being held at the Aparecida Marian shrine in Brazil, Jan. 6-27.

Correa, 49, will serve a six year term. He was chosen by the Vatican Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from a three-person list chosen by members of the society during the general assembly.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a member of the community.

The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, stepped down as superior general in 2010, after allegations surfaced that he had committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Other former leaders of the community have since faced related abuse allegations, and several remain subject to law enforcement investigations.

In February 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

As a result, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

In January 2018, Pope Francis appointed Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the society, tasking him with overseeing an ongoing process of reform that began after allegations against Figari came to light. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was tasked in 2016 with assisting the community’s reform process and its internal investigations of alleged misconduct.

The election of Correa is seen as the latest step in the reform process.

The new superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was the first Colombian member of the community. He was born in Medellin July 26, 1969, entered the SCV on September 4, 1992 and made his perpetual vows May 13, 2000.

Correa had been serving as superior of the Our Lady of Alta Gracia community in the prelature of Ayaviri, Peru, one of the poorest regions of Peru, situated 12,800 feet above sea level. Until now he was also the Secretary General of Caritas in Ayaviri.

Correa is the first non-Peruvian superior general of the Sodalitium.
The SCV general assembly next elect the community’s vicar general, who functions as an executive officer to the superior, and five members of its governing council.

The Holy See has also announced that with Correa’s selection, the Sodalitium will no longer be directly governned by its commissioner. Tobin, however, will continue to assist the community as a papal delegate, especially on financial matters.

The general assembly will conclude with a Mass of thanksgiving at the Aparecida Marian shrine Sunday, January 27.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Order of Malta to provide first aid at World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Jan 22, 2019 / 09:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There will be 120 volunteers of the Order of Malta in Panama for World Youth Day, with the task of “providing first aid to young pilgrims”, Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Monbel, Grand Hospitalier of the Order, told CNA.

Within the Order of Malta, the Grand Hospitalier includes the office of Minister of Health and of Social Affairs, for Humanitarian Action, and for International Cooperation.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order of a military, noble, and chivalrous nature. It is a subject of international law, and in that capacity it has diplomatic relations with over 100 states and the European Union, and also holds a Permanent Observer status at the United Nations. It is preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with Panama.

The Order of Malta is currently active in 120 countries, with a wide network of social and humanitarian work.

De la Rochefoucauld recounted that the Order of Malta organized for World Youth Day “120 volunteers, coming from Germany, France and Italy,” whose main task will be that of providing first aid to the pilgrims.

Given the number of pilgrims coming from long distances, “there are people who do not feel well, some of them faint, some of them simply cannot manage the energy. And so, there is the need of professionals there, who are able to care for these people.”

The Order of Malta volunteers are all specifically trained to face any kind of crisis. The Grand Hospitalier underscored that “they have been trained to help in crisis situations like earthquake,” not to mention that “our first aid units in France were among the first assisting the injured at the Bataclan theater.”

De la Rochefoucauld-Mombel also recalled the Paris 1997 World Youth Day, where he was among the first aid corps: “We were called because one of the girls of the group was not feeling well. When we got there, she had fainted, so we started the procedure, automatically: we opened the buttons, untied shoes, put her in the right position to let her breath. The doctor was in front of me. We stared from one to the other and in that moment the crowd started saying the ‘Our Father’ prayer. And we prayed the prayer, too, while continuing to provide the first aid.”

5 things to know about World Youth Day 2019

Panama City, Panama, Jan 21, 2019 / 04:31 pm (CNA).- The 15th international World Youth Day is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 22 in Panama City, Panama.

The massive gathering of Catholic youth, which takes place every two or three years, this year will be held for the first time in Central America.

Pope St. John Paul II established World Youth Day in 1985. The first international gathering was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987.

The purpose of World Youth Day is threefold: a celebration of and putting trust in the young; giving young people a chance to make pilgrimage; and to give young people a chance to encounter the worldwide Catholic community.

The theme for this year’s gathering is taken from Mary’s affirmation of God’s will in Luke 1:38: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

The festivities in Panama end Jan. 27. Here are 5 things you need to know about this year’s World Youth Day (in Spanish, Jornada Mundial de la Juventud or JMJ).

1. How many pilgrims?

Past World Youth Days have typically been held during the northern hemisphere’s summer— August, July, etc. This year the event takes place during the southern hemisphere’s summer, and though Panama lies entirely in the northern hemisphere, it is going to be hot! The forecast for the week shows highs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for most days.  

The timing this year also means WYD is taking place during the school year for young people from the Northern Hemisphere, so it remains to be seen how many young people from the United States will be able to make it. At last count, 11,000 young people from the U.S. are registered. Around 36,000 US youths attended the last WYD in Poland, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In addition to pilgrims, the United States is sending more than 30 bishops, including Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston, Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim Director of Vatican press office, said as of Jan. 18 that 150,000 young people from 155 countries had signed up as pilgrims, which would make for a smaller group than had attended in previous years— around 2 million pilgrims attended the last World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, and in 1995 an estimated 5 million attended in Manila, Philippines.

However, the international media coordinator for the Archdiocese of Panama has said more recently that at least 408,000 pilgrims have signed up, and the number is expected to grow. Organizers say they expect a crowd of at least 500,000 people for the final mass on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Paul Jarzembowski, World Youth Day national coordinator for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said they have seen more young people in their 20s participating in this WYD, whereas in years past more of the pilgrims have been teenagers.

2. A man, a plan, a canal...Panama!

Panama is a small Central American nation of about 4 million people. Overall, the country is about 85% Catholic.

Most of the events will be held on Cinta Costera, a 64-acre peninsula jutting into the Panama Bay, which has been renamed Campo Santa Maria la Antigua for WYD.

Pilgrims are also encouraged to check out the historic district of Panama City, Casco Viejo, and to visit the seven historic churches located in the district: La Catedral Metropolitana, La Merced, San Francisco de Asís, San José, San Felipe de Neri, Santo Domingo, and Santa Ana.

Panama City, the capital of the county and home to about 1.5 million people in the metro area, is home to the world-famous Panama Canal, the waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Construction on the canal was completed in 1914 by the US Army Corp of Engineers, at a cost of the lives of nearly 28,000 workers who undertook the project. Today, nearly 14,000 ships cross through the canal each year, the majority bound for the United States.  

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez has been a strong supporter of the WYD effort ever since it was announced in 2016 that the next event would be held in his country.

“As a Panamanian,” he told Vatican News, “I feel honored that our country will be at the heart of the world for a few days, pumping the Pope’s message of hope, unity, solidarity and concern for those in need.”

3. Follow the action

For English-speaking pilgrims attending WYD, there are several special events that will be conducted in English while you’re down there.

For example, the USCCB along with the Knights of Columbus and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students are co-sponsoring an event called “Fiat” in Panama City on Jan. 23 at 7pm EST. The event will feature renowned Catholic speakers and musicians. The English and Spanish-speaking event will be livestreamed on FOCUS’ YouTube channel.

If you can’t make it to this year’s World Youth Day, there are several ways to follow along at home. The official hashtags for WYD this year, which you can follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are #Panama2019, #FranciscoEnPanama, and #JMJestáAqui / #WYDisHere. You can also follow @cnalive on Twitter and @catholicnewsagency on Instagram for updates from Panama City.

If you’d still like to attend an event in person, there are several WYD events taking place throughout the US at the same time as the international gathering in Panama. These include festivals with speakers, music and more in cities like Washington DC, Seattle, Honolulu, and others. The complete list can be found here.

4. Latin American saints and spirituality

Organizers of the event are already talking about the infectious energy of Panama City, and the likelihood that, especially with the appearance of the first pope from the Americas, the event will be very focused on a Latin American flavor of Catholicism. Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama City told Vatican News that he expects most of the pilgrims to come from Latin America.

Images of St Oscar Romero, a very popular and beloved Salvadoran archbishop, will likely be a very visible figure among the Latin American pilgrims. Romero, a tireless advocate for the poor, was assassinated while celebrating mass in 1980, likely by a right-wing death squad. Pope Francis canonized Romero late last year.

This is also the first World Youth Day to overlap with the World Meeting of Indigenous Youth, at which nearly 400 indigenous young people gathered ahead of the WYD celebrations in rural Panama.

5. A visit from Pope Francis

The big question everyone is asking: When will I get to see Pope Francis? Here are a few highlights from his schedule.

Pope Francis will arrive in Panama Wednesday, Jan. 23. The next day, Jan. 24, he will have a meeting with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez at 9:45 am, followed by a meeting with the Central American bishops at 11:15 and then a welcome ceremony to mark the beginning of World Youth Day at 5:30 pm, which will be held at Campo Santa Maria la Antigua.

On Jan. 25, he will meet with young detainees for a penitential service, and later that evening will preside over a “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) at Campo Santa Maria la Antigua.

On Saturday morning, Jan. 26, Pope Francis will dedicate the altar of the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua, and that evening will lead a vigil with the young people in Metro Park. Finally, the following morning the Holy Father will preside over the closing mass for WYD at 8 am.

 

Mexico's bishops pray for the scores killed by pipeline blast

Tula de Allende, Mexico, Jan 21, 2019 / 03:46 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Mexico have offered prayers and condolences following Friday's explosion of a fuel pipeline which killed at least 79 people in Hidalgo state.

The Jan. 18 blast occurred after a pipeline in Tlahuelilpan municipality, about 10 miles northeast of Tula, was punctured by suspected fuel thieves. As many as 800 people were converged around the gushing gasoline to fill containers when the blaze took place.

“We are offering all our prayers and Masses, as well as our solidarity with the families of the victims, the injured and those missing,” the president and secretary general of the Mexican bishops' conference said in a Jan. 19 statement.

“We appreciate and encourage the the company and consolation” offered by Bishop Juan Pedro Juárez Meléndez of Tula and his priests, “in hospitals and funeral chapels, to the relatives of all those affected by this accident.”

The bishops prayed for the eternal rest of the deceased and the health of those injured or missing.

The scramble to collect the gasoline came amid a shortage at the pumps produced by the government's fight against the theft and adulteration of fuel, which costs the country around $3 billion a year.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has charged that fuel theft has occurred with complicity within the government and Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

He recently began shutting down pipelines, using trucks and trains to transport fuel instead.

The Tula-Tuxpan pipeline which exploded in Tlahuelilpan had been closed since late December, and was reopened Jan. 16.

Both  López Obrador and the governor of Hidalgo have urged citizens not to engage in fuel theft.

"Besides being illegal, it puts at risk your life and those of your families. What happened today in Tlahuelilpan should not be repeated," governor Omar Fayad said on Twitter.

Former vicar: Vatican already knew about sexual abuse allegations against Argentine bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 20, 2019 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an exclusive report from the Associated Press, the former vicar to Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta said that the Vatican had had information about sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta for several years.

This contradicts a Vatican statement made just weeks ago which said that Vatican officials had only gained knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta a few months ago.

Bishop Zanchetta resigned as Bishop of Orán, Argentina on Aug. 1, 2017, slightly more than four years after his appointment there. At the time, he cited health problems and “difficulty in managing relations with the diocesan clergy and in very tense relations with the priests of the diocese,” and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

About four months after his resignation, Zanchetta was appointed by Francis to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. The APSA manages the Holy See's assets and real estate holdings.

On January 3, 2019, the Vatican announced that they had first received accusations of alleged sexual misconduct against Zanchetta only a few months ago, in the fall of 2018.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim Holy See press officer, said Jan. 3 that “at the time of his resignation there had been against (Bishop Zanchetta) accusations of authoritarianism, but there had been against him no accusation of sexual abuse…the accusations of sexual abuse date to this autumn.”

But Rev. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017 for alleged “obscene behavior”, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and naked selfies found on his phone.

Manzano, who now is a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP that he and several other diocesan officials alerted the Vatican in 2015 of Zanchetta’s concerning behavior. He said he sent the Vatican the naked selfies and other compromising images that had been found on the bishop’s phones.

"In 2015, we just sent a 'digital support' with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous," he told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, Manzano noted.

"It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn't intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked, and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the pope."

Manzano said that for a time after being summoned to the Vatican, Zanchetta’s behavior seemed to improve. But then it worsened, and he would allegedly visit the seminary “at all hours,” get drunk with seminarians, and travel with them alone often without the permission of the rector of the seminary.

Again in May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP that he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the Vatican's nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican. At that time, the situation had become “much more serious, not just because there had been a question about sexual abuses, but because the diocese was increasingly heading into the abyss," Manzano said.

Shortly thereafter, in July 2017, Zanchetta announced his resignation from his position as Bishop of Oran. After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up his position in the Vatican in December 2017.

Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis.

Francis had appointed Zanchetta as Bishop of Oran in 2013. Zanchetta had also been the executive undersecretary of the Argentine bishops conference which was headed by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from 2005-2011.

Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s "manipulation." He said the recent Vatican statement may have been making a distinction between informally filed allegations and a formal complaint against Zanchetta.

"There was never any intent to hide anything. There was never any intent of the Holy Father to defend him against anything," Manzano said.

According to Gisotti’s Jan. 3 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

Zanchetta has been placed on a temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.

 

Terror cannot be the seed of peace, Bogota cardinal says after car bomb

Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 19, 2019 / 06:01 am (ACI Prensa).- Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota said that terror can never be the seed of justice and peace, following Thursday's car bomb attack at a police academy in the Colombian capital.

The Jan. 17 attack which killed 21 has been attributed to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a left-wing guerilla group. Dozens more were injured, but most have been released from hospital.

“Death, violence and terror can never be the seed of justice and peace,” Cardinal Salazar said in a message posted on the Archdiocese of Bogota's Twitter account.

“We reject this and every attack that violates the dignity of persons and society,” he added. Cardinal Salazar also expressed his “solidarity with the nation, the police, the victims and their families, and we implore the Lord for forgiveness and peace.”

A vehicle carrying 175 pounds of pentolite, a military-grade explosive, accelerated into the General Santander police academy after being stopped at a checkpoint. The pentolite detonated when the SUV struck a wall. The academy was holding a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez reported that the vehicle's driver was José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez, the ELN's top explosives expert, and that an accomplice had been arrested in Bogota.

Miguel Ceballos, High Commissioner for Peace, said the government will not dialogue with the ELN “until they hand over all the kidnapped people and completely renounce their criminal acts.”

Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, president of the Colombian bishops' conference, stated that “every act of violence engenders more violence, which is why we reiterate the call to continue to work for reconciliation in the country. We pray for the victims. We stand in solidarity with their families and the national police.”

“I ask you to not lose heart in working to overcome enmities and creating bridges that lead us to fraternity in the family and in the various social environments,” he added.

The Military diocese also offered prayers for the victims, their families, and the officer training school.

In a telegram to Cardinal Salazar from Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed his “deep sorrow for the victims who lost their lives in such an inhuman act.”

On the scene of the blast, the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, said that the attack was “not just against young people, or the police, but against all of society.”

He said that what happened “was a demented terrorist attack which will not go unpunished,” and that
“we will act with unbending determination.”

Car bombings were once not uncommon in the Colombian conflict, which has been ongoing among the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerillas since 1964.

The conflict has abated since a 2016 peace deal between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Duque has not taken up peace talks with the ELN.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Mexican bishops make statement on gasoline shortage

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 17, 2019 / 03:19 pm (ACI Prensa).- Amid a crisis caused by the shortage of gasoline in Mexico and the government's fight against the theft and adulteration of fuel, the country's bishops have appealed to the citizenry and called for more truthful and objective information to be given.

Several Mexican states and the country's capital have been affected by a shortage of gasoline in recent days, with long lines at operating gas stations.

The situation is related to a series of measures taken by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to deal with the theft and adulteration of fuel, which is costing the country around $3 billion a year. The government has shut down pipelines, from which fuel is tapped, using trucks and trains to transport fuel instead.

López Obrador has charged that the fuel theft has occurred with complicity within the government and Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

The shortage,which has produced long lines at gasoline stations in several cities, has caused a controversy among the citizenry and political groups a little more than a month after Lopez Obrador took office as president.

Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López of Monterrey, president of the Mexican bishops' conference, expressed in a Jan. 13 statement his support for “the measures taken by the president of the Republic to address the problem of the theft of gasoline which has negatively affected our country.”

“I ask citizens to support this measure, asking the authorities to not let themselves be intimidated by actions which, in the past, were common and which caused so much harm, but rather enforce the laws and quickly respond to this situation, hoping that as soon as possible this problem will be resolved,” he said.

Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Morelia, vice president of the conference, encouraged waiting for “adequate information” on Lopez Obrador's strategy to deal with the theft of gasoline.

“At this time, there are many versions, many interpretations, which I don't think give us enough specifics to be able to give an opinion. I hope we can have objective information as soon as possible and have an explanation about everything that has happened.”

Archbishop Garfias expressed his desire that those affected by the shortage will have their dissatisfaction redressed.

In the states where there has been a fuel shortage, he said, “there has been a lot of discontent, a lot of dissatisfaction, and I hope that we will have an adequate explanation.”

However, he noted that “when corruption appears, when there are signs of a lack of truth, when there is deception, when there are lies, it's always going to be important to have a strategy to be able to find a way to make it clear where is the lie, the corruption, the theft, and that justice be done.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Small, well-funded LGBT group to challenge Catholic teaching at World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Jan 16, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- A U.S.-based coalition of dissenting Catholics, whose backers include wealthy non-Catholic funders, is sending a small group of LGBT activists to World Youth Day in Panama to engage with media and pilgrims and to challenge Catholic teaching and practice they say is “harmful.”

The six pilgrims are backed by the Equally Blessed Coalition, currently composed of the groups Call to Action, Dignity USA and New Ways Ministry. The group Fortunate Families had belonged to the coalition for several years but left it in 2018.

This year’s World Youth Day, a major international Catholic young adult event, will take place in the Panama City area Jan. 22-27. It is expected to draw 3 million people, including 200,000 Panamanians, according to local papers. Pope Francis will take part in the events and celebrate a penitential liturgy with juvenile detention center detainees, a Way of the Cross with young people, a prayer vigil with youth, and a Mass for World Youth Day participants.

The Equally Blessed Coalition’s November 13, 2018 announcement cited Pew Research Center and Public Religion Research Institute polling that they said showed two-thirds of American Catholics backed “gay marriage” and a majority oppose “so-called ‘religious freedom’ laws that allow businesses and other public service providers to discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“While we raise awareness about issues of gender and sexuality in the lives of Catholics, we will challenge harmful teachings and pastoral practices that dehumanize us rather than celebrate the gifts that we LGBTQI people bring to the church and to the world,” said the coalition on its website. “While our church has repeatedly villainized LGBTQI people as ‘disordered,’ our pilgrims will counter this with a message of love and radical inclusion.”

The Equally Blessed Coalition previously sponsored pilgrims to World Youth Day in 2011 and 2013 and to the World Meeting of Families in 2015 and 2018. Its website says it has raised around $6,000 from about 60 donors for this year’s group visit.

The Arcus Foundation, an LGBT advocacy funder launched by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, is among the coalition’s major backers.

In 2014 the foundation gave a $200,000 grant to Dignity USA for the Equally Blessed Coalition “to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates.” The effort was linked to both the Church’s Synod on the Family and World Youth Day and aimed to “amplify pro-LGBT voices within the Catholic Church.”

According to the foundation, the funding was part of an effort to engage “open-minded religious leaders who can use their influence to shift public views away from prejudice.”

In 2016 the foundation gave a $250,000, two-year grant to Dignity USA to fund the Equally Blessed Coalition, in order to “support and give voice to the growing majority of Roman Catholics who support full acceptance and equality for LGBT people.”

Another grant of $125,000 to Dignity USA for the Equally Blessed Coalition was earmarked for “advocating for LGBTQ acceptance and for an end to harmful religious exemption policies within Catholic communities,” according to the June 2018 grant announcement.

Dignity USA was among the backers of a messaging effort called the Equal Future project, which sought to influence the Catholic Church’s 2018 youth synod. The project contended that the “rules” of the Catholic Church are causing “damage” to those who self-identify as LGBT.

Ann Schneible, communications director for the Courage apostolate, commented on Equal Future last year. She told CNA that Catholic teaching insists that everyone has the fundamental identity “to be the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

“Seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that the Church’s approach provides the most compassionate response to people, including youth and young adults, who experience same sex attractions,” Schneible said. “Far from being a misfortune or a disappointment, their identity as sons and daughters of God – who are made in his image and likeness, and have received divine grace and a call to holiness – is a profound and life-giving joy.”

Those who experience same-sex attraction deserve compassionate outreach from Catholics, she said, adding, “we do so in the belief and hope that following God’s plan will always lead one to happiness and ultimate fulfillment.”

Equally Blessed claims World Youth Day typically “includes sessions sponsored by organizations that oppose any advancement of civil rights for LGBTQI people.” It said the pilgrimage aims to “create the space now for LGBTQI people within the Catholic Church.”

Its objections included the recent synod on young people discussion about LGBT issues “where only (mostly older) cisgender men were allowed to vote.” It objected to what it said was “a recurrence of rhetoric that blames child sexual abuse on homosexuality” and protested what it said was the “attempted erasure of LGBTQI Catholics and same sex couples from the church.”

Equally Blessed objected to “unjust treatment of LGBTQI church workers, “including violence and threats of violence,” citing the case of a pastoral worker at San Diego’s St. John the Evangelist Parish who resigned from his position after he became the focus of strongly critical internet coverage from fringe Catholic blogs and news sites, which said he was in a same-sex union and backed LGBT advocacy. The pastoral worker said he had endured “physical and emotional violence” due to the internet sites and their readers. Extreme harassment, including death threats placed on the man’s car, were reported to police and the FBI, an associate pastor at the parish told Fox 5 San Diego.

Equally Blessed claimed that Pope Francis had shown “public silence” after all these developments.

The Equally Blessed contingent to World Youth Day includes Melissa Barber, who quit her job as a religious education director in Indianapolis to contract a same-sex union; Catherine Buck, an adjunct professor from New Jersey who writes for New Ways Ministry’s blog; and Keith Hall, a federal employee from Washington, D.C. who co-chairs the Dignity Young Adult Caucus.

The self-described Catholic groups in the coalition reject Catholic teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts and have called for same-sex unions to be recognized as sacramental.

In a February 12, 2010 statement, then-U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said New Ways Ministry’s claim to be Catholic “only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.” He rejected claims that it provides “an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice.” The group has no approval from the Church and “they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States,” he said.

In 2016 New Ways Ministry awarded its Bridge Building Award to media commentator and America magazine editor Father James Martin, S.J., who based his book on LGBT outreach on his acceptance speech.

In 2012 the Equally Blessed Coalition issued a report attacking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus for their work to maintain the legal definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

The report’s funders included the Human Rights Campaign and the report acknowledged Arcus Foundation funding for the Equally Blessed Coalition.

The Arcus Foundation is also a grant maker to the Catholics United Education Fund and the pro-abortion rights group Catholics for Choice. It has funded groups in other Christian communities, including Episcopalian groups ahead of the breakup of the Anglican Communion over issues such as ecclesial authority and homosexuality.

It has been a partner of the U.S. State Department’s Global Equality Fund.

Missionary families evangelize indigenous towns in Paraguay

Fuerte Olimpo, Paraguay, Jan 16, 2019 / 03:32 pm (ACI Prensa).- Some 60 people belonging to the Communities of Missionary Families conducted a mission beginning Jan. 1 in a series of towns on the Paraguay River.

The families, who come from across Paraguay and also include a Cuban couple, gathered in Porto Murtinho, Brazil, to embark on the week-long evangelization project. They were accompanied by four priests, a religious sister, and Archbishop Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid of Asuncion.

They held a Mass together before separating into groups to go on mission to eleven towns situated downstream from Porto Murtinho.

Under temperatures reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the missionaries settled into tents, mats, inside of chapels, and in the homes of the locals. There they had catechism, Mass in the native language, fraternal sharing, confessions, and even mediated in a local labor dispute with a company

“The missionaries went in an atmosphere of prayer which allowed dialogue and the almost immediate solution of a long conflict. I admired the courage of the missionaries because they announced the love of Christ that transforms lives and when that love is taken seriously, it rebounds in human and labor relations,” Archbishop Valenzuela said.  

“The joy of these families is awesome, and especially that of their young children. Their faith, preparation, and conviction are awesome. It is part of being a witnessing Church,” the archbishop said at the end of the mission.

The Communities of Missionary Families was founded in 2010 by the couples Carmen and Aldo Fanego, and Kika and Vidal Benítez.

Encouraged by Archbishop Valenzuela, who was at the time Vicar Apostolic of Chaco Paraguayo, ten years ago they began doing river missions in the area, inaccessible except by the river, where indigenous peoples live, sustained by farming and the extraction of tannin, a substance used for curing hides and making certain pharmaceuticals.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Guatemalan bishops express support for UN anti-corruption commission

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jan 14, 2019 / 07:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The bishops of Guatemala expressed Thursday their grave concern at confrontations among governmental branches over a UN anti-corruption investigatory body.

The Guatemalan government informed the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala Jan. 7 that its member were to leave the country within 24 hours. The commission had begun investigating president Jimmy Morales over election fraud and funding irregulaties in his 2015 campaign. Its remit is not due to end until September.

The Constitutional Court granted a temporary injunction Jan. 9 to block the government's decision.

However, the Supreme Court of Justice then held a preliminary hearing to strip immunity from prosecution for judicial malfeasance from three of the five judges on the Constitutional Court, which has created tensions among the branches of government.

The Guatemalan bishops' conference said Jan. 10 that “We deeply lament the open confrontation between the current government and other legitimately constituted state agencies which puts at risk the already fragile rule of law in the country. Therefore we reaffirm the need to defend the primacy of the rule of law and respect for the laws, beginning with the Constitution."

They also said that they viewed “with satisfaction and relief the actions consistent with the law taken by the Constitutional Court” and rejected the “polarization that, taken to its extremes, degenerates into violence with grave consequences for social peace.”

“Thus energies are wasted that should be directed toward the solution of the country's serious underlying problems such as deficiencies in healthcare, education, social inequality, unemployment, migration, the victims of natural disasters, disrespect for human rights  and so many others that are detrimental to the quality of life,” the bishops said.

In their communiqué the bishops also expressed their desire that the June 16 general elections “unfold under the conditions of the rule of law.”

“We ask all Guatemalans to be adequately informed. God willing, we will all do our best to ensure that the next electoral process be an opportunity to find solutions for the common good, for corruption or illegal financing,” they added.

Finally the Guatemalan bishops exhorted the entire Christian people to “to pray and commit themselves to building a different Guatemala.”

In addition to the statement of the Guatemalan bishops' conference, Bishop Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri of Huehuetenango stated his worry Jan. 9 at president Morales' decision, “contrary to the constitutional norms and principles and to the norms of international law,” to expel the anti-corruption commission.

The CICIG has been operating since 2006. It has no prosecutorial power, but rather assists in investigations, which are handed over to Guatemalan prosecutors. It has helped to make cases against high-profile politicians and business leaders.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.