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Mexican bishops call for solidarity with flood victims in Sinaloa

Culiacan, Mexico, Sep 21, 2018 / 06:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops' conference called for solidarity Friday with the thousands of people affected by heavy rains and flooding in Sinaloa state, which has been declared in a state of emergency by the authorities.

“In concern for the state of Sinaloa which is suffering from the damage left by the heavy rains over the last hours by the tropical depression19-E and its downpour September 19 and 20, we express our communion, joining in prayer,” states the Sept. 21 communiqué.

So far 11 out of Sinaloa's municipios have been affected, as well as several municipalities in neighboring Sonora.

The rains from the tropical depression have caused damage to homes, cars, and farmland, and the evacuation of about 16,000 people.

The bishops' statement indicated that over 32,000 acres of crops have also been seriously damaged in the Carrizo Valley and El Fuerte.

The bishops noted in their statement that “Sinaloa has always been in solidarity with our country in different contingencies and so we ask you to join, with a merciful gesture, a generous spirit and fraternal charity, the special collection in support of our brothers to aid and accompany them now and in the subsequent phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

“We are entrusting to our Caritas Mexico the mission of receiving and transferring funds in order to respond to this emergency,” the statement says.

“We place our brothers in Sinaloa and Sonora under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the communiqué concludes.

 

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

Pope accepts resignation of two more Chilean bishops

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of two Chilean bishops, the Holy See has announced. The decision brings the total number of prelates to have had their resignations accepted by the pope to 7, following the allegations of systemic sexual abuse and cover-ups by Church authorities.

The removal of Bishop Carlos Pellegrín Barrera of Chillán and Bishop Cristián Contreras Molina of San Felipe was confirmed in the daily Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office. It was also confirmed that no successors had yet been chosen.

Instead, the dioceses will be led temporarily by apostolic administrators appointed by the pope. Two religious priests were named as having been chosen to take over from the bishops.

Fr. Sergio Pérez de Acre Arriagada, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, will administer the Diocese of Chillán. Fr. Pérez has been serving as the rector of the church of the Sacred Hearts in Valparaiso.

Fr. Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano Piquer, S.V.D., will serve as the temporary head of the Diocese of San Felipe. Fr. Ortiz is currently the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

On May 17, 2018, almost the entire Chilean hierarchy presented their resignations to the Holy Father after accusations emerged concerning the suppression of allegations of sexual abuse, the transfer of suspected or known abusers between parishes, interference in canonical investigations and pressuring the investigators themselves, and destroying evidence. 

A subsequent investigation conducted by Archbishop Charles Scicluna produced a final report more than 2,000 pages long.

The sexual abuse crisis in Chile, although a serious local concern for some time, came to international attention following a visit by Pope Francis to that country in January 2018. Initial focus centered on the ministry of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused of protecting Fernando Karadima, a priest and serial sexual abuser of children.

Karadima was convicted of sexual abuse by a Vatican court in 2011, at the age of 84.

During the papal visit, the pope appeared to dismiss Barros’ accusers, saying he had not seen any credible evidence against the bishop.

Several of Karadima’s victims, led by Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz, had previously sought to present their accusations to Pope Francis, following Barros’ appointment to Osorno. Although submitting a written plea to the pope through Cardinal O’Malley, Francis subsequently said he had not personally received it and offered a personal apology for his handling of the matter.

The media scrutiny which followed the pope’s visit resulted in the scale of the sexual abuse scandal in Chile becoming clear, leading to a crisis meeting between the pope and the Chilean bishops in May.

Since then, Chilean civil authorities have raided several diocesan chanceries, seizing document and issuing subpoenas to numerous Church officials.  

Masked men brutally attack priest in Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- A group of masked men entered the home of a priest in the Diocese of León in Nicaragua and savagely beat him in the early hours of Saturday, in a new direct attack against the Church in the country.

According to local media, unidentified men entered the home of Fr.  Abelardo Toval Ayesta, the pastor of Saint John the Baptist of Sutiaba parish in León, and struck him hard in the face and ribs, and even tried to suffocate him on Sept. 15

Fr. Victor Morales, communications director for the Diocese of León, told the media that “three people came in through the courtyard with faces masked, tied up (the priest), beat him badly and left him tied up. The stole several valuables from him.”

Following the incident, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, strenuously protested the attack.

“I deplore and condemn the brutal aggression inflicted today by masked men on Father Abelardo Toval, the pastor of Sutiava in León. The priest is in danger of losing an eye. My prayers for him, for Bishop Bosco Vivas and for all the clergy of the Diocese of León,” the prelate wrote on Twitter.

The Archdiocese of Managua reported on Facebook that “His Eminence Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Managua, has been in direct contact with Father Abelardo Toval of the Diocese of León.”

The cardinal expressed to the priest “his closeness and prayer concerning the violent situation he experienced this morning. (The cardinal) asks the faithful to continue to pray for all the priests.”

Amid Nicaragua's recent crisis, numerous churches have been desecrated and both bishops and priests have been attacked.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

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

This 87-year-old woman feeds the homeless in Chile every week  

Santiago, Chile, Sep 18, 2018 / 12:06 am (ACI Prensa).- Every Wednesday night, 87-year-old Elena Donaire goes out onto the streets of Santiago, Chile, to meet the homeless and attend to their needs.

For 40 years, Donaire has taken part in the “Street Route” of the Hogar de Cristo (Christ's Home), an organization that includes numerous outreach programs and facilities to help the poor.

Donaire starts her evening by fixing sandwiches, boiling water and organizing the warm clothing that she will give to the people she encounters on the streets. When everything is ready, the volunteers leave in their van.

Donaire is often the first to get out of the van to begin serving. Many of the homeless people on the streets of Santiago know her and greet her by the affectionate title “Dear Mama.” The other volunteers call her by the nickname “Grandma.”

In an interview with the Archdiocese of Santiago's communications office, Donaire explained that her mission has its origin in her friendship with Saint Alberto Hurtado.

Known in Chile as Padre Hurtado, the Jesuit priest, author and lawyer founded Christ’s Home, a network of homeless shelters that also included trade schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities to serve the poor.

He was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Before Hurtado died in 1952, Donaire said she had “promised him to continue serving the people just as he did.”

“That's the biggest reason I have to continue helping – it's a joy for me,” Donaire said. “I am going out on the street until he calls me from above. I know that if he were alive, he would be here on the street helping along with me, I would like to be at his side.”

Remembering the Jesuit saint, Donaire said that “he didn't smile a lot, but when it was an occasion for smiling, he was always there with us. He enjoyed sharing with the people, especially the children, he treated them with such love and affection that it still moves me to this day to remember those moments. I have never met a person as good and committed as he was.”

For Donaire, who lives alone in a small house and works selling clothes in a street market, “It doesn't matter if it's raining, or cold, there are no excuses for not going out on Wednesdays.”

“I anxiously wait for [the other volunteers] to come and pick me up for the simple reason that I want to be with these people. I like them and they make me happy. I know their stories and they tell me them.”

She acknowledged that she sometimes feels bad that she cannot do more to help the homeless people she encounters on the streets.

“I know I am going home to a house, I'm going to get a good night's sleep, and I see that these people aren't going to,” she said.

Still, she stressed the importance of doing what one can to help those in need.

“Help your brothers on the street,” she encouraged. “Many times, it's enough just to talk with them, to listen to them, to find out how they are doing. I assure you that [they] feel happier just to share their troubles with someone. We all have commitments or things to do, but making an effort doesn't cost anything.”

 

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

Chilean priest guilty of abuse dismissed from clerical state

Santiago, Chile, Sep 17, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- Pope Francis has decreed, without recourse to appeal, the dismissal from the clerical state of Cristián Precht Bañados, who was found guilty of abuse of minors in 2012.

The Santiago archdiocese stated Sept. 15 that Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith, had notified the archdiocese that day of the Sept. 12 laicization.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found Precht guilty of abuse in 2012.

After Precht was found guilty, he was prohibited from “exercising priestly public ministry for a period of five years, leaving to the bishop the power to extend the indicated period for the time he considers appropriate,” according to a December 2012 statement of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

At that time, Precht was also put under a “prohibition from administering the sacrament of confession and giving spiritual direction young people and minors,” and was ordered to “live a life of prayer and penance.”

He was also required to obtain a place of residence approved by Church authorities and had to request permission to travel abroad. Failure to adhere to the norms could bring further sanctions, the archdiocese stated at the time.

The accusations against Precht, who is now in his late 70s, were made in 2011.

The result of the penal process established “the verification of the mentioned abusive conduct and agreement with the request to repeal the prescription, in consideration of the gravity of the reported incidents.”

Precht defended human rights during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinchot. He was one of the founders of the Vicariate for Solidarity, an institution created to aid victims of the regime.

He was also one of the founders, in 1991, of the youth ministry organization Vicariate of Hope for Youths.

Chilean officials have in recent months been raiding offices of Catholic institutions as part of an investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed by members of the Church.

 

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

Chilean officials raid four dioceses in sex abuse investigation

Santiago, Chile, Sep 15, 2018 / 04:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- As part of the investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed  by members of the Catholic Church in Chile, the offices of the Archdiocese of Concepción and the dioceses of Valparaíso, Chillán, and Osorno all raided on Thursday.

The Sept. 13 raids were carried out by prosecutors and police, and ordered by prosecutor Emiliano Arias.

Among some the cases being investigated, in the Archdiocese of Concepción Fr. Reinaldo Méndez is accused of rape, and in Valparaíso, Bishop Emeritus Gonzalo Duarte is being investigated over accusations of cover-up and abuse.

In Chillán there is a complaint against Bishop Carlos Pellegrín for an unspecified sexual crime.

In the Osorno case, the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Juan Barros, is being investigated for alleged cover-up of abuse perpetrated by the priest Fernando Karadima who in 2011 was found guilty of sexual abuse by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and sanctioned with canonical penalties.

In June, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of bishops Barros and Duarte.

The Archdiocese of Concepción explained in a statement that besides the raid of files and archives, statements were also taken from the Judicial Vicar, the Promoter of Justice, the Chancellor, and the Notary.

A prosecutor “was shown that copies of the files and related sought for information  had already been handed over to the Public Prosecutor. In any case, the original files were placed at his disposal,” the archdiocese said.

The raids are the latest in a series which have been carried out in recent months, including at the Santiago tribunal, the Chilean Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the dioceses of Rancagua, Temuco, Villarrica, and the military ordinariate.

 

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

Mexican bishops publish 'plan for building peace'

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 12, 2018 / 05:52 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops' conference published Tuesday the “Catholic Church's Plan for Building Peace,” in an effort to “redouble efforts and united action” against corruption and violence racking the country.

The goal of this plan, the bishops explained Sept. 11, is to “make known and assist in the coordination of all peace building efforts” undertaken by both Catholic and civil society organizations.

The bishops stated that building peace in Mexico will be a “pivotal axis” in their work of pastoral social ministry.

The plan will thus promote continuity in the work of caring for victims, the “workshops for forgiveness and reconciliation” will be reactivated, and strategies will be developed to care for the victims of human trafficking throughout the country.

The plan includes pastoral accompaniment and oversight for the work of the migrant centers and shelters spread throughout Mexico, working with prisoners, the care of orphans, preserving green spaces as common areas, and working with the media to get out messages that foster peace in the country.

The Mexican bishops also emphasized the importance  of “collaboration with the new administration elected in our nation in 2018.”

To that end, the Mexican bishops met Sept. 4 with president-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador and had a “fraternal and proactive” dialogue.

In statement released Sept. 5, the bishops indicated “the main items” covered in their meeting with López.

The first item was the president-elect's “presentation of the administration's program” for the country.

The second item discussed at the meeting was “mutual concern for attention to the pressing issues: poverty, migration, violence, corruption, impunity, life and religious liberty for all confessions.”
The possibility of establishing an ongoing open channel for dialogue with the government was also addressed.
Additionally, the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Franco Coppola met with López Sept. 10. Afterwards, foreign minister designate Marcelo Ebrard emphasized that one of the points in common with the incoming administration and the Catholic Church is “the search for peace in Mexico” as well as the effort to reduce inequality in the country.

Ebrard also noted that López “has met or will meet with almost all” the religious communities in Mexico “to invite them to participate in the peace process,” seeking to bring about “a conversation and common reflection on how we can achieve peace in Mexico.”

The next Mexican foreign minister also said regarding the position of the Vatican on the peace forums in Mexico “we are not expecting from the Holy Father more than his message and point of view. The Holy Father gives important messages every day.”

The Mexican bishops' conference has agreed to participate in these forums intended to lead to a National Reconciliation Pact.

In an Aug. 16 statement, the bishops said proposals coming out of these forums will provide input “to develop public policies that will allow progress in overcoming violence, building peace and national reconciliation.”

The “Catholic Church's Plan  for Building Peace” comes in the context of the July 1 presidential elections in Mexico. López won with 53 percent of the vote and his National Regeneration Movement party obtained majorities in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

López campaigned against corruption and violence, but he or his party have also expressed support for abortion, gay marriage, and assisted suicide.

Chilean civil court could get access to Vatican documents on Karadima case

Santiago, Chile, Sep 10, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santiago in Chile has requested that the country’s Court of Appeals send an “exhorto” or judicial request, to the Vatican Secretary of State, asking the Vatican to provide all available information about the abuses perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The request comes amid litigation following a lawsuit that has accused the archdiocese of covering-up Karadima’s actions.

“This request seeks to obtain all the information that may help determine the facts of the case,”  the archdiocese wrote in a statement.

In Chilean judicial proceedings, an “exhorto” is akin to a subpoena for documents or information.

In 2011, Karadima was declared guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican, which sentenced him to “a life of prayer and penance, also in reparation of the victims of his abuse.” In addition, the Vatican prohibited him from “the public exercise of any ministerial act, in particular confession or the spiritual direction of all categories of persons.” Controversially, he was not laicized.

In 2015, Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton, three of Karadima's victims, filed a lawsuit for “moral damages” against the Archdiocese of Santiago and requested the compensation of 450 million pesos (about $640,000) in addition to a public apology by the Church for the alleged cover-up of abuses.

In March 2017, after an investigation and more than 30 statements given, the Chilean court determined that there was no cover-up by the archdiocese and so dismissed the case.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling and the lawsuit is now being reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

Archdiocese of Santiago spokesman Nicolas Luco said in a recent statement that “the judicial proceedings have not shown any evidence of cover-up  as the lower court determined and for that reason it's important to discover any new evidence in this matter.”

On April 28-29, the victims of Karadima met with Pope Francis in the Vatican. Those attending said that “the pope formally asked forgiveness in his own name and in the name of the universal church.”

 

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

 

Dominican Republic pro-life march: 'Let’s save both lives!'

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 10, 2018 / 04:51 pm (ACI Prensa).- A pro-life demonstration in the Dominican Republic on Sunday voiced opposition to a bill to reform the Criminal Code that would open the door to abortion in the country.

Abortion is illegal in all instances in the Dominican Republic. However, the National Congress is considering an effort to legalize abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

Led by Archbishop Francisco Ozoria Acosta of Santiago, pro-life marchers gathered September 9 in front of the National Congress in the country's capital. Under the theme “Let's Save Both Lives,” the demonstration argued against the legalization of abortion, with speakers giving presentations from legal, scientific, and medical perspectives.

While the march was organized by the Catholic Church, large crowds of Evangelical Christians also participated.

The Archdiocese of Santo Domingo explained in a statement that “our obligation is to warn what will happen if abortion on three grounds [of fetal deformity, rape and incest] is approved.”

In other countries where abortion has been legalized on narrow grounds, the archdiocese said, “the culture of death groups demand that unrestricted abortion be approved, maternal mortality does not go down, neither do teen pregnancies.”

After the legalization of abortion, the archdiocese warned, “the rich countries will still be rich and the poor countries will still be poor. Our country would be no exception.”

The legalization of abortion in the Dominican Republic is being heavily promoted by international groups, including Planned Parenthood, Women on Waves, George Soros' Open Society, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Population Fund.

Other pro-life efforts are also in the works. An annual walk called “A Step for My Family” is planned for November this year. In addition, the CitizenGo international platform has collected more than 7,000 signatures demanding the Dominican Congress “pass without further delay the Criminal Code without the three grounds that seek to legalize abortion.”

 

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

Argentine abuse investigation involves priest previously reported to Pope Francis

Mendoza, Argentina, Sep 10, 2018 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- An Argentine investigation into clerical sexual abuse involves a priest previously accused of abuse in Italy, who was the subject of a 2014 letter to Pope Francis from sexual abuse victims concerned about his ongoing ministry.

The priest, Fr. Nicola Corradi, is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

He was arrested in 2016, along with another priest and three other men after at least 20 children claimed to have been abused at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, Argentina, according to the Associated Press.

A religious sister, Sr. Kosako Kumiko, was arrested in May 2017, and charged with facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students claim that Kumiko herself committed sexual abuse as well. She has maintained her innocence.

Argentine police raided a Provolo Institute campus in La Plata last week, seizing documents as part of their investigation. The raid, which took place Sept. 6, seized documents and records that could pertain to charges dating back to at least 1987.

Corradi was first accused of sexual abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, during a period of time spanning several decades. After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

Pope Francis was notified directly of the allegations against Corradi in 2014, when former students of in the school wrote to him and Verona’s bishop, expressing concern that Corradi was living in Argentina and apparently still in priestly ministry.

They reportedly got no response from the pope, but they did receive a limited response from the Vatican. According to the Associated Press, Vatican official Archbishop Giovanni Becciu wrote to the group in 2016, saying that he had referred their request for an investigation to the Italian bishops’ conference.

In the same year, Corradi and others were arrested on the charges of sexual abuse made against them in Argentina. Pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested, according to the Associated Press.

The Archdiocese of Mendoza told the Associated Press in 2016 it had been unaware of the allegations made previously against Corradi in Italy, saying it had not been informed about them by the priest’s religious community.

If convicted by Argentine prosecutors, Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison.

This is not the first case in which Pope Francis has been accused of inaction in response to reports about clerical sexual abuse.

In 2015, he was hand-delivered a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse victim, who accused Chilean Bishop Juan Barros of covering-up and participating in sexual abuse perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The pope continued to defend Barros, calling allegations against him “slander,” until a 2018 media firestorm led the pope to say that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” He accepted Barros’ resignation shortly thereafter.

Francis has not answered questions about whether he received to Cruz letter, or how he responded to it.

In August, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, former Vatican ambassador to the US, wrote a testimonial claiming that Francis had been aware of allegations that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually assaulted and abused seminarians and young priests. Viganò claimed that Francis lifted restrictions formerly placed on McCarrick’s ministry after receiving that information.

The pope has not yet spoken on that matter.