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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-31-2014

By Catholic News Service


Church audit: Abuse allegations down, spending on training up in 2013

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The number of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy declined in 2013 while diocesan spending on child protection programs increased under the U.S. Catholic Church's "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," according to a church-sponsored audit. Dioceses and Eastern-rite eparchies reported 370 new allegations of abuse of a minor from 365 people against 290 priests or deacons, said the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which gathered data for the report. The report includes information collected by StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, N.Y., which conducts annual audits of compliance with the charter by dioceses and eparchies under an arrangement with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. About 69 percent of the allegations reported last year occurred or began between 1960 and 1984. Three-quarters of the alleged offenders are already deceased or removed from active ministry. Eight of the alleged perpetrators were deacons while 282 were priests, the report said. Meanwhile, the increase in spending on child protection programs by dioceses, eparchies and religious orders jumped to $41.7 million in 2013 from nearly $26.6 million in 2012. One reason for the increase was the cost of "rechecks of background for a majority of diocesan personnel," the director of the USCCB's Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection said in a statement.

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West Virginia governor's veto of abortion bill called 'bitter news'

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston said he was surprised at West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have prohibited nonmedical crisis abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization. Tomblin vetoed the bill late March 28. "I am very surprised by Gov. Tomblin's veto of the Pain-Capable Act," the bishop said. "For most West Virginians, this is bitter news, especially on the heels of the governor's use of his ability to veto budgeted items to cut benefits to poor children and families in West Virginia." His veto of the abortion measure, the bishop said, "does not reflect the majority opinion of the state Legislature, who worked hard this session to do more to help children in poverty and protect life, particularly unborn children." The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was put forth in response to medical evidence that demonstrates an unborn child already has the ability to feel pain at 20 weeks, the bishop said in early March. The measure passed the West Virginia Senate March 8 by a vote of 29-5 and the state House Feb. 26 by a vote of 79-17. Bishop Bransfield thanked state legislators who voted for the bill. Leaders of pro-life groups also expressed their surprise at the veto. National Right to Life in a statement noted that a nationwide poll of 1,003 registered voters in March 2013 found that 64 percent of respondents would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks -- when an unborn baby can feel pain -- unless the life of the mother is in danger. Only 30 percent opposed such legislation. Women voters split 63-31 percent in support of such a law, and 63 percent of independent voters supported it.

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Pope confirms heads of Vatican curial agencies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis confirmed the head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and named among its new members Australian Cardinal George Pell, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis. The Vatican announced March 29 that the pope confirmed Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz as prefect of the congregation, the Vatican office that oversees the world's religious orders. The new members also include: Cardinals Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City; Luis Tagle of Manila; Bishop John Corriveau of Nelson, British Columbia; and Bishop Kieran O'Reilly of Killaloe, Ireland. Pope Francis also reappointed 11 members to another five-year term, including: Cardinals Francis E. George of Chicago; Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa; Sean P. O'Malley of Boston and Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits worldwide. The pope also confirmed French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as president and Comboni Father Miguel Ayuso Guixot as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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Prayer, charity surround John XXIII, John Paul II being declared saints

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The rite of canonization for Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II April 27 will use the standard formula for the creation of new saints, but the Mass will be preceded by the recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet, and it is possible retired Pope Benedict XVI will attend, the Vatican spokesman said. "He is invited," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman. "But there is still a month to go. We'll have to see if he wants to be present and feels up to it." Discussing preparations for the canonizations with reporters March 31, Father Lombardi also said the popes' tombs in St. Peter's Basilica would not be disturbed, other than to change the inscriptions from "blessed" to "saint." Pilgrims can visit the tombs after the April 27 Mass. Relics from the two popes will be presented during the liturgy, the spokesman said. The relic of Blessed John Paul -- a vial of his blood encased in a reliquary featuring a silver sculpture of olive branches -- will be the same that was used for his beatification in 2011. A matching reliquary has been made for a relic of Blessed John, said Msgr. Guilo Dellavite, an official of the Diocese of Bergamo, where the pope was born. When Blessed John was beatified in 2000, no relic was presented, the monsignor said, because no blood or body parts had been preserved for that purpose. However, when Blessed John's tomb was opened in 2001 and the remains treated before being reinterred in St. Peter's Basilica, some bone fragments were removed.

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Vatican police foil scam artists' attempt to enter into Vatican bank

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican security officers stopped two men -- one American and one Dutch -- trying to enter the Vatican bank with a briefcase full of fake bonds. Officers with the Vatican gendarme corps intercepted the two men March 29 when the men approached a guarded entrance and asked to be let into the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion. According to Vatican Radio, the men did not have Vatican bank accounts and they did not have an appointment with anyone at the bank. The men were apprehended and, according to Vatican-Italy agreements, placed into the custody of the Italian financial police. They have been charged by both Vatican and Italian authorities, the radio reported. The briefcase contained fake bonds appearing to be worth billions of euros and U.S. dollars, according to Agence France-Presse. The Italian finance police found fake passports and other false documents in the men's hotel rooms, the news agency reported. The police crackdown "shows the controls are working," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told AFP.

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Pope urges Salesians to continue caring for world's youth, vocations

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis encouraged the Salesians in their work with young people, saying that religious vocations are the fruit of good pastoral youth ministry. "Sometimes vocations to consecrated life are confused with choosing to do volunteer work, and this distorted vision does no good" to congregations and religious orders, he told more than 250 religious taking part in the Salesians' general chapter in Rome Feb. 22-April 12. The full beauty of religious life needs to be shared with young people -- not incomplete or biased points of view, which risk promoting "fragile" vocations that are based on "weak motivations," he told them during a private audience at the Vatican March 31. Religious vocations are "ordinarily fruit of good pastoral care of youth," he said, and people discerning a religious vocation need prayer and special attention, personalized formation, guidance and support from young people's families. The pope, who attended a Salesian school in Buenos Aires when he was 13, said he recalls the importance of the order's motto of "Work and Temperance," joking that the school even forbade everyone from having "siesta" or an afternoon nap after lunch. "Working for the good of souls" helps people focus on the essentials of God and his kingdom, the pope said.

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Recognize your limits, open yourself to light of Christ, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only those who recognize their own limits can accept the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, which is why Catholics with disabilities are such important and powerful witnesses of faith, Pope Francis said. Meeting March 29 with close to 7,000 members, staff and volunteers of the Apostolic Movement for the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf, Pope Francis insisted it is "truly blasphemous" to believe that a physical limitation or disability is a punishment from God. "Jesus radically refused that way of thinking," he said. "The person who is sick or has a disability, precisely because of his or her fragility and limits, can become a witness of the encounter: the encounter with Christ who opens one to life and to faith; and the encounter with others, with the community," Pope Francis said. "Only one who recognizes his own fragility, his own limits, can construct relationships that are fraternal and marked by solidarity in the church and in society," he said. The key to being a trustworthy, effective witness to Jesus, he said, is first having had the experience of meeting Jesus.

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Some Israeli Christians see army service as way to fit into society

NAZARETH ILLIT, Israel (CNS) -- At the end of a recent unofficial pre-induction briefing for about 30 young men preparing to join the Israeli army, the participants stood and, led by Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf, recited the Our Father in Arabic with hands outstretched. They finished by making the sign of the cross. "You are not going to shoot," said Father Nadaf, the spiritual leader of the year-and-a-half-old Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, whose 18-year-old son, Jubran, was among the new recruits. Father Nadaf reminded them of the fate of Syrian Christians, some of whom have been kidnapped and killed. "You are going to protect. You do not go to attack but to defend. The Messiah said not to kill, he did not say don't defend. We have to defend our Holy Land," the priest said. The young men represent an increasing number of young Israeli Christians who are deciding to voluntarily join the Israeli military, explained Capt. Shadi Haloul, 38, the forum's spokesman, a Maronite Catholic and reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces. Forum officials said about 84 Christians joined the army in the last half of 2013, the same number that joined in the prior 18 months. Although they are a small part of the 120,000 Christians who live in northern Israel, IDF officials called the forum's impact "astounding."

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For Blessed John XXIII, calling Vatican II was an act of faith

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Blessed John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council in the conviction that it was necessary for the Catholic Church, yet without pre-conceived ideas of what it would accomplish, said Vatican II participants who recalled the event half a century later. The men spoke in exclusive interviews featured in a forthcoming Catholic News Service documentary film, "Voices of Vatican II: Council Participants Remember." Blessed John had come to a "conviction that something ought to be done in order to make the church more responsive to this modern world, in order to make the modern world more responsive to the church. And that intuition went far beyond his intellectual preparation," said Jesuit Father Ladislas Orsy, a "peritus" -- or expert theological adviser -- at the council. Cardinal Loris Capovilla, who served as Blessed John's private secretary during his pontificate, was privy to some of the pope's first remarks, made only a few days after his election in 1958, about what would become Vatican II. Cardinals and bishops had presented the new pontiff with a litany of challenges before the church -- "not doctrinal but pastoral problems," Cardinal Capovilla said -- in areas that included liturgy, diplomacy, and the education and discipline of priests.

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Vatican accepts resignation of Germany's 'Bishop Bling'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a German bishop who was at the center of controversy over expenditures for his residence and a diocesan center. Following a diocesan investigation, the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops studied the audit's findings and accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg. Auxiliary Bishop Manfred Grothe of Paderborn was appointed to serve as apostolic administrator of Limburg in the meantime, the Vatican announced March 26. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst would be assigned, "at a suitable moment," another unspecified assignment, the Vatican statement said. It said the Vatican accepted the bishop's offer to resign "given that a situation exists in the Diocese of Limburg which prevents the fruitful exercise" of his office. Pope Francis met with the bishop at the Vatican March 28. No details of the meeting were released. In Germany, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the bishops' conference, said the resignation would "end a period of uncertainty" in the Limburg Diocese. He told a Berlin news conference March 26 that he believed Bishop Tebartz-van Elst's case had been handled "fairly and transparently" by the Vatican and German church.


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