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Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, a culmination of four years of listening to and empowering Catholics of Hispanic background throughout the U.S.

“For the Church in the United States, not only did we see the leadership of our beautiful, diverse Hispanic community, but we see a leadership for the entire Church,” Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre said in a video released ahead of the meeting.

The National V Encuentro (Fifth Encounter), to be held in Grapevine, Texas Sept. 20-23, is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Delegates to the Encuentro were selected from the 165 dioceses and the nearly 250,000 people that participated in the local process over the past year. They will discuss topics already explored at the local levels that particularly pertain to Hispanics, such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, and community outreach and evangelization.

The five main objectives of the meeting are: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

Speakers at the National V Encuentro include Auxiliary Bishop José Arturo Cepeda Escobedo of Detroit, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Sr. Ana María Pineda from Santa Clara University in Calif., Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

The National V Encuentro also includes daily Mass, a daybreak rosary, a bishop and young adult dinner encounter, and regional, inter-regional, and ministerial small group sessions.

Parish and diocesan leaders are hopeful ahead of the meeting that it will continue to bear the good fruit they are already seeing at the parish and diocesan level.

“It inspired people who may have been not as active in the parish...they’re really taking the leadership position seriously, it’s the missionary discipleship that we’re all called to,” Thomas Lyons, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said in a video about local Encuentros.

Local Encuentro participant Alejandra Mancilla from Pelican Rapids, Minn. said the local Encuentro helped her to understand her English-speaking brothers and sisters, and to see more opportunities to serve with them.

“Even though we were at the same parish, we didn’t have many joint activities,” she said in the video.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which held their diocesan Encuentro in January, reported that 3,000 people participated in the V Encuentro process at 65 parishes throughout the archdiocese.

In his reflection at the L.A. Encuentro, Archbishop Jose Gomez encouraged other Hispanics to see themselves as leaders and members of the Church, and not outliers.

“We are not new-comers or late-comers or outliers,” Gomez said. “The first Catholics in this country were Latinos! From Spain and from Mexico! Never forget that, my brothers and sisters!”

The National V Encuentro comes at a time when Hispanics make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the country, representing about 40 percent of the Church in the United States in 2016.

The Hispanic population is particularly large among youth and young adults in the Church in the US: 50 percent of Catholics ages 14 to 29 are Hispanic, and 55 percent of Catholics under 14 are Hispanic. Though immigration rates from Hispanic countries have begun to slow in recent years, the percentage of Hispanics in the Church in the US is expected to continue growing during the next decade.

Hispanics have also contributed to religious renewal in the Bible Belt, where some Protestant churches are closing doors while some Catholic churches are bursting with new, mostly Hispanic, members.

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

According to a letter issued by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the V Encuentro is an opportunity “to listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life. It especially prepares us as a Church to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the Church and in the society.”

“The main objective (of Encuentro) is to find new ways of responding to the Hispanic and Latino presence in the Church, and for Hispanics and Latinos to better respond as missionary disciples in service to the entire Church,” Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, Assistant Director of Hispanic affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a video message produced by the bishops’ conference.

In his 2016 message for the V Encuentro, Pope Francis said that it was a way for the Church to discern how to “best respond to the growing presence, gifts, and potential of the Hispanic community.”

“Mindful of the contributions that the Hispanic community makes to the life of the nation, I pray that the Encuentro will bear fruit for the renewal of the American society and for the Church´s apostolate in the United States.”

Commentary: Getting to forgiveness

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-
I have spent most of this summer angry with Christ’s Church.

When the first credible allegation against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick-my own former bishop- was announced, he was the focus of my anger. I marveled that a man of God could act with such cruelty toward children, seminarians, and priests.

As the weeks passed, my anger spread beyond McCarrick. First it spread to the bishops who were negligent or selfish enough to allow him to continue in ministry, and then to the institution itself- to a Church structure that seems often to reward mediocrity and punish holiness, a system that allows the sacraments of God to be tied up with hubris and the callow self-interest of twisted men.

If I’m being honest, I have also spent most of this summer deeply wounded. Disappointed that men I know-bishops I love, and admire, and respect- failed to intervene in ways that might have prevented harm to children, to priests, to souls, and to the Church. I’m hurt by indecision, incompetence, and indecency, and I’m angry at those who have hurt me.

The apologies from bishops have sounded self-serving, bureaucratic, and mechanical. Their pledges to change ring hollow. The pope-the Vicar of Christ-has not yet given me a satisfying explanation, or a word of helpful consolation.

I’m angry about those things.

I’ve knelt down before Christ with that anger, that pain, with exasperation and a deep sense of disappointment. I’ve asked him to take it from me. He has not yet done so.

Summer is fading now, but my anger is not. These are not wounds which time will easily heal. But it has become apparent to me that I can’t continue to live this way.

Anger can be righteous, holy even, and the source of purifying fire and sanctifying justice. But anger can also be self-righteous- prideful and self-indulgent. Anger can fester and furrow into bitterness, seducing us into believing that we, not God, are fit to judge the souls of other men.

That kind of anger is destructive, not righteous. It leads to our damnation. And it can only be defeated by forgiveness.

In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II explained that neither souls nor communities can find peace “unless an attitude of sincere forgiveness takes root in human hearts. When such forgiveness is lacking, wounds continue to fester, fueling in the younger generation endless resentment, producing a desire for revenge and causing fresh destruction.”

“Offering and accepting forgiveness is the essential condition for making the journey towards authentic and lasting peace.”

God will call each one of us to forgive his Church. To forgive the men who have wounded Christ’s body. To forgive those bishops who have been negligent, selfish, or evil. We won’t all forgive at the same time- it is far easier for me to talk about forgiveness than it is for the victims of abuse, or their families.  But I have allowed my own righteous anger to become something else.

For me, it’s time to forgive.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn’t even mean letting go of righteous anger. I am angry at sin, and at sinners, and among them are the bishops of our Church. I expect our bishops to act rightly, but I don’t yet trust that they will. We need accountability, and I intend to insist on it, in every way that I can. Justice demands that.

We also need a spiritual renewal in our Church, and among our leaders. We need bishops who want to be saints. We need bishops who take governance seriously, who take doctrine seriously, who take sacred worship seriously.

Forgiveness is not a capitulation to how things are, to the detriment of how they ought to be.

In one sense, forgiveness changes very little. But what forgiveness might change is me. Forgiveness means that I’ll try to help build up the Body of Christ. That I’ll try to assist the bishops in fulfilling the call God gave them. Forgiveness will mean that I’ll try to pray for our bishops, and that I’ll try very hard to mean it.  

None of that will be easy. But anger, resentment, and bitterness have become a poison to me. They’re not easy to live with either. And they have eternal consequences. To have eternal intimacy with God, I need the Church. I’m called to communion with her. And that’s what matters in the end. I’m still angry. But I’ll learn to forgive the Church, or I’ll be damned.

Bishop Cozzens: The light shines in the darkness

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 19, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a column in The Catholic Spirit last week, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Saint Paul and Minneapolis reflected on the light being shone on sins committed by members of the Church, and God's ability to bring good out of evil.

“As the psalms teach us, we should not be afraid to acknowledge our deep feelings to God in prayer,” Bishop Cozzens wrote Sept. 13. “Acknowledging our feelings is the first step to bringing them into the light of God, so we can begin to see with his eyes. As we keep praying, we will begin to see how God is bringing good. We will receive from God his way of seeing.”

The bishop prefaced his column with St. Paul's exhortation to a virtuous life from his epistle to the Ephesians, and he then said that “All of us have felt the pain of the “works of darkness” which have once again come to light in our Church.”

The Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese's bankruptcy is coming to an end, he wrote, as the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released and “we were horrified by … the widespread corruption that seems to surround the life of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.”

“Now the accusations of cover-up have enveloped the Holy Father himself. I know many of you, like me, have felt shaken and overwhelmed.”

While anger, hurt, and discouragement “are justified and need to be acknowledged, we also need to remember how God works,” Bishop Cozzens wrote.

“God always brings good out of evil. The truth is that the clouds always seem darkest when the light shines on them, and the only way the healing of this cancer of sexual immorality in our Church can ever come is through the light shining on it.”

The shame of sexual abuse can now be carried by everyone in the Church, he said. “I willingly stand in the darkness of this shame because I want the healing of victims and the purification of the Church. I believe that this shame coming into the light is a great good, because I want the Church to face her own darkness so that she can heal.”

Bishop Cozzens wrote of the need for practical reform in the Church, including accountability structures for bishops, and reiterating his belief “that there needs to be independent lay-led means developed to investigate these issues and review them.”

“But we also need holiness, which always comes through repentance and spiritual purification. Only when we repent for our sins, and do the penance necessary to heal the wounds, can new life come.”

The wisdom of the cross is instructive in this time, he said, writing: “The cross was a great evil. When the Son of God came to earth to reveal the love of the Eternal Father, we human beings hung him up on a tree to die. Yet he turned this great act of evil into the greatest gift for us. Through the suffering love of Christ, through his self-gift, the cross became a source of love and redemption for us. The cross teaches us that God’s greatest power is the ability to bring good out of evil. If we learn to receive God’s love in our darkness, even darkness can become a source of life.”

“All things,” even “our own sins,” even “the sins of bishops” “work for good for those who love God,” he wrote, quoting St. Paul.

“This is the profound truth Jesus teaches us through his death and resurrection: There is nothing so evil that it cannot be taken up by God and turned into a potential good,” Bishop Cozzens wrote.

“All evil brought into the light of the merciful love of God can become a good. This is the truth of healing, healing for victims/survivors, healing for our Church. The healing begins to happen when we are not afraid to bring the shadows into the light and try to see with God’s merciful eyes.”

Bishop Cozzens noted the good of the 90 men whom he is serving as interim rector of St. Paul Seminary. They are pursuing priesthood “in the face of this shadow over the Church because they desire to live holiness and give an authentic witness to the truth of Christ’s love. They inspire me to do the same. I see this same inspiration in the holy lives of many of our lay people.”

“If there are more shadows to be exposed, may they be exposed,” the bishop concluded. “I would rather live in a Church that is humbled and purified than one that is happy and numb.”

U.S. bishops announce new abuse-prevention measures and call for McCarrick investigation

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference has announced new accountability measures in response to recent clerical sex-abuse scandals. The reforms include the establishment of an independent reporting mechanism to receive complaints against bishops, and the development of a Code of Conduct for bishops.

A statement released Sept. 19 by the USCCB’s Administrative Committee said that the new steps being taken to combat abuse are “only the beginning,” and that consultations were underway with laity, clergy, and religious on how better to “repair the scandal and restore justice.”

The Administrative Committee’s statement announced four key policies.

The first is the creation of a confidential, third-party reporting mechanism to handle “complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop.” This system, the statement said, will direct those complaints to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.

The statement also said that the USCCB’s Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance had been instructed to develop proposals for policies to address restrictions on bishops who have either resigned or been removed following “allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.”

The Administrative Committee also announced it has begun a process for developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding the “sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

Finally, the statement said, the committee supported a full investigation into the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, including the allegations made against him concerning the sexual assault of minors, adults, seminarians, and priests, and the Church’s response to those allegations.

“Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services,” the statement said.

Recognizing the widespread criticism of Church authorities in the wake of recent scandals, the committee said they “welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

“This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient.”

The bishops also urged any victims of abuse to come forward, either to Church authorities or to civil law enforcement.

“To anyone who has been abused, never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.  If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, your diocese can connect you with appropriate community services. With compassion and without judgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.”

According to the statement, the committee met to discuss the proposals last week. The announcement also follows a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and senior U.S. bishops, led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops’ conference.

“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole. They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better,” the statement said.

Ballot initiative could end legal brothels in one Nevada county

Mound House, Nevada, Sep 19, 2018 / 02:07 pm (CNA).- Lyon County is one of the 10 counties in Nevada that allow for legal prostitution. But this November, Lyon County voters will have an opportunity to end the practice.  

The initiative is a project of the End Trafficking and Prostitution Political Action Committee. Brenda Simpson, who works with the committee, told the BBC that prostitution is a type of slavery.

A recent petition has gained enough signatures from Lyon County residents to introduce a ballot initiative to close the four brothers in the rural county. If the initiative is successful, the political action committee hopes to imitate it in other counties as well. Similar efforts are already underway in Nye County.

Brothels have been legal in some of Nevada’s counties since 1971. Advocates argue that legalized prostitution ensures safety measures are followed and benefits both owners and women. Opponents, however, argue that prostitution preys on vulnerable women who are usually not making a truly free choice.

Melissa Holland, executive director of the nonprofit Awaken, which fights to end sex trafficking, cited a two-year research study which found that legalized prostitution improves the lives of brothel owners rather than the women who work in them.

The 2007 study found violations against women – including sexual violence and drug abuse – in the legal brothels of Nevada, she told the BBC.

Holland also said many women in both legal and illegal prostitution were exploited when they were young, and were raised to look at themselves as objects.

“They turn 18, and they’ve grown up in a state that says, ‘Hey, this is a viable option for you, so let’s legally continue the exploitation,’” she said, according to the Washington Post.

“That’s not choice. These women were not raised to actually look at themselves and choose this. They have been told this is what you’re good for, and Nevada has said let’s make that a viable option.”

Editor's note: This story previously stated that 16 Nevada counties permit prostitution. 10 counties permit prostitution. The story has been corrected.

Never again, again: Bishops promise action, but will it make a difference?

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- The moral credibility of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy is under serious scrutiny, both by the faithful and the wider world.

Something must be done - this is the consensus of cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity as the Church continues to grapple with the fallout of the sexual abuse crisis. What, exactly, will be done remains to be seen.

Calls for transparency and accountability in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals strike many of the faithful as reasonable and obvious - yet neither of those words seems easily translatable into the curial language and culture of Romanitas

Amid an impetus for urgent reform, the Church faces the challenge of taking action that is effective, rather than merely dramatic.

What has been proposed? And what effect might it have?

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In recent months, many bishops and lay leaders have called for new canonical structures and procedures in response to the various crises erupting in the Church.

Some have suggested creating another “new” process for accusing and trying bishops in a canon law court, others have floated the idea of a network of regional or national tribunals tasked with handling the existing backlog of clerical sex-abuse cases.

Much of what has been proposed so far, however, has already been tried.

Apart from the USCCB’s own Essential Norms, adopted in the wake of the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis has made a number of significant canonical reforms over the last five years. Most significantly, 2016’s Come una madre amorivole created an entirely new legal mechanism for charging and trying a bishop accused of mishandling allegations of abuse, or of abusing his office in some other way.

Yet despite the publicity surrounding the announcement of those structures, they have yet to be put into action, and are unlikely even to be tried.

When asked recently about particular cases involving bishops, Pope Francis said he had decided that his own reforms were not “practical” or “convenient” and that he was instead trying to preserve their “spirit” in the way he handled individual cases.

Many canonists, including those working in the Curia, have expressed frustration at the possibility that more reforms will be promulgated on paper, while few of them take hold at the practical level. 

In the meantime, they say, cases are being handled in an increasingly ad hoc manner. In the case of McCarrick, for example, it has been hard for canonists to parse exactly what procedure is being followed.

Following the announcement by the Archdiocese of New York that it had received an allegation against McCarrick and deemed it credible, the then-cardinal was removed from public ministry.

In July, the Holy Father accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals – itself an historic event – and at the same time ordered McCarrick to live a life of prayer and penance pending the outcome of a “canonical process.” Canon lawyers have noted that this seemed to be, for good or ill, the imposition of a legal penalty before the legal process had concluded - or perhaps even begun.

There has been no announcement about what kind of “process” will be followed in resolving McCarrick’s case. Nor has the Holy See clarified what charges, exactly, he will face. It seems unclear how a new legal structure could bring clarity to that situation, rather than more confusion.

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Another proposal made in recent months has been the establishment of regional commissions and tribunals for handling abuse cases, something which has been suggested before.

Baroness Sheila Hollins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has been among the most recent voices to suggest that this might serve to clear the languishing backlog of abuse cases clogging the courts at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The problem she identifies is a serious one.

Following his election in 2013, one of Pope Francis’ first curial reforms was to decree a Vatican-wide hiring freeze, which is still in effect. Since then, the pope has ordered the dismissal of three American priests working on abuse cases in the CDF, with a fourth leaving for personal reasons earlier this year.

Those working within and alongside of the CDF all report that there is simply not enough manpower to process the workload, something that Msgr. Robert Geisinger, the CDF’s in house prosecutor, has lamented more than once.

As a result, more than one U.S. bishop has resorted to flying to Rome to personally petition that cases waiting for adjudication be moved to the top of the pile.

But the proposed regional tribunals would not solve the problem of a backlog, at least not in the short term. New courts would take years to come online, and even longer to prove effective. In the meantime, the structural and procedural upheaval needed to create them could cause chaos in a system that is already badly stretched. 

Marie Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and herself a survivor of abuse, has been a critic of this proposal for a more straightforward reason. She has observed that the call for regional tribunals does not address the fact that the underlying problem is a lack of resources.

During her time on the PCPM, Collins spoke openly of her frustration at the pace of change. She specifically singled out the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles abuse cases, for criticism. Since then, she has become an outspoken skeptic of further canonical reform, and pointed to the fact that few resources are actually devoted to making the current system work.

“The argument for going to local tribunals...is because the CDF is under resourced and understaffed, and so [is] unable to cope with all the abuse cases coming in from around the world: the question should be why is the CDF under resourced and understaffed?”

One curial official who has worked with the CDF told CNA that some staffers also have the impression that there is little practical commitment to the kind of real reform that would involve the addition of more qualified personnel to handle abuse cases.

“If ‘where your treasure is there will your heart be too,’ then by that measure Rome’s heart isn’t in this,” the official told CNA.

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Back in the United States, several ideas for reform have been floated.

One is a third-party reporting mechanism for accusations against bishops, through which people would present allegations directly to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

But any new third-party reporting system instituted by the U.S. bishops cannot guarantee Roman action, nor does recent evidence indicate that such action could be counted upon.

In the case of Archbishop McCarrick, it has emerged that in 2000 Fr. Boniface Ramsey presented a written account of accusations of McCarrick sharing a bed with seminarians to the nuncio. A 2006 letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State confirms that some of Ramsey’s concerns made it to Rome, but no action was apparently taken until years later.

It has also been suggested that a new lay-led review board could review complaints made against bishops. This idea is not without precedent.

In 2002, the USCCB called for lay-led review boards in every diocese. The U.S. bishops also created a National Review Board comprised of lay experts, to advise the USCCB on dealing with the problem of sexual abuse. Those bodies have had considerable effect on the life and culture of the Church in the United States.

The idea of creating more lay-led boards now is, in some senses, an appealing option. But it is not clear whether new boards would actually address the current problems.

The National Review Board itself has seemed skeptical. In August, the board issued a statement denouncing “a loss of moral leadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence” in the face of abuse.

Action is needed, the board said, but the “evil” which had come to light “will not be stemmed simply by the creation of new committees, policies, or procedures.”

Both U.S. proposals would also appear to effectively insulate American bishops from being required to act upon allegations made against their peers. The reticence of bishops to act in such circumstances is widely considered to have been a major contributing factor in the recent scandals, especially in the case of McCarrick.

But through systems that would largely exempt bishops from investigating or addressing claims of episcopal misconduct, U.S. Church authorities run the risk of seeming to distance themselves further from the kind of personal moral leadership called for by the National Review Board and others.

“What needs to happen is a genuine change in the Church’s culture, specifically among the bishops themselves,” the National Review Board’s August statement said.

Cultural change is more difficult than procedural reform. Absent the release of confidential files or sweeping changes in personnel, it will be hard to demonstrate in the short term. But it also seems to be the most pressing call made by ordinarily lay Catholics.

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On Sept. 13, following a meeting between Pope Francis and the leaders of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo released a statement as president of the USCCB. In it, he said that he and the other American bishops looked forward to “actively continuing our discernment together, identifying the most effective next steps.”

What these steps will be, and when the Church will take them, remain to be seen. But the bishops may find that by themselves, they are not enough to satisfy the skepticism shared by lay Catholics and a growing number of rank-and-file priests and religious.

The call has been for leadership. To satisfy it, bishops will likely need to show a commitment to change that is personal, not institutional.

Cardinal 'blanches' while celebrating recurring miracle of saint's liquefied blood

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples usually does not faint at the sight of blood.

He has celebrated the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, an early martyr, many times over the years.

But this year, something caused Sepe to “blanch” and sit down during the Sept. 19 celebration of the miracle, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

While he refused to leave the altar, Sepe felt too faint to carry the phials of blood outside to show the crowds who had gathered in anticipation of the miracle, which typically occurs three times a year.

It is unknown what caused Sepe to feel ill during the celebration, though ANSA reported that it was “perhaps because of the heat.”

The blood did liquefy during the celebration, according to ANSA.

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, is patron of Naples was a bishop of the city in the third century, whose bones and blood are preserved in the cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though has not been the subject of official Church recognition. The liquefaction reportedly happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint's feast day, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease or other disaster.

The blood did not liquefy in December 2016, but Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, said it was a sign that Catholics should pray rather than worry about what the lack of miracle could mean.

“We must not think of disasters and calamities. We are men of faith and we must pray,” he said at the time.

The vial has sometimes changed upon the visit of a pope.

On March 21, 2015, Pope Francis met with priests, religious and seminarians at the cathedral and gave a blessing with the relic.

Sepe then received the vial back from the pope and noted that the blood had partially liquefied.

The last time blood liquefied in the presence of a pope was in 1848 when Bl. Pius IX visited. The phenomenon didn’t happen when St. John Paul II visited the city in October 1979, or when Benedict XVI visited in October 2007.

Ireland repeals Eighth Amendment, clearing path for legal abortion

Dublin, Ireland, Sep 19, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which provided legal protection for the unborn, was officially repealed Sept. 18. The repeal was enacted when President Michael D. Higgins signed the country’s 36th Amendment into law, clearing the way for legal abortion in Ireland.

The removal of the Eighth Amendment follows the decisive result of the national referendum held in May. Only one county, Donegal, voted to keep the amendment. Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

While it has not yet been determined under what circumstances abortion will become legal, the government is proposing that it be allowed throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Legislation to this effect will be introduced by the government next month.

It is unknown when Ireland’s first abortion facility will open, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this will likely be by 2019.

The Church vocally opposed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and many of Ireland’s hospitals are either run by the Church, or have historically been administered by religious orders. Varadkar has said that Catholic hospitals will not be permitted to opt out of performing abortions, making further conflict between the Church and the pro-abortion movement likely.

At the same time, Ireland is also facing a potential shortage of doctors willing to participate in abortions. Despite 66% of Irish voters favoring the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, surveys show that roughly seven out of 10 general practitioners in Ireland are unwilling to perform abortions. This means that doctors may have to be flown in from other countries, or a list of willing doctors will be circulated among the public.

Dr. Ruth Cullen, the spokesperson for Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign said in a statement on the campaign website that while Tuesday was “a day to remember all the lives saved by the 8th Amendment,” it was “also a sad day for human rights as a vital life-saving human rights provision of the Constitution has been removed.”

Abortion, said Cullen, “is far from progressive and compassionate as those who campaigned for repeal claim it will be.” She is “confident” that Ireland will eventually come to regret the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and realize they “opened the door to the greatest injustice and discrimination of our time.”

Brooklyn diocese reaches $27.5m settlement over abuse by lay volunteer

Brooklyn, N.Y., Sep 19, 2018 / 10:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Brooklyn and an after-school program reached a $27.5 million settlement Tuesday with four men who were sexually abused as minors by a layman who volunteered at a parish in the New York City borough.

The men were abused between 2003 and 2009 by Angelo Serrano, 67, who taught catechism and helped to organized religious education at St. Lucy – St. Patrick's parish in Brooklyn. Serrano abused the boys, who were between the ages of 8 and 12, at the church, in his apartment, and at the after-school program. Serrano received a stipend from the church, and had a desk there.

“The diocese and another defendant have settled these lawsuits brought by the four claimants who were sexually abused by Angelo Serrano at his private apartment many years ago,” the Brooklyn diocese said in a Sept. 18 statement, the New York Times reported. “Mr. Serrano was a volunteer worker at a local parish; he was not clergy or an employee of the diocese or parish.”

A portion of the settlement is being paid by the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center, an after-school program located next to the parish.

Serrano was arrested in 2009, and is now serving a 15-year sentence.

A suit against the diocese was set to go to trial next year, had the diocese not settled.

The victims' suit listed the then-pastors of St. Lucy – St. Patrick's, Fr. Stephen P. Lynch and Fr. Frank Shannon, as co-defendants.

According to the New York Times, a judge wrote that “The record is clear that Lynch and Shannon had knowledge that for years Serrano often had several boys, including plaintiff, sleep over at his apartment … In fact, both Lynch and Shannon testified that they visited Serrano on numerous occasions when young boys were present.”

Fr. Lynch testified, the Times reported, that he saw Serrano “kiss an 8- or 9-year-old boy on the mouth and inappropriately embrace the boy.”

A secretary at the parish, Beatrice Ponnelle, also testified about Serrano's behavior with minors.

Earlier this month, the New York attorney general issued subpoenas to the state's dioceses asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.”

 

Pope Francis meets Bono

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2018 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- U2 front man Bono had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican Wednesday afternoon, saying afterward the Holy Father was “incredibly gracious with his time, his concentration.”

Speaking to journalists following the just over 30-minute meeting Sept. 19, Bono said they “let the conversation go where it wanted to go,” discussing “big themes,” such as the future of commerce and how it might serve sustainable development goals.

Irishman Bono, born Paul David Hewson, also said that having just come from Ireland, they “inevitably” spoke about “the pope’s feelings about what has happened in the Church.”

He said he explained to Francis that to some it looks like “the abusers are being more protected than the victims,” and that he “could see the pain” in the pope’s face. “I felt he was sincere, and I think he’s an extraordinary man for extraordinary times,” Bono said.

Bono met Pope Francis alongside the president of the pontifical foundation Scholas Occurrentes, José María del Corral.

Scholas is an international organization founded by Pope Francis as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter among youth through technology, arts and sports.

Bono is a co-founder of the ONE Campaign, an advocating organization that aims to combat poverty, which signed an agreement to partner with Scholas.

He said the exact way in which the two organizations will work together is yet to be decided, but he is looking forward to the partnership and really admires the work Scholas does.

This was Bono’s second papal meeting. He also had an audience with St. John Paul II in 1999.

Bono is the second U2 member to meet Pope Francis in recent years after the band’s lead guitarist, The Edge, greeted the pope during an audience as part of a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine in 2016.