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Jesuits in Bolivia admit their actions were ‘disastrous’ in dealing with sexual abuse

Photograph of Father Luis María Roma, SJ, in the auditorium of the John XXIII boarding school in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the place where another Jesuit priest, Alfonso Pedrajas (“Padre Pica”) allegedly committed most of his abuse of minors. This image was taken there in October 2023. / Credit: Andrés Henríquez/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Jesuits of Bolivia admitted that their actions were “negligent, indolent, and disastrous” in response to the sexual abuse of minors by priests such as the late Luis María Roma, who kept a diary and had photographs and videos of the Indigenous girls he allegedly abused. 

In another notorious case, “Padre Pica” also kept a diary in which he admitted abusing up to 85 boys and adolescents.

In a statement dated June 16, the Society of Jesus in Bolivia recognized “with deep regret that the actions of those who were in charge of addressing the complaints of sexual abuse of girls, boys, and adolescents and acting on behalf of the victims were negligent, indolent, and disastrous.”

The Jesuits in Bolivia noted that this took place “without placing the victims at the center of their attention such that those who acted in this way must be held responsible for their actions in the handling of such situations, as established by the Bolivian justice system in the framework of due process.”

The statement was posted on the Jesuits’ website a day after the Spanish newspaper El País published a report on Roma, the Spanish priest who is alleged to have “abused hundreds of Indigenous girls in Bolivia for decades. He photographed them, recorded them on video, and recorded everything in writing.”

“On this occasion, the order carried out an internal investigation that confirmed the crimes and their cover-up. The Jesuits, after the death of Roma in 2019, kept the findings in a drawer where they have remained unpublished, until today,” the newspaper stated.

In their statement, the Jesuits pointed out that “the current authorities in charge of the government of the Society of Jesus in Bolivia have the moral obligation not to act as was done in the past, worthy of strong condemnation.”

“For this reason, in addition to having actively cooperated with the investigations carried out by the public prosecutor’s office by filing complaints with that agency with the documentation that was available, with the aim of absolute transparency so that the truth of the facts may be known, we urge  the state prosecutor’s office to reopen the case of the Catalan Jesuit Luis María Roma and those it deems appropriate,” the statement explained.

The Jesuits made this recommendation “given the evidence of the testimony of victims and the material collected in the raids, to establish the responsibilities of those who may have known the facts and did not act in accordance with the law.”

The Jesuits of Bolivia have ordered that “a commission, led by the current head of Healthy and Safe Environments, a lay professional and psychologist, immediately begin the work of contacting the victims in the Roma case, and others who have made complaints to determine with them the best way to care for their particular situation.”

Who was Roma?

In May 2023, and as part of the investigations into the abuse committed by the Spanish Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas “Padre Pica,” new accusations arose against Luis María Roma Padrosa and Alejandro Mestre, also a Jesuit, who had been the coadjutor archbishop of La Paz in Bolivia. 

Both complaints were filed with the authorities by former Jesuit provincial Osvaldo Chirveches, who stated that they had already been investigated by the order and that the next step was for the prosecutor’s office to pursue the cases.

The case of Roma, who was a priest for 66 years, came to light in 2019, the year in which he died, based on an investigation by the EFE news agency. 

Although the number of victims is not known, it is known that Roma was accused of abusing minor girls between 7 and 12 years of age in the town of Charagua in southern Bolivia. The complaint was supported by photographs that were the property of the priest.

The priest lived in that town in the Santa Cruz district from 1994–2005; while the abuse would have occurred between 1998 and 2002.

According to what was reported by the Página Siete portal, the case took four years before it was reported to the public prosecutor’s office. Página Siete stated that “neither the Church nor the state pushed for a public investigation or a judicial process.”

Once the investigation was completed by the Jesuits, the final report was sent, along with all the documentation, to the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome for study and consultation with the Congregation (today Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In September 2022, the credibility of the accusations was determined.

Roma was also a teacher at San Calixto School in La Paz, at San Clemente School in Potosí, and was director of the Tacata Children’s Home in Cochabamba.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Three young adult pilgrims walk from Paris to Jerusalem ‘to deepen our faith’

The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse together with Louis Antona at the entrance of Greece. The three young people covered the distance from Paris to Jerusalem on foot, arriving in mid-May 2024. “I needed to walk 4,500 kilometers to understand that Jesus is not just in Jerusalem, but was by my side every step of the way,” Antona told CNA. / Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

Jerusalem, Jun 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

On Sept. 17, 2023, two sisters left Paris and walked for approximately eight months to Jerusalem. Madeleine and Marie-Liesse, 19 and 22, who grew up in a Catholic family, decided to become pilgrims to grow in their faith. 

“We needed to make the faith our own,” they told CNA. “This pilgrimage was to discover God, to truly search for him and deepen our faith. We learned that we can trust God; he takes care of us in everything. The Gospel is not a joke.”

Two months later, in mid-November 2023, Louis Antona, 24, also left Paris on foot, bound for Jerusalem. The three young people met providentially in Albania, walked together through Turkey, then parted ways and reunited in Jerusalem. They shared the story of their pilgrimage with CNA.

“I needed to walk 4,500 kilometers to understand that Jesus is not just in Jerusalem but was by my side every step of the way,” Antona told CNA. He walked a total of 189 days and arrived in Jerusalem on May 18.

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse — who asked that their last name not be used to protect their privacy — left from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre in the center of Paris with the blessing of their parents and a priest.

“It was a calling from God,” Madeleine said of the decision she and her sister made to leave. “There’s no need for reasons when God calls; you simply need to follow what he tells you.” 

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse during a moment of their journey, between Slovenia and Croatia. “The faith of the people struck us: during Advent, tradition dictates that Mass be attended every morning at 6, and every time we went, the church was packed with people,” they told CNA. The two sisters left Paris on September 17, 2023, and walked for about eight months to Jerusalem. Credit: Courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse
Madeleine and Marie-Liesse during a moment of their journey, between Slovenia and Croatia. “The faith of the people struck us: during Advent, tradition dictates that Mass be attended every morning at 6, and every time we went, the church was packed with people,” they told CNA. The two sisters left Paris on September 17, 2023, and walked for about eight months to Jerusalem. Credit: Courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

The sisters created a simple blog to keep friends and family updated on their pilgrimage. The photos and brief stories reveal all the freshness of two young people on a journey while not hiding moments of doubt and difficulty.

“We chose to embark on this journey as beggars,” Marie-Liesse told CNA. “We left with just a few clothes and nothing else — no food, no money. We wanted to surrender ourselves into the hands of providence. Every evening, we knocked on people’s doors asking for shelter, a bed, and food. The Lord always provided.”

Their days were marked by walking and prayer. 

“We didn’t have a strict rule because we had to adapt every day to the people who hosted us, the place, and the situation,” Marie-Liesse explained. “But we had a framework: We knew we had to pray in the morning, at midday, at night… It was important for us to be faithful to God. Every day, we also recited a rosary, praying for the intentions entrusted to us.”

The most challenging moment was making the decision to continue the journey after hearing that war had broken out in the Holy Land. “We were in Germany and full of doubts about whether to go on.”

Their journey led them to cross Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. In Croatia, “the faith of the people struck us: during Advent, tradition dictates that Mass be attended every morning at 6, and every time we went, the church was packed with people,” the sisters wrote on their blog.

They stopped for a month in Medjugorje (Bosnia and Herzegovina), where their family joined them for Christmas. 

“It was a difficult time. Again, we didn’t know what to do. But after a period of discernment, we realized that Christ was calling us back on the road again,” Madeleine said.

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse crossed Montenegro and arrived in Albania, where they encountered Antona.

“I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” Antona told CNA. “I wasn’t sure what, but I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey. It was a challenge; I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy walking and being alone.”

Louis Antona, 24, during a moment of his journey. “I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” he told CNA. “I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey." Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona
Louis Antona, 24, during a moment of his journey. “I had just finished my studies and wanted to offer something to God,” he told CNA. “I thought that the best thing I had at that time was time itself. So, I decided to offer God a year of my life by embarking on a journey." Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona

Antona decided to leave, despite the war. “I believe the hardest part of a pilgrimage like this is deciding to start. I knew that if I gave up because of the war, I would never do it again. Anyway, I thought that by the time I arrived, the war would already be over.”

Madeleine and Marie-Liesse are filled with wonder at the manifestation of providence in every detail of their pilgrimage, in the beautiful weather and in the rain, in every small encounter — those who hosted them after seeing them at the bus stop, those who taught them how to make bread, the gentleman who opened his door just before a downpour. “If we had arrived a minute later, we wouldn’t have met him,” they said.

The encounter with Antona wasn’t coincidental either. The two sisters had prayed to God to give them a travel companion.

“We planned to not go through Turkey because we were two women alone, but we would have liked to go that way. So we asked God to meet one pilgrim, and we met him,” the sisters explained. 

The three crossed Macedonia and Greece, arriving in Turkey on Palm Sunday. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there.

The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse together with Louis Antona received a blessing from a priest during a Mass in Turkey. They arrived in Turkey on Palm Sunday 2024. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona
The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse together with Louis Antona received a blessing from a priest during a Mass in Turkey. They arrived in Turkey on Palm Sunday 2024. In this predominantly Muslim country, they celebrated Easter, warmly welcomed by the small French-speaking community there. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona

“Every day of this pilgrimage was a miracle,” Antona said. “Every day we have met people who smiled or were nice to us. I have to say that in Turkey we found the most welcoming people.”

“It is not uncommon for the Turks to spontaneously lend us a hand,” Madeleine and Marie-Liesse wrote on their blog. “In Turkey, we encountered an infinite respect for passing strangers and for Christianity, even though Christians here are forced to protect themselves from regular attacks.”

The arrival of Madeleine and Marie-Liesse in Albania. In the photo, Marie-Liesse is in front of a statue of Mother Teresa, who was originally from this country. "Every evening, we knocked on people’s doors asking for shelter, a bed, and food. The Lord always provided," they told CNA. Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse
The arrival of Madeleine and Marie-Liesse in Albania. In the photo, Marie-Liesse is in front of a statue of Mother Teresa, who was originally from this country. "Every evening, we knocked on people’s doors asking for shelter, a bed, and food. The Lord always provided," they told CNA. Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

Upon leaving Turkey, the paths of the three pilgrims split again. The sisters’ route went through Cyprus but they could not find a way from there to Jerusalem by sea due to suspension of transportation because of the war. Providentially, they met someone in Cyprus who offered to pay for airfare, and the sisters arrived in Tel Aviv on May 6. Three days later, on the feast of the Ascension, they were in Jerusalem.

“Many times, we thought we couldn’t reach Jerusalem,” Madeleine said. “We learned that the journey is even more important than reaching the goal. Being here is a great gift, just to be here.”

“We unpacked our bags once and for all, knelt before this Holy Land, and prayed. What peace, what a moment of grace! As we admired the sunrise and the golden light that brought color to the roofs of the old city, we could reread the wonders of God and meditate on the Gospels. His infinite love overwhelmed us,” the two sisters wrote on their blog.

The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse received a blessing from a Franciscan friar at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher after their arrival in Jerusalem. “The greatest gift is to be here and understand what happened here, to see with our own eyes, to witness the actual places,” Madeleine said. “We were able to pause in every place, to pray and meditate in silence.” Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse
The sisters Madeleine and Marie-Liesse received a blessing from a Franciscan friar at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher after their arrival in Jerusalem. “The greatest gift is to be here and understand what happened here, to see with our own eyes, to witness the actual places,” Madeleine said. “We were able to pause in every place, to pray and meditate in silence.” Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

Madeleine has no doubts: “Prayer is what carried us. When you’re weak, that’s when you’re strongest because that’s when God can act in you; you don’t take up all the space. Trusting in God can be challenging, but when you understand that God only wants you to be happy and will give you everything you need, then you realize you have everything to be happy in this moment; you can trust him.”

Ten days later, on the eve of Pentecost, Antona also arrived in Jerusalem. “Even if I had to stop somewhere else, at least I would have aimed to reach Jerusalem. This is a very important city for Christians, but the journey you take to reach it is also very important.”

French pilgrim Louis Antona arrived in Jerusalem on May 18, at the vigil of Pentecost. “Every day of this pilgrimage was a miracle,” he said. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona
French pilgrim Louis Antona arrived in Jerusalem on May 18, at the vigil of Pentecost. “Every day of this pilgrimage was a miracle,” he said. Credit: Photo courtesy of Louis Antona

The three pilgrims are still in the Holy Land. They have had the opportunity to participate in various celebrations and to visit the holy places in addition to many other sites in the area.

“The greatest gift is to be here and understand what happened here, to see with our own eyes, to witness the actual places,” Madeleine said. “We were able to pause in every place, to pray and meditate in silence.”

A journey like this isn’t for everyone, but all three of the pilgrims agree that “if God calls you, go in peace. If God helps you, everything becomes possible.” 

The French pilgrims rest under the portico of the Church of the Beatitudes on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. In the photo is Louis Antona. A journey like this isn't for everyone, but, the three young people said, “if God calls you, go in peace. If God helps you, everything becomes possible.” Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse
The French pilgrims rest under the portico of the Church of the Beatitudes on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. In the photo is Louis Antona. A journey like this isn't for everyone, but, the three young people said, “if God calls you, go in peace. If God helps you, everything becomes possible.” Credit: Photo courtesy of French pilgrims Madeleine and Marie-Liesse

St. Osanna Andreasi

St. Osanna Andreasi

Feast date: Jun 18

St. Osanna was a Dominican tertiary, who spent her adult life serving the poor and the sick and offering spiritual direction to many. However, she was also a mystic and a visionary, eventually bearing the pain and red marks of the stigmata, though not the bleeding.

She was born in 1449 to a noble Italian family. Her visions, first of angels and of the Trinity, began at the young age of five. She felt a call to religious life and became a tertiary at 17, having already rejected a marriage arranged by her father.

Her visions continued into her adult life, and she often fell into ecstasies. She was also a strong critic of the lack of morality of her day. She died in 1505.

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