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Cardinal Zuppi announces report on clerical sex abuse in Italy

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. / Screenshot from CEI Chiesa Cattolica Italiana YouTube channel.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 09:18 am (CNA).

In his first press conference since being selected as president of the Italy’s bishops’ conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi announced on Friday plans for a report on clerical sex abuse in the country.

“Our thoughts always go to the victims and that is the first concern,” Zuppi said on May 27.

“We need to strengthen diocesan services for minors and vulnerable people,” he said, according to ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.

The cardinal announced that the report will only cover abuse in the Catholic Church in Italy from the year 2000 to 2021. He said it is due to be released on Nov. 18, 2022.

“There is a willingness peacefully and painfully to clarify, here we evaluate with accuracy … We want fair and true clarity,” Zuppi said.

The possibility of reparations for victims is an open question at this time, according to the cardinal, who said that the consequences for bishops found to have covered up abuse will be “very serious.”

The Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into abuse during the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome this week.

Italian associations joined together in February to coordinate a movement against abuse in the Church. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to carry out an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the last 70 years.

The consortium sent a letter to the Italian bishops’ conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston urged Italian bishops on May 25 to work for a “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the appeal in a video message played on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly.

It was announced on May 24 that the pope had chosen Zuppi to lead the Italian bishops’ conference as its president.

The 66-year-old archbishop of the northern Italian city of Bologna has been dubbed the “bicycling cardinal” and has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

During the live-streamed press conference, Zuppi also touched on physician-assisted suicide, which is been a subject of national debate in Italy this year.

In February, Italy’s constitutional court blocked a referendum to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide in the country, citing inadequate legal protections for the weak and vulnerable.

“The doctrine of the Church is very clear,” Zuppi said. “Closeness to suffering remains the fundamental starting point.”

UPDATE: These Catholic bishops support Nancy Pelosi ban on Holy Communion

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:39 am (CNA).

So far only a small minority of U.S. bishops have come out publicly in support of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone’s May 20 announcement that he is barring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her home diocese, until she repudiates her longstanding advocacy of abortion.

There are 194 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. Here is a list of those bishops who have spoken in favor of Cordileone’s action. Please send updates, with links to online statements if available, to [email protected]

California

Diocese of Oakland

Diocese of Santa Rosa

Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he spoke to the pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in St.Helena, a parish that Pelosi reportedly attends on occasion. 

Vasa said, “I have visited with the pastor at St Helena and informed him that if the Archbishop prohibited someone from receiving Holy Communion then that restriction followed the person and that the pastor was not free to ignore it.”

“The new Canon (1379 §4) makes it clear that providing sacraments to someone prohibited from receiving them [has] its own possible penalties,” he said.

Colorado

Archdiocese of Denver

Illinois

Diocese of Springfield

Kansas

Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann issued the following statement on May 20:

"I applaud Archbishop Cordileone’s patient and persevering efforts to enlighten Speaker Pelosi about the moral gravity of her extreme efforts to promote, to advocate and to initiate legislation to enshrine legalized abortion into federal law. I fully support the both pastoral and courageous actions that Archbishop Cordileone has now taken in an effort to awaken Speaker Pelosi’s conscience and at the same time to protect Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and throughout the country from being confused by Speaker Pelosi’s radical support for abortion, while claiming to be a faithful Catholic. I pray that Speaker Pelosi will have a change of heart."

Nebraska

Diocese of Lincoln

Oklahoma

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Oregon

Diocese of Baker

Bishop Liam Cary issued the following statement on May 20:

"Representative Nancy Pelosi proudly combines “devout” practice of Catholic faith in her personal life with high-profile promotion of legalized abortion in her political life. The scandalizing gap between belief and behavior on the part of the Speaker of the House grievously misleads her fellow believers about Catholic teaching on social justice and seriously handicaps Catholic efforts to defend unborn life in the womb. 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly brought these sad facts to Representative Pelosi’s attention and called her to repentance. In response, the Speaker has defiantly doubled down on her uncompromising advocacy for unlimited abortion, thereby proposing herself as an exemplar for Catholic politicians who deliberately distance themselves from the saving clarity of the Gospel of Life. At the same time, in choosing to ally herself actively with abortion’s most extreme proponents, Representative Pelosi has unilaterally broken communion with Archbishop Cordileone and the flock he shepherds. She has withdrawn herself from communion with the Church.  

In a letter to the Speaker on May 19 Archbishop Cordileone acknowledged this sad rupture for what it is and made her aware of its consequences: she is not to present herself for Holy Communion until she publicly renounces her support for abortion, makes a sacramental confession, and receives absolution. These conditions invite Representative Pelosi’s return to Communion and show her the way to do so on the Church’s terms, not her own. May our merciful Lord grant her the grace to accept them. May He strengthen Archbishop Cordileone to walk the path of courage with confidence."

Texas

Diocese of Fort Worth

Diocese of Tyler

Bishop Joseph Strickland said on May 25 that Pelosi would be barred from receiving Communion in the Diocese of Tyler in eastern Texas.

He wrote on Twitter: "The concern for Mrs Pelosi’s eternal salvation extends to the Diocese of Tyler. She is barred from Communion here until she repents & stops advocating the murder of children. Pray for her heart to be turned to God & away from the power of this world."

Washington State

Diocese of Spokane

Wisconsin

Diocese of Green Bay

Diocese of Madison

Bishop Donald Hying supported Cordileone, saying: “I fully support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s prudent decision to recognize that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, has persistently taken public positions in support of legal abortion, contrary to her professed Catholic faith, choosing to separate herself from full communion with the Catholic Church, and therefore is not to present herself for the reception of Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

Hying said that “Cordileone’s public statement made it clear that this serious measure is ‘purely pastoral, not political’ in a further attempt ‘to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking…’”

Virginia

Diocese of Arlington

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said May 25 that he would respect the ban imposed by Cordileone because of Pelosi's staunch advocacy for legalized abortion.

“He is her bishop and as that bishop the direction and guidance he provides is not limited to just a geographical area,” Burbidge said on his diocese's "The Walk Humbly Podcast." His comments were first reported by the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese's newspaper.

“I can’t say it enough, (these) decisions are made for the good of individuals to guard the faithful from scandal," which is caused when Catholics in public office take positions at odds with Church teaching," the bishop said, according to the newspaper's report. "That confuses people and a bishop has to guard against that."

Burbidge revealed that while he has not publicly announced that someone should not receive Communion in his diocese, "I have privately shared that directive with individuals who have continuously scandalized the Church by holding a personal Catholic identity while also publicly advocating for abortion or other inherent moral evils," the newspaper reported.

“All people, including those who are not public individuals, have to approach the sacraments truly in communion with the Church and Our Lord,” Burbidge said.

This Catholic is trekking 4,000 miles across Europe to Jerusalem

Carlota Valenzuela. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2022 / 08:12 am (CNA).

A 29-year-old woman from Spain is walking 4,000 miles across Europe on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Carlota Valenzuela began her journey in January at Cape Finisterre in northern Spain, a point which the ancient Romans considered “the end of the world.”

Her goal is to reach the Holy Land by Christmas after trekking on foot across 12 countries with only a backpack and her deep faith in God.

“It was something that I felt in a very clear and a very obvious way that God was calling me to do a walking pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” Valenzuela told EWTN News Nightly from Rome on May 25.

“Before this day, there was a period of around six months in which I kept feeling the fact that God was calling me for something bigger,” she added.

Currently in Rome, Valenzuela is at about the halfway point of her pilgrimage. During her trip, she has made stops at many historic Catholic churches and shrines, including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Monastery of St. Joseph in Cotignac in France.

For Valenzuela, the highlight of her pilgrimage so far has been “the encounters along the way.”

“My way of doing this pilgrimage is literally knocking on people’s doors to ask them to host me, so the fact that I am in a position of need is helping me to see the best of humanity. I’m having a daily lesson of generosity,” she said.

Valenzuela added that she loves talking with people she meets about the faith and praying together.

The 29-year-old has also been filming and sharing aspects of her journey with a growing audience on social media via her Instagram account, @finisterreajerusalen, which already has more than 13,000 followers.

Her posts often show the natural beauty of the paths where she is walking with a voiceover of her reciting a prayer or reading a poem.

Valenzuela describes her pilgrimage so far as “a process of abandonment,” surrendering to God everything that is outside of her control.

“I feel that He is in charge, that this is not up to me, it's up to Him. I've never felt that kind of loneliness, although I've never been alone for so long in my life,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“My prayer has been changing a lot and I am learning little by little to contemplate, to see the landscapes and contemplate the work of God in the things I see, in the song of the birds, in how the leaves move with the wind, in the landscapes,” she said.

Valenzuela said that her parents were quite worried when she first told them of her plans to walk across a continent alone.

She left behind her job, friends, and family to make the pilgrimage. But even at the halfway point in her journey, she already feels like she is not the same person who set out from Spain in January.

She said: “I would invite people to have the courage to search a little inside, to ask themselves: what has God put inside of me?”

“And on that path of discovery, when they begin to glimpse which way to go, then they should set out on the road. For you only have one life, even if that sounds very cliché. You only have one life and there is only one opportunity to reach its fullness.”

Valenzuela will head off from Rome on the next leg of her journey at the beginning of June, on her 30th birthday. Her next stops include Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece.

Once she arrives in Jerusalem, she hopes to tell God “what I have been telling him since I started: that I am here, so that he may do his will in me.”

St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Feast date: May 27

An Italian Benedictine monk who became the “Apostle of the English,” Saint Augustine of Canterbury is honored by the Catholic Church on May 27.

Under the direction of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Augustine founded the famous See of Canterbury and preached the Catholic faith to the country's Anglo-Saxon pagans during the late sixth and early seventh centuries.

He is not be confused with the earlier St. Augustine of Hippo, the famous author of the “Confessions” and “City of God.”

Augustine's date of birth cannot be established, nor are any details of his early life known. Most likely born in Rome to a noble family, he entered monastic life as a young man. The community he joined had been recently founded by a Benedictine monk named Gregory, who would go on to become Pope and eventually be known as St. Gregory the Great. The friendship between Gregory and Augustine had great historical consequences, as it was the Pope who would eventually send his fellow monk to evangelize England.

Around 595, five years into his 14-year pontificate, Pope Gregory set to work on a plan for the conversion of the English people. The Catholic faith had already been preached and accepted among England's original Celtic inhabitants in earlier times, but from the mid-fifth century onward, the country was dominated by Anglo-Saxon invaders who did not accept Christianity, and were not converted by the small number of isolated Celtic Christian holdouts. Thus, England largely had to be evangelized anew.

For this task the Pope chose a group of around forty monks – including Augustine, who was to represent the delegation and communicate on its behalf. Though he was not explicitly chosen as its leader at that time, that was the role he ended up taking on with Gregory’s support. The group left for England in June 596, but some of the missionaries lost their nerve after hearing fearsome reports about the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine ended up returning to Rome, where he got further advice and support from the Pope.

Persuaded to continue on their way, the missionary-monks reached their port of departure and set sail for England in spring of 597. After arriving they gained an audience with King Ethelbert of Kent, a pagan ruler whose Frankish wife Queen Bertha was a Christian. Speaking with the king through an interpreter, Augustine gave a powerful and straightforward presentation of the Gospel message, speaking of Christ’s redemption of the world and his offer of eternal life.

Ethelbert would later convert, and eventually even be canonized as a Saint. But his initial response to Augustine’s preaching was only mildly positive: he would receive the missionaries with hospitality, and permit them to evangelize without any restriction. Despite his early ambivalence, however, the king became a generous patron of the monks. They made their home in Canterbury, after dramatically entering the city in procession with the Cross and an image of Christ.

The Canterbury community lived according to the Rule of St. Benedict, as they had in Italy, but they also preached in the surrounding area in accordance with their mission. Augustine and his companions succeeded in converting King Ethelbert himself, while Queen Bertha also became more zealous in her practice of the faith after her husband’s baptism. Augustine traveled to Gaul, where he was consecrated as a bishop for the English Church. By Christmas of 597, over ten thousand people were actively seeking baptism from the missionaries.

Through his written correspondence, Pope Gregory continued to guide the work of Augustine – the first Archbishop of Canterbury – and the other Catholic missionaries. The great Pope, and the “Apostle of England,” would both die during the same year, 604.

Though Augustine had not managed to sort out some disagreements with the native Celtic bishops, he had given the faith a firm foothold among the Anglo-Saxons. Canterbury would continue on for centuries as the ranking see of English Catholicism, until its fall into schism during the 16th century.

Germany’s Bishop Bätzing defends promotion of priest accused of sexual harassment

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg. / Bistum Limburg.

Limburg, Germany, May 27, 2022 / 06:45 am (CNA).

German Catholic Bishop Georg Bätzing has defended his decision to promote a priest accused of sexual harassment.

The bishop of Limburg, western Germany, said on May 26 that if he was taking the decision today, he would send the case for review to a diocesan advisory board, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The board did not exist at the time that Bätzing appointed the unnamed priest to the post of district dean, although the bishop knew of the allegations and was in contact with both reported victims, the “Christ und Welt” supplement of the German newspaper Die Zeit said on May 25.

The victims were identified as a trainee Protestant pastor and a Catholic employee of the Limburg diocese.

Bätzing, who has served as chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference since 2020, said that today he would “present the whole matter and ask for advice” from the board.

“It’s not about criminal liability or not,” he said. “It’s about hurt and a conflict that simply goes incredibly deep.”

The Diocese of Limburg issued a statement on May 25 addressing the case.

It said a diocesan employee alleged in 2007 — years before Bätzing was appointed to the diocese — that the unnamed priest had called her pet names and stroked her hair and back with his hand.

The diocese said that it took immediate action. The priest was confronted with the allegations and told to refrain from the behavior.

The employee then alleged in 2013 that the priest had touched her under her T-shirt in 2007.

“The priest was also confronted with this accusation, but in contrast to the earlier accusations, he emphatically denied it,” the diocese said.

It said: “Georg Bätzing only learned about the priest’s misconduct and the accusations a few years after his move to the Limburg diocese [in 2016].”

“He then spoke with the [Church] employee and with the priest. In 2020, the bishop also confronted him about a new allegation relating to misconduct dating back to 2000 and made against the priest.”

“Bätzing made it unmistakably clear that he disapproved of such behavior. He issued a monitio, an admonition in written form. The priest apologized for his behavior to the employee, asked for forgiveness, and showed credible remorse. He has been dealing intensively with his misconduct for years.”

It went on: “After a renewed examination of the accusations and further discussions, Bishop Georg Bätzing appointed the priest as district dean of one of the 11 districts of the diocese.”

“The employee’s consternation and indignation over this personnel decision are understandable. In a personal conversation with the employee, Bätzing tried to convey and explain this decision to her.”

“In the appointment as district dean, both the formally disapproved misconduct of the priest and his handling of it were taken into account, as well as the fact that the pastoral workers entitled to make proposals expressed a clear vote for the appointment of this priest. Bishop Georg has come to the conclusion that an appointment as district dean is possible.”

Speaking on May 26 at the 102nd Katholikentag in Stuttgart, southwest Germany, Bätzing said that physical or verbal harassment of women was “an absolute no-go.”

But he said that, in light of the accused priest’s remorse and apology, and the penalties imposed, he asked whether the priest should be offered the possibility of rehabilitation.

This was “not a faux pas,” he insisted.

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Pope Francis cites JRR Tolkien in essay on storytelling

Pope Francis and J.R.R. Tolkien. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk and TuckerFTW via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, May 27, 2022 / 04:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis cited J.R.R. Tolkien in an essay on storytelling published this week.

“As Frodo, the main character in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ says: ‘The tales never end,’” Pope Francis wrote in an afterword to a book published on May 26.

The pope may have been referring to an exchange between Frodo and Sam in the second book of the trilogy on “the tales that really mattered.”

In the exchange, Sam says: “And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got — you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It's going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’”

“‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.’”

The pope brought up Tolkien in an afterword he wrote for the recently published Italian book “La Tessitura del Mondo” (“Weaving the World”).

According to its publisher, the book features chapters written by “major cultural figures” in Italy on “storytelling as a way to salvation.”

In the pope’s afterword, published in full by Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope also quoted Donna Tartt, an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for her novel, “The Goldfinch.”

The pope reflected on Tartt’s description of the stories human beings tell as unbreakable ropes that connect the living and the dead and weave vast webs across centuries and cultures.

“The American novelist keenly captures one of the points on which many of the authors in this book converge: storytelling as a ‘fabric’ made of ‘unbreakable ropes’ that connects everything and everyone, present and past, and allows one to open to the future with feelings of trust and hope,” the pope said.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has made reference to books such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Romano Guardini’s “The Meaning of the Church.”

Among his favorite books are the Italian novel “The Betrothed,” by Alessandro Manzoni, and “Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson.

This was not the first time that Pope Francis has referenced “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit.”

In a 2008 Easter homily when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly said: “Tolkien portrays in Bilbo and Frodo the image of man who is called to walk, and his heroes know and enact, precisely by walking, the drama … between good and evil.”

"The walking man has within him the dimension of hope: he enters into hope. Throughout mythology and history, there resounds the echo of the fact that man is not a still, tired being, but is called to the journey, and if he does not enter into this dimension he destroys himself as a person and becomes corrupted.”

Papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa also cited Tolkien at the Vatican’s Good Friday liturgy this year. He reflected on a letter that the author wrote to his son about people who denied the existence of Jesus.

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