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No research justifies the use of human embryos, Pope Francis says

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:26

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said that there is no outcome that can justify the use or destruction of embryos for scientific purposes – even for the commendable cause of trying to help those suffering from incurable diseases.

“Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,” he said May 18.

Pope Francis spoke during a meeting at the Vatican Thursday with people affected by a rare and incurable genetic brain disorder called Huntington’s disease, along with their families and caretakers.

His comments were significant given the massive slate of members from the medical and scientific communities who treat the patients with Huntington's and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression. Present were some 1,700 people from 16 different countries. Sponsors for the event included major corporations such as Virgin Airlines.

There are several ethical problems surrounding the research on Huntington’s disease, including the use of embryonic stem cells taken from embryos made through in vitro fertilization.

The Pope noted this fact during the audience, encouraging scientists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throw-away culture” which treats human beings as objects for use.

The is not the first time Francis has spoken out against embryonic stem cell research. In his 2015 environment encyclical Laudato Si, he decried “a tendency” within the field of science “to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos.”

“We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development,” he said, adding that once technology disregards ethical principles, “it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit.”

“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”

Once the human being seeks absolute dominion, the foundations of our life “begin to crumble,” the Pope said in Laudato Si, so that instead of cooperating with God, man puts himself in God’s place “and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.”

Pope Francis to Huntington's patients: You deserve respect and love

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 20:22

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday offered a message of hope and love to patients with Huntington’s disease, a rare and incurable genetic brain disorder that causes intense suffering.

According to organizers, it was the first time that a pope - or any world leader - had recognized the plight of those with the disease.

In his speech, Francis said the fears and difficulties of people affected by Huntington’s disease have been surrounded “with misunderstandings and barriers (for) far too long.”

“In many cases the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment. Today, however, we are here because we want to say to ourselves and all the world: ‘HIDDEN NO MORE!’” he said.

This isn’t just a slogan, but a commitment we must foster, he continued.

“The strength and conviction with which we pronounce these words derive precisely from what Jesus himself taught us,” he said, noting that throughout his ministry, Jesus “met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many of them from feeling respected and loved.”

Pope Francis spoke during a conference organized at the Vatican hosting people affected by Huntington’s disease, along with their families and caretakers.

Huntington’s disease is characterized by rapid, uncontrollable muscle movement known as chorea. As the disease progresses, it can lead to loss of control over speech and memory, dementia and death. The gene which causes Huntington’s was discovered nearly 25 years ago, but there is still no cure and relatively limited treatment options.

This is especially true for people living in South America, where prevalence of the disease is almost 1,000 times higher than in the rest of the world and often combined with extreme poverty. Because the disease affects families generationally, they are often caught in a cycle of need.

The meeting with Pope Francis was called “HDdennomore” (pronounced “hidden no more”) and put on in special solidarity with South America. Two families from Venezuela, two from Colombia, and one girl from Argentina – all affected by the disease in different ways – were brought to the Vatican by a humanitarian group to meet the Pope.  

Also present at the audience were members of the medical and scientific communities who treat the patients with Huntington’s and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression.

In total, there were some 1,700 people present from 16 different countries. Seated in the front row were 150 people affected by Huntington’s that each got a personal greeting from Pope Francis, who stayed nearly an hour after the audience concluded in order to greet them all individually.

Jesus never let disease keep him from an encounter with people, but instead taught that every human person is precious and has dignity – something no person or illness can erase, the Pope explained.

“Brothers and sisters, as you see, you are a large and motivated community,” he concluded.

“May the life of each of you – both those who are directly affected by Huntington’s disease and those who work hard every day to support the sick in their pain and difficulty – be a living witness to the hope that Christ has given us,” he said, noting that “even through suffering there passes a path of abundant good, which we can travel together.”

Stressing the value of every human life, the Pope emphasized that no outcome can ever justify the use or destruction of embryos for scientific research – even for the commendable cause of trying to help those suffering from incurable diseases.

“Some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves – such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society – can justify the destruction of human embryos,” he said May 18.

Currently there are several ethical problems surrounding the research on Huntington’s disease, including the use of embryonic stem cells taken from embryos made through in vitro fertilization.

The Pope noted this fact during the audience, encouraging scientists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throw-away culture” which treats human beings as objects for use.

 

Pope to ambassadors: Work for peace amid 'complex' global conflicts

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 17:33

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 05:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis received the credentials of six new ambassadors to the Holy See, telling them to work for the common good and support peace efforts that lessen tensions given the complexity of the global climate.

“The international scene is at present marked by great complexity, nor is it free of dark clouds,” the Pope said May 18. This situation, he added, requires “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”

Francis spoke to ambassadors Ms. Zhanar Aitzhan of Kazakhstan; Ms. Aichetou Mint M'Haiham of Mauritania; Mr. Ramesh Prasad Khanal of Nepal; Mr. Boubacar Boureima of Niger; Mr. Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman of Sudan and Mr. Colin Michael Connelly of Trinidad and Tobago.

He asked them to convey his respect to their respective heads of State, and offered a special greeting to M'Haiham, who is Mauritania’s first ambassador to the Holy See.

In his brief speech, the Pope said there are several factors that aggravate the problems that exist on the global stage, the first of which is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities.”

These authorities are responsible for the common good, “yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few,” he said, noting that there seems to be an increasing impulse toward violence.

In many ways, there is “a greater readiness to have recourse to force,” he said, “not as a last resort but practically as one means among many, ready to be used without a full consideration of its consequences.”

Another factor exacerbating current conflicts is “fundamentalism,” the Pope said, pointing specifically to “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power” and the “manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power.”

Turning to the task the ambassadors themselves will face, Francis said the response to these “distortions” and the risks they pose to promoting peace must be the creation of “a responsible economic and financial system” that is responsive to the needs of both individuals and their communities.

“Men and women, not money, must once more become the goal of the economy!” he said, urging the diplomats to face differences with “the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use.”

Likewise, Pope Francis also stressed the importance of isolating those “who seek to turn a religious affiliation or identity into a motive of hate for all others.”

“Those who befoul the image of God in this way need to be confronted by a concerted commitment to demonstrating that those who honor God’s name save lives, not take them,” he said.

If we move more decisively in the direction of peace, mercy and compassion rather than division, war and indifference, then “the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress,” he said.

Francis then offered his personal greetings to the Catholic population in each of the six countries represented by the ambassadors, and assured the diplomats of the constant support of the Roman Curia in fulfilling their duties.

Medjugorje, the findings of the Ruini report

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:29

Vatican City, May 17, 2017 / 10:29 am (Vatican Insider / La Stampa).- Thirteen votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje, one vote against and one “suspensive” ballot, which will give a final answer later. A majority of suspensive votes and many doubts instead, concerning the apparition phenomenon from the end of 1981 to today.

These are the results of the work done by the commission on Medjugorje established in 2010 by Benedict XVI and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.  

Pope Francis mentioned this report in the press conference on the return flight from Fatima when he revealed the distinction between the first apparitions and the later ones, saying, “A commission of good theologians, bishops, cardinals. Good, good, good. The Ruini report is very, very good. It is well known that the signal that emerged from the Pontiff’s words is positive about the spiritual fruits and the conversions (people who go there and convert, people who meet God, who change life),” but was negative with regard to the current apparitions: “I prefer Our Lady as Mother, and not the head of the telegraph office, who sends a message every day.”

A commission wanted by Ratzinger  

From 17 March 2010 to 17 January 2014, a commission chaired by Ruini was set up by the will of Benedict XVI. In addition to the former chairman of the CEI, Cardinals Jozef Tomko, Vinko Puljic, Josip Bozanic, Julián Herranz and Angelo Amato took part. The psychologist Tony Anatrella, the theologians Pierangelo Sequeri, Franjo Topic, Mihály Szentmártoni and Nela Gašpar, the Mariologist Salvatore Perrella, the anthropologist Achim Schütz, the canonist David Jaeger, the speaker of the causes of the saints Zdzislaw Józef Kijas, the psychologist Mijo Nikic and the official of the Doctrine of the Faith Krzysztof Nykiel. Their task was to “collect and examine all the material” about Medjugorje and to present “a detailed report” followed by a vote on the “supernatural nature or not” of the apparitions as well as the most appropriate “pastoral solutions.” The committee met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina.

Positive Findings on First Appearances  

The commission noted a very clear difference between the beginning of the phenomenon and its following development, and therefore decided to issue two distinct votes on the two different phases: the first seven presumed appearances between June 24 and July 3, 1981, and all that happened later. Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite police arrest and death threats. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions.

The doubts about the development of the phenomenon  

With regard to the second phase of the apparitions, the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the fact that the youngsters had said they would end, however this actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have received from the apparition. On this second stage, the committee voted in two steps. Firstly, taking into account the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers. On this point, 3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive effects, and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects. If, in addition to the spiritual fruits, the behaviors of the seers is also taken into account, eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon.

The Pastoral Solution  

Having noted that the Medjugorje seers have never been adequately followed on the spiritual side, along with the fact that for a long time they have no longer been a group, the commission has endorsed the end of the ban on pilgrimages organized in Medjugorje. In addition, 13 members and experts out of the 14 present voted in favor of the constitution of “an authority dependent on the Holy See” in Medjugorje as well as the transformation of the parish into a pontifical sanctuary. A decision based on pastoral reasons - the care of millions of pilgrims, avoiding the formation of “parallel churches,” clarity on economic issues - which would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.

The doubts of the Doctrine of the Faith  

Francis mentioned them on the airplane. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith led by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller expressed doubts about the phenomenon and about the Ruini report, considered an authoritative contribution to be compared with other opinions and reports. In 2016 a “Feria IV”, the monthly meeting of Dicastry members, was summoned to discuss the Medjugorje case and the Ruini report. Each of the cardinals and bishops who members of the Feria IV received the text of the commission but also other material in the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the meeting, members were asked to give their opinions. However, Pope Francis, unwilling to have the Ruini report put up for “auction,” decided that the opinions of the Feria IV members had to be sent directly to him. And that’s exactly what happened.

Francis’ decision  

After examining the Ruini report and the opinions of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope decided to entrust to the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser a “special mission of the Holy See” to “acquire more in-depth knowledge of the pastoral situation “In Medjugorje, and “above all, the needs of the faithful who come to pilgrimage” to “suggest any pastoral initiatives for the future.” By summer 2017 the Polish Archbishop will deliver the results of his work with which the Pope will make a decision.

 

This article originally appeared at Vatican Insider. Reprinted with permission.

Pope points to Mary Magdalene as an apostle of hope

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:36

Vatican City, May 17, 2017 / 03:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By calling Mary Magdalene by name after his resurrection, Jesus shows us just how personal his relationship with mankind is, Pope Francis said Wednesday, adding that after this intimate encounter, Mary then becomes an apostle of hope for the world, announcing the Lord’s rising.

“Mary: the revolution of her life, the revolution destined to transform the existence of every man and woman, begins with a name that echoes in the garden of the empty tomb,” the Pope said May 17.

“How beautiful to think of that the first appearance of the Risen One took place in such a personal way! That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and delusion, who is moved by us, and who call us by name,” he said.

After finally realizing who is speaking to her, Mary would like to run and embrace Jesus, but “he is by now oriented to the heavenly Father, while she is invited to bring the announcement to her brothers.”

“So that woman, who is the first to encounter Jesus...now has become an apostle of the new and greatest hope,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience. He continued his catechesis on the virtue of Christian hope, focusing on the figure of Mary Magdalene at the tomb.

Mary was the first to arrive at the tomb, he said, noting that she is “one of the disciples who accompanied Jesus from Galilee, putting herself at the service of the early Church.”

The Gospel, he said, describes Mary “a woman of easy enthusiasm,” who after seeing the empty tomb runs back to the apostles disappointed by what she saw.

Her first hypothesis that Jesus’ body had been taken was “the simplest she could formulate,” Francis said, explaining that her first announcement “is not that of the Resurrection, but of an unknown theft, perpetrated while all of Jerusalem slept.”

Then, when she returned to the tomb a second time, her steps are “slow and heavy,” as she is now suffering not only from the death of Jesus, but also because of the inexplicable disappearance of his body.

However, while she is bent over his grave in tears, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the Pope said, noting how the Gospel underlines “how persistent her blindness is,” since she not only didn’t notice the presence of two angels questioning her, but neither does she recognize Jesus, mistaking him for the gardener.

“Instead, she discovers the most shocking event in human history when finally he calls her by name,” Pope Francis said, adding that this personal interest in humanity is something “that we find carved in many pages of the Gospel.”

“Around Jesus there are many people who look for God; but the most marvelous reality is that, long before, there is above all God who is concerned about our lives, who wants to uplift, and to do this calls us by name, recognizing the personal face of each person,” he said.

The Pope stressed that every person has a story of love that God writes for them on earth, calling each one by name.

“He knows us by name, he watches over us, he waits for us, he forgives us, he is patient with us. True or not true?” Francis said, saying “each one of us has this experience.”

Pointing to the joy Mary felt after discovering Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, the Pope said it’s a happiness that isn’t given in small drops, but is rather “a waterfall” that envelops our entire lives.

“The Christian existence is not woven on fluffy happiness, but on waves that engulf everyone,” he said, and encouraged the crowd to place themselves in the Gospel scene, “with the bags of disappointments and defeats that each one carries in their heart.”

In that instant, he said, “there is a God close to us who calls us by name and says: ‘Rise, cease your tears, because I have come to free you!’”

Jesus, he said, is not someone who adapts to the world, tolerating the death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people. Rather, “our God is not inert, but dreams of the transformation of the world, and he realized it in the mystery of the Resurrection,” he said.

Turning to Mary Magdalene, Francis said her example is one of hope, and that her intercession helps us to live the experience of the Resurrection, because “at the time of tears and abandonment, she hears the Risen Jesus who calls us by name, and with a heart full of joy goes to announce: I have seen the Lord!”

This isn’t the first time the Pope has drawn attention to the importance of Mary Magdalene. Just last year, in June 2016, Francis signed a decree bumping the liturgical celebration honoring the Saint from a memorial to a feast, putting her on par with the apostles.

On the Church’s liturgical calendar, saints are honored with either a “memorial” a “feast,” or a “solemnity.” Solemnities rank the highest, with feasts coming in second and memorials in third.

While there are 15 other memorials on Mary Magdalene’s July 22 feast, hers was the only obligatory one to celebrate. After being elevated to the level of a feast, the celebration bears a more significant weight.

Pope Francis: True peace comes through the Cross

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 01:28

Vatican City, May 16, 2017 / 01:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Only God can give true peace amid tribulations, Pope Francis said in his May 16 homily at his Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.

“A peace without a cross is not the peace of Jesus,” the Pope said. “The world teaches us the way to anesthetized peace: it anesthetizes us from seeing another reality of life: the Cross.”

“This is why Paul says that one must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven on the road with many tribulations,” he added. “The peace that the world offers us is a peace without tribulations.”

The world offers an artificial peace that is reduced to mere tranquility, he said. This kind of peace is “only concerned about one’s affairs and one’s security” – but it is ultimately ineffective, because “tribulations are there, whether pain, illness or death.”

“But the peace that Jesus gives is a gift: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit; and this peace lasts through tribulations and beyond.”

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis in his homily focused on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, as recounted in the Gospel of John: “I leave you peace, my peace I give you.”

The Pope said it is not possible to obtain peace amid tribulation though human effort.

Instead, God’s peace is “a gift that keeps us going.”

“God’s peace is real peace, that enters the reality of life, that does not deny life; that is life. There is suffering, there are the sick people, there are many bad things, there are wars ... but that peace within, which is a gift, is not lost, but goes ahead bearing the Cross and suffering,” he continued. “Peace without the Cross is not the peace of Jesus: it is a peace that can be bought. But it does not last; it comes to an end.”

Pope Francis said that when he gets angry, he loses peace. When his heart is troubled, “it is because I am not open to the peace of Jesus,” because he is unable to “bear life as it comes, with its crosses and sorrows that accompany it.”

Concluding his homily, the pontiff cited St. Augustine’s words: “The life of the Christian is a journey between the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

The Pope prayed: “May the Lord make us understand well what this peace is which He gives us with the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

Be champions of virtue, Pope Francis tells Coppa Italia finalists

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 00:23

Vatican City, May 16, 2017 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two opposing Italian football teams came together on Tuesday to meet in a private audience with Pope Francis, where he encouraged the Coppa Italia finalists to be upstanding role models of virtue, especially to the youth.

“I would like to reflect, briefly, on the importance of sport and consider the fascination it exerts and the impact of professional football on people, especially young people, towards whom you have a responsibility,” Pope Francis told the Italian football teams May 16. The staff, coaches, and players of both teams were present during the papal audience.

“Those who are considered 'champions' easily become role models. Therefore, every match is a test of balance, of self-mastery, of respect for the rules.”

“He, who through his behavior, puts all of this into practice, provides a good example for his followers, and this is what I wish for each of you: to be witnesses of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity,” the Holy Father continued.

The two Serie A teams, Juventus (from Turin) and Lazio (from Rome), are the finalists in the upcoming Coppa Italia tournament which will take place Wednesday at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Juventus is the defending champion of the tournament, and has won the title 11 times, to Lazio's six.

During their meeting, Pope Francis lamented the occasions of violence that sometimes occur during the football games, saying, “sadly, there are episodes of violence which affect the serenity of matches and the healthy enjoyment for the fans.”

However, the Holy Father encouraged the players to remain good sports and be “promoters of harmony,” even when tensions rise during the game.

The two teams presented Pope Francis with honorary football jerseys during their audience, along with a replica of the tournament’s trophy, the Coppa Italia. The Holy Father also wished both sides a good game.

“I thank you for your visit with all of my heart,” Pope Francis stated, “and I hope you play out a great match.”

Pope urges Macron to strengthen France’s Christian roots

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 19:52

Vatican City, May 16, 2017 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Tuesday Pope Francis sent a telegram to the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron, offering his prayers and wishes that in his new role, he will support the rich moral and spiritual traditions of the country, including that of Christianity.

“I pray that God support you so that your country, faithful to the rich diversity of its moral traditions and its spiritual heritage marked also by the Christian tradition, may always endeavor to build a more just and fraternal society,” Pope Francis said in the May 16 message.

“With respect for difference and attention to those in situations of vulnerability and exclusion, may it contribute to the cooperation and solidarity between nations,” Francis continued.

On the occasion of the investiture of the new president, which took place on May 14, the Pope sent his good wishes for the exercise of the office, that it be “at the service” of all the people of France.

Pope Francis also urged the country of France to continue to nurture an appreciation and defense of the dignity of every person, including “respect for life” and a search for peace and the common good in Europe and around the world.

He concluded his brief telegram by invoking the Lord’s blessing on President Macron and on all the inhabitants of France.

In France’s presidential election on May 7, 39-year-old centrist Macron beat Marine Le Pen, the far right candidate of the National Front party with 66 percent of the vote. He is the youngest president to ever be elected in France.

President Macron took office May 14 and will now have to deal with a slate of difficulties for the country, such as unemployment, terrorist threats and political division.

Having never been elected to any other political office, he ran as the head of a new movement, En March!, instead of an established political party. His politics have been described as liberal and progressive, though he has said he hopes to transcend the divides of the left and right political parties.

He was not the only candidate who appealed to the latent Catholics of France during the election season. François Fillon, former prime minister of France and a practicing Catholic, shocked pundits and political commentators throughout the country when he pulled ahead in the Republican party and beat out the moderate former Prime Minister Alain Juppé (himself a self-described “agnostic Catholic”) by a wide margin.  
 
His Catholicism was such a strong part of his political identity that a headline in the newspaper Libération proclaimed: “Help, Jesus has returned!”

President Macron has said that he supports the French principle of secularism (laïcité). He has also said that "we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity," though he believes that “when one enters the public realm, the laws of the Republic must prevail over religious law."

Annual report shows progress in Vatican financial transparency

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 18:29

Vatican City, May 16, 2017 / 06:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s 2016 AIF financial report shows the trend toward transparency of previous years has continued, with a drop in suspicious activity and a growing number of international collaborators.

In May 16 comments to journalists, Rene Brülhart that so far “there has been a steady process in building a functional system, and hopefully a sustainable system” of financial transparency in the Vatican.

“If you look into the facts, into the figures, that's what has been achieved in the last years, and 2016 has been a key moment in getting there,” he said.

Brülhart, a Swiss lawyer, is president of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF). Established by Benedict XVI in 2010 and strengthened under Francis, the AIF is the Vatican’s watchdog when it comes to financial supervision and preventing and countering money laundering.

The AIF works alongside other financial entities in the Vatican, including the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy, both of which were established by Pope Francis as part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Brülhart was present alongside AIF director Tommaso Di Ruzza at a May 16 press briefing on the AIF’s fifth annual report, which covered 2016 and summed up their continued efforts to crack down on suspicious financial activity in the Vatican and strengthen international ties.  

In 2016, the only entity supervised by the AIF was the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), more colloquially referred to as “the Vatican bank.”

In a press release on the report, Brülhart said “a significant fostering of international cooperation of the Vatican competent authority with its foreign counterparts to fight illicit financial activities, a consolidation of the reporting system as well as a further strengthening of the regulatory framework” were key achievements in 2016.

In comments to journalists, he noted that, in continuity with previous years, there had been a “significant increase of international cooperation” in 2016. This is key, he said, given the Holy See’s position as a global institution, which makes bilateral collaboration in the supervisory level “very important.”

According to the 2016 report, the year “was characterized by a continuous increase in supervisory and regulatory activities, especially in the field of prudential supervision.” In this regard, the majority of efforts were spent monitoring relationships among the IOR and foreign financial institutions.

“The unique geographical situation of Vatican City State and the activities carried out by the supervised entity (IOR) implies the necessity to establish relations with foreign financial intermediaries,” the report read.

In 2016, the AIF signed a “Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the supervisory authorities of Brazil, Italy and Poland. In addition, they also have formal ties with authorities in German, Luxembourg, and the United States.

Through their membership in the Egmont Group, the AIF is also allowed to interact with the financial intelligence units of 152 countries and jurisdictions.

Showing the efficiency of these relationships, AIF in 2016 had 837 international information exchanges, 720 of which were requested by AIF itself, while 116 were requests made by its foreign counterparts – an increase on both fronts from previous years

Part of this increase, according to the AIF report, is due to the increase in foreign counterparts and the AIF’s “preventive and proactive approach” at the international level. On the other hand, it’s also due to the “sophisticated feature of cases under strategic and operational analysis,” which involve various subjects and foreign jurisdictions.

In addition to an increase in international collaboration, 2016 saw a dip in the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed compared to 2015.

For Brülhart, the decrease is “no surprise, but a logical follow-up to the path we have been taking these years.”

However, the report insisted that the number was still higher than in previous years, showing “an ever-increasing and effective implementation of reporting requirements by supervised entities,” Di Ruzza said in the press release.

The report also showed an improvement in the quality of SARs reports, with a positive impact in terms of their dissemination to the Vatican Promoter of Justice, “which are leading to domestic prosecution.”

If a transaction is flagged and found to be problematic, it is sent to the office of the Promoter of Justice, currently Gian Piero Milano. In 2016, 22 reports were sent to the office, 5 of which had action taken against them: 4 of the transactions were suspended, totally over $2 million, while the account was frozen for the remaining 1, worth over $1.5 million.

Asked about the fact that to date there has been no known public prosecution of persons found guilty of wrongdoing in the Vatican, Brülhart said he “cannot speak for the Promoter of Justice,” but, without getting into detail, acknowledged that “there have been relevant developments in recent times.”

He did explain, however, that the delay is likely due to several factors, including the fact that the system they put into place is still new, and lacks sufficient IT resources and qualified people who can develop the cases flagged by AIF before sending them to Milano’s office.

Bureaucracy is also part of the equation, he said, explaining that after receiving a case, Milano must request information from international agencies, which frequently slows down the process.

Atlanta's new auxiliary used to be an aircraft captain

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 17:11

Vatican City, May 15, 2017 / 05:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has named parish priest Fr. Bernard (Ned) Shlesinger of Raleigh, who was an airline pilot before entering seminary, as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Ga.

Born Dec. 17, 1960, in Washington D.C., Schlesinger obtained the rank of “captain” piloting large aircrafts – specifically C-130 Hercules planes – before entering the seminary in 1990.

He flew the aircraft while stationed at Pope AFB, in Fayetteville, NC. The C-130 model is a four-engine turboprop military transport plane designed and built by Lockheed Martin, and is able to manage take-offs and landings from ungroomed runways.

In a statement coinciding with the Vatican’s May 15 announcement of the appointment, Atlanta’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory voiced his thanks to Pope Francis for naming a new auxiliary, and offered Shlesinger a warm welcome.

“Bishop-Elect Shlesinger comes to us from a diocese within the Ecclesiastical Province of Atlanta where he has longed enjoyed the endorsement of the bishops of our Province and the well-deserved respect, admiration, and affection of the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Diocese of Raleigh,” he said.

“I warmly welcome him to the Archdiocese of Atlanta and I look forward to working with him in service to this local Church.”

The archbishop praised Shlesinger as a man of “prayer, prudence and apostolic zeal,” noting that he has served in various capacities in Raleigh, including as a pastor, vocations director, a member of the Presbyteral Council and most recently as Director of Spiritual Formation for St. Charles Borromeo Theologate in Philadelphia.

After graduating from Mount Vernon High School in 1979, the bishop-elect obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1983.

He entered the Aeronautical Forces the same year and became a pilot, eventually achieving the rank of “captain.” He left the force seven years later, entering the Theological College in Washington in 1990.

Shlesinger completed his philosophy studies there before delving into his theological studies at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He then began a Licentiate of Sacred Theology at the Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).

After completing his studies in 1996, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina the same year.

He then served the diocese in various roles, including as pastor of several parishes, before being named Director of Vocations and of Seminarians for the diocese in 2007, a position he held until 2013. Since that year, he has served as a spiritual director at the Saint Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, and has also served as President of the Presbyteral Council for the Raleigh diocese.

The bishop-elect will officially be welcomed to the Archdiocese of Atlanta during a May 15 news conference at the archdiocese’s headquarters.

In his statement, Archbishop Gregory said Shlesinger is “eminently qualified” for his new role as auxiliary bishop, adding that he is ready to receive him with “an enthusiastic and jubilant heart.”

“I am certain that we all will come to know and love him and discover how truly fortunate we are to have been sent this man of faith and pastoral skill.”

Pope Francis: Fatima reminds us to care for the faith of children

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 18:07

Vatican City, May 14, 2017 / 06:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis reflected on the May 13 canonization of the child visionaries St. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saying that their faithfulness, despite their young age, reminds us to pay special attention to children in the ministry of the Church.

“In Fatima the Virgin chose the innocent heart and the simplicity of little Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, as guardians of her message. These children received it worthily, so to be recognized as reliable witnesses to the apparitions, and to become models of Christian life.”

“With the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, I wanted to propose to the whole Church their example of adherence to Christ and of evangelical witness, and I also wanted to propose to the whole Church to take care of children,” he said May 14.

The holiness of these children is not a consequence of the apparitions they received, he said, but of the “fidelity and ardor with which they returned the privilege they received of being able to see the Virgin Mary.”

“After the encounter with the ‘beautiful lady,’ as they called her, they frequently recited the Rosary, they did penance and offered sacrifices for the end of the war and for the most needy souls of divine mercy.”

This is what made them saints, he said.

Pope Francis addressed around 25,000 people in St. Peter’s Square Sunday afternoon before praying the Regina Coeli.

In his greeting, he expressed his gratefulness to God for the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions, going “to the feet of the Virgin Mother as a pilgrim of hope and peace.”

He also thanked the bishops of Portugal, and in particular the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima, António Augusto dos Santos Marto, as well as the local authorities and everyone who helped to organize the visit.

“Last night I returned from the pilgrimage to Fatima,” he said, pausing to add a greeting to “the Madonna of Fatima!” followed by cheers from those present.

“In Fatima, I was immersed in the prayer of the holy faithful people, a prayer that flows there for a hundred years as a river, to beg Mary's maternal protection on the whole world,” he went on.

“From the very beginning, when in the Chapel of the Apparitions I stayed for a long time in silence, accompanied by the prayerful silence of all the pilgrims, a together and contemplative climate was created where the various moments of prayer took place.”

And at the center of all of this, he said, was the Risen Lord present in the Eucharist.

Even 100 years after the first appearance of Our Lady of Fatima there is still a great need for prayer and penance for the grace of conversion, Francis said. We also need prayers “to implore the end of so many wars that are everywhere in the world… and which disfigure the face of humanity.”

“Let us be guided by the light coming from Fatima. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is always our shelter, our consolation, and the way that leads us to Christ,” he said.

Following the prayer, the Pope spoke with sympathy for the people affected by wars and conflicts in the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims, who suffer from violence and discrimination.

“My solidarity accompanies the memory of prayer,” he said, thanking all those who provide humanitarian aid and encouraging “the various communities to follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation to build a future of respect, security and peace.”

He also mentioned the beatification in Dublin May 13 of Jesuit priest John Sullivan, who lived during the 19thh and 20thh centuries in Ireland. He was devoted to the teaching and training of young people, the Pope said, “and was loved and respected as a father to the poor and the suffering.”

Pope Francis concluded his address by mentioning the celebration of Mother’s Day in several countries. “Let us remember with gratitude and affection all moms, even our moms in heaven, trusting them to Mary, the mother of Jesus,” he said, concluding with a moment of silent prayer for mothers.

Full text of May 13 in-flight interview with Pope Francis

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 02:32

Vatican City, May 13, 2017 / 02:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The following is an unofficial transcript of the in-flight press conference on the papal plane returning from Fatima to Rome on May 13, 2017. 

Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, they were 24 very intense hours, as you said, for the Lord, 24 hours for Our Lady. It’s apparent that the Portuguese felt very touched when you said, “We have a Mother,” that they feel this in a special way. 100 years ago Our Lady didn’t appear to three important journalists, she appeared to three shepherds, but we’ve seen how they with their simplicity and sanctity were able to make this message reach the entire world. The journalists make the message arrive - it is seen from the number of nations from which they come - and they’re very curious about this trip of yours. If you’d like to say something first, great…

Pope Francis: First of all, good evening. Thanks. And, I’d like to respond to the first of the possible questions, so we can do things a bit more quickly.  I’m sorry when we’re at the halfway point and they come to tell me that it’s snack time… let’s do them all together. Thanks. 

Greg Burke: Good, let’s begin with the Portuguese group, with Fatima Ferreira of the Portuguese TV Radio

Fatima Campos Ferreira (RTP): I don’t know what I think about sitting in front of the Holy Father. Well, first, many thanks for this trip. Holy Father, you came to Fatima as a pilgrim, to canonize Francisco and Jacinta in the year that the apparitions mark their 100th year. From this historical point of view, what is left now for the Church, for the entire world? Also, Fatima has a message of peace. Holy Father, you are going to receive in the Vatican in the coming days, the 24th of May, the American president Donald Trump. What can the world expect and what does the Holy Father expect from this encounter? Many thanks. 

Pope Francis: Thanks. Fatima certainly has a message of peace. It’s brought to humanity by three great communicators that were less than 13 years old, which is interesting. Yes, I came as a pilgrim. The canonization was something that wasn’t planned from the beginning, because the process of the miracles was in progress but the all of a sudden the export reports were all positive, and it was done - that’s how the story was told - for me was a very great joy. What can the world expect? Peace. And what am I talking about from now on with whomever? Peace. 

Ferreira: And what remains now of this historic moment for the Church?

Pope Francis: A message of peace. And I’d like to say one thing … before disembarking I received scientists from all religions who were doing studies in the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, including agnostics and atheists. And an atheist said to me, “I’m an atheist.”  I won’t tell you from what ethnicity or place of origin he was - he spoke in English. And at the end, he asked me, ‘I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more.”

Aura Miguel (Radio Renascença): Your Holiness, in Fatima you presented yourself as the “bishop dressed in white.” Up to now, this expression applied rather to the vision of the third part of the secret, St. John Paul II, the martyrs of the twentieth century. What does it mean now, your identification with this expression? 

Pope Francis: The prayer, that, I did not write it... the sanctuary wrote it... but also I have tried because they said this, and there is a connection with the white. The bishop of white, Our Lady of white, the white glow of the innocence of children  after Baptism and innocence... there is a connection to the color white in that prayer. I believe - because I did not write it - but I believe that literally they have tried to express with white that desire for innocence, for peace... innocence: to not hurt the other ... to not create conflict, the same.

Miguel: Is it a revision of the interpretation...

Pope Francis: No, but that vision ... I believe that then Cardinal Ratzinger, at that time prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, explained everything clearly. Thank you.

Claudio Lavanga (NBC News): Thank you. Holy Father, yesterday you asked the faithful to break down all the walls, yet on May 24 you meet a head of State who is threatening to build walls. It is a bit contradictory to your word, but he also has - it seems - opinions and decisions different from you in other topics, such as the need to act to confront global warming or the welcoming of migrants ... Thus, in light of this meeting: what is your opinion of the politics that President Trump has adopted so far on these topics and what do you expect from a meeting with a Head of State who seems to think and act contrary to you?

Pope Francis: The first question ... I can respond to both... I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this. In our talk things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person. The second…

Claudio Lavanga: What do you think about the reception of migrants? 

Pope Francis: But this you all know well...

Claudio Lavanga: The second instead is what you expect from a meeting with a head of state who thinks contradictory to you?

Pope Francis: Always there are doors that are not closed. Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step. Peace is handcrafted. It is made every day. Also friendship among people, mutual knowledge, esteem, is handcrafted. It's made every day. Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together ... someone thinks of one way or the other, but say that .... Be very sincere with what everyone thinks, no?

Claudio Lavanga: Do you hope to soften his decisions after the meeting?

Pope Francis: This is a political calculation that I do not permit myself to make.

Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, now there is a change of places, Elisabetta Piqué is coming. 

Elisabetta Piqué (La Nacion): Thanks first of all for this brief and very intense trip. We wanted to ask you, today is the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, but is is also the important anniversary of a fact of your life that took place 25 years ago, when the Nuncio (Archbishop) Calabresi told you that you would become the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, something that meant the end of your exile in Cordoba and a great change in your life. Have you every connected this fact that changed your life with Our Lady of Fatima? And in these days that you’ve prayed before her have you thought about this and what did you think about? Can you tell us about that? Thanks. 

Pope Francis: Women know everything, eh! No, I didn’t think about the coincidence, only yesterday while I was praying before Our Lady I realized that one May 13th I received the phone call from the nuncio 25 years ago. I don’t know… I said, well look at that. I spoke with Our Lady a little about this. I asked her forgiveness for all of my mistakes, also of a bit of bad taste for choosing people… but yesterday I realized this.

Greg Burke: Nicolas Seneze of La Croix is coming.  

Nicolas Seneze (La Croix): Thanks, Holy Father. We’re returning from Fatima for which the Fraternity of St. Pius X has a great devotion and much is said about an agreement that would give an official statute to the Fraternity in the Church. Some even imagined that there would be an announcement today… Holiness, do you think that this agreement is possible in a short timeframe? And, what are the obstacles still? And what is the sense of this reconciliation for you? And, will it be the triumphant return for faithful who have shown what it means to be truly Catholic or what? 

Pope Francis: I would toss out any form of triumphalism. None. Some days ago, the Feria Quarta of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, their meeting - the call it the Feria Quarta, because it’s the fourth Wednesday - studied a document and the document still hasn’t reached me, the study of the document. This is the first. Secondly, the current relations are fraternal. Last year, I gave a license for confession to all of them, also a form of jurisdiction for marriages, but even before the problems, the cases they had, for example, had to be resolved by the Doctrine of the Faith. The Doctrine of the Faith carries them forward. For example, abuses. The cases of abuse, they brought them to us, also to the Penitentiary. Also the reduction to the lay state of a priest, they bring to us. The relations are fraternal. With Msgr. Fellay I have a good rapport. I’ve spoken many times… I don’t like to hurry things. Walk. Walk. Walk. And then we’ll see. For me, it’s not an issue of winners and losers, it’s an issue of brothers who must walk together, looking for a formula to make steps forward. 

Tassilo Forcheimer (ARD): Holy Father, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Reformation, Evangelical Christians and Catholics are able to walk another stretch of road together. Will there be the possibility to participate in the same Eucharistic Mass? Some months ago, Cardinal Kasper said: A step forward could take place already this year.

Pope Francis: There have been great steps forward, eh ... we think of the first statement on justification, from that moment the journey has not stopped... the trip to Sweden was very significant because it was just the beginning and also a commemoration with Sweden... also there is significance for the ecumenism of the journey... that is, to walk together, with prayer, with martyrdom, with works of charity, with works of mercy. And there, Lutheran Caritas and Catholic Caritas have made an agreement to work together. This is a great step. But steps are always awaited. You know that God is the God of surprises. But we must never stop. Always go on. To pray together, to give testimony together and to do works of mercy together, that announce the charity of Jesus Christ, to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord, is the only Savior, and that grace only comes from Him. And on this path the theologians they will continue to study, but the path must proceed. And (with) hearts opened to surprises.

Mimmo Muolo (Avvenire): Good evening Holiness. I’m asking you a question in the name of the Italian group. Yesterday and today at Fatima, we saw a great witness of popular faith together with you. The same that is found, for example, also in other Marian shrines like Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions, if they were apparition, and of the religious fervor they have aroused seeing that you have decided to appoint a bishop delegate for the pastoral aspects? And if I can permit myself a second question I know is very close to your heart besides that of us italians… I would like to know, the NGOs were accused of collusion with the boat traffickers of men. What do you think of this? Thanks. 

Pope Francis: I’ll start with the first. I read in the papers that I peruse in the morning that there was this problem, but I still don’t know how the details are and because of this I can’t give an opinion. I know there is an issue and the investigations are moving ahead. I hope that they continue ahead and that the whole truth comes out. Medjugorje, all the apparitions, or the presumed apparitions, belong to the private sphere, they aren’t part of the public, ordinary magisterium of the Church. Medjugorje. Medjugorje. A commission was formed, headed by Cardinal Ruini. Benedict XVI made it. I, at the end of 2013 the beginning of 2014, I received the result from Cardinal Ruini. It was commission good theologians, bishops, cardinals, but good. Very good. And the commission. The Ruini report was very, very good. Then there were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Congregation judged it opportune to send each one of the members of this Feria quarta (Editor’s note: “Feria Quarta” is a once-a-month meeting in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during which current cases are examined) all the documentation, even those that seemed to be against the Ruini report. I received a notification - I remember it was a Saturday evening, late evening… and it didn’t seem right. It was like putting up for auction - excuse me the word - the Ruini report which was very well done. And Sunday morning the prefect received a letter from me that said that instead of sending them to the Feria Quarta, they they would send the opinions to me personally. 

These opinions were studied and all of them underscore the density of the Ruini report. Principally, three things must be distinguished: the first apparitions, that they were kids. The report more or less says that it must continue being studied. The apparitions, the presumed current apparitions: the report has its doubts. I personally am more nasty, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who everyday sends a message at such hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value. This I say as a personal opinion. But, it’s clear. Who thinks that the Madonna says, ‘come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will say a message to that seer?’ No. The two apparitions are distinguished. The third, the core of the Ruini report, the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact. People go there and convert. People who encounter God, change their lives…but this…there is no magic wand there. And this spiritual and pastoral fact can’t be ignored. Now, to see things with all this information, with the answers that the theologians sent me, this good, good bishop was appointed because he has experience, to see the pastoral part, how it’s going. And at the end he’ll say some words.

Muolo: Holiness, thank you, also for the blessing of my fellow citizens who thank you, they saw it and are very happy… 

Greg Burke: Holiness, now if I can be the nasty one, we have done all of the language groups and… 

Pope Francis: Time is up already? 

Greg Burke: There’s a question, they tell me. 

Pope Francis: One or two more. 

Joshua McElwee (National Catholic Reporter): Thank you, Holy Father. The last member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who was abused by a priest, resigned in March. She, Ms. Marie Collins, said that she had to resign because the officials in the Vatican did not implement the recommendations of the commission that you, the Holy Father, approved. I have two questions: who is responsible, and what are you doing, Holy Father, to ensure that the priests and bishops in the Vatican implement the recommendations suggested by your commission?

Pope Francis: Marie Collins explained the matter to me well, I spoke with her, she is a good woman, but she continues to work in the formation of priests on this point... she is a good woman who wants to work ... but she made this accusation, and she has a bit of reason... why? Because there are so many late cases, then in this period of lateness, because they accumulate there, you have to make legislation for this... what should the diocesan bishops do? Today in almost all the dioceses there is the protocol to follow in these cases: it is a great improvement. This way the dossiers are done well. Then there are the accusations...this is a step. Another step: there are few people, there needs to be more people capable in this area, and the Secretary of State is looking for, even Monsignor Mueller (Editor’s Note: Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), to present new people. The other day two or three more were approved... the director of the disciplinary office changed, who was good, eh, he was very good but he was a bit tired... he returned to his home country to do the same with his episcopate. And the new one is an Irishman, Msgr. (John) Kennedy, he is a very good person, very efficient, prompt, and this helps a lot.

Then there is another thing: Sometimes the bishops send - if the protocol is okay, it goes right away to the Feria Quarta and the Feria Quarta studies and decides. If the protocol is not okay, it must go back to be redone. That's why you think of continental help or in a continent or two ... in Latin America, one in Colombia, another in Brazil, as pre-tribunals or continental tribunals... this is in the planning... but then it's fine, they study it at feria quarta and they take away his clerical status. This goes back to the diocese, and the priest makes recourse. First, the application was studied by the same Feria Quarta that had given the sentence, and this is unfair. I created another tribunal and I put an indisputable person as the head, the Archbishop of Malta, Msgr. (Charles Jude) Scicluna, who is one of the strongest against abuses, and this second - because we must be just - the one who makes recourse is entitled to have a defender. If he (the defender) approves the first sentence, the case is over.His only option is a letter asking the Pope for pardon. I have never signed a pardon. I believe, I do not know, another question. This is how things are. We're going forward. If Marie Collins was right on that point, we were also on the way. But there are 2000 cases piled up.

Portuguese journalist: I’m going to ask a question about the case Portugal, but I think that it can be applied to many of the Western societies. In Portugal, almost all of the Portuguese say they identify themselves as Catholics. But the way the society is organized, the decisions that we make, often are contrary to the indications of the Church. I refer to marriage between homosexuals, the legalization of abortion, now we’re going to begin discussing euthanasia. How do you see this? 

Pope Francis: I think it’s a political problem. And that also the Catholic conscience isn’t a catholic one of total belonging to the Church and that behind that there isn’t a nuanced catechesis, a human catechesis. That is, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an example of what is a serious and nuanced thing. I think that there is a lack of formation and also of culture. Because it’s curious, in some other regions, I think of the south of Italy, some in Latin America, they are very Catholic but they are anti-clerical and ‘priest-eaters’, that … there is a phenomenon that exists. It concerns me. That’s why I tell priests, you will have read it, to flee from clericalism because clericalism distances people. May they flee from clericalism and I add: it’s a plague in the Church. But here there is a work also of catechesis, of raising awareness, of dialogue, also of human values.  


 

Pope says he hopes to find common ground with Trump

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 02:02

Vatican City, May 13, 2017 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a press conference on Saturday, Pope Francis voiced hope that he will find “open doors” in his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump later this month, saying he never judges another person’s views until he hears them for himself.

Pope Francis and President Trump will meet at the Vatican on May 24. The two have been at odds on some issues in recent months.

During the in-flight press conference returning from Fatima to Rome on May 13, a reporter asked Pope Francis his opinion about President Trump’s policies on issues such as immigration and climate change.

The Pope responded, “I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this. In our talk things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

Further questioned on what he expects from a meeting with a head of state who hold public opinions very different from his own, the Pope responded, “Always there are doors that are not closed. Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step.”

“Respect the other, say what you think, but with respect, walk together,” he added. 

“Do you hope to soften his decisions after the meeting?” the reporter asked. “This is a political calculation that I do not permit myself to make,” the Pope replied.

The pontiff also answered a question about the resignation of clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins, who in March stepped down from her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing frustrations with “a lack of cooperation” by the Curia as leading factor.

A laywoman from Ireland, Collins had been one of two clerical abuse survivors tapped to join the commission when it was established in March 2014. 

Pope Francis said that he had spoken to Collins, and that she had some justification for her frustration. 

“Because there are so many late cases, then in this period of lateness, because they accumulate there, you have to make legislation for this... what should the diocesan bishops do?” 

The fact that nearly all dioceses have a protocol to follow for abuse allegations is “a great improvement,” he said. Still, the process is lengthy and can get delayed or even sent back if proper protocol has not been followed.

The addition of more capable people to process accusations is an important step in fixing these delays, the Pope said.

He also pointed to his creation of a new tribunal, led by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna of Malta, who has a strong record of fighting clerical sex abuse.

In the interview, Pope Francis also reiterated his openness to a personal prelature for the SSPX and voiced skepticism over the alleged continuing apparitions at Medjugorje, although he clarified that the original apparitions deserve further study.

Pope Francis: I am suspicious of ongoing Medjugorje apparitions

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 01:06

Vatican City, May 13, 2017 / 01:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Asked by journalists about the alleged appearance of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, Pope Francis said the original apparitions more than three decades ago deserve further study, but voiced doubt in the supposed ongoing visions.

He stressed the need to distinguish between the two sets of apparitions, referencing a report submitted to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by a commission set up to study the apparitions by Benedict XVI in 2010.

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts.”

“I personally am more suspicious, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value.”

He clarified that this is his “personal opinion,” but added that the Madonna does not function by saying, “Come tomorrow at this time, and I will give a message to those people.”

Differentiating between these and the first apparitions, he said, is key.

Pope Francis spoke to the 70 journalists on board with him during his May 13 flight from Fatima back to Rome. The presser followed a two-day trip to mark the centenary of the Marian apparitions that occurred in Fatima in 1917. During the visit, he also canonized two of the young visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

While the Fatima apparitions have long been approved by the Vatican and local bishops, debate continues to cloud discussion over the authenticity of the alleged appearances in Medjugorje.

The apparitions allegedly started June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, claimed to have witnessed apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the alleged visionaries, the apparitions conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.  

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six visionaries claiming to have received apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted.”

However, Benedict XVI established a commission, headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to study the topic in further detail.

In January 2014, the commission completed their study on supposed apparitions' doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The congregation has yet to submit its final document to the Pope for a final decision.

Pope Francis told journalists that Cardinal Ruini’s report was “very well done,” and that there are three main takeaways that must be kept in mind when thinking of the report.

First, he stressed the importance of studying the first apparitions of 1981 as their own entity, and attached to this was the second point on the need to be wary of the alleged ongoing appearances, always distinguishing between the two.

Third, he emphasized the need to also look at the pastoral and spiritual dimensions of Medjugorje, because “people go there and convert. People encounter God, change their lives.”

This isn’t a result of “magic,” he said, but is a valid spiritual and pastoral fact that “can’t be ignored.”

On this point, he made reference to the appointment in February of Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga as a delegate of the Holy See to look into the pastoral situation at Medjugorje. The Polish archbishop is to “suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future” after acquiring a deeper knowledge of the local pastoral situation.

Francis said Archbishop Hoser was named for the post because “he has experience” for it, and while he has already spoken on both the fruits and challenges of Medjugorje, will provide his full insights in due time.

Join me at the feet of Mary, Francis asks ahead of Fatima trip

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 15:56

Vatican City, May 11, 2017 / 03:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Wednesday evening, just two days ahead of his trip to Fatima, Pope Francis sent a video message to the people of Portugal asking them to be with him during his pilgrimage, whether physically or spiritually, as he presents flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“I need to feel your closeness, whether physical or spiritual; the important thing is that it come from the heart. In this way, I can arrange my bouquet of flowers, my ‘golden rose,’” he said in the May 10 video message.

“I want to meet everyone at the feet of the Virgin Mother.”

In the message, Pope Francis said he had received many messages asking him to come to people’s homes, communities and towns during his visit, but that he was not able to accept, as much as he would like to.

He also thanked the various Portuguese authorities for being understanding about his decision to restrict his trip to only the usual events associated with a pilgrimage to Fatima, such as praying the rosary at the prayer vigil and visiting the Chapel of the Apparitions.

“Only a few days remain before our pilgrimage, mine and yours, to the feet of Our Lady of Fatima,” he said. “These are days of joy in expectation of our encounter in the home of Mary our Mother.”

“It is as the universal pastor of the Church that I would like to come before the Madonna and to offer her a bouquet of the most beautiful ‘blossoms’ that Jesus has entrusted to my care (cf. Jn 21:15-17),” he continued.

And this means everyone around the world, “none excluded,” he explained. “That is why I need to have all of you join me there.”

“With all of us forming ‘one heart and soul’ (cf. Acts 4:32), I will then entrust you to Our Lady, asking her to whisper to each one of you: ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that leads you to God’ (Apparition of June, 1917).”

In the video, Francis called the meeting “our pilgrimage,” the motto for which is ‘With Mary, a pilgrim in hope and in peace.’ The program for the visit contains many opportunities for prayer and conversion of heart, he said.

“I am happy to know that in anticipation of that blessed moment, the culmination of a century of blessed moments, you have been preparing yourselves by intense prayer,” he noted. “Prayer enlarges our hearts and makes them ready to receive God’s gifts. I thank you for all the prayers and sacrifices that you offer daily for me. I need them, because I am a sinner among sinners.”

Through prayer, he said, he receives light to his eyes, which “enables me to see others as God sees them, and to love others as he loves them.”

Pope Francis makes the two-day pilgrimage to Fatima May 12-13 to celebrate the centenary of Mary's appearance to three shepherd children in 1917.

During the trip, the Pope will also celebrate Mass, presiding over the canonization of two of the child visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marta.

“In his name, I will come among you and have the joy of sharing with everyone the Gospel of hope and peace,” he concluded his message. “May the Lord bless you, and the Virgin Mother protect you!”

Let's continue to grow in unity, Francis urges Coptic Orthodox patriarch

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 23:06

Vatican City, May 10, 2017 / 11:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following his trip to Egypt last month, Pope Francis sent a message Wednesday to the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, expressing his hope that their Churches will continue to work toward unity in the sacraments.

“Along this path we are sustained by the powerful intercession and example of the martyrs. May we continue to advance together on our journey towards the same Eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said in his letter to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch May 10.

“I take this opportunity to offer my prayerful best wishes for your peace and health, as well as my joy and gratitude for the spiritual bonds uniting the See of Peter and the See of Mark.”

Pope Francis’ message marked the fourth anniversary of his meeting with Tawadros II in Rome on May 10, 2013; the day has become an annual celebration of fraternal love between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches.

Pope Francis and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch also met April 28 during Francis’ two-day trip to Cairo. During the encounter, the two signed a joint declaration indicating their gratitude for the chance “to exchange a fraternal embrace and to join again in common prayer.”

In his letter to the patriarch, Francis thanked the leader for his hospitality and for the common prayer they shared during the meeting.

He also noted, in particular, the agreement made that both Churches would acknowledge the validity of baptisms performed in the other Church.

Quoting from the statement, Francis said he is “especially grateful that we have strengthened our baptismal unity in the body of Christ by declaring together ‘that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other.’ Our bonds of fraternity 'challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit'.”

The Pope also gave assurance of his continued prayers for Tawadros II and for peace in Egypt and the Middle East. He called on the Holy Spirit, especially during the Easter season, to “fill our hearts with his grace and kindle in them the fire of his love.”

“May the Spirit of peace bestow on us an increase of hope, friendship and harmony,” he continued.

He concluded the letter saying that “with these sentiments, on this special occasion which has rightly become known as the day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, I exchange with Your Holiness a fraternal embrace of peace in Christ our Lord.”

The Coptic Orthdox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church, meaning it rejected the 451 Council of Chalcedon, and its followers had historically been considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, though they are not considered so any longer.

The May 2013 meeting between Francis and Tawadros marked the first visit of a Coptic Orthodox patriarch to Rome in 40 years. Shenouda III, Tawadros' predecessor, visited Bl. Paul VI in 1973, and St. John Paul II returned the visit to Egypt in 2000.

Pope: Mary's 'yes' echoes the joy, suffering of every mother

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 17:56

Vatican City, May 10, 2017 / 05:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Days before his trip to Fatima, Pope Francis said Mary’s ‘yes’ at the Annunciation was more than a yes to bearing the Son of God, but was also an acceptance of everything she would endure after – something every mother experiences with a new child.  

“It was not easy to answer with a ‘yes’ to the angel's invitation; yet she, a woman still in the flower of youth, answers with courage, despite not knowing anything about the fate that awaited her.”

“Mary at that moment looks like one of the many mothers of our world, brave to the extreme when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new human being who is growing,” he said May 10.

Her ‘yes’ to the angel at the Annunciation was just the first step “in a long list of obedience” leading to the moment she stands at the foot of her Son’s cross, the Pope said.

During his general audience, Pope Francis centered his catechesis on the few lines from the Gospel of John that describe Mary “standing by the cross of Jesus.” Though Mary is largely a silent figure in the Gospels, she listens and “ponders every word and every event in her heart.”

“The Gospels are laconic, and extremely subtle. They record with a simple verb the presence of the Mother: She ‘was standing,’ she was standing,” he said, noting that “nothing is said of her reaction: if she weeps, if she does not weep ... nothing; not even a brushstroke to describe her grief.”

Throughout history poets and painters have imagined this moment in art and literature, “but the Gospels just say, she was ‘standing.’ She was there, in the worst moment, in the cruelest time, and suffered with her son,” but “she was standing,” Francis said.

Though there had been a “slow eclipse” of her presence in the Gospels, she returns at this crucial moment when many others had fled.

“Mothers do not betray, and at that moment, at the foot of the cross, none of us can say whose was the cruelest passion; whether that of an innocent man who dies on the scaffold of the cross, or the agony of a mother who accompanies the last moments of her son's life,” he said.

And she doesn’t get angry or protest: she simply stands and listens, Pope Francis said, pointing to the relationship between listening and the virtue of hope.

Despite everything, even the “deepest darkness,” Mary does not leave, but stands faithfully, he said. “That's why we all love her as a Mother...We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God.”

Mary, he said, teaches to us “the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems meaningless: she is always confident in the mystery of God.”

Even though she didn’t know what the outcome of her Son’s Passion would be, she is loyal to the plan of God, just as she promised to the angel “on the first day of her vocation,” Francis said, explaining that it is also part of her motherly instinct to suffer for her child.

“The suffering of mothers: We have all known strong women that braved the many sufferings of their children!” he said.

Even in the first days of the Church, before Christ’s resurrection is known and the disciples are all afraid, the “Mother of Hope” stays, Francis said. “She was simply there, in the most normal of ways, as if it were a natural thing.”

Thus, he concluded, “in moments of difficulty, Mary, the Mother Jesus has given to us all, can always support our steps, can always say to our heart: ‘Get up! Look ahead, look at the horizon,’ because she is a Mother of Hope.”

Vatican astronomer: If you're afraid of science, you don't have faith

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 15:04

Vatican City, May 10, 2017 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, who has worked as an astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican for more than 20 years, told journalists Monday that faith and reason are hardly at odds.

“If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said May 8.

He spoke to journalists at a press conference ahead of a May 9-12 summit on “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and Space-Time Singularities” being held in Castel Gandolfo at the Vatican Observatory, just outside Rome.

Presser w/ Br. Guy Consolmagno (@specolations) & col. on Vatican conference on Black Holes, Gravitational Waves & Space-Time Singularities pic.twitter.com/Q8FYJMD2y5

— Hannah Brockhaus (@HannahBrockhaus) May 8, 2017 “The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII to show that the Church supports good science, and to do that we have to have good science,” Br. Consolmagno said, explaining the reasoning behind the conference.

The hope is that the encounter will foster good science, good discussion, and even friendship. Among the speakers will be a Nobel Prize winner in physics and a Wolf Prize winner.

Among the topics of papers being presented at the conference are Strong evidence for an accelerating universe; Black hole perturbations: a review of recent analytical results; and Observing the Signature of Dynamical Space-Time through Gravitational Waves.

“Those of us that are religious, will recognize the presence of God, but you don't have to make a theological leap to search for the truth,” Br. Consolmagno said. “There are many things we know we do not understand. We cannot be good religious people or scientists if we think that our work is done.”

The summit is also taking place in recognition of Fr. Georges Lemaître, the Belgian physicist and mathematician who is widely credited with developing the “Big Bang” theory to explain the origin of the physical universe.

Addressing common misconceptions surrounding the Big Bang, such as the idea that it did away with the need for a creator, Br. Consolmagno said the solution isn’t just to put God at the beginning of things and call that good, either.

“The creative act of God is not something that happened 13.8 billion years ago,” he said. “God is already there before space and time exist. You can't even say ‘before’ because he is outside of time and space.”

The creative act is happening continuously: “If you look at God as merely the thing that started the Big Bang, then you get a nature god, like Jupiter throwing around lightning bolts.”

“That's not the God that we as Christians believe in,” he went on. “We must believe in a God that is supernatural. We then recognize God as the one responsible for the existence of the universe, and our science tells us how he did it.”

The organizer of the conference, Fr. Gabriele Gionti, S.J., said Fr. Lemaître always distinguished between the beginnings of the universe and its origins.

“The beginning of the universe is a scientific question, to be able to date with precision when things started. The origins of the universe, however, is a theologically charged question.”

Answering that question “has nothing at all to do with a scientific epistemology,” he added.

Br. Consolmagno commented that “God is not something we arrive at the end of our science, it’s what we assume at the beginning. I am afraid of a God who can be proved by science, because I know my science well enough to not trust it!”

“An atheist could assume something very different, and have a very different view of the universe, but we can talk and learn from each other. The search for truth unites us.”

He suggested that to demonstrate that the Church and science are not at odds, those who are both church-goers and scientists should make that fact more known to their fellow parishioners.

He threw out some practical ideas, such as setting up a telescope in the church parking lot or leading the parish’s youth group on a nature hike.

The Church, in a sense, developed science through the medieval universities she founded, he explained. For example, Bishop Robert Grosseteste, a 13th century Bishop of Lincoln and chancellor of Oxford University, helped develop the scientific method and was often cited by Roger Bacon.

“If there is a rivalry” between the Church and science, Br. Consolmagno said, “it's a sibling rivalry.”

“And it's a crime against science to say that only atheists can do it, because if that were true, it would eliminate so many wonderful scientists.”

100 years later, Fatima still offers a potent message

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:19

Vatican City, May 9, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Although the Fatima apparitions happened 100 years ago, the Vatican’s resident Fatima-expert, has said they contain a message that’s both relevant and needed in the world today.

“The apparitions of Fatima are a historical event with an extraordinary significance, and they have a meaning that’s not only religious, but also socio-political,” Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins told CNA in an interview.  

What Our Lady offered during her apparitions is a message “that deals with mankind as mankind, not only Christians or believers,” and because of this, it “has an extraordinary authority” in the world today.

Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Martins is himself from Portugal, and has written extensively on the apparitions.

On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – in a field while they were tending their family’s sheep.

In her message to the children, Mary brought with her requests for conversion, prayer (particularly the recitation of the rosary), sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a three-part secret regarding the fate of the world.

Although there are many different elements to the requests made by Our Lady, Cardinal Martins said her appeals can be summed up in four key themes.

“I always say there are four key chapters, four points of extreme authority,” he said. “So what are these four points?”

Faith

“The first point, the first appeal of the Madonna, is an appeal to faith,” Cardinal Martins said.

Her appeal in this regard “is very current because, unfortunately, we live in a world in which the faith is falling. Unbelief is growing, and the Catholic faith, the faith of the Gospels, is increasingly decreasing.”

“We are walking toward a pagan world,” the cardinal continued, explaining that in many ways man no longer believes in the Gospel. People have an “abstract faith,” he said, but the Gospel is not a part of their concrete lives.

Thus Mary’s call to faith, even after 100 years, “has an extraordinary authority,” he said.

“Man today needs faith, to believe in something; to believe in God, who is our common father, to believe in our brothers, we are all children of the same Father, we are all brothers.”

Understanding the link between these two aspects is fundamental for the world today, not just for Christians, but for all mankind, he said, adding that man needs to recognize that “one’s origin is from God, it is not autonomous.”

“There is no world war, (but) there are small wars, as the Pope says, and they are worse than a world war, because a world war has a beginning and an end and then it finishes.”

“These small wars, on the other hand, are worse than the world wars because they don’t end.”

Conversion

Cardinal Martins said there is a second key appeal made by Mary “which is very important, and that is conversion.”

“The Madonna spoke many times to the shepherds about the need for man to convert … to increasingly draw nearer to God, and so to always draw nearer to our brothers and sisters,” he said, explaining that “the second appeal depends on the first.”

Throughout her six appearances Mary encouraged them to pray the rosary daily and to offer sacrifices in reparation for sins.

In her third appearance to the shepherds, Mary told them: “Sacrifice yourself for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Conversion is something still missing from in the world, Cardinal Martins said, noting that in all of her apparitions Mary consistently insisted “on the need for man, especially today, to increasingly draw nearer to his origin, to God.”

Peace

The third “chapter” of Our Lady of Fatima’s message is an appeal for peace, Cardinal Martins said.

Mary spoke to the children about peace often and urged them to pray for peace, he said, noting that her request came as the global armies were embroiled in World War I.

Our Lady’s message was to “do penance, ask for peace, because otherwise man will disappear,” he said, as is evidenced in the vision the children had of hell and the souls who anguishing there.

Perhaps one of the most impressionable aspects of the apparitions, he said, is Mary’s insistence “on the absolute, urgent need to have peace, to fight for peace, to ask God for peace.”

He stressed the need to continue to pray for peace today, because “man today needs many things, but especially peace, with himself and others.”

He referenced the many conflicts raging throughout the world, saying “one of the most painful wounds today is this fighting one with the other; the lack of peace between Muslims and Christians, the inhabitants of this country and the inhabitants of that country, etc.”

Hope

“Many people today lack many things, but lack one above all: hope.”

Hope is the fourth and final chapter of Mary’s message, Cardinal Martins said, explaining that “man today doesn’t have hope, he lives a life without a future, without the hope of a future.”

And if a person doesn’t have hope in the future – whether in his own life or in his relationships with others – “then what life is this?” the cardinal asked, noting that sadly, “it’s a life that many times, unfortunately, many times ends in suicide.”

Pointing to the high suicide rate among teens, he said many youth end up killing themselves “because they live a life that has no meaning for them. They lack hope, they lack a vision for the future.”

Hope, he said, “is fundamental for man,” so it’s natural for those who lose hope to turn to suicide in their despair, because they feel that “there is no sense to my life if it doesn’t have a destination that it must reach.”

So what Mary asks for from the men of today, and “what God demands of men today, (is) a deep faith, a hope, brotherhood among us – which is greatly lacking – so we will have peace, which we need to live a dignified life,” he said.

Cardinal Martins said this synthesis of the message of Fatima is not only relevant for the world today, but “it’s an obligation for the Church.”

The message of Fatima ought to be lived not just individually, but “as a human community,” he said, explaining that the three children were able to respond to Our Lady’s appeals with “an extraordinarily unique, unrepeatable mission.”

Even though they were young children, they were able to communicate and spread Mary’s message to the entire world with their sacrifices and prayers, he said, adding that the centenary of the apparitions, coupled with the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, “does nothing but underline this importance.”

Kidnapped Indian priest pleads for help in new video

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 17:04

Vatican City, May 9, 2017 / 05:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fourteen months after his kidnapping in March 2016, Salesian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil has appeared in another video asking for help in obtaining his release, criticizing the response of a local bishop and the Indian government.

Opening with a word of thanks, Fr. Tom apparently references either a message he’s received, or the general concern surrounding his case.

“I received the message of concern that you sent to me, my dear family people. I'm thankful to you. Thank you very much,” he said in the video, published on YouTube May 8.

The video, which has not yet been authenticated, shows a cardboard sign with the date April 15, 2017, sitting on the lap of a thin-looking Fr. Tom, who appears with overgrown hair and a beard.

Speaking slowly in English, Fr. Tom said the Indian government has been contacted several times concerning his release. The bishop of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates has also been contacted, he said, claiming that he’s seen their responses, and they were “very, very poor.”

The priest indicated that he is in poor health, saying: “my health condition is deteriorating quickly, and I require hospitalization as early as possible,” he said.

He then made an appeal for his release, asking “my little family people” to do what they can “to help me be released. Please, please do what you can to help me be released. May God bless you for that.”

Fr. Tom was kidnapped in Yemen in March of last year during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity house that left 4 sisters dead. He garnered international attention last spring when rumors spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday. Those rumors were later discredited.

A video was posted to YouTube Dec. 26, 2016, showing Fr. Tom personally appealing to Pope Francis, and bishops all over the world, for help.

“Dear Pope Francis…as a father, please take care of my life,” Fr. Tom said. The five-minute video was the first communication from Fr. Tom since his abduction. The priest had overgrown hair and spoke slowly from a prepared script.

Pope Francis did appeal for the priest’s release April 10, 2016, after his Sunday Regina Coeli address in St. Peter’s Square.

“I renew my appeal for the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed conflict zones,” the Pope said. “In particular, I wish to remember Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Aden, Yemen last March 4.”

Since his kidnapping, Salesians in the Bangalore province of India have made continued efforts for his safety and release, including holding a prayer vigil Jan. 4 and a worldwide novena Jan. 15-23.

No one has claimed responsibility for the priest’s kidnapping, making it difficult for the Indian government to broker the priest’s release. In addition, the situation has been exacerbated by the political instability in Yemen.

Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since March 2015, when Shia rebels attempted to oust Yemen’s Sunni-led government. Saudi Arabia has led a pro-government coalition. Both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have set up strongholds in the country amid the power vacuum. More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

 

Below is the video released of Fr. Tom, which has not been authenticated:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AGpa-tBUvuk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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