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  • Pope Francis: Advent demands conversion, recognizing our mistakes
    Vatican City, Dec 9, 2018 / 06:46 am (CNA).- Advent is a time of waiting and expectation, Pope Francis said Sunday, but this season also requires a “journey of conversion.” “To prepare the way for the Lord who comes, it is necessary to take into account the demands of conversion,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Dec. 9. Conversion requires changing your attitude, Francis explained. “It leads to humbly recognizing our mistakes, our infidelities, and defaults.” The pope focused on the invitation of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed a baptism of repentance as a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” “The Baptist invited the people of his time to conversion with force, vigor, and severity,” Francis said. “Yet he knew how to listen, he knew how to perform gestures of tenderness, gestures of forgiveness towards the multitude of men and women who came to him to confess their sins and be baptized.” “Even today, the disciples of Jesus are called to be his humble, but courageous witnesses to rekindle hope,” the pope said. The pope suggested that each person asks, “How can I change something in my attitude to prepare the way for the Lord?”  One necessary step is “making concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers, asking for forgiveness of our faults,” he explained. “The Lord helps us in this, if we have good will.” Christians are called to help people understand that “despite everything, the kingdom of God continues to be built day by day with the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary help us to prepare the way of the Lord day by day, beginning with ourselves,” Pope Francis prayed. [...]
    Source: Daily NewsSunday, December 9, 2018
  • Is time running out for Ohio’s ‘heartbeat abortion’ bill?
    Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec 8, 2018 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate have delayed a key vote on a bill to bar abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. Given Gov. John Kasich’s promise to veto the bill, the delay has raised questions about whether an override vote will be possible before the close of the legislative session. On Dec. 6, the Ohio Senate’s Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee chairman Sen. David Burke said there were several amendments to the bill and more time was needed to study them. “Based on the short timeline that we received the bill from the House, we wanted to make sure people had ample time to testify,” said the Senate’s Republican spokesman John Fortney, according to the news website Cleveland.com. The committee vote would have advanced the bill to the Senate floor. While the legislative session officially ends Dec. 31, leading lawmakers have said they are likely to finish by Dec. 19 or sooner. If H.B. 258 becomes law, it would ban abortions at around six weeks into pregnancy, once a baby’s heartbeat is detectable. The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency. The bill’s text makes clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law. Rather, it allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law, on grounds related to the “wrongful death of the unborn child.” An doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the law would commit a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine, the New York Times reports. The bill requires state inspections of abortion facilities to ensure their compliance with reporting requirements. It also establishes more ways to promote adoption. Kasich has a strong pro-life record, signing into law at least 18 abortion regulations or restrictions, including a 20-week abortion ban. The heartbeat bill is the only one he has vetoed, doing so in 2016. He is about to leave office in January for governor-elect Mark DeWine, a Republican who supports the legislation. The governor would have ten days from a bill’s passage to veto, excluding Sundays. In the event of a veto, lawmakers would have to return to the capitol to override the veto with a three-fifths vote in each chamber. While legislators did not have support to override the governor’s veto of a 2016 bill, this year the Ohio House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 60-38, exactly the number of votes needed to override. The Senate would need 20 votes to override a veto. Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said Senate Republicans support the bill and he anticipated that it will be passed “at some point.” There are 24 Republicans currently in the Ohio Senate. However, some lawmakers travel out of state for the holidays and may not return [...]
    Source: Daily NewsSaturday, December 8, 2018
  • On feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis points to Mary’s trust in God
    Vatican City, Dec 8, 2018 / 08:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to imitate Mary’s deep trust and openness to God when faced with serious problems. “Today we look at the beauty of Our Lady, who was born and lived without sin, always docile and transparent with God. This does not mean that life was easy for her. Living with God does not magically solve problems,” Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8. Pope Francis highlighted Mary’s radical trust at the moment of the Annunciation found in her response to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” “Why not start your days like this? It would be nice to say every morning: ‘Here I am, Lord, today your will be done in me,” Pope Francis said, noting that the Angelus prayer provides an opportunity to repeat Mary’s words. After the Annunciation, the angel departed and Mary’s “problems began immediately,” he said. Mary knew that “she would become the Mother of God, but the angel had not explained it to others,” Francis explained. “Think of her irregular situation according to the law, the torment of St. Joseph, the skipped life plans, what the people would say …” “The angel leaves the Virgin alone in a difficult situation … And she trusts,” he said. “We ask the Immaculate to have the grace to live like this.” The pope expressed joy at the beatification of the Bishop Peter Claverie and 18 martyred companions, who were proclaimed blessed in Algeria on the feast day.  “Their courageous testimony is a source of hope for the Algerian Catholic community and a seed of dialogue for the whole of society,” Francis said. Pope Francis later prayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, venerating the Byzantine icon, “Salus Populi Romani,” inside. The Holy Father then offered a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the piazza below Rome’s Spanish Steps. Standing beneath the nineteenth-century Marian monument, Pope Francis entrusted all priests, religious, and Catholic families to the care of the Immaculate Mother. “O Mother of Jesus, one last thing I ask you, in this time of Advent, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious about the imminent birth of your child, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your country, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem,” Pope Francis prayed. “You know what it means to bring life into your lap and feel indifference, rejection, and sometimes contempt. This is why I ask you to stay close to the families that are living today in Rome, in Italy, in the whole world live in similar situations, so that they are not abandoned.” [...]
    Source: Daily NewsSaturday, December 8, 2018
  • Scottish mall refuses to allow nativity scene amid Christmas display
    Edinburgh, Scotland, Dec 8, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Both Catholics and Protestants in Scotland are lamenting a shopping center's decision not to include a nativity scene in its Christmas display. Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling, fewer than 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh, said it will it not include a nativity scene in its Christmas display this year, noting the mall “prides itself on being religious and politically neutral,” according to The Scotsman, an Edinburgh daily. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh said Dec. 5 that “At this time of year Christmas cribs grace many public squares all across the British Isles, bringing joy to nearly all who encounter them, regardless of their religion. And so it seems just a wee bit, well, Grinch-like for the Thistles Shopping Centre to ban the Christmas crib, and in the true spirit of Christmas, we would certainly ask them to reconsider their decision.” The Church of Scotland also lamented the decision of the shopping center, with a spokeswoman saying, “We find it very disappointing that the true meaning of Christmas has been completely lost here. When a shopping centre can focus purely on commercialism to the exclusion of the reason for the celebration of Christmas it is a sad day for all of us.” Stephen Kerr, member of parliament for Stirling, and the Legion of Mary have both requested that Thistles install a nativity scene. "While we understand that no one wants religious or political evangelists in a shopping centre, the request was simply to have a nativity, which would be manned and anyone approaching could ask about it,” said the Legion on Facebook. [...]
    Source: Daily NewsSaturday, December 8, 2018
  • Nicaraguan priest attacked with acid during confession
    Managua, Nicaragua, Dec 7, 2018 / 05:59 pm (ACI Prensa).- Father Mario Guevara was injured in an acid attack Wednesday while hearing confessions in the cathedral of Managua. Elis Leonidovna Gonn, a 24 year old Russian citizen, threw sulfuric acid on the 59 year old priest Dec. 5. Fr. Guevara was taken to hospital to be treated for severe burns to his face, arms, and shoulders. The Archdiocese of Managua has said the priest is now in stable condition, has been discharged, and will continue his treatment at home. “We deplore this act because we priests are there to provide a service and this pains us very much: that they would  attack a priest in this way because they attacked his health,” Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua told the media. The Auxiliary Bishop of Mangua, Silvio Báez, deplored the attack and expressed his solidarity with Fr. Guevara. “I accompany him with my love as a brother and I offer my prayers for his complete recovery. Jesus and his Most Holy Mother protect our priests!” the prelate wrote on Twitter. The attack comes amid tension between the Church in Nicaragua and the country's government. Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups. The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protesters' complaints, which quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent. Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out. Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.  This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
  • Los Angeles archdiocese updates list of priests credibly accused of abuse
    Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 7, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced Thursday that it has updated its list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The 2004 Report to the People of God covers 70 years of credible cases of sexual abuse by clergy against minors. It has been updated two times before, in 2005 and 2008. The Dec. 6 update follows an October lawsuit which accused all California bishops of covering up sexual abuse by clergy. The suit requested that each diocese “publicly release the names of all agents, including priests, accused of child molestation, each agent’s history of abuse, each such agent’s pattern of grooming and sexual behavior, and his or her last known address.” At the announcement of the update, which took place at a press conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said clergy guilty of abuse “must answer to God for their sins, they must be held accountable by law enforcement for any crimes, and they must be removed and never again entrusted with ministry in the Church.” “Still, every case of child sexual misconduct is one too many, a harm committed against an innocent soul, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice, reparation, and healing. We owe it to the victim-survivors to be fully transparent in listing the names of those who perpetrate this abuse. Again, I encourage others who might have been injured to come forward,” he said. The 2018 update to the list includes all credible cases of abuse fielded by the archdiocese since the last update 10 years ago. According to the archdiocese, since 2008, two living priests, Juan Cano and Jose Cuevas, were credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors in the parishes and ministries where they served. The allegations against Cano and Cuevas were reported to law enforcement and made public at the time they were received. The allegations were then investigated by the independent Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board, which declared that the accusations were substantiated. Gomez removed both priests from active ministry, and they are both in the process of being removed from the priesthood. The recent update also includes an incident from 2010 involving a minor and Roberto Barco, an extern priest from Argentina who was serving in Los Angeles until 2016, at which time the archdiocese was informed of the allegation. The update also includes cases of abuse in which there is one “plausible” report of sexual misconduct against a priest that was unable to be corroborated, due to either the death of the priest or his leaving the diocese “long before” the allegation had been received. Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Dr. Heather Banis, a clinical psychologist, noted in a statement the importance of the inclusion of plausible allegations in the report. “Coming forward and reporting abuse or misconduct is one of the hardest things to do after suffering a betrayal trauma [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
  • Options emerge for handling the ‘other sexual abuse crisis’
    Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The recent sexual abuse scandals which have rocked the Church in the United States and beyond have mostly focused on the abuse of minors. At the same time, many recent revelations and allegations, as in the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, have involved the sexual abuse or harassment of adults.   How the Church deals with clerical sexual misconduct when it does not involve minors remains a thorny issue, but an increasingly urgent one. Independent investigations are currently underway by local bishops to examine allegations of serious sexual misconduct in seminaries in Boston, Philadelphia, and Newark.   In a recent interview, Pope Francis highlighted how a “fashionable” acceptance of homosexual relations had entered the Church. During the recent USCCB assembly in Baltimore, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler made the same point, offering it as the explanation for how McCarrick was serially promoted, despite his sexual behavior apparently being known to the hierarchy.   Also in Baltimore, Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston, who heads of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said that the bishops need to have a “fulsome discussion about adult misconduct and how to deal with that.”   Such a discussion could play a crucial role in forming a common answer to a problem looming large, both in America and Rome. While not yet drawing much attention, several different ideas have begun to surface.   O’Malley offered his own recommendation for how to address the issue, at least in part.   “I wonder if now is not the time to change the definition of vulnerable adult which we have been using in canon law,” the cardinal told the bishops.   The gravest crimes in the Church are handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Regarding sexually abusive relationships, their competence extends to cases of the abuse of minors and “vulnerable adults.”   The CDF’s current definition of a vulnerable adult is someone who “habitually lacks the use of reason,” essentially someone with a clearly diminished psychological or rational capacity.   The definition does not apply to many recent cases including, or example, the allegations that McCarrick sexually imposed himself on seminarians. Nor does it apply to instances where priests or bishops take advantage of a spiritual or hierarchical relationship to coerce or groom a subordinate, employee, or parishioner into an illicit sexual relationship.   Some bishops are left exasperated when cases of clear clerical sexual misconduct are returned to them by the CDF as not falling under their narrow legal purview, even when the matter is clearly serious.   Some CDF officials have themselves been left with similar frustrations as they try to make headway with the McCarrick case under intense pressure to deliver a result, but with many of the allegations not appearing to violate a specific canon law.   “I think we need to extend [the definition of vulnerable] to adults who can be the victims of abuse [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
  • Trump announces picks for new AG and UN Ambassador
    Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump announced Friday his nominations for the positions of U.S. Attorney General and Ambassador to the United Nations. Trump will nominate William Barr to be the next attorney general of the United States. Barr will replace Matthew Whitaker, who has served in the role on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Sessions in early November. On Twitter, President Trump said that he was “pleased to announce” Barr’s nomination, calling him “one of the most highly respected and legal minds in the Country [sic],” and “a great addition” to the administration. Barr previously held the post of attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from November of 1991 until January 20, 1993. Prior to that, he served as deputy attorney general and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. After leaving the White House in 1993, Barr worked in private practice. Most recently, he was with the firm Kirkland & Ellis. A practicing Catholic, he a graduate of Columbia University and George Washington University law school. Reaction to Barr’s nomination were largely positive, with support for the pick coming from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, indicating a potentially smoother confirmation process in the Senate than other recent Trump nominations. According to C-SPAN footage of Barr’s Senate confirmation in 1991, he was unanimously approved by voice vote. Among his supporters was then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), who said that Barr was “throwback to the days when we actually used to have attorneys general who would talk to you and cooperate with you.” The pro-life organization Americans United for Life told CNA that they were pleased with Trump’s pick, in part because of his opposition to abortion. “Mr. Barr is a strong supporter of the right to Life, and is committed to the rule of law for all persons,” said AUL. They noted that when Barr was questioned during his initial hearings in 1991, he elaborated that he thought that the decision reached in Roe v. Wade was not the “right opinion” as it took power away from the states. Trump also announced the nomination of State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert to replace outgoing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who will be leaving her role at the end of the year. “I want to congratulate Heather, and thank Ambassador Nikki Haley for her great service to our Country!” tweeted Trump. Nauert has a journalism background and worked as a broadcaster prior to joining the Department of State in 2017. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, offered praise for Nauert’s nomination. Brownback called Nauert a “staunch defender of Israel and religious freedom” and said that she was a “great pick for UN Ambassador.” [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
  • Mississippi priest under investigation for fraudulent cancer fundraising
    Jackson, Miss., Dec 7, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA).- The federal investigation of a priest who allegedly fundraised more than $42,000 fraudulently, including through a GoFundMe campaign, has led Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Mississippi to ask those who donated to document their giving for the diocese. “He has asked anyone who donated to Father Vargas directly to notify the chancery offices and provide any documentation they may have, as well as a narrative outlining the circumstances of the donation so the diocese can submit a claim to the insurance company,” diocesan spokeswoman Maureen Smith told CNA. “We will continue to work toward healing and restorative justice in Starkville and in the diocese,” she said. Questions about the financial activities of Father Lenin Vargas-Gutierrez, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Starkville, led to federal agents raiding the parish and the chancery office of the Diocese of Jackson on Nov. 7. Agents with the Department of Homeland Security have been investigating accusations that the priest raised money by lying that he had cancer when in fact he was HIV positive and was sent to a sexual addiction facility for priests in Canada, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported in early November. Details come in an affidavit from Homeland Security Special Agent William Childers, filed Nov. 2 in U.S. District Court in Jackson. The affidavit said investigators have probable cause to believe that Vargas obtained money through means of false and fraudulent pretense, using wire communications. It charged that the Diocese of Jackson knew about the felony and concealed it by not making it immediately known. No criminal charges have yet been filed. Father Vargas, a Mexican native, was removed from ministry pending the outcome of the investigation. He was ordained a diocesan priest in 2006. His parish in Starkville, a city of about 25,000 people, also serves campus ministry at Mississippi State University. According to the affidavit, federal agents in August or September met with five confidential informants who had years of experience with the diocese to discuss allegations about Vargas. After the weekend raid, the diocese said in a statement that the parish and the diocese are cooperating in the investigation. It announced that Vargas would not engage in public ministry and had been removed from all pastoral and financial administration pending the outcome of the investigation. In April 2015, Vargas went to the Toronto-based Southdawn Institute, which treats priests with addiction or mental health issues, inducing sexual addiction. He told parishioners it was for cancer treatment. In April and May 2015, the church bulletin invited parishioners to write to the priest, at the address of the Southdawn Institute. During a September 2014 hospital visit, a doctor ordered an HIV test for the priest but he checked out without seeing his doctor. In July 2016, the priest’s medical records show, he told hospital authorities he had HIV. The GoFundMe project established on behalf of the priest claimed that Vargas faced high costs associated with his cancer treatment and had significant bills. [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
  • Mercy Friday: Pope makes surprise visit to residence centers for the sick
    Rome, Italy, Dec 7, 2018 / 10:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his ‘Mercy Friday’ initiative, Pope Francis visited two live-in health centers in the far southern suburbs of Rome today, where he spoke with residents and gifted a 22-pound Christmas cake. Around 3:30 pm, the pope left the Vatican to visit the CasAmica, a home for people with chronic illnesses who need continual medical care. The facility accepts those with serious economic difficulties, and their families, who need support for daily needs. The residents of the CasAmica are mostly from southern Italy, with some from North Africa and Eastern Europe. According to a Vatican press release on the pope’s Dec. 7 visit, the fact that most of the guests are from outside Rome “highlights the phenomenon of ‘health migration,’ with the addition of the burden of hardship and poverty that it entails.” During his visit, Pope Francis stopped to play and joke with children in the game room of the center and exchanged a few words of comfort with parents. He also listened to the stories of two children, Achille, 13, and Andrei, 11, who have cancer; of Sandra and Plamen from Bulgaria and Arwa from Morocco, who are each 3-5 years old and suffering from hematological diseases; and of two men and a woman affected by cancer. Francis greeted everyone, leaving gifts for the families and a special parchment with a message recording his visit. Following the visit to CasAmica, the pope went to a rehabilitation center called Il Ponte e l’Albero (The Bridge and the Tree), which is in a poor area on the southern outskirts of Rome. Twelve young people with mental illnesses, and who come from difficult family conditions, live at the center. When he arrived, the pope surprised the boys in the middle of an activity and sat down to speak with them and answer their questions. Several months ago, three of the boys had written a letter to the pope to tell him about their difficulties living with mental illness and their effort to continue the journey to wellness with their doctors. For the upcoming holiday, the pope gifted the residents of the center a 22-pound panettone, a traditional Italian Christmas cake. [...]
    Source: Daily NewsFriday, December 7, 2018
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