Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Eguia Segui of Buenos Aires denied news reports that claimed he criticized the Argentinean government and lamented attempts to “distort the pastoral and religious meaning” of the ad limina visit of the country’s bishops which will take place this week at the Vatican.
Speaking to the AICA news agency, Bishop Eguia explained that there seems to be “an interest that anything said appears to be a confrontation between the government and the Church.” The bishop denied reports that he has been criticizing the country’s government.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, he pointed out that the bishops of Argentina are concerned about “how to sustain and increase the faith of our people.” He said the country has been experiencing a profound crisis during the last seven years and that the bishops are seeking to discover the best way for the Church to respond.
Vatican City, Mar 15, 2009 (CNA) - Before tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI asked all present to pray, “invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa,” for his upcoming apostolic voyage to Africa. The Pope described himself as a pilgrim in Africa proclaiming Christ crucified, who renews the world.
The Holy Father referred to the reading for the Third Sunday of Lent from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, saying “Paul stresses that he has nothing to offer and to give than the Good News of his Cross.”
“This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and of profound, radical reconciliation,” the Pontiff explained. “The Church, then, does not pursue economic, social and political goals; the Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of all and transform them, thus renewing persons and societies from within.”
Benedict announced that he will visit Yaoundé, Cameroon and Luanda, Angola and asked for prayers from all to his patron saint, St. Joseph. During his visit to Africa from March 17-23, Benedict XVI will celebrate his name day on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19.
“St. Joseph,” Pope Benedict said, “warned by an angel in a dream, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in northeast Africa, in order to protect the newborn Jesus, whom Herod wanted to kill. This fulfilled the Scriptures: Jesus trod in the footsteps of the ancient patriarchs, and, like the people of Israel, he returned to the Promised Land after being in exile in Egypt.”
“I entrust to the heavenly intercession of this great Saint the upcoming pilgrimage and the populations of Africa as a whole, with the challenges that mark them and the hopes that animate them,” the Pope added. “In particular, I think of the victims of hunger, of disease, of injustice, of fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence that continues to afflict adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, religious and volunteers."
In Yaoundé, Cameroon, the Holy Father will present to the bishops of Africa the working document of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2009 at the Vatican. In Angola, he said, he will visit a country that “after its long internal war has regained peace and is now called to rebuild itself in justice.”
After the Angelus, the Pope greeted university students and professors in Rome for the "Pauline Jubilee of Universities," promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education and by the Pontifical Council for Culture. "Dear university students and professors,” the Pontiff said, “I encourage you and I accompany you with my prayers."
Benedict XVI also addressed the tens of thousands of Girl Scouts, who filled St. Peter's Square almost to capacity. Pope Benedict told them, "Always say your 'Here I am!' to God, like the Virgin Mary; say it with your hearts, and you will be rays of light for the world. Thank you for coming!"
In his greeting in English, the Holy Father exclaimed: “I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. As we continue our Lenten journey, may our resolve to follow Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need.
“This Tuesday I leave Rome for my visit to Cameroon and Angola. My presence in the great Continent of Africa forms part of the preparation for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme: ‘The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.’
“I ask each of you to join me in praying that my visit will be a time of spiritual renewal for all Africans and an occasion in which civic and religious leaders will strengthen their resolve to walk the path of justice, integrity and compassion. May the lives of African men, women and children be transformed in hope! Upon all of you gathered and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord.”
Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2009 (CNA) -
The 2008 report of the National Review Board established to examine clerical sexual abuse in the U.S. has been released, saying that most recent claims of abuse concern alleged offenses from 35 to 40 years ago and reporting that most alleged offenders are deceased or out of the priestly ministry.
The National Review Board’s 2008 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People includes audit results of 188 of the 195 diocese and eparchies in the United States. The report also presents 2008 data collected by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for its Annual Survey of Allegations and Costs.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) press release summarizing the report, U.S. dioceses altogether received ten credible allegations of clerical abuse offenses committed against a minor in 2008.
A reported 620 victims also made 625 allegations against 423 alleged offenders concerning abuse in previous years. About 60 percent of identified offenders in new allegations in 2008 had been identified in previous allegations.
Most alleged abuse incidents took place between 1970 and 1974, with 108 new allegations during that period. The report shows the number of allegations declining from 77 in 1980-1984 to 37 in 1985-1989. Each subsequent five year period records no more than 13 new allegations.
About 84 percent of alleged abuse victims were male. Slightly over half of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 14 when their alleged abuse began, while about 23 percent were under 10 years old.
The report says that nearly 83 percent of the offenders among diocesan clergy are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing.
A total of 16 priests or deacons were returned to ministry in 2008 based on the resolution of an allegation made during or prior to 2008.
Dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes paid a total of $374,408,554 in sexual abuse settlements in 2008, compared to over $498 million in 2007, over $332 million in 2006, over $445 million in 2005 and over $139 million in 2004.
The National Review Board’s report says that dioceses spent more than $23 million nationwide in 2008 to prevent childhood sexual abuse, an increase of two million dollars from 2007.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president, said in a press release that the bishops hope that "new ways are being found to improve not only the safety of children in the care of the Church, but also the safety of all children in society."
"By our prayers, actions, and dedication to protect children, we are working to make the world safer for all young people. We and the Church are on the right path," he said.
According to the report, more than 99 percent of those who were required to participate in safe environment training programs did so.
The National Review Board, chaired by Judge Michael Merz, recommended that audits be expanded to include parishes and that contact information for victim assistance coordinators be made readily available and easily obtainable to the public. Persons responsible for implementing the bishops’ charter for child protection should also possess the necessary skills and the resources and cooperation of diocesan personnel.
Additionally, the board recommended the further examination of policies and practices concerning international priests’ background evaluations and safe environment training.
Seven dioceses and eparchies have refused to be audited, compared to five last year.
"The Board and the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People have spent much effort over the past two years supporting safe environment training by offering professionally developed suggestions for that work," Judge Merz commented. "We continue to believe that safe environment training is very important to protecting children. We hope the Conference will encourage open dialogue on any reservations bishops may have about this part of the Charter [for the Protection of Children and Young People] implementation"
The 2008 report is available for viewing at http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/annual_report2008.shtml