Rome, Italy, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - Various Catholic organizations have expressed their solidarity with Father Kizito Sesana, a Combonian missionary from Italy who has been unjustly accused of sexually abusing children in Kenya, where he has served children and young people for over 20 years.
According to the magazine Mondo e Missione, published by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Father Sesana has been the target of “a defamation campaign begun by the privately owned Kenya Television Network, which has accused the priest of abusing children.”
The Superior General of the Combonians, Father Teresino Serra, issued a statement expressing support for Father Sesana, recalling his “great devotion to the missions. The leadership expresses his closeness to Father Sesana in this time of trial.”
Former students of the Kivuli Centre, where Father Sesana works, said, “Many of us have gone through the rehabilitation program at Kivuli and we wish to clearly state that the accusations are baseless and extremely malicious.”
The Koinonia Association of Rome, which provides economic assistance for Father Sesana’s projects, said the accusations against the priest were inexplicable and that his works in Kenya have done great good.
Young people from the Nafsi Africa Acrobats, another initiative started by Father Sesana, sent a statement to the Kenya TV network saying they felt “proud and motivated by his generous efforts” in support of those most in need and that they would continue to support him and to protest the network’s defamatory reporting.
Father Sesana issued the following response to the accusations. “I wish to say quickly and clearly that I have not had any sexual relations with children. I am ready to confront whoever would claim the contrary.” “I do not ask for privileged treatment but only for the chance to defend myself through the normal channels of justice,” he said.
More information can be found in Italian at http://www.missionline.org/index.php?l=it&art=1373
Vatican City, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - Comments made last week by the priest charged with heading up Pope Pius XII's cause for beatification have caused the Vatican's press director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, to issue a statement refuting the idea that the Church is holding back the process because of Jewish concerns.
Fr. Peter Gumpel S.J., the priest leading Pius XII's beatification process, said at a conference in Rome last week that Pope Benedict XVI was "impressed" by concerns that Jewish relations could be marred by a declaration of the World War II era Pope as a Servant of God.
According to ANSA, Fr. Gumpel said that Jewish leaders had told Benedict XVI recently that "relations between the Catholic church and Jews would be definitively and permanently compromised" by moving forward with Pius' cause.
Fr. Lombardi reacted quickly to the comments by emphasizing that “the signing of decrees concerning causes of beatification is the exclusive prerogative of the Pope, who must be left completely free in his evaluations and decisions.”
The director of the Vatican press office also warned against interference in the Pope's decision making process, saying, "If the Pope believes that study and reflection upon the cause of Pius XII are to be further prolonged, his position must be respected without unjustified and inappropriate interventions."
Accusations have been made that Pope Pius XII did not do enough to save Jews who were being killed and persecuted by the Nazis. Despite evidence to the contrary, some Jews and historians claim that the late Pope was silent in the face of the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders have asked that Pope Benedict open the Vatican's secret archives from the time period of Pius XII before any move is made on the late Pontiff's cause. Archivists responded by saying that it will take more time to catalog the 16 million documents from Pius' pontificate.
San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI visited the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where St. Padre Pio lived. During his visit, he spoke to those present about the importance of maintaining a life of prayer amidst a secular world that often discards the faith.
In the morning, the Holy Father visited the cell of the monastery where Padre Pio died, and venerated his mortal remains. Afterwards, he celebrated Mass in front of the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
In his homily, the Pope spoke of St. Padre Pio, emphasizing how prayer was the foundation of all his priestly work of “guiding souls and alleviating suffering” in a spirit of unity with Christ.
“His days were a living Rosary, a continuous meditation upon, and assimilation of, the mysteries of Christ, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary,” Benedict said. “This explains the unique simultaneous presence in him of supernatural gifts and of concrete human qualities. And the culmination of everything came in the celebration of Mass.”
The Holy Father continued to explain the great charity that was the fruit of this prayer. “The love he carried in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, ever attentive to the real situations in which individuals and families lived,” he said.
The Pope also warned that “the risks of activism and secularization” are always threatening to draw the faithful away from God.
“Many of you, religious and lay people, are so absorbed by your many obligations in serving pilgrims or the sick in hospital, that you run the risk of neglecting what is truly important: listening to Christ and accomplishing the will of God,” said Benedict.
“When you realize that you are close to running this risk look to Padre Pio, to his example, to his sufferings, and invoke his intercession that he may obtain from the Lord the light and strength you need to continue his mission.”
Later in the day, the Pope met with priests, religious, and young people at the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. He spoke to the clergy about the newly-inaugurated Year for Priests under the patronage of St. Jean Vianney, highlighting the importance of the Sacrament of Penance to both Padre Pio and the Cure d’Ars.
“The Sacrament of Penance must be further enhanced,” said the Holy Father, encouraging the clergy present to renew their commitment to the Sacrament. “Priests must never resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted, nor limit themselves to noting the disaffection of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.”
Benedict again emphasized “the value and necessity of prayer,” in Padre Pio’s life, describing it as “a fundamental point not only for the spirituality of priests but also for that of all Christians, and even more so for yours, dear religious, who have been chosen to follow Christ more closely by practicing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
The Holy Father encouraged the clergy not to become discouraged at the way that the faith is weakening and even being abandoned in secular society. Instead, he invited them to unite themselves with Christ in a spirit of prayer.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Spanish Bishops’ Conference issued a statement condemning the killing of a policeman in the city of Arrigorriaga on June 19. The Basque separatist group ETA carried out the attack which took the life of Officer Antonio Puelles Garcia. The bishops condemned the act as “perverse and completely unjustified.”
In their statement, the bishops said, “Terrorism pursues the spread of terror in order to produce a state of weakness in the legitimate public order, which allows them to impose their beliefs by force, at the expense of the most fundamental human rights, such as the right to life and freedom. This end can never be shared,” the bishops said.
They went on to express their gratitude to all those in the police and law enforcement communities who work to defeat terrorism and employ every legitimate means to disband the terrorist group ETA.
The bishops extended their deepest sympathies to the family of the fallen officer and called on Catholics to unite in prayer for the eternal repose of Puelles Garcia’s soul and for the consolation of his family members.
San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict XVI prepared to visit San Giovanni Rotondo this past weekend to pray at the tomb of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, the Capuchin Franciscan postulator, Father Florio Tessari, called Padre Pio is “today’s Cure of Ars,” because both lived with the Eucharist at the center of their lives and gave tirelessly of themselves in the confessional.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Father Tessari said that as the Year of Priests begins, he finds the similarities between St. John Vianney and Padre Pio to be numerous.
“The Holy Cure of Ars did the same thing as Padre Pio: he celebrated Mass and made himself available to administer the sacrament of Reconciliation. Those who came to San Giovanni Rotondo sought out Padre Pio just like those who sought out the Cure of Ars. They went to attend Mass and to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation,” he noted.
Padre Pio was “a friar, a religious priest who profoundly observed the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) in his life. He suffered difficulties in silence like an authentic Cyrenean and at the same time was crucified without a cross,” Father Tessari continued.
He went on to point to two fundamental elements that led to Padre Pio’s canonization: “Faith to the bitter end and obedience also to the bitter end, despite the difficulties he encountered in his life. Living in simplicity and in total union with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist was also important.”
Father Tessari said Padre Pio’s message continues to resonate with the men and women of today. “Padre Pio gives humanity a concrete answer to suffering through prayer groups and the Home for the alleviation of suffering. Padre Pio embodies the man for God and the man in service to his fellow man.”
London, England, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy See has recognized the miracle necessary for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the nineteenth-century British theologian who left the Church of England to enter the Roman Catholic Church.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has attributed the cure of Jack Sullivan, a permanent deacon from the Archdiocese of Boston, to the intercession of Cardinal Newman. Sullivan, 70, works in both parish and prison ministry, and had suffered from “extremely severe spinal problems.”
Sullivan told The Times Online that he began praying to Cardinal Newman after learning of the favorable recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“If it wasn’t for Cardinal Newman’s intercession … it would have been virtually impossible to complete my diaconate formation and be ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston,” said Sullivan. “Nor would I have been able to continue in my chosen profession as a magistrate in our court system to support my family.”
Sullivan says that he has experienced “a very deep sense of the reality of God’s love for each one of us, especially during times of immense difficulties and suffering.” He added, “I have developed a very real relationship with Cardinal Newman in frequent prayer and I try to pass on what marvelous gifts I have received to those I meet.”
Five doctors appointed to a medical commission by the Congregation voted unanimously in April 2009 that Sullivan’s cure had no medical explanation, the spokesman for the order founded by Cardinal Newman reports.
The Congregation is now working on a document about the life of Newman, to be presented to the Holy Father, who alone can sign the promulgation of the decree authorizing the miracle.
Once beatified, Newman will need one more miracle to be canonized a saint. It is currently unknown whether the beatification ceremony will take place in Rome or Westminster Cathedral in London.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - Leaders of the peaceful resistance in Cuba repeated their request last week that the government respect human rights and promote transition towards democracy.
In a statement entitled, “United in Hope,” the dissidents called on the government of Cuba to release prisoners of conscience “and all those who have not participated in acts of terrorism and have been incarcerated for political motives.”
Likewise, they asked that “freedom of religion and conscience” be guaranteed for all, and that everyone be allowed to “freely express their ideas, sentiments, criticisms, opinions and proposals whether orally, in writing or [by] any peaceful means.”
The statement calls for the creation of a National Commission made up of members of the government, the opposition and representatives of civil society, in order to guarantee the civil rights of all Cubans.
The dissident leaders said in their statement, “The first stage of the National Dialogue has concluded and now another wider stage begins in which we will present to all Cubans, without distinction, this proposal of the first steps to carry out the changes that the people so much desire and want.”
San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, Jun 22, 2009 (CNA) - During his trip to San Giovanni Rotondo yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI visited patients and staff at a hospital founded by St. Padre Pio, where he spoke of the “intimate bond” that connects the Cross of Christ to our own human suffering.
Started in 1956, the "Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza," or Home to Relieve Suffering, currently has beds for one thousand patients. Speaking to those present, the Pope acknowledged that sickness "raises disquieting issues” of the reason for suffering, the meaning behind it, and where to seek comfort.
“These are existential questions which usually remain unanswered in human terms because suffering is an enigma which reason cannot fathom,” the Holy Father said.
"Suffering is part of the very mystery of the human person," he went on. "Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering, ... but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply ... because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, which ... is a constant source of suffering.”
Benedict explained that human questions abut suffering find their answer in God, the only One who can eliminate the power of evil. “Precisely because Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal to us the divine plan of our salvation, faith helps us penetrate the meaning of all that is human, hence also of suffering,” the Pope said.
“There exists, then, an intimate bond between the Cross of Jesus - symbol of supreme pain and price of our true freedom - and our own suffering, which is transformed and made sublime when lived with an awareness of God's closeness and solidarity."
The Holy Father pointed to Padre Pio’s example in living according to this truth. “On the first anniversary of the inauguration of this hospital, he said that 'those who suffer must experience God's love through a judicious acceptance of their own pain, through serene meditation upon their destiny in Him," said the Pope.
"May the Lord help you to fulfill the project that Padre Pio began," Benedict concluded, “with everyone making a contribution.”