Brussels, Belgium, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the release of a “painful” report about sexual abuse, the Catholic Church in Belgium has announced a five-point plan to help respond to allegations. Church leaders have pledged to help more victims and priests to come forward, to collaborate more with law enforcement, to enforce canon law, and to include victims in planning future reforms.
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels André-Mutien Léonard, speaking on behalf of the country’s bishops, said that the Church will set up a center of “recognition, reconciliation and healing” before December.
Last Friday an independent panel released its report containing the accounts of hundreds of sex abuse victims abused by Catholic clergy in Belgium over the past 50 years. Most of the abuse happened in the 1960s and 1970s. Abuse was present throughout all Belgium dioceses but was especially prevalent at Catholic boarding schools. It included oral and anal abuse as well as forced self-abuse.
The report highlighted the claims of family members that at least 13 victims committed suicide as a result of the abuse, while hundreds more victims said they suffered continued trauma.
At a Monday news conference, Archbishop Leonard said a feeling of “anger and powerlessness” had taken hold of the Church.
"The report and the suffering it contains make us shiver," he told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "We want to draw the necessary lessons from the mistakes of the past."
The archbishop said there was no easy way out of the crisis but progress would have to involve “a long process of truth.”
He later told VRT television that the report was “impressive, perplexing but also very positive.”
“It was exactly what we wanted — transparency and that truth come to light,” he remarked.
"We want to and have to come clean with the past," Bishop of Antwerp Johan Bonny remarked, according to the AP. "We have had the courage to let the commission do its work and publish its conclusions. A major step has been taken, however painful it is."
London, England, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During the papal trip to the U.K. this week, Pope Benedict XVI will launch a sports foundation in honor of the late John Paul II.
The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced Monday that on Sept. 16, the Holy Father will launch a sports legacy in honor of John Paul II at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham. The conference noted that 32 children who have excelled at sports in the U.K. have been selected from state, independent and special needs schools to participate with Pope Benedict.
The launch will take place during a school assembly that will be broadcast live to over 800,000 students across England, Scotland and Wales.
“With the Olympic Games less than two years away, we have a moment of opportunity and a whole process in which the aspirations of young people, the meanings of habit and routine in their lives, and the whole notion of achieving excellence can begin to be lifted up again,” said London Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the creation of the foundation.
“Within the 2012 Games there are seeds for all sorts of good ideas and good initiatives,” he added. “The John Paul II Foundation for Sport is a venture that I am particularly interested in as it uses sport to try and introduce to young and old alike the importance of health, the dignity of our bodies, the care of physical well-being and its spiritual meaning.”
Organizers for the John Paul II sports foundation in the U.K said that the purpose of the initiative is to draw on Catholic spirituality in imparting virtues, fitness and leadership among the youth. A similar effort was founded in Rome in 2008.
Professor Simon Lee, chair of the board for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, said that through “this initiative, the Church is inviting all-comers to join in creating a joyful legacy for 2012 and beyond, in the spirit of John Paul II’s love of sport.”
“It is not only because of his personal interest that the Church sees value in sport properly understood and practiced. We are grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for generously launching this Foundation in honor of his predecessor and as a gift to wider society,” Lee noted. “As Pope Pius XII put it in 1945, 'How can the Church not be interested in sport?'”
“All who love sport are invited to join this new Foundation in promoting practical opportunities to share in its very best values.”
Granada, Spain, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, presided Sunday at the beatification of Spanish Capuchin Friar Leopold de Alpandeire, whose life Pope Benedict XVI called “a song of humility and trust in God.”
During his homily at the Beatification Mass in Granada, Archbishop Amato noted that the city is a “fortunate” one “because it has witnessed the glorious spectacle of (Blessed Leopold’s) holiness.”
The archbishop then recalled that people often “insulted and threw stones” at Friar Leopoldo, and “once he was almost hanged.” Nevertheless, “He got even the most anti-clerical to admit that they wished everyone was more like him.”
Friar Leopold, he said, “taught the way of justice through his charity, humility and Marian devotion, with the testimony of his life, which was for a long time dedicated to begging, including during times of religious persecution.”
Francisco Tomas was born a small town in the Spanish region of Malaga on June 24, 1864. As a boy he cared for a flock of sheep and tilled the soil. Years later, on November 16, 1899, he entered the Capuchin monastery in Seville, where he continued working in the monastery garden.
In the Fall of 1903 he was transferred to Granada and served as the gardener there. After being transferred to a few different monasteries, in 1914 he returned to Granada where he remained until his death As a beggar, he visited many towns in the Andalusia region. When he was asked a favor, he always asked the person to pray three Hail Marys in return.
He died on February 9, 1956. Even today, thousands visit his tomb each year to ask for his intercession.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA) - During the festivities in Salamanca, Spain, triple Paralympic gold medalist Enrique Sanchez-Guijo asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother for “the protection of life, inherent in every human being, from beginning to end.”
Sánchez-Guijo, who competed in the Paralympic Games of Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, said that together with the right to life, the “right to live in freedom, banishing all forms of terrorism and oppression,” must also be respected.
The former athlete participated in a Mass at the Cathedral of Salamanca, during which he prayed for the families of Spain.
Born in the Spanish city of Bejar, he won three gold medals and set the world record in the 200 meter dash.
He also won gold medals in European championships in 1993, 1995, 1997, as well silver and gold medals in the world championships of 1994 and 1998.
Vatican City, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on Monday that they are releasing a new book on the Holy Father, intended to be “an unprecedented look into the first five years of Benedict's reign.”
“Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy,” will be released on Sept. 19 by the USCCB along with Sheed & Ward, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
The new book provides a glimpse into the life and work of the Holy Father and will feature excerpts from his writings including reflections and quotes, more than 100 full-color photographs and a resource section. The essays are divided into three parts: Part I Pilgrim, Part II Pastor, and Part III Prophet.
A press release on Sept. 13 stated that USCCB director of media relations Sr. Mary Ann Walsh edited the book, which also features forewords by King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Shimon Peres of Israel. The new publication also contains articles by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Francis George, USCCB president, and John Thavis, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.
"Pope Benedict's first five years reveal a man who can walk calmly through troubled times as he seeks to heal wounds and bring people together," Sr. Mary Ann Walsh noted. “He has faced the searing sexual abuse scandal with compassion and moved head-on to meet inter-religious challenges to build understanding among diverse people.”
“He has addressed the problems of contemporary society and highlighted for the world the moral implications of environmentalism and the unequal distribution of the world's resources,” she added. “He has urged the church to spread the Gospel both through witness and prayer and through every modern means of communication. He is a leader with the wisdom of years, and a graced theologian who helps men and women to take their rightful place in today's world.”
The USCCB announced that promotions with Borders and Barnes & Noble will take place in late September and early October and that the book will be available for purchase on Amazon.com or directly from the USCCB.
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA) - The foundation Vida en Misericorida in Colombia has criticized feminist Florence Thomas for justifying abortion in order to prevent “unwanted children.” The organization explained that using the term is a strategy feminists use to promote the killing of the unborn and to reap economic benefits.
John Ferney Valencia of Vida en Misericordia criticized Thomas for saying that no “unwanted child” should be born because only the love of a mother “humanizes” the fetus.
Thomas added that if women are allowed to abort when “they don’t want their children,” a society with more “wanted children” would be achieved, because by “liberating them” from this supposed burden, women will have a better experience of motherhood.
Ferney Valencia noted that the strategy of radical feminists is to spread the idea that no child must be unwanted. However, he continued, this strategy has been employed to promote abortion as the “liberation” of women, as poverty and the guilt of being a burden have been blamed on the unborn.
The radical feminism embraced by Florence Thomas benefits from this, he said, and this strategy provides the “perfect cover for promoting abortion without revealing the birth control that lies behind it.”
“Sadly when Florence suggests that only ‘wanted children’ be born, she is promoting the death of the children of the poor and a culture that scorns life, as can be seen in France, where sterility is rampant and people prefer to spend millions on their pets rather than ‘ruining’ their lives with an uncomfortable child.
For this reason, radical gender feminism will have to be accountable to society and ask for forgiveness,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA) - Caritas Mexico City is operating a program designed to reach out to teens and young adults suffering from addictions. “Love Life” was established in 1991 to provide assistance to drug addicts, regardless of their age or sex.
Counselors and doctors involved in the program make home visits and provide ambulatory care for more than 60 patients and their families.
Psychologist Socorro Colin, who works with the program, explained that they “try to give them the tools so they can find a purpose for their lives, as generally the young people who come here are undisciplined, undereducated, unemployed and have too much free time on their hands.
“For this reason we provide workshops to help them learn a trade and take up their studies again.”
As part of the activities offered at the program’s rehabilitation center, Father Rafael de Jesus Rocha leads a spiritual workshop for those in recovery to help them discover meaning in their lives by practicing values such as honesty, truth, freedom, justice and forgiveness.
The Mexican government reports that drug use among young people has skyrocketed 127 percent over the last three years.
Colin added that the program also helps 11 and 12 year olds who have fallen into inhalant abuse, often called “huffing.”
Vatican City, Sep 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict received letters of credence from the new German ambassador to the Holy See on Monday. In an address to the new diplomat, Walter Jurgen Schmid, the Holy Father stressed the importance of God being personal and that “the construction of a human society requires faithfulness to truth,” especially in the areas of marriage, biotechnology and news reporting.
The Pontiff opened his remarks to the ambassador with a reference to German martyrs, particularly Fr. Gerhard Hirschfelder, a priest who died under the Nazi regime and who will be beatified in Munster on Sept. 19. “Contemplating these martyrs,” he said, “it emerges ever more clearly how certain men, on the basis of their Christian convictions, are ready to give their lives for the faith, for the right to exercise their beliefs freely and for freedom of speech, for peace and human dignity.”
Despite this, however, “many men tend to show an overriding inclination towards more permissive religious convictions.”
“The personal God of Christianity, Who reveals Himself in the Bible, is replaced by a supreme being, mysterious and undefined, who has only a vague relation with the personal life of human beings,” Benedict XVI noted. “These ideas are increasingly animating discussion within society, especially as regards the areas of justice and lawmaking,” he continued.
“If, however, one abandons faith in a personal God, then an alternative 'god' arises, one who does not know, does not feel and does not speak.
“If God does not have His own will, then good and bad end up being indistinguishable,” the Holy Father noted. “Man thus loses the moral and spiritual energy necessary for the overall development of the person. Social activity is increasingly dominated by private interest or by power calculations, to the detriment of society.”
“The Church,” he explained, “looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life.”
Referencing his predecessor John Paul II's notion of the “culture of the person,” Pope Benedict said that the “success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen.”
“In this sense,” he underscored, “the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativization of all legislation and confusion about values in society.”
The Holy Father then discussed the "new possibilities" emerging within the fields of biotechnology and medicine, saying “our duty to study how these methods can help man, and where they involve manipulation of man, the violation of his integrity and dignity.”
“We cannot reject these developments, but we must remain highly vigilant. Once we have begun to distinguish (and this often already happens in the mother's womb) between a life that is worthy to be lived and one which is unworthy, then no other phase of existence will be spared, particularly old age and infirmity.”
In his remarks, the Holy Father also stressed that “the construction of a human society requires faithfulness to truth.” Regarding this, he commented on the communications media, noting that “Being in ever-greater competition with one another, they feel impelled to attract as much attention as possible.”
“Moreover, in general it is contrast that makes news, even if this goes against the truth of the story,” he said. “The question becomes particularly problematic when authority figures take up public stances on the matter, without being able to verify all aspects adequately. The intention of the federal government to look into these cases is to be welcomed.”