Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - About 60 victims of clerical sex abuse gathered in Rome Oct. 31 to mark what they called "Reformation Day."
The number was a far cry from the 50,000 that organizers had predicted back in April when the event was first announced.
Yet members of the group, Survivors’ Voice, many clad in white shirts with "Enough!" written across the chest, took part in a series of events throughout the afternoon and evening to raise awareness about the issue.
Bernie McDaid, co-founder of Survivor’s Voice, expressed hope before the event that "the world may finally be ready to act."
Their demonstration concluded with a candlelight procession to St. Peter's Square. Before the half-mile walk up the street from where they were gathered at the monument of Castel Sant'Angelo, they observed a minute of silence and inaugurated "The Year of the Survivor."
The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, came out to greet the group. But reaction to his appearance seemed to be met with mixed emotions.
Because the group was not given permission to carry out the protest in St. Peter's Square, when it came time for the procession, only two members were allowed by Italian authorities to proceed into the square. The two took with them 75-100 letters written by victims addressed to the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI.
Escorted by agents from the Roman "Inspettorato" police service and accompanied by a horde of international media representatives, the two covered the distance to the entrance of St. Peter's Square to pass the sealed messages on.
They were met by authorities once again inside the square and settled for leaving the letters on the ground near a policeman who insisted on examining their passports. They had hoped to leave the letters at an entrance to the Pope's residence called the Bronze Door.
Gary Bergeron, the other co-founder of Survivors' Voice, called the event a chance for “all survivors to empower themselves by standing up."
"We're here today to say to the world, it's time we wake up and it's time we address a worldwide issue of childhood sexual abuse. … If it can happen to me in a Church, it can happen to your son and your daughter anywhere around the world," he said.
Survivors' Voice is petitioning the United Nations to declare “systematic sexual abuse against children” a "crime against humanity” – an initiative that critics say is aimed squarely against the Catholic Church.
It was the second time Bergeron has made the trip to St. Peter's in the name of abuse victims, the first coming in March of 2003 with his father and McDaid. They hoped to meet with Pope John Paul II himself, but were able to sit down instead with Roman Curia officials then, including Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. They were said to be the first clerical abuse victims to meet with Vatican officials.
Reformation Day is celebrated by some Protestants to mark the day Martin Luther made his first protest against the Catholic Church in 1517.
Rome, Italy, Nov 1, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The first official words pronounced by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Barcelona on Nov. 7 will be in Catalan, at the Dedication Mass of the Church of the Holy Family.
The opening rites of the liturgy will be Catalan, as well as the readings for the Mass and the rite of consecration of the Church.
The Pope will also speak in Gallego—the local dialect in the Spanish region of Galicia--when he celebrates Mass Nov. 6 in Santiago de Compostela.
According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, the Mass at the Church of the Holy Family will be celebrated in Spanish, Catalan and Latin. The Gospel and the Communion rite will be in Spanish.
Father Lombardi said the Holy Father would deliver part of his homily in Catalan, but that most of the speeches during the visit would be delivered in Spanish.
He also said the Pope’s homily in Barcelona would include a reference to Antonio Gaudi, who designed the Church, and would focus on the relationship between art and faith, the Christian life and the family as the basic unit of society.
However, the spokesman explained, the motive behind the Pope’s visit “is not to support Gaudi’s cause for beatification,” but rather “to consecrate a magnificent work that has great meaning for the Church in Catalonia.”
Piura, Peru, Nov 1, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi of Piura, Peru noted in a homily on Oct. 28 that the Lord of the Miracles calls all who are baptized to become saints.
During a Mass and procession honoring the Lord of the Miracles – a feast that takes place each October in Peru – the archbishop recalled that Catholics need to “be saints in order to change the world, as there is no message more important for society than holiness.
“The transformation this world needs is the transformation of our hearts. Let us commit ourselves to working to be saints, to be disciples of Christ, to follow him and be like him, and thus build a society based on truth and love.”
“We are called on this day to look upon the cross with faith and love in order to embrace the mystery of the it, which is the cure for the illness of sin,” the archbishop said. “It is on the cross that Jesus reconciles us with his Father and makes reconciliation between each other possible as well. It is there that we find the strength and love to live as brothers and sisters, the strength to overcome hatred, quarreling and distrust, the strength to love each other as true brothers and sisters,” he continued.
“Christ’s mercy is so great that he comes out to meet us,” Archbishop Eguren stated. “What tenderness the Lord of the Miracles has for us! For this reason the month of October ... should be filled with days we take advantage of to respond with faith and enthusiasm,” he said.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Nov 1, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Some 3,000 students from public and private schools in the Spanish region of Galicia will welcome Pope Benedict XVI to the city of Santiago de Compostela on Nov. 6.
The students will line the streets to see the Pope as he travels from the Lavacolla Airport to the Cathedral of Santiago. The Archdiocese of Santiago has said that the public is free to greet the Pope as he makes the seven-mile journey in the popemobile.
Specific areas along the motorcade route have been designated for various groups, including a section for those from other Spanish dioceses, sections for various parishes of Santiago and a section for 3,000 students who will welcome the Pope to the city.
The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive at the Lavacolla Airport at 11:30 a.m. local time, where he will be greeted by the Prince and Princess of Asturias and the Archbishop of Santiago. He will deliver his first speech on the tarmac and then have a private meeting with the prince and princess at the airport.
The following day, the Pope will visit Barcelona.
Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 1, 2010 (CNA) - Iraqi Catholics were beside themselves with grief on Monday after Islamic militants stormed the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and held members hostage in an unprecedented attack that left more than 50 dead and over 70 wounded.
On Oct. 31, gunmen linked to al-Qaida took over 120 faithful hostage at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation during Mass, demanding that the Coptic Church of Egypt release the wife of one of its priests, whom the extremists claim voluntarily converted to Islam and was subsequently locked up in a convent.
After the Iraqi military raided the church to free the hostages, over 50 people, including 2 priests, were killed. Vatican Radio reported that between 70 and 80 people are seriously wounded from the attack, many of them women and children.
Pope Benedict lamented the disaster after he prayed the Angelus on Nov. 1. He condemned the “savage” attack and offered prayers for the victims.
“I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, even more ferocious in that it has been inflicted upon defenseless people gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation,” the Holy Father said.
“I express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, now stricken again, and I encourage its pastors and faithful alike to be strong and firm in hope.”
“Beyond these savage moments of violence, that continue to tear apart the peoples of the Middle East, I would finally like to renew a heartfelt appeal for peace: it is a gift of God, but it is also the result of the efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions.”
“May everyone unite their strengths to end every act of violence!” the Pope urged.
Vatican Radio noted that the country's inability to form a solid government after the March elections has opened up the possibility of extremists gaining influence, resulting in mounting attacks on Christians by Islamic militants.
Archbishop Georges Casmoussa, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul stressed that “what we are asking for, and we repeat this appeal, is that our governors and the international community push to bring peace to Iraq and push for the formation of a responsible government, so there is some authority over the situation here in Iraq.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Shlemon Warduni, added that “the Christian community no longer feels safe, not even in the House of God, this attack will have a very negative influence on those who until now had chosen to remain in Baghdad, with many saying they are ready to leave.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 1, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera have expressed profound sorrow over the recent “cowardly and incomprehensible murders” of the more than 100 innocent people in the cities of Tijuana, Juarez and Nayarit.
Violence carried out by drug lords has led to more than 100 murders in just one week in parts of Mexico. The number includes three massacres, one which left 15 people dead at a car wash.
In a press release, Cardinal Rivera pleaded for an end to the killings, emphasizing that “organized crime is a path to perdition and eternal condemnation.”
He pledged to pray for the victims and their families, and then turned his attention to those responsible for such “abominable crimes.” He implored them “in the name of God to cease their killings, kidnappings, torturing and extortion of so many innocent people, including women, children and young people who are just beginning their lives.”
“There is no justification for these killings,” he said. “They are bloody crimes that cry out to heaven for justice.”
“God is not deaf to the suffering and cries of the innocent,” the cardinal warned.
“We remind those who have committed these inhuman acts that they will have to render an account before the Lord when they die for these most grave sins that have left so much suffering and desolation in our troubled country,” Cardinal Rivera continued. “No one should give in to organized crime, which is contrary to Christ and his Gospel of eternal life,” he said.
The cardinal concluded his statement entrusting Mexico to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for peace in the country.