Tripoli, Libya, Aug 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Early evidence suggests that the Catholic Church in Libya may fare no worse under a new rebel-led regime than it did under the dictatorship of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.
“The future is very uncertain but the signs from the parts of the country that have been under rebel control since March is that Catholic priests and nuns are still being allowed to go about their business as usual. So we hope that’s a good sign for the future,” a senior local Church source, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told CNA August 25.
The comments come as NATO-backed Libyan rebels tighten their hold over the capital city of Tripoli and are pushing on toward Colonel Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte which is still under loyalist control. The present whereabouts of Colonel Gadhafi are still unknown.
Although he is a Muslim, Gadhafi’s 42-year dictatorship saw the Catholic Church largely unhindered in its work in parishes and hospitals. In contrast, fears have recently been voiced that significant elements in the rebel forces may have an Islamist agenda.
In recent days, there has also been concern for the safety of a Franciscan community based in Tripoli’s sole Catholic Church.
“I’ve actually just spoken to the Franciscan priests who are in Tripoli,” said the CNA source.
“They say their situation is not easy but that they are well. It’s difficult for them to go out into the streets because of the fighting. There are still many people in the streets with guns and much bombing.”
The Church source added that there are only three Franciscans in Tripoli at present because another three members of the community are currently unable to enter the country. The three Franciscans are trying to enter Libya from Tunisia, but the broken transportation system and blocked roads have made it impossible. One of the clergymen is a priest who had traveled to World Youth Day in Madrid.
The estimated Catholic population of Libya is approximately 100,000—most of whom are immigrants—but that number may have declined since the outbreak of trouble in February.
In total, there are around 25 Catholic priests working in the country. They are mainly based in Tripoli in the west and the city of Benghazi in the east. There are also around 60 nuns who work in the country’s hospital system.
The CNA source says that although Catholics only make up a small percentage of Libya’s six million population, the work of the Church’s priests and nuns is greatly appreciated by ordinary Libyans who are overwhelmingly Muslim.
Kericho, Kenya, Aug 25, 2011 (CNA) - Three men have been sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of Fr. Gerry Roche, an Irish priest working in Kenya as a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society.
Nine suspects had been accused in the death of the 68-year-old priest. On Aug. 23, three were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a court in Kericho. Two others were found guilty of handling stolen property, a cell phone. They were given the maximum sentence of 14 years.
The other four were acquitted.
The priest was tortured before being killed. He had fresh wounds and his hands were tied with a rope when his body was discovered on December 11, 2009, according to the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation.
Some of his parishioners thought the attackers were after information in the priest’s files. Two cell phones, a laptop computer and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen.
Some speculated that the thieves may have been after information relating to a disputed sale agreement at Fr. Roche’s previous assignment. The sale involved land being transferred to the Catholic Church.
Fr. Niall Martin, East Africa assistant regional leader of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, expressed relief at the closure of the case and the professional manner in which the Kenyan police and judiciary dealt with the matter.
“It is important to note that while the death penalty is still given in Kenya, no one has been executed since 1987,” he said Aug. 24. “St Patrick’s Missionary Society, as Christian missionaries, is totally against the death penalty, as it is against every act of violence.”
Fr. Martin again expressed the society’s “deep sympathy” to Fr. Roche’s family and to his parishioners in Kenya.
“Fr. Gerry worked for 41 years in Kenya and had a deep love for the Kenyan people. He had a lifelong commitment to them, with a strong sense of justice,” Fr. Martin said.
The murdered priest’s funeral Mass was held in his home parish of Athea in County Limerick, Ireland.
Fredericksburg, Va., Aug 25, 2011 (CNA) - The pro-life advocacy group 40 Days for Life has announced the launch of its biggest campaign ever this fall, with over 300 locations worldwide participating in the event.
The growth has “been a joy to see and I think it shows that people want to respond to the crisis of abortion,” director Shawn Carney told CNA.
The Sept. 28 through Nov. 6 campaign – which includes fasting and peaceful prayer outside of local abortion facilities – will take place in 48 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces, Australia, England, Spain and, for the first time, Germany and Argentina.
“Forty Days for Life is nothing but an invitation – it's built on the basics,” Carney said. “It's prayer, it's showing up at these places where the babies are lost and it's fasting.”
The 300 locations where the campaign will be held include over 70 new sites, he added.
The initiative began in 2004 and consisted of Carney and his wife and friends in Bryan, Texas. It soon grew to such an extent that the group launched nationally in the fall of 2007 with 89 locations across the U.S.
Over the last four years more than 400,000 have joined to pray and fast for an end to abortion and over 13,000 church congregations have participated in 40 Days for Life campaigns.
“We've seen immense growth,” he said. “We would never have foreseen this. People have gotten over their fear of going out and praying in front of an abortion facility.”
Carney observed that the growing success of the campaign is due in part to most people being against abortion but also not knowing how to respond besides voting pro-life.
“In the states, we've always seen the solution to abortion as something that will take place in Washington D.C.,” he pointed out.
“And, while that's certainly a huge part of it and one that we need, I think 40 Days for Life has helped open the eyes of people to see that abortions don't happen in the White House or in the halls of Congress – they are happening around the corner from where you live.”
“You can do something about that but that something has to be grounded in prayers, it needs to be peaceful and it needs to get people's attention,” Carney said.
Since the beginning of the campaign in 2007, over 4,000 unborn babies have been spared from abortion and 53 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the industry. Fifteen abortion clinics where vigils have been held have also shut down.
“It's really been humbling and amazing to see,” Carney said, adding that the group is “trying to keep up with what God is doing and what he has done through this simple effort.”
For more information, visit: http://www.40daysforlife.com/location.cfm.
Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese for the Military Services in the U.S. is welcoming a steady increase of priestly vocations after declining numbers in recent years.
The upcoming fall academic year will greet 31 new seminarians compared with 23 last year, 12 in 2009 and only three in 2008.
Father Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv. and director of vocations, noted that the rise in numbers is due to recruiting efforts as well as Catholic bishops around the U.S. agreeing to co-sponsor seminarians.
Fr. Abbott said that the archdiocese “is most grateful” for the bishops' support and explained that co-sponsorship involves a diocesan bishop accepting a young man as a seminarian who will then participate in the Chaplain Candidacy Program of one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces.
The process then requires a bishop agreeing to release the seminarian for service as a military chaplain after three years of pastoral experience as a priest in his diocese. When the priest leaves military service, he will return to the diocese.
“This is one of the ‘untold stories’ of the blessings of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and those faithful fervently seeking to respond to the voice of God,” Fr. Abbott said in a statement Aug. 15.
The vocations director said he expects anywhere from five to 10 more men to enter seminaries next year, and that the archdiocese is currently processing hundreds of inquiries from prospective military chaplains.
He also said that the timing couldn't be better in light of the U.S. armed forces experiencing a steady decline in Catholic military chaplains over the past 10 years as priests reach the military retirement age of 62. The number of military priests is down from more than 400 active in 2001, to 274 this year.
Statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, show that nearly 10 percent of men ordained as U.S. Catholic priests over the past two years had previously served in the military with another 10 percent coming from military families.
“When you think about it, this makes complete sense,” Fr. Abbott said. “Both the military and the priesthood rely on a largely common set of foundational values, including a commitment to service, self-discipline and a higher calling.”
“So it should come as no surprise that so many of our seminarians come from a military background and a growing number are looking to go back to the life they know after ordination.”
Fr. Abbott said the influx of seminarians poses a “delightful dilemma” on how to pay for the 50 percent share of the students' five-year education. In just three years, the archdiocese’s annual seminary bill has climbed from less than $40,000 to more than $350,000.
The Knights of Columbus recently announced a new “Venerable Father McGivney Military Chaplain Scholarship” that will provide $200,000 a year over the next five years for the seminarians. The archdiocese is now in search of additional funding sources to make up the difference.
Dublin, Ireland, Aug 25, 2011 (CNA) - The Irish priest blamed in an official report for his failure to report cases of alleged clerical abuse to the authorities has defended his actions but also said he should have resigned from his position.
Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, the former Vicar General of the Diocese of Cloyne, says he still doesn’t agree with the Irish Catholic Church’s 1996 guidelines which made the reporting of such alleged abuse cases mandatory.
At the same time, he says he should have resigned in protest against them.
“For most of those priests accused in Cloyne, the complaints alleged incidents dating back over 30 or 40 years. Of those priests, some would now be terminally ill while others would be under constant medical care,” said Monsignor O’Callaghan in a letter to the Irish Catholic newspaper that was published on August 25.
Last month a judicial inquiry – led by Judge Yvonne Murphy – blamed Monsignor O’Callaghan for failing to report nine cases of alleged abuse made between 1996 and 2005 which, it said, should “very clearly” have been reported to the authorities. The monsignor was charged with child safety by Bishop John Magee.
Bishop Magee resigned his office last year, while Monsignor O’Callaghan retired this year.
Monsignor O’Callaghan says he argued against the 1996 guidelines when they were being drafted on the grounds that the “form of mandatory reporting” being required compromised his “Christian duty of pastoral care.”
“The literal guidelines did not allow for any discretion to bishops and to their delegates. Reporting was to be made immediately. No exception was to be made even when an accused priest was on his death-bed.”
He adds he “should have resigned on the point of principle” from his role as the delegate once he realized “the implications of the 1996 guidelines for the overriding duty of pastoral care.”
Monsignor O’Callaghan’s comments come only two days after Bishop Magee issued a further apology for his role in the affair, telling the Irish television station RTE that he “deeply, deeply” regretted the 1996 guidelines were not followed.
“I feel ashamed that this happened under my watch -- it should never have and I truly apologize. If through my not fully implementing the 1996 guidelines that we had I have made any victim suffer more, on my bended knee I beg for forgiveness.”
Bishop Magee also offered to meet anybody who felt let down or angry with him.
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Aug 25, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, Puerto Rico has called for solidarity with those affected by Hurricane Irene. He has asked parishes in the diocese to reach out to the communities affected by the storm.
“We call on the Catholic faithful … to mobilize aid to reach out to those in need,” the bishop said.
He also directed Arecibo’s diocesan office for Human Promotion and Development to join in the efforts to assist nearby towns and communities.
The Diocese of Arecibo has 59 parishes, over 200 chapels and 13 Catholic schools in the 16 municipalities that make up the northern central area of Puerto Rico.
Rome, Italy, Aug 25, 2011 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, recently told CNA that the original definition of motherhood as a gift from God must be rediscovered.
Archbishop Carrasco said, “The reaction to the news of becoming a mother should return to being what it has always been, a reaction of joy” that leads us to say “congratulations.” He added that the response to a mother should not be “'I'm so sorry,' like we say to people who get sick.”
He recalled that it was Blessed John Paul II who was inspired 25 years ago to create the Pontifical Academy, which is dedicated to the defense of human life. “He was the first to realize that the Church needed an academy devoted to the issues of life such as biomedicine or biotechnology,” the archbishop added.
Archbishop Carrasco said the dicastery’s focus this year has been on three areas: post-abortion trauma, umbilical cord banks and treatments for infertility. Regarding post-abortion trauma, he said it is necessary that the condition be “defined as well as whether or not there is a cure.”
He also discussed the new ethical problems surrounding umbilical cord banks “of an economic nature,” because “there is a new market in which there is supply and demand.” This factor is where ethical problems come into play, the archbishop said.
Likewise, he explained that the in vitro fertilization treatments imply “very serious moral problems because a child is created in the laboratory and can easily become an object of manipulation.” The process is further complicated by the selection and destruction of multiple embryos, he added.
Archbishop Carrasco also noted that the defense of human life should also include helping the elderly. “In this last great trial that they must overcome, they need particular help, and by help I mean not only the technically, but also personal and emotional help and respect for their dignity.”
We must recall “they are not people who have become useless to society and have nothing left to say,” the archbishop added.