Gunmen killed four Catholics in a religious procession in northern Burkina Faso a day after a priest and five parishioners were murdered at mass, church officials said Tuesday.
The parade with a statue of the Virgin Mary was moving through the town of Ouahigouya on Monday when “a group of terrorists intercepted the procession, killing four worshippers and burning the statue,” said a spokesman for the Ouagadougou Cathedral.
According to the Burkina Faso news agency AIB, the assailants stopped the procession. “They let the minors go, executed four adults, and destroyed the statue,” it quoted a local person as saying.
Paul Ouedraogo, president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, told a meeting of bishops in the capital Ouagadougou the attack had claimed four lives.
The killings came a day after a group of 20-30 armed men, according to witnesses, burst into the Catholic church in Dablo, also in the Nord Region of Burkina Faso, shooting dead five parishioners and their priest.
The attackers set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the health centre, which they looted, burning the chief nurse’s vehicle.
Two days earlier, French special forces had freed four foreign hostages in Burkina Faso during an overnight raid that cost the lives of two soldiers.
“This concerns all of us whatever our religion or ethnicity,” said President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Kabore urged his compatriots to “stick together,” warning such attacks threatened to undermine religious coexistence in a country where some two thirds of the population are Muslim to one third Christian.
“Burkina Faso is confronted by a difficult situation,” said Kabore. “These terrorists have remodelled their modus operandi. First, by creating inter-communcal conflicts and today inter-religious conflicts as Christians have been killed for their faith, for merely practising their religion.
“Burkina has always been reputed as being a tolerant country. We must work to safeguard this richness passed down to us by our ancestors,” said Kabore, a Catholic.
Two weeks ago, there was a similar attack against a Protestant church in Silgadji, also in the north, when gunmen on motorbikes killed a pastor and five worshippers.
Burkina has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.
Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 — mainly in hit-and-run raids — according to an AFP tally.
Jihadist groups target Christian clerics as well as Muslim ones they do not consider sufficiently radical in a country where traditionally both religions have co-existed peaceably.
Last month, jihadists attacked a village school in Maitaougou, in the eastern province of Koulpelogo, killing five teachers and a municipal worker.
Former colonial ruler France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces flush out jihadists.
The head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholics Sunday expressed fears that an official investigation into Easter bombings that killed 253 people will end up a “flop”, casting doubt on the government’s ability to bring the attackers to justice.
Speaking to reporters at his first public appearance since last week’s attacks on churches and hotels, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith slammed what he described as Sri Lanka’s culture of impunity, saying many high-profile assassinations over the past 30 years had remained largely unsolved.
“There is a certain amount of suspicion among our people that there will be no more follow up, only words…. If they (the authorities) are sincere, they must have a thorough investigation,” he said.
The cardinal said he had heard that President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed a commission of inquiry into the massacre.
“But we never heard if that commission had any sittings. Nothing at all, we were never consulted. We are afraid that this commission might just end up being a flop,” he said at a candlelight vigil organised by a state-owned newspaper company.
Police say they have arrested more than 150 people suspected to be involved with the coordinated suicide bombings that devastated three luxury hotels and three churches, two of which are Roman Catholic.
The cardinal has repeatedly assailed the authorities for failing to share intelligence reports that had warned of an impending jihadist attack against Christians, saying he felt “betrayed” by the government.
“If they warned me, I would have cancelled the Easter services,” he said Sunday at a privately televised mass after he ordered all Catholic church services to be suspended.
About 700 clergymen in Illinois have been accused of child sexual assault, a far greater number than the Catholic Church had previously disclosed, the Midwestern US state’s top prosecutor revealed Wednesday.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the Church’s revelations that 185 clergy members were credibly accused of sexual abuse fell short of the number her office has uncovered.
The preliminary results of an investigation that began in August found more than 500 additional priests and clergy members with sexual abuse allegations in the Midwestern state’s six dioceses — a total of at least 685 accused.
In a scathing statement, the attorney general’s office criticized the Church’s handling of the abuse allegations, saying investigations were lacking, and in many cases, law enforcement and child welfare authorities were not notified.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said.
She added that the Church had failed to provide “a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”
The Illinois investigation was prompted by a sweeping grand jury report in August that revealed credible allegations against more than 300 suspected predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse covered up for decades by the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania.
In October, federal authorities for the first time opened an investigation into clergy abuse. Dioceses in the state reported receiving federal grand jury subpoenas to produce documents.
– Shocking and expected – The Archdiocese of Chicago, the largest of the Illinois dioceses, countered Madigan’s report by insisting that all abuse claims are investigated and reported to authorities.
“Since 2006, we have published the names of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of abuse, and in 2014 we released more than 20,000 documents from these priests’ files,” the archiocese said in a statement.
But Madigan’s office said allegations of abuse have often not been adequately investigated if they are scrutinized at all. Among the reasons for the lack of action were that the accused was deceased or had already resigned.
“This report is both shocking and exactly what we expected,” Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told AFP.
“We’ve known for a long time that church officials have been ignoring and minimizing allegations of abuse and this report is just yet another proof point that it is a systemic issue, not a highly localized one.”
– Mounting pressure – Since the state investigation opened, the dioceses have added another 45 clergy members to their official lists of those credibly accused of committing child sexual abuse, according to Madigan’s office.
The attorney general anticipated additional names will be disclosed as her investigation continues.
“Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters,” Madigan said.
The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of coverups. And public pressure has been mounting on its institutions.
This month, authorities of the Jesuit order overseeing at least 40 US states released the names of more than 240 members who have been credibly accused of abuse — including dozens of priests with multiple allegations.
Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with some 16,000 members worldwide who do not fall directly under the Church’s hierarchy.
They operate 30 colleges and 81 schools in the United States and Canada.
Jesuits release list of 89 US priests accused of sex abuse
Jesuit authorities for 20 US states on Monday released the names of 89 priests with credible allegations of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1950.
The disclosures by the Jesuit provinces of Maryland and USA Midwest are the latest chapter in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal roiling the Catholic Church and come after 153 Jesuits were publicly identified by two other provinces earlier this month.
Maryland released 24 names with allegations dating back to 1950 and USA Midwest released 65 names dating back to 1955. Many of the individuals are deceased, and some were previously publicly known to be accused of sexual assault.
“On behalf of the Midwest Jesuits, I apologize to victim-survivors and their families for the harm and suffering you have endured. Many of you have suffered in silence for decades,” Brian Paulson, head of the USA Midwest province, said in an open letter.
Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with some 16,000 members worldwide. They operate 30 colleges and 81 schools in the United States and Canada.
The names made public Monday included dozens of priests with multiple allegations of abuse who served in educational institutions.
– Decades of abuse, errors dating to 1930s – The priest with the most recent allegations was Donald McGuire, who died in federal prison in 2017 while serving a 25-year sentence. His was among the names that had been previously publicized.
Numerous men have accused McGuire of molesting them when they were boys. The first allegations dated to the 1950s, when he worked at a Jesuit private high school in Chicago, and went as late as 2005.
“Most of the Jesuits on our list entered religious life from the 1930’s through the early 1960’s. In retrospect, our evaluation of candidates, as well as the training, formation, and supervision of Jesuits, was not adequate,” Paulson said.
He added that the organization had learned from its mistakes, and has improved training for Jesuits and was holding them accountable if abuse allegations are made.
The latest revelations came as religious orders are starting to face similar scrutiny to the rest of the Catholic Church and are embarking on efforts at transparency.
– Lists ‘incomplete’ – Earlier this month, provinces overseeing Jesuits in more than 20 western, southern and central US states released lists of 153 members accused of child sexual abuse.
The Maryland province’s leader, who is known as the provincial, said Monday’s release was meant to provide transparency and accountability, and that an external audit of the organization’s files would be conducted “to ensure that our previous reviews were both accurate and complete.”
“We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused to victims and their families,” the provincial, Robert Hussey, said in an open letter published on the organization’s website.
“We view the disclosure today of our shameful history as part of our commitment now to preventing abuse.”
A victim’s advocacy group welcomed the disclosures but noted that they came only after sustained public pressure, including from prosecutors.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) criticized the Jesuit order for keeping accused priests’ names secret for decades and called for an independent investigation by law enforcement.
“Too often, lists are released that are incomplete or carefully curated by church officials, and so by inviting an independent investigation, Jesuit officials can demonstrate to parishioners and the public their commitment to transparency and healing,” SNAP said in a statement.
“Such an investigation would be the only way to determine who knew what, when they knew it, and what they chose to do with that information.”
The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of cover-ups.
In August, a devastating US report on child sex abuse claimed more than 300 “predator” priests abused more than 1,000 minors over seven decades in the state of Pennsylvania.
The Catholic Church beatified in the city of Oran on Saturday seven French monks and 12 other clergies killed during Algeria’s civil war, the first ceremony of its kind in a Muslim nation.
May “Monsignor Pierre Claverie… and his 18 companions, faithful messengers of the Gospel, humble artisans of peace… from now on be called blessed,” said papal envoy Cardinal Angelo Becciu, reading the decree of beatification, the first step on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood.
Claverie, 58, was killed with his driver on August 1, 1996, when a remote-controlled bomb exploded at his residence in Oran.
He was among 19 clergy to be beatified, after their murders in a series of grisly atrocities between 1994 and 1996.
The ceremony was held under tight security at the esplanade of the Chapel of our Lady of Santa Cruz overlooking the Mediterranean city.
Some 1,200 people attended the ceremony, including pilgrims, relatives and friends of the beatified, many of whom came from abroad.
Opening the ceremony, Archbishop Paul Desfarges of Algiers paid tribute to “the thousands and thousands of victims of the Algerian civil war”, describing them as anonymous heroes.
A minute of silence was then observed.
Algeria’s 1991-2002 war between government forces and Islamists left up to 200,000 people dead.
In a message read during the ceremony by Becciu, Pope Francis spoke of his hope that “this celebration helps to heal the wounds of the past and create a new dynamic of meeting and living together”.
The 19 clergy were declared martyrs by the Vatican in January 2018, since they were slain “in odium fidei”, or out of hatred for the faith.
Pope Francis himself spoke of the beatification in prayers at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Saturday.
“May this beatification be an incentive for all to build a world of fraternity and solidarity together”, the pope said.
Germany’s Catholic Church on Tuesday apologized to victims of sexual assault by clergy, with the institution’s top cardinal saying perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx said he was ashamed over the decades of abuse that have shattered trust, the crimes carried out by officials of the Church, as well as how so many have looked away for so long.
The dismay expressed by the head of the German Bishops’ Conference came as the institution published a damning report showing that in Germany, almost 3,700 minors — mostly boys — were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.
The report’s authors said however that the figure was “the tip of the iceberg” and that the real extent of the problem was far greater.
“I have to say very clearly that sexual abuse is a crime. Those who are guilty must be punished,” said Cardinal Marx.
“For all the failures and for all the pain, as chairman of Germany’s Bishops Conference, I apologize. I also apologize on a personal basis.
“We are not done with confronting the incidents and consequences, it begins now,” he stressed at a press conference.
Abuse, transfers, cover-ups
Victims have criticised the report for falling short of what is needed to flush out perpetrators.
They urged the Church to bring in independent experts for a thorough audit, adding that victims should be offered compensation.
“The system of abuse, transfers (of offending priests) and cover-ups cannot be mapped out” by a study that had access only to available personal documents, said the victims’ association, Eckiger Tisch.
“We are not given names of perpetrators. There are no names given of the responsible bishops who have perfected the system of covering up sexual attacks over decades.”
Justice Minister Katarina Barley also urged the Church to “take responsibility for decades of concealment, cover-ups, and denials” and to work with state prosecutors to bring every known case to justice.
The independent commissioner for child sex abuse issues, Johannes-Wilhelm Roerig, recommended state authorities step in to clear up the crimes and ensure victims get access to Church files and compensation.
The state “has a duty of care for all children, including those who are in the care of the Church”, he told the Sueddeutsche newspaper.
According to the study, 1,670 clergymen in Germany committed some form of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014, intimidating their victims into keeping quiet.
More than half of the victims were 13 years old or younger, the study concluded, after examining 38,000 documents from the 27 German dioceses.
Researchers from three universities who carried out the survey warned that the true scale of the abuse was far greater, as many documents had been “destroyed or manipulated”.
Predator priests were often transferred to another parish, which was not warned about their criminal history.
Only about one in three were subject to disciplinary hearings by the Church, and almost got away with minimal punishment. Only 38 percent were prosecuted by civil courts.
The research is the latest in a series of reports on sexual crimes and cover-ups worldwide spanning decades that has shaken the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis has found himself embroiled after conservative US Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed the pontiff had himself ignored abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.
Francis has so far refused to respond to the allegations.
He has however announced a Vatican meeting of national Church leaders on the protection of minors, for February 2019.
Joerg Schuh of the Berlin-based Tauwetter center for victims of sexual abuse told AFP TV that “the Catholic Church has a global problem”.
“I would like the Pope to make it his number one topic, and for his Church to really work on it,” he said.
Major abuse cases in Germany have included a Berlin elite Jesuit school and the world-famous Catholic choir school the Regensburger Domspatzen where more than 500 boys suffered sexual or physical abuse.
Pope Francis on Saturday met with eight Irish abuse victims after expressing “pain and shame” over the “failure” of Catholic Church authorities to deal with the abuses, the Vatican said.
“Pope Francis met early on Saturday evening for an hour and a half with eight survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.
The eight included a victim of Catholic priest Tony Walsh, who abused hundreds of children over a period of nearly two decades before he was finally cast out of the priesthood and imprisoned.
Burke said the victim “preferred to remain anonymous”.
Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest when she was being treated in hospital at the age of 13, was also among the eight.
Collins last year resigned from a Vatican commission on child protection set up by the pope over its failure to take action.
Others present at the meeting with the pontiff included Fr Patrick McCafferty, who suffered abuse while training for the priesthood in the 1980s, and Dublin city councillor Damian O’Farrell, who was abused aged 12, Irish media reported.
Another of the eight who met the Argentinian pontiff was Paul Jude Redmond, whose mother was one of thousands of “fallen” Irish women who were locked up in Catholic-run institutions for being pregnant and unmarried.
When he was born, Redmond was given away for adoption — his birth certificate faked and his adoptive parents named as his real parents, according to an account in the Sunday Times.
Pope Francis said he shared in the “shame and pain” of the Catholic Church’s “failure” to deal with years of sexual abuse scandals as he began a historic two-day visit to Ireland on Saturday.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities… to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments,” he said, standing next to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
A group of Roman Catholic lay movements in Democratic Republic of Congo has announced three days of nationwide “major actions” in August aimed at forcing President Joseph Kabila to resign.
“Times are serious — the peace and stability of the country as well as that of the region are under threat,” the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) declared in a statement released after weekend planning.
Lay leaders of the church, which is a powerful force in the vast central African country, “will issue an appeal for general mobilisation in all key sectors of the nation in its first big actions to take place on August 12, 13 and 14,” it said.
The population will be urged to mount linked protests in August, including “peaceful marches, sit-in demos, ‘dead city’ operations, general strikes and acts of civil disobedience,” the statement. “Dead city” operations aim at bringing cities to a standstill.
The aim is to get rid of Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 but stayed on after his mandate expired in December 2016, and his government, seen by the movement as “real obstacles to credible, transparent and peaceable elections.”
At the end of 2017 and early this year, anti-Kabila demonstrations organised by Roman Catholics led to a violent crackdown by security forces, with a total of at least 15 dead reported around the country.
The CLC accuses Kabila of manoeuvring to run for office again and obtain a third mandate, in breach of a constitutional ban and his duty to turn power over to the victor in elections set to take place on December 23.
The platform of political parties in the national unity government gathered around Kabila plans to see that “the name of its candidate will be known before August 8”, spokesman Felix Kabange has told the media.
August 8 is the last day for electoral authorities to accept candidates for the presidential polls.
A Catholic Church archdiocese in Minnesota, United States has reached a $210 million settlement on Thursday with hundreds of victims of clergy abuse, resolving a years-long battle.
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015 citing its exposure to an onslaught of abuse claims, said the settlement would resolve all of those claims, conclude the bankruptcy process and establish a trust fund for 450 victims.
“Abuse survivors could expect payments soon after the court approves the plan,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda.
“I am grateful for all of the victim survivors who have bravely come forward,” he said at a news conference. “I recognise that the abuse stole so much from you… The church let you down. I’m very sorry.”
Victims welcomed the settlement with relief but stressed that their emotional scars remained.
“This is a great day for us and all of the survivors,” said Jamie Heutmaker at a separate news conference.
Marie Mielke added: “What was done to me has really interfered with the joy of being a mother.”
A 2013 Minnesota law was credited by victims with opening the floodgates in the Midwestern state, by allowing for the filing of lawsuits in abuse cases dating back decades.
The settlement ended one of the lengthiest processes of reckoning of church abuse cases in the US — protracted battle victims blamed on the preemptive bankruptcy filing.
Experts at the Vatican said in 2012 the number of abused American minors is probably close to 100,000, with cases which date back to 1950 and implicating thousands of clerics.
The Catholic Church in Australia agreed Wednesday to join a national redress scheme for victims of institutional child sex abuse, declaring that “survivors deserve justice”.
It follows a five-year royal commission detailing thousands of harrowing abuse cases involving Australian churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups and schools over decades.
That inquiry heard from more than 2,500 survivors of abuse in facilities managed by the Catholic Church and recommended a scheme to support victims with counselling, psychological care and financial payments.
All but one of Australia’s state governments have signed up to the program, which will offer victims up to Aus$150,000 ($113,000) in compensation.
In a major step forward, the Church has become the first non-government institution to join the scheme.
“We support the royal commission’s recommendation for a national redress scheme… and we are keen to participate in it,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Mark Coleridge said in a statement.
“Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories.”
In its findings, the royal commission found that Australian institutions “seriously failed” children in their care with tens of thousands sexually assaulted.
It heard horrific testimony during confronting and often emotionally exhausting hearings, with more than 15,000 survivors detailing their claims.
More than 4,000 institutions were accused of abuse.
During the hearings, the commission heard that seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia were accused of abuse between 1950 and 2010, but the allegations were never investigated, with children ignored and even punished when they came forward.
Earlier this month, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson became one of the highest-ranking church officials in the world to be found guilty of covering up child sex abuse.
Legislation to establish the compensation scheme passed through parliament on Tuesday and is due to come into effect from July 1.
Describing the Catholic Church decision as a “significant development”, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the redress scheme would “continue the process of healing” for survivors.