Nuclear Weapons: Pope Francis To Visit Hiroshima

Pope Francis delivers his homily during the mass to mark the World Day of the Poor, on November 17, 2019 at Saint Peter's basilica in Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP
Pope Francis delivers his homily during the mass to mark the World Day of the Poor, on November 17, 2019 at Saint Peter’s basilica in Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Pope Francis, who years ago hoped to be a missionary in Japan, travels to the sites of the world’s only atomic attacks this week seeking a ban on nuclear weapons.

The Argentine pontiff, 82, flies to Asia on Tuesday, where he will first visit Thailand and then Japan, including the two cities destroyed by devastating US nuclear attacks during the Second World War.

Despite both countries having less than 0.6 percent Catholic populations, Francis is thirsty for interreligious dialogue with them.

He will arrive in Thailand on Wednesday before flying on to Japan on Saturday, where he will stay until November 26.

Sunday is set to be a marathon day with visits to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where at least 74,000 people and 140,000 people respectively were killed by the atomic bombs attacks.

The August 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki three days later contributed to Japan’s surrender and the end of the Second World War on August 15, months after Nazi Germany capitulated.

Father Yoshio Kajiyama, director of the Jesuit social centre in Tokyo, was born in Hiroshima shortly after the war and is eagerly awaiting the pope’s anti-nuclear speech.

“My grandfather died the day of the bomb in Hiroshima, I never knew him. Four days later my aunt died when she was 15 years old,” said the 64-year-old.

“If you grow up in Hiroshima, you can’t forget the bomb.”

No nukes message

The pope will make “as vigorous an appeal as possible in favour of concerted measures to completely eliminate nuclear weapons,” Vatican number two Cardinal Pietro Parolin told the United Nations in September.

“Using atomic energy to wage war is immoral,” the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics told Japanese television in September.

A previous member of Japan’s diplomatic mission to the Vatican, Shigeru Tokuyasu, said he hopes the visit will pull the world back from “the globalisation of indifference” over nuclear weapons.

But, said Tokuyasu, the pope should avoid discussing the politically sensitive issue of nuclear energy.

Francis is als to meet victims of the devastating 2011 earthquake that struck northeastern Japan and the subsequent tsunami that between them killed 18,500 people and sparked the nuclear power catastrophe at Fukushima.

Fear of nuclear war

Francis is used to railing against countries that make money from weapons and has already voiced his fear of a nuclear war.

In January last year, he printed cards with a photo of a Nagasaki bomb victim, inscribing the words “the fruit of war” above his signature.

The 1945 photo, captured by American photographer Joe O’Donnell, showed a small boy standing ramrod straight carrying his dead younger brother on his back while waiting for his turn at a cremation site.

The late pope John Paul II visited Japan in 1981, where at Hiroshima’s peace monument he pointed to war as “the work of man”.

In August, the city of Hiroshima called on Japan to sign the UN treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons, something that all the world’s nuclear powers have refused to do.

Japan, with its pacifist post-war constitution, adhered in 1967 to the principle of “not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory,” despite counting on the US nuclear umbrella for protection.

Multiethnic Thailand

Before arriving in Thailand on Wednesday, the pope praised the “multiethnic nation” which “has worked to promote harmony and peaceful coexistence, not only among its habitants but throughout Southeast Asia.”

In a video message to the Thai people, the pope said he hoped to “strengthen ties of friendship” with Buddhists.

Since Francis’ election six years ago, he has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2017.

On Thursday in Bangkok, the pontiff is to pay a visit to supreme patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at a Buddhist temple.

 

AFP

Pope Calls For Dialogue In Lebanon Following Protests

 

Pope Francis urged dialogue in Lebanon Sunday after days of sweeping protests against the political class, urging the country to respect “dignity and freedom”.

Tension has mounted in recent days between security forces and protesters, who are blocking roads and bringing Lebanon to a standstill to press their demands for a complete overhaul of the political system.

“I would like to address a special thought to the dear Lebanese people, in particular to the young who… have made their cries heard in the face of the social and economic challenges and problems of the country,” Pope Francis said.

“I urge everyone to seek the right solutions in the way of dialogue,” he said after the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square.

He said he hoped that “with the support of the international community, that country may continue to be a space for peaceful coexistence and respect for the dignity and freedom of every person, to benefit of the entire Middle East”.

The protesters — who have thronged Lebanese towns and cities since October 17 — are demanding the removal of the entire political class, accusing politicians of all stripes of systematic corruption.

Allow Married Men Be Priests, Bishops Beg Pope

Pope Francis (R), flanked by Italian priest Federico Lombardi, prays during the opening of a global child protection summit for reflections on the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church, on February 21, 2019 at the Vatican.  Vincenzo PINTO / POOL / AFP

 

Catholic bishops gathered at a special Vatican assembly called on Pope Francis Saturday to open the priesthood to married men in the Amazon, as well as giving women a greater role to play and making damaging the environment a sin.

The bishops issued a list of recommendations at the close of a three-week “synod” on the Pan-Amazonian region which highlighted challenges such as the destruction of the rainforest, the exploitation of indigenous peoples and a scarcity in priests.

The pontiff said Saturday he would addressing the issues before the year’s end.

The text could have repercussions not only for the vast, isolated territory, but the whole of the Roman Catholic Church.

The synod brought some 184 bishops to the Vatican, over 60 percent of whom hail from the nine Amazon countries.

Together with representatives of indigenous peoples, experts and nuns, they discussed a multitude of regional concerns, from climate change to poverty, land-grabbing, mercury-polluted waters and violence against women.

The most hotly-debated question was whether or not to allow “viri probati” — married “men of proven virtue” — to join the priesthood in remote locations, where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests.

It would not be necessary to rewrite Church law; the bishops simply asked Francis for an exemption to the rules — like the one already granted to married Anglican pastors who later converted to Catholicism.

‘Ecological sin’ 

“Sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the sacrament of reconciliation or anoint the sick,” the synod document said.

It suggested ordaining as priests “suitable and esteemed men of the community” who had “a legitimately constituted and stable family”.

But the ultra-conservative wing of the Catholic Church — particularly in Europe and North America — has spoken out strongly against the idea, warning that making exceptions could pave the way to the abolition of celibacy globally.

The bishops also urged the Argentine pope to make “the acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment” an “ecological sin” — or the breaking of a divine law.

It called for the Church to lead the battle against “our culture of excessive consumption”, saying “we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the use of plastics”.

People should also change their eating habits and stop an “excess consumption of meat and fish/seafood”, they said.

They also proposed creating a “world fund” to protect the Amazon and its indigenous communities from “the predatory compulsion to extract their natural resources by national and multinational companies”.

‘Ministries for women’ 

The document also called for an official recognition by the Church of the key role played by lay women in the evangelisation of indigenous people by creating a formal specific role, or “ministry”, called “woman leadership of the community”.

There are some in the Church who would even like them to be allowed to become deacons, a function currently reserved for lay men.

Male deacons, who can be single or married, are able to baptise, witness marriages, perform funerals and preach homilies.

Francis said Saturday he would reconvene a commission to study the history of female deacons in the early Catholic Church, after the body’s initial report — delivered to the pontiff this year — was inconclusive.

Two thirds of the indigenous communities without priests are guided by women.

“We still have not grasped the significance of women in the Church. Their role must go well beyond questions of function,” Francis said.

AFP

Women Ask Pope Francis For Voting Rights

Pope Francis waves as he meets with bishops during the weekly general audience on October 23, 2019 at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Catholic nuns taking part in a three-week Vatican assembly on the Amazon have urged Pope Francis to allow them to vote on the final document Saturday.

A green light from Francis would be a historic first. The Vatican has not publicly responded to the request, but an expert said it would be unusual for voting rules to be changed once the assembly, or “synod”, was under way.

Only “synod fathers” — bishops, cardinals and specially-appointed male representatives — are allowed to vote on the final document, which brings together a list of recommendations submitted to the pope.

Francis will take those recommendations into consideration when he draws up his own document in the coming months.

There are 184 bishops or cardinals with voting rights taking part — nearly two-thirds of whom come from the Pan-Amazon region, which covers nine Latin American countries.

The meeting, which ends Sunday, has also been attended by non-voting observers, auditors and experts, including 35 women.

Ecuadorian nun Ines Azucena Zambrano Jara said Friday a letter had been sent to the pontiff.

She told journalists at a press briefing that the women took an active part in the synod, with some of them defining themselves as “synod mothers”.

Specialized site Religion Digital said the 35 women had signed a petition calling for the right to vote.

The synod fathers will vote later Saturday on each paragraph in the document.

Francis bent the rules at a previous synod in 2018, allowing two lay men to vote in their capacity as superiors general of their religious orders.

There have been calls for the pontiff to extend the right to female superiors general.

AFP

Pope’s Bodyguard Resigns Over Scandal

Roman Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis

 

Pope Francis’ main bodyguard Domenico Giani, the Vatican’s security chief, resigned Monday over a leak to the media of details of a financial wrongdoing probe.

Francis accepted Giani’s resignation while noting he “bears no personal responsibility” for the leak, the Vatican said.

The Argentine pontiff was furious over the publication of an internal police notice which featured the photographs of five Vatican employees — including two senior figures — targeted in a probe reportedly into a real estate deal.

The notice, addressed to the Swiss guards and Vatican policemen who guard the gates of the tiny city state, said they had been suspended “as a precaution” while the investigation was carried out.

“This publication was prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the Gendarmerie (police),” said the Vatican, which has opened a probe into the leak.

Giani was dubbed the pope’s “guardian angel” by the media.

He served three pontiffs and could be seen on papal trips, dressed in a dark suit, standing close to the head of the Catholic Church or running beside the popemobile.

The 57-year old began his career in the Italian secret service, before joining the Vatican security forces 20 years ago and taking over as chief in 2006.

Vatican police earlier this month raided the offices of the Secretariat of State — the central governing office of the Catholic Church — and the Financial Information Authority (AIF), an independent anti-money laundering authority.

Prosecutors seized documents and electronic devices from the offices.

The five suspended included the number two at AIF and a monsignor in the Secretariat of State.

The Vatican had said the raids were linked to complaints presented by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General regarding financial transactions “carried out over time”.

The Italian Espresso magazine said the probe was into “real estate operations abroad,” notably in London.

Pope Francis Blames Amazon Fires On Destructive ‘Interests’

Pope Francis speaks as he celebrates a mass on October 6, 2019, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, for the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis opened a synod on Sunday to champion the Amazon’s poverty-stricken and isolated indigenous communities by condemning the destructive “interests” he blamed for the fires that devastated the region.

The three-week synod, or assembly, is to unite 184 bishops, including 113 from the nine countries of the pan-Amazon region, including Brazil.

Brazil is home to 60 percent of the world’s largest rainforest, which is vital for the planet but is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years.

The fires, mostly caused by humans with the goal of clearing land for farming and cattle ranching, are having a grievous effect on the forest.

Representatives of indigenous peoples, some with their heads adorned with coloured feathers, also gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to hear the pope’s inaugural mass.

“The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel,” the pontiff said in his homily.

“The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits.

“The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.”

‘Predatory and ecocidal development’

The working document for the synod denounced in scathing terms social injustices and crimes, including murders, and suggested a Church action plan.

“Listen to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’, assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development… which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards,” the 80-page document said.

The run-up to the synod saw some 260 events held in the Amazon region involving 80,000 people, in a bid to give the local populations a voice in the document.

Among those attending the synod as an observer was Sister Laura Vincuna, a missionary trying to protect the territories of the Caripuna indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon.

“Help us defend our motherland, we have no other home!” she said on Saturday.

“Earth, water, forest: without these three elements nobody can do anything”.

Jose Luiz Cassupe, a member of an indigenous community from Brazil’s Ronodia state, said the Brazilian government “did not keep its word”.

“We are asking the world for help because we are very worried about the new mining exploration policy in the Amazon,” he told AFP, wearing a headdress of indigo blue feathers.

The Amazon is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years. In this file photo taken on August 23, 2019, aerial picture showing a fire raging in the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

 

‘New forms of colonialism’

Sunday’s gathering comes as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change sceptic, told the United Nations that the world’s media were lying about the Amazon, and attacked indigenous leaders as tools of foreign governments.

In his 2015 encyclical on ecology and climate change “Laudato Si”, Francis denounced the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in the name of “enormous international economic interests”.

Last year, the world’s first Latin American pope visited Puerto Maldonado, a village in southeastern Peru surrounded by the Amazon jungle, to meet thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Brazilians and Bolivians.

That trip was the first step towards the synod which opened Sunday.

The pope in his homily also voiced regret that the Church had in the past promoted “colonisation rather than evangelisation”, but warned against “the greed of new forms of colonialism”.

Francis’ hopes of bringing the Catholic faith to far-flung populations will also see the bishops gathered in Rome debate a highly controversial proposal — allowing married men to become priests.

The issue deeply upsets some traditionalists, who argue that making an exception for the Amazon would open the door to the end of celibacy for priests, which is not a Church law and only dates back to the 11th century.

The German Catholic Church in particular, which has an influential progressive wing, has been hotly debating the subject.

The synod will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church.

AFP

Pope Francis To Visit Thailand, Japan In November

Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin on August 25, 2018, during his visit to Ireland.
Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis will travel to Thailand in November, the Vatican said Friday, in a visit to Asia that will sweep in Japan and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both decimated by atomic bombs in 1945.

It has been nearly four decades since a pontiff visited Thailand and Japan, both Buddhist-majority countries.

The late Pope John Paul II went to the largely Shinto Buddhist Japan in 1981, and he travelled to Thailand three years later where he met with the late King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.

The Vatican announced Friday the current pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23, and then Japan to November 26.

In Bangkok, Pope Francis will “preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities”, said a press statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.

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Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the Pope’s second cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand, told AFP she would be with Pope Francis during his Bangkok visit.

“This visit shows his desire to improve the dialogue to other religions to bring a message of peace,” she told AFP.

The four-day papal visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, which was first established by Pope Clement IX in 1669.

A-bomb sites

Today, the Christian community make up an estimated 1 per cent in Thailand, with the majority residing in the north and many within ethnic minority groups like the Jarai and the Akha.

The Vatican also provided more details of a visit to Japan, which was announced in January. The Pope had wanted to work in the country as a missionary in his youth but the plan was abandoned following a lung operation.

The Shinto Buddhist country is home to some 450,000 Catholics and 510,000 Protestants.

“During the latter visit, the Holy Father will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima,” said the statement, adding that an official schedule will be provided on a later date.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated after the US dropped atomic bombs at the end of Second World War in 1945.

More than 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima, while the port city of Nagasaki suffered a death toll of 74,000 after the Americans dropped the atomic bombs.

The Pope has referenced the bombings in the past.

In January last year, he printed cards with a 1945 photo of victims of the Nagasaki bombing, inscribing the words “the fruit of war” in Italian on the card above his signature.

The photo, captured by American photographer Joe O’Donnell, showed a young boy standing ramrod straight carrying his dead younger brother on his back while waiting for his turn at a cremation site.

Since Pope Francis’ election five years ago, he has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh last year.

Pope Francis Begins Africa Tour, Visits Violence-Hit Mozambique

Pope Francis boards a plane for a trip to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius, at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on September 4, 2019.  ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Pope Francis arrives in Mozambique on Wednesday at the start of a three-nation tour of Indian Ocean African countries hard hit by poverty, conflict and natural disaster.

He is expected to be welcomed by tens of thousands during his visit, which will culminate with a mass on Friday at the giant Zimpeto stadium in the seaside capital Maputo.

The pontiff flew out of Rome  Wednesday morning, and was expected in Maputo around 6:30 pm (1630 GMT) where he is to be received by President Filipe Nyusi.

Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit Mozambique in 1988.

In a video message recorded ahead of the trip, Pope Francis stressed the need for “fraternal reconciliation in Mozambique and throughout Africa, which is the only hope for a solid and lasting peace”.

The pope is expected to address the country’s fragile peace process, the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones early this year, and the upcoming general election.

The three-day visit to Mozambique comes a month after the government signed a historic peace treaty with the former rebel group Renamo, which is now the main opposition party.

The 16-year civil war devastated the former Portuguese colony and Renamo has never completely disarmed.

The pope may also address the issue of extremism in northern Mozambique where jihadist attacks have claimed more than 300 lives over two years.

 ‘A good omen’ 

The visit will be a good omen for a country in “crisis,” said Jaime Taimo, a 21-year-old student.

“With his arrival I see things are going to change… in the sense that we could live peacefully again since we’ve been living in constant conflict,” he said.

“His arrival can bring good things.”

The pope will also visit the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar and its much smaller neighbour Mauritius — both situated off the eastern coast of Africa.

His choice of some of the world’s poorest nations is seen by commentators as an act of solidarity from a cleric who was a frequent presence in the shantytowns of Argentina.

Known as the “pope of the poor” the pontiff will only have time to visit Maputo while in Mozambique, much to the disappointment of those in the central city of Beira where Cyclone Idai killed at least 600 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in March.

 ‘Our greatest saviour’ 

The pope, in his video message, anticipated the disappointment.

“Although I am unable to go beyond the capital, my heart reaches out to all of you, with a special place for those of you who live in difficult situations,” he said, adding: “You are all in my prayers.”

The capital has been spruced up for the visit, with the government spending 300,000 euros ($330,000) for the trip, according to Foreign Minister Jose Pacheco, including repairs to Maputo’s cathedral and city roads.

Many locals appear happy to splurge on pope-branded regalia.

Thirty-nine-year-old housekeeper Fatima dos Santos, made a 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) trip from the central city of Quelimane for the historic opportunity to see the pontiff.

She showed off a cloth known as a capulana, which she will sport at the Friday mass.

“I am going to Zimpeto to meet Pope Francis who is our greatest saviour,” dos Santos told AFP tying the cloth around her waist.

“This is the second time that I welcome a pope to Mozambique,” said Dos Santos who was a child when the last pope visited.

AFP

Pope To Create 13 New Cardinals In October

Pope Francis with some Cardinals at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Source: AFP

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he will create 13 new Catholic cardinals next month, 10 of whom are under 80 years old and therefore eligible to vote for his successor.

Francis made the surprise announcement during his weekly Angelus address, and said they would be appointed on October 5.

The appointments come as the Argentine pontiff gradually shapes a less European college of cardinals.

The newcomers hail from North America, Central America, Africa, Europe and Asia, and Francis says “their origin expresses the missionary vocation of the Church”.

READ ALSO: Pope Says Got Stuck In Vatican Lift, Freed By Fireman

The new “princes” of the Church, who will be appointed at a special ceremony known as a consistory, come from countries including Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Morocco.

Those under age 80 will be able to take part in the next secret conclave to elect the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who is chosen from among the cardinals.

As well as having that key role, cardinals often also hold the highest administrative offices in the church.

Among those named was Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, who the Vatican’s consultant to the Communications secretariat James Martin said was “a great supporter of LGBT Catholics”.

The Tablet’s Vatican expert Christopher Lamb said the pope’s nominations “reflect his priority to build bridges with other religions… and to support migrants”.

Those set to receive a cardinal’s red hat include Michael Czerny SJ, head of the Migrants and Refugees section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, an English expert on Christian-Muslim relations.

AFP

Pope Fears For Amazon, The Planet’s ‘Vital Lung’

File Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Sunday voiced concern for the Amazon rainforest, a “vital” lung for the planet, as the worst blazes in years have sparked a global outcry.

“We are concerned about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon,” the pope told the faithful at the Vatican.

“That forest lung is vital for our planet.”

He urged the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to pray for the fires to be extinguished as quickly as possible.

Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013.

The Argentine pope, who will gather bishops for a conference on the Amazon in October, met Brazilian indigenous leader Raoni in 2013 when he toured Europe warning of the dangers of deforestation.

The pope denounced the exploitation of the Amazon by “huge international economic interests” in a 2015 encyclical.

In January 2018 he visited Puerto Maldonado village in the Amazonian jungle of southeastern Peru where thousands of tribespeople had gathered, including from neighbouring Brazil and Bolivia.

The Catholic Church acknowledges the bloody history of the spread of Christianity through South America and that it has not always respected Amazon tribes. Today it is committed to numerous projects to support indigenous populations.

Pope Francis Appoints New Vatican Spokesman

Pope Francis 
Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Thursday appointed a new Vatican spokesman, one of the most demanding PR jobs in the world, charged with grappling with a whirlwind papal schedule and the profound repercussions of the Church’s child sex abuse scandal.

British-born Matteo Bruni, who has worked in the Holy See Press Office since 2009 and coordinated the press on the pontiff’s international trips since 2013, takes over from interim spokesman Alessandro Gisotti.

The pope has a packed schedule of international travel and audiences with world leaders.

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He will also inherit one of the biggest scandals to hit the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Francis has apologised for predatory priests but cover-ups in the Vatican have severely damaged trust in the centuries-old institution, and there is still much to be done to protect minors from clerical paedophiles.

“The Press Office has a new director, Matteo Bruni, who knows perfectly how we work and has been appreciated over the years for his people skills and professionalism,” said Paolo Ruffini, the head of Vatican communications.

Bruni, 42, said the appointment was “an honour” and he was “grateful for the trust of the Holy Father”.

“The Press Office is not a large structure, but it is a complex one,” he added.

Bruni, who has a wife and daughter, has close ties to the influential Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio.

Pope Changes Church Law To Make Reporting Sex Abuse Obligatory

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis speaks as Prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein (L) looks on during an audience with participants in the Course on the Internal Forum, on March 29, 2019 at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican. PHOTO: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Thursday passed a measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors, following a global clerical paedophilia scandal.

Every diocese in the world will now be obliged to have a system for the reporting of abuse, under a new law published by the Vatican — but the requirement will not apply to secrets revealed to priests in the confessional.

It is time to learn from the “bitter lessons of the past”, Francis said in the text of the legal decree.

It follows a series of clerical assault cases in countries ranging from Australia to Chile, Germany and the US.

The “Motu Proprio”, a legal document issued under the pope’s personal authority, declares that anyone who has knowledge of abuse, or suspects it, is “obliged to report (it) promptly” to the Church, using “easily accessible systems”.

“Though this obligation was formerly left up to individual consciences, it now becomes a universally established legal precept” within the Church, said Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican’s communications department.

The law only applies within the Church and has no force to oblige individuals to report abuse to civil authorities.

Under the new measure, every diocese around the world is obliged by June 2020 to create a system for the reporting of sexual abuse by clerics, the use of child pornography and cover-ups of abuse.

– Confessions still secret –

The document focuses particularly on the sexual or psychological abuse of children and vulnerable adults, but also targets sexual abuse and violence resulting from an abuse of authority — such as the exploitation of nuns by priests.

Pope Francis admitting publicly in February that priests have used nuns as “sexual slaves” — and may still be doing so.

Victims’ groups have long called for Francis to put in place concrete measures to tackle clerical child abuse, including immediately firing any cleric found guilty of even a single act of abuse, or of covering it up.

They also want all abusers or suspected abusers to be reported to police, and any abuse-related files handed over to them.

Some have called for priests who hear of abuse during confessions to be forced to report it. The new law stops short of that.

Catholics believe that within the confessional the penitent is talking to God, and everything in the confession is secret. A priest who reveals such secrets is automatically expelled from the Church.

The new law follows a historic Vatican summit on child sexual abuse by priests in February, which saw much self-recrimination by the Church and horror stories from abuse survivors.