French PM Meets Pope As Abuse Scandal Rages

This handout photo taken on October 18, 2021 and released by the Vatican press office, the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis (L) meets with French Prime Minister Jean Castex during the private audience at the Vatican. (Photo by VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)

 

French Prime Minister Jean Castex met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday as the French Catholic Church battles a storm over clerical child sex abuse and the sanctity of confession.

The long-planned trip to Rome, which includes talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, follows the publication of a devastating report estimating that French Catholic clergy had abused 216,000 children since 1950.

Francis, who has made battling the global scourge of clerical abuse a priority of his papacy, expressed “my shame, our shame” at the findings, echoing a similar sentiment from French church leaders.

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But a row broke out when Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the head of the Bishops’ Conference of France, said priests were not obliged to report sexual abuse if they heard about it during the Catholic ritual of confession, used to admit to sins.

Moulins-Beaufort’s words were in line with Vatican guidelines updated last year, which call on clerics to report claims of abuse.

But they say confession is subject to “the strictest bond of the sacramental seal”, while adding the confessor should try to convince the penitent to tell someone else.

Yet in France, victims’ advocates pointed out that French law recognises professional confidentiality for priests, but it does not apply in potentially criminal cases involving violence or sexual assault against minors.

After his meeting at the Vatican, Castex told reporters that the pope had said the French church had been “courageous” in dealing with the issue.

“He trusts the Church in France to draw conclusions. He is pleased there has been no denial,” the premier said.

 

This handout photo taken on October 18, 2021 and released by the Vatican press office, the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis (C – R) pose with French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C – L) and French delegation during the private audience at the Vatican. (Photo by VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)

 

“The Church will not go back on the dogma of the secret of the confession. But we must at all costs finds ways and means to reconcile this with criminal law, the rights of victims,” Castex added.

“He is fully aware of this. It’s a long-term job.”

Moulins-Beaufort was called to a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, and later insisted that protecting children was “an absolute priority”.

Darmanin accompanied Castex and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the Vatican, in the visit marking 100 years since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See.

 

AFP

Merkel Meets Pope, Draghi In Farewell Visit To Rome

This photo taken and handout on October 7, 2021 by the Vatican media shows Pope Francis and German chancellor Angela Merkel during a private audience at the Vatican. Handout / AFP / VATICAN MEDIA

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed climate change and clerical abuse with Pope Francis Thursday in a farewell trip to Rome that included talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Merkel, who is bowing out after 16 years in power, also visited St Peter’s Basilica and will lunch at a restaurant in central Rome before giving a speech at a peace conference at the Colosseum.

She was honoured with a ceremonial welcome by the Swiss Guards at the Vatican before meeting and exchanging gifts with the pope, whom she has met several times before.

She said afterwards they discussed climate change — an issue on which Francis has been outspoken — and the sexual abuse by children of clergy, a problem that has rocked the Catholic Church in Germany and elsewhere.

“We had important discussions about child abuse,” Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, told reporters.

“I wanted to underline with my visit that we think that the truth must come to light, and the topic must be dealt with.”

Earlier, Merkel visited the site of a new institute within the Vatican’s Gregoriana university dedicated to child protection and met with Hans Zollner, the Vatican’s leading expert on measures to safeguard minors.

She was later due to meet with Draghi, with whom she has worked closely for years, notably when he was head of the European Central Bank — and where they did not always see eye-to-eye.

Merkel will stay on in a caretaker capacity as her successors haggle over forming a coalition.

Germany is inching towards a government led by Olaf Scholz after the Greens and the liberal FDP party said Wednesday they would try for a three-way tie-up with his Social Democrats while shunning Merkel’s conservatives.

The two kingmaker parties’ decision sends the CDU-CSU bloc closer to the opposition, in a major shift for the country after a decade and a half of Merkel’s centre right-led government.

AFP

Pope Kisses Auschwitz Tattoo Of Holocaust Survivor

This photo taken and handout on May 26, 2021 by The Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (R) kissing the concentration camp's inmate tattoo of Lidia Maksymowicsz (L), a Polish-Belarusian Holocaust survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp,
This photo handout taken on May 26, 2021 by The Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (R) kissing the concentration camp’s inmate tattoo of Lidia Maksymowicsz (L), a Polish-Belarusian Holocaust survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

 

Pope Francis kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor — the number inked onto her forearm when she arrived at the concentration camp as a young girl — as he met the 81-year-old in an emotional meeting Wednesday at the Vatican.

Lidia Maksymowicz, who was deported to the camp when she was not yet three years old, rolled up her sleeve as she met the pope following his open-air audience inside the Apostolic Palace.

Francis bent down to kiss the number that was inked onto her forearm when she arrived at the camp in 1943 — earning him a spontaneous hug from Maksymowicz.

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The pope placed his hand on her head, and spent a few minutes speaking with her as he was leaving the palace courtyard.

Francis visited Auschwitz in 2016, where he walked alone through the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) gate under which more than one million people, most of them Jews, passed before being killed by the Nazis.

Maksymowicz has spoken during past International Holocaust Remembrance Days about her experiences at the death camp after her family in Belarus was arrested and accused of supporting partisans.

She was one of the children forced to undergo medical experiments by Josef Mengele, the camp’s doctor known as the “Angel of Death”.

“All the children knew who Mengele was and felt terror towards him. I consider that I have a mission to tell this story, I owe it to those who died,” she said in January during an online talk with young Italians.

“I am one of the few survivors.”

After leaving the camp, she was adopted by a Polish family.

Maksymowicz was reunited with her mother at the age of 18, thanks to their tattoos having consecutive numbers.

AFP

Pope Urges Dialogue, Defends Right To Peaceful Protest In Colombia

Pope Francis leaves after he celebrated Pentecost mass on May 23, 2021 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Sunday urged “serious dialogue” and defended the right to peaceful protest in Colombia, mired in a month-long social crisis compounded by police repression.

“The situation in Colombia is still worrying,” the Argentinian pontiff said during his Sunday Angelus prayer address at the Vatican.

READ ALSOIran Explosives Factory Blast Injures Nine

Francis said Colombia needed to advance “through serious dialogue, (whereby) fair solutions are found to the many problems it faces.”


Pope Francis celebrates the Eucharist during a Pentecost mass on May 23, 2021 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

He also called on Colombia’s security forces to “avoid, for humanitarian reasons, behaviours harmful to the population in the exercise of their right to demonstrate peacefully.”

Street protests and social unrest have swept the country in recent weeks resulting in more than 40 deaths while Colombia’s Covid-19 death toll has shot up past 80,000, exacerbating the social turmoil.

The protests began over proposed tax reforms that were swiftly shelved, but the unrest has widened into a manifestation of general anti-government sentiment.

AFP

Pope Celebrates Mass Of ‘Mercy’ With Prisoners, Refugees

Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi Blessing, after celebrating Easter Mass on April 04, 2021, at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)

 

Pope Francis made a rare Sunday outing from Vatican grounds to celebrate a mass on “divine mercy” with prisoners, refugees, and health workers.

The service was held in a church just off St Peter’s Square, in front of a reduced congregation of about 80 people, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Among them, there were inmates of two Roman prisons and one youth detention centre; refugees from Syria, Nigeria, and Egypt; and nursing staff from a nearby hospital.

In his homily, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics stressed the importance for Christians of serving others.

“Sister, brother, do you want proof that God has touched your life? See if you can stoop to bind the wounds of others,” he said.

“Let us not remain indifferent. Let us not live a one-way faith, a faith that receives but does not give… Having received mercy, let us now become merciful,” Francis added.

The pope, who is 84 and was vaccinated for the coronavirus ahead of his trip to Iraq in early March, did not wear a face mask during the service.

Those who did readings from the bible were also unmasked, while everybody else in the church, including altar boys and other priests, had their masks on.

Pope Francis Prays For ‘Victims Of War’ In Iraq’s Mosul

 

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for “victims of war” outside a centuries-old church in Iraq’s Mosul, where the Islamic State group ravaged one of the world’s oldest Christian communities until the jihadists’ defeat three years ago.

With the crumbling stone walls of the Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church behind him, Pope Francis made a plea for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East to stay in their homelands.

The 84-year-old pontiff said the “tragic” exodus of Christians from war-scarred Iraq and the wider region “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind”.

The IS onslaught forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province to flee. Iraq’s Christian population has shrunk to fewer than 400,000 from around 1.5 million before the US-led invasion of 2003.

The faithful had gathered on Sunday in the courtyard of the Al-Tahera Church, whose roof collapsed during fighting against IS in 2017.

It is one of the oldest of at least 14 churches in Nineveh province that were destroyed by IS.

Boutros Chito, a Catholic priest in Mosul, said the pope’s visit could change the way people think about his city, the ancient centre of which still lies in ruins.

“Pope Francis will announce to the whole world that we are the people of peace, a civilisation of love,” Chito told AFP.

The heaviest deployment of security forces yet has been mobilised to protect Francis on what is perhaps the riskiest day of his historic trip to Iraq, where state forces are still hunting IS sleeper cells.

‘Boost our morale’

Pope Francis’s trip to Iraq as a “pilgrim of peace” aims to reassure the country’s dwindling Christian community and to expand his dialogue with other religions.

On Saturday, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics met Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who agreed that Iraq’s Christians should be able to live in “peace”.

“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” Francis said at an interfaith service in the ancient site of Ur later that morning.

Watching from afar as IS swept across Nineveh in 2014, Pope Francis said at the time he was ready to come and meet the displaced and other victims of war in a show of solidarity.

Seven years later, he is visiting both Mosul and Qaraqosh, one of Iraq’s oldest Christian towns whose residents still speak a dialect of Syriac, the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

It, too, was largely destroyed when IS rampaged through the area, but its residents have trickled back since 2017 and slowly worked at rebuilding their hometown.

“This very important visit will boost our morale after years of difficulties, problems and wars,” said Father George Jahoula in Qaraqosh.

To honour the pope, local artisans wove a two-metre (6.5-foot) prayer shawl, or stole, with the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers carefully hand-stitched in golden thread in Syriac.

It was given to Francis on his first day in Iraq on Friday.

Holy mass in stadium

Francis landed early on Sunday at the airport in the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil, which was targeted just a few weeks ago by a volley of rockets that killed two people.

He held a brief meeting with regional president Nechirvan Barzani and his cousin, the prime minister Masrour Barzani.

Many thousands of troops and police have been deployed as the pope has criss-crossed Iraq, taking planes, helicopters and armoured convoys to cover more than 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) in-country.

The other major challenge is the Covid-19 pandemic, with Iraq gripped by a second wave bringing around 5,000 new cases per day.

Authorities have imposed a nationwide lockdown — ostensibly to keep cases down but also to help control movements of crowds during the pope’s high-profile visit.

While Francis has been vaccinated, Iraq has only just begun a modest inoculation campaign and there are fears that the crowds gathering to see him could lead to super-spreader events.

The biggest event yet will be on Sunday afternoon, when several thousand people will gather at Arbil’s Franso Hariri stadium for the Pope’s last mass in Iraq.

Arbil has been a relative haven of stability and a place of refuge for many Christians who fled IS.

Christian Exodus Does ‘Incalculable Harm’ To Mideast, Says Pope Francis

Pope Francis, accompanied by bodyguards, leaves the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Najat) in Baghdad at the start of the first ever papal visit to Iraq on March 5, 2021. In an address to the faithful in Baghdad, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to his fellow clergy for supporting Iraq's Christians, whose population has dwindled due to conflict. Ayman HENNA / AFP
Pope Francis, accompanied by bodyguards, leaves the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Najat) in Baghdad at the start of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq on March 5, 2021. Ayman HENNA / AFP

 

Pope Francis prayed on Sunday for “victims of war” outside a centuries-old church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, heavily damaged by the Islamic State group ravaged one of the world’s oldest Christian communities until the jihadists’ defeat three years ago.

The 84-year-old said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind.”

With the crumbling stone walls of the Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church behind him, Pope Francis made a plea for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East to stay in their homelands.

The pontiff said the “tragic” exodus of Christians from war-scarred Iraq and the wider region “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind”.

The IS onslaught forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province to flee. Iraq’s Christian population has shrunk to fewer than 400,000 from around 1.5 million before the US-led invasion of 2003.

The faithful had gathered on Sunday in the courtyard of the Al-Tahera Church, whose roof collapsed during fighting against IS in 2017.

It is one of the oldest of at least 14 churches in Nineveh province that were destroyed by IS.

Boutros Chito, a Catholic priest in Mosul, said the pope’s visit could change the way people think about his city, the ancient centre of which still lies in ruins.

“Pope Francis will announce to the whole world that we are the people of peace, a civilisation of love,” Chito told AFP.

The heaviest deployment of security forces yet has been mobilised to protect Francis on what is perhaps the riskiest day of his historic trip to Iraq, where state forces are still hunting IS sleeper cells.

‘Boost our morale’

Pope Francis’s trip to Iraq as a “pilgrim of peace” aims to reassure the country’s dwindling Christian community and to expand his dialogue with other religions.

On Saturday, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics met Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who agreed that Iraq’s Christians should be able to live in “peace”.

“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” Francis said at an interfaith service in the ancient site of Ur later that morning.

Watching from afar as IS swept across Nineveh in 2014, Pope Francis said at the time he was ready to come and meet the displaced and other victims of war in a show of solidarity.

Seven years later, he is visiting both Mosul and Qaraqosh, one of Iraq’s oldest Christian towns whose residents still speak a dialect of Syriac, the language spoken by Jesus Christ.

It, too, was largely destroyed when IS rampaged through the area, but its residents have trickled back since 2017 and slowly worked at rebuilding their hometown.

“This very important visit will boost our morale after years of difficulties, problems and wars,” said Father George Jahoula in Qaraqosh.

To honour the pope, local artisans wove a two-metre (6.5-foot) prayer shawl, or stole, with the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers carefully hand-stitched in golden thread in Syriac.

It was given to Francis on his first day in Iraq on Friday.

Holy mass in stadium

Francis landed early on Sunday at the airport in the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil, which was targeted just a few weeks ago by a volley of rockets that killed two people.

He held a brief meeting with regional president Nechirvan Barzani and his cousin, the prime minister Masrour Barzani.

Many thousands of troops and police have been deployed as the pope has criss-crossed Iraq, taking planes, helicopters and armoured convoys to cover more than 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) in-country.

The other major challenge is the Covid-19 pandemic, with Iraq gripped by a second wave bringing around 5,000 new cases per day.

Authorities have imposed a nationwide lockdown — ostensibly to keep cases down but also to help control movements of crowds during the pope’s high-profile visit.

While Francis has been vaccinated, Iraq has only just begun a modest inoculation campaign and there are fears that the crowds gathering to see him could lead to super-spreader events.

The biggest event yet will be on Sunday afternoon, when several thousand people will gather at Arbil’s Franso Hariri stadium for the Pope’s last mass in Iraq.

Arbil has been a relative haven of stability and a place of refuge for many Christians who fled IS.

AFP

Pope Picks New Doctor After Previous One Died From COVID-19

File: Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis appointed a new personal doctor on Wednesday, several weeks after the death from Covid-19 of the previous holder of the post.

The 84-year-old pontiff picked Roberto Bernabei, an expert in health care for the elderly, as his physician, the Vatican said in a statement.

Bernabei, 69, leads the geriatrics and rehabilitative medicine department at Rome’s Gemelli, the Catholic hospital where popes are traditionally treated.

The last papal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, died aged 78 on January 9 of Covid-19-related pulmonary complications, following a hospitalisation for cancer.

READ ALSO: EU Chief Seeks ‘Amicable’ Solution As AstraZeneca Admits New Delays

Francis is believed to be in relative good health, despite having had part of his lung removed when he was a young man after developing pleurisy.

Last month he cancelled several events due to a bout of sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes hip pain and makes him walk with a slight limp.

Also in January, the pope received the coronavirus vaccine alongside his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Hails Dialogue Ahead Of Meeting With Iraq Cleric

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday,/ VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis hailed the power of inter-religious dialogue on Monday as the Vatican confirmed he would meet Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani during his forthcoming trip to Iraq.

The March 5-8 visit — the first-ever by a pope — will include stops in Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya, Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh, according to the official itinerary published by the Vatican.

On March 6, the pontiff is scheduled to make a “courtesy visit” to the 90-year-old Sistani in Najaf.

The pope had previously suggested his visit to Iraq might be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Monday, made clear his desire to go.

“I myself wish to resume my Apostolic Visits, beginning with that to Iraq,” he told ambassadors to the Holy See.

“These visits are an important sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter (the pope) for God’s People spread throughout the world and the dialogue of the Holy See with states,” he said.

“They also frequently provide an opportunity to promote, in a spirit of sharing and dialogue, good relations between the different religions.”

Inter-religious dialogue, he added, “can become an opportunity for religious leaders and the followers of different confessions, and can support the responsible efforts of political leaders to promote the common good”.

Last month, the patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Sako said the pope would have a private visit with Sistani, who is never seen in public and rarely accepts visitors.

Sako said then he hoped the two religious leaders would sign the document on “human fraternity for world peace”, an inter-religious text condemning extremism that Francis signed in 2019 with the leading Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

Iraq once counted more than 1.5 million Christians but today only an estimated 400,000 Christians remain after being ravaged by violence, most recently sectarian warfare that followed the 2003 US-led invasion and attacks by Islamic State.

Francis plans to celebrate Masses at Baghdad in a cathedral that was the site of a 2010 bloody attack and in a stadium in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, where many Christians have fled after being displaced by Islamic State.

Pope Appears For New Year For First Time Since Illness Revealed

This handout photo taken and released on January 1, 2021 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis holding a weekly live streamed private audience in the library of the apostolic palace in The Vatican, during the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by – / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)

 

Pope Francis appeared in public Friday for the first time since skipping New Year’s masses at St Peter’s Basilica because of a bout of sciatica.

Standing behind a desk and next to a Christmas tree and a nativity scene, the pontiff led the traditional Angelus prayers in the Apostolic Palace.

“I send you all my best wishes for peace and serenity in the new year,” he said.

“The painful events which marked the life of humanity last year, in particular the pandemic, taught us how necessary it is to take an interest in the problems of others and share their concerns.”

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis would be unable to celebrate New Year’s masses Thursday evening and Friday morning because he was suffering from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition causing hip pain for the 84-year-old.

Shortly before Christmas, two cardinals in the pope’s entourage contracted Covid-19, raising fears that Francis, who rarely wears a mask, risked infection.

During Italy’s first lockdown in March, Francis initially delivered his Sunday Angelus prayers from the Vatican library instead of his usual window overlooking crowds on Saint Peter’s Square.

The restriction prompted him to say he felt “caged”, and he made several brief appearances at the window, greeting the few people who ventured out into the vast square.

The pope has a risk factor for the coronavirus aside from his advanced age. When he was 21 years old in 1957, he suffered from severe pleurisy, requiring surgery to remove part of his right lung, according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The Vatican has not yet indicated when the pope may be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pope To Create 13 New Cardinals In November

This photo taken and handout on August 26, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) 

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he will create 13 new Catholic cardinals next month, including the first African-American “prince of the church” and a Franciscan preacher to the papal household.

Francis made the surprise announcement from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly Angelus, and said they would be appointed on November 28.

It will be “an unusual and possibly unprecedented ceremony, held during the midst of a continuing global pandemic”, Vatican expert Joshua McElwee said in the National Catholic Reporter.

The Vatican has been on high alert over the health of the pope, 83, after a flurry of cases within the tiny city state, and such a ceremony could present risks for elderly participants.

Nine of the new cardinals are under 80 years old, and therefore eligible to take part in the secret conclaves to elect the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who is chosen from among them.

As well as having that key role, cardinals, who wear red hats and are known as “princes” of the Roman Catholic church, often also hold the highest administrative offices in the centuries-old institution.

This photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on April 11, 2020 shows Pope Francis holding the Holy Book of Prayers during Easter’s Holy Saturday Vigil held behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 11, 2020 during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP / VATICAN

 

The 13 include Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, 72, a progressive who will be the first African-American cardinal, and Italian priest Raniero Cantalamessa, 84, who has served as preacher to three papal households.

Italian bishop Marcello Semeraro, a Francis ally who took over as head of the Vatican’s saint-making department after his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Becciu was fired over embezzlement allegations, also gets a red hat.

So will Maltese Mario Grech, the head of the Synod of Bishops, a papal advisory body which Francis has been using to help him implement his pastoral renewal of the church.

Others include Antoine Kambanda, the Archbishop of Kigali in Rwanda; Jose Fuerte Advincula, the Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines; and Celestino Aos Braco, the Archbishop of Santiago in Chile.

AFP

Coptic Pope Defrocks US-Linked Priest Accused Of Paedophilia

The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, at the Nativity of Christ Cathedral east of Cairo on January 6, 2018 (AFP Photo/KHALED DESOUKI)
The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, at the Nativity of Christ Cathedral east of Cairo on January 6, 2018 (AFP Photo/KHALED DESOUKI)

 

 

Coptic Pope Tawadros II on Saturday urged Washington to no longer recognise a priest accused of paedophilia who had reportedly worked in the US as a member of his church.

“We notify all the civic authorities in Egypt and in the United States… to revoke any recognition of Yousef Aziz Khalil as a priest of the Coptic Orthodox Church,” the pope wrote in a statement posted on Facebook, without specifying Khalil’s current location.

The rare move comes amid a resurgence of the #MeToo movement in Egypt after a sex scandal implicating a member of the country’s wealthy elite.

Social media in the country and in the Egyptian diaspora have been flooded with thousands of testimonies of sexual assault.

Among them are Coptic Egyptians living in the United States who have accused Khalil, whose priestly name is Reweiss Aziz Khalil, of paedophilia and denounced the church for being slow to act.

The church had defrocked Khalil in 2014 for “repeated infringements that are unacceptable to the priesthood and its ministry”, the Coptic pope said in his statement, without elaborating.

Khalil, “is hereby laicised and must return to his former pre-ordination name”, the statement said.

“He is hereby stripped of his priestly rank.”

The largest Christian minority in the Middle East, Copts make up between 10 and 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of over 100 million.

 

-AFP