Pope Slams Nuclear Deterrent, ‘Unspeakable Horror’ Of Nagasaki

Pope Francis attends a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park during his visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima on November 24, 2019. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Pope Francis Sunday railed against atomic weapons, the nuclear deterrent, and the growing arms trade, as he paid tribute to the victims of the “unspeakable horror” of the Nagasaki bomb.

In a highly symbolic visit to the Japanese city devastated by the nuclear attack in August 1945, Francis said nuclear weapons were “not the answer” to a desire for security, peace, and stability.

“Indeed they seem always to thwart it,” he said.

At least 74,000 people died from the atomic bomb unleashed on the city in western Japan — just three days after the world’s first nuclear attack hit Hiroshima and killed at least 140,000.

“This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another,” said the sombre pontiff on the first full day of his Japan trip.

Hundreds of people in white waterproofs sat in torrential rain to hear the pope’s speech, next to the emblematic photo of a young boy carrying his dead baby brother on his back in the aftermath of the attack.

He laid a wreath of white flowers and prayed silently, unprotected from the lashing downpour.

‘Die like a human’

Francis took aim at what he called the “perverse dichotomy” of nuclear deterrence, saying that peace is incompatible with the “fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation.”

This marked a break with past pontiffs — in a 1982 UN speech, Pope John Paul II had described nuclear deterrence as a necessary evil.

The 82-year-old Francis also hit out at the “money that is squandered and the fortune made” in the arms trade, describing it as an “affront crying out to Heaven” in a world where “millions of children are living in inhumane conditions.”

Later Sunday, Francis will visit Hiroshima and meet survivors of the atomic attack, known in Japanese as hibakusha, at the world-famous Peace Memorial in the city synonymous with the horror of nuclear war.

Two survivors of Nagasaki, 89-year-old Shigemi Fukahori and 85-year-old Sakue Shimohira, handed the wreath to the pope.

Fukahori, a Catholic, has prayed every day for those killed and their bereaved families.

“My heart is just full of overflowing feelings,” he said. “Just meeting him is enough. I’m so glad and speechless.”

Shimohira, who was 10 at the time of the attack, conveyed the terror of the bomb.

“My mother and older sister were killed, charred. Even if you survived, you couldn’t live like a human or die like a human… It’s the horror of nuclear weapons,” she said.

At a Mass at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki with worshippers now shielding their eyes from the sun, Francis said the city “bears in its soul a wound difficult to heal” and warned that “a third World War is being waged piecemeal.”

‘Fondness and affection’

The Argentine pontiff is fulfilling a long-held ambition to preach in Japan — a country he wanted to visit as a young missionary.

“Ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands,” said Francis when he arrived in Japan.

Like in Thailand, the first leg of his Asian tour, Catholicism is a minority religion in Japan.

Most people follow a mix of Shinto and Buddhism, with only an estimated 440,000 Catholics in the country.

Christians in Japan suffered centuries of repression, being tortured to recant their faith, and Francis paid tribute to the martyrs who died for their religion.

Alongside its nuclear history, Nagasaki is also a key city in Christian history where so-called “Hidden Christians” were discovered after keeping the faith alive in secret for 200 years while Japan was closed to the world.

The pope said in Nagasaki that as a “young Jesuit from the ‘ends of the earth'” he had found “powerful inspiration in the story of the early missionaries and the Japanese martyrs.”

Francis returns to Tokyo on Sunday night where he will on Monday meet victims of Japan’s “triple disaster” — the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.

He is also scheduled to deliver a Mass at a Tokyo baseball stadium, meet Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and hold talks with Japanese government officials and local Catholic leaders.

Pope Urges Respect For Prostitutes At Crowded Bangkok Mass

Pope Francis (C) leads a Holy Mass at the National Stadium in Bangkok on November 21, 2019. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Pope Francis led an impassioned mass for tens of thousands of emotional worshippers at a packed Bangkok stadium Thursday, urging respect for prostitutes and trafficking victims in a part of the world where sex work is rampant.

The remarks came at the end of a whirlwind day of meetings for Pope Francis, who is on his first trip to Buddhist-majority Thailand where he is carrying a message of religious harmony and peace.

He heads to Japan next, visiting the twin atomic bombs sites of Nagasaki and Hiroshima where he will seek a ban on “immoral” nuclear weapons.

The 82-year-old arrived at the stadium in a golden robe woven for him from Thai silk, greeting crowds of flag-waving faithful, some wiping tears from their faces at the sight of the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

An estimated 60,000 worshippers gathered for the mass, some pouring into a nearby stadium to watch the hymn-filled service on large screens.

Known for his down-to-earth style, the Pope did not shy away from difficult topics.

He focused on the importance of helping vulnerable children and women “who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity”.

He also referred to drug addicts, migrants and “exploited sinners and bypassed beggars”.

“All of them are part of our family. They are our mothers, our brothers and sisters. Let us not deprive our communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives,” said the Pope, after leading prayers.

The remarks were delivered in a region beloved by tourists but infamous for a thriving sex trade and unchecked human trafficking.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, home to at least 300,000 sex workers — some four percent of whom are believed to be trafficked, according to official estimates.

Many women are drawn to the work because they can earn up to 10 times more than the minimum wage, and critics say some corrupt Thai authorities turn a blind eye to the thriving trade.

Earlier, the Pope praised Thailand’s efforts to stamp out the “scourge” of exploitation and enslavement of women and children, urging a “dignified” future for vulnerable youth.

The Catholic Church has been shaken by child sex abuse scandals itself in recent years, with many high-profile cases brought against clergy.

– ‘Gift from God’ –
Thailand has not had a visit from a pontiff since John Paul II in 1984, and the small but spirited Catholic community was thrilled ahead of the mass.

Just over 0.5 percent of the population is Catholic but the community has been here for centuries.

For Pimrapat Panyawattanatikul, the service was her second shot at seeing a pope after John Paul II touched her head some 35 years ago.

Now she’s hoping her mother will get a similar honour, with the pair sitting right on the track Francis was set to drive past in his Popemobile.

“It’s a miracle we got these seats. It’s my mom’s dream to see the pope and to go to Italy. This is a gift from God,” Pimrapat told AFP, her mother next to her clutching a rosary.

The Pope’s colourful mass capped a packed schedule on the first full day of Thailand where he was welcomed Wednesday by cheering worshippers in Bangkok eager for a glimpse of his motorcade.

On Thursday Francis followed in the footsteps of John Paul II, paying a visit to the supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at one of Bangkok’s famed gilded temples.

The pair sat before a brilliant gold Buddha statue inside the ornate temple, built 150 years ago by the former Thai King — the supreme patriarch barefoot and draped in orange robes as they spoke.

The Pope reciprocated the gesture, removing his shoes for part of the tete-a-tete.

In an earlier speech, the Pope said the meeting was “a sign of the importance and urgency of promoting friendship and inter-religious dialogue”.

– Nuclear ban –
This visit coincides with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, marking the first papal mission from Europe in the 17th century.

Though Christianity’s first visitors were initially met with scepticism, today Thailand’s nearly 400,000 Catholics face little discrimination.

The Pope also paid a visit to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and King Maha Vajiralongkorn, gifting the top royal a colourful mosaic of a papal blessing in Vatican City’s Saint Peter’s Square.

On Friday the pontiff will host another mass, this one for young people, and meet with religious leaders in the city.

He jets to Japan Saturday, where he will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both devastated when the US dropped atomic bombs at the end of World War II in 1945.

The pope, who years ago had hoped to be a missionary in Japan, has made strong calls for a ban on nuclear weapons.

AFP

Pope Pleads With Madagascans To Protect Rainforest

Pope Francis greets crowd as he arrives at the St. Michel complex in Antananarivo in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on September 8, 2019. MARCO LONGARI / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Saturday made an impassioned plea to Madagascans to protect the Indian Ocean’s unique environment from “excessive deforestation”, on the second leg of his African tour.

Weeks after a spike of fires in the Amazon, the Argentine pontiff told his hosts they should “create jobs and money-making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty”.

Madagascar — famed for its immense diversity of flora and fauna — is home to 25 million people, the vast majority of whom live in poverty on an income of less than two dollars a day.

More than half of its young people are out of work, even if many boast good qualifications.

The pope said there “were many causes driving excessive deforestation which benefits just a few people… and compromises the future of the country.”

The authorities should also ensure social justice, he added.

‘Alarm raised’

Madagascar’s British ambassador Philip Boyle told AFP the country loses around 200,000 hectares of forest each year, adding that “most of the tropical rainforest could disappear by 2040”.

he country’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, the export of vanilla and cocoa in particular.

“The alarm has been raised by the pope and we are ready to take on the challenge,” environment minister Alexandre Georget told AFP.

He said Madagascar would do more to prevent forest fires, and use tree-planting drones and aerial seed bombing techniques to restore its forests.

“In six months we reached an objective of planting 40,000 hectares of land (98,000 acres), but this is pointless when there are forest fires” said Georget, adding that laws would be enforced and farmers made more aware of the issue.

Liberal-leaning president Andry Rajoelina was elected to a second term last year mainly on promises of jobs and housing.

“Corruption and inequality outrage us,” said Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, addressing the pope in his welcome speech.

Hope for the young

At Antananarivo’s Soamandrakizay stadium, thousands of young people – mainly scouts – gathered for a vigil. They waited for hours in the heat.

“I am here to ask for the pope’s blessing to face the harsh realities of life, insecurity, poverty and corruption,” said 17-year old student Njara Raherimana, who travelled hundreds of kilometres for the event.

“All this gives me hope for change in my country,” echoed fellow student, Antony Christian Tovonalintsoa, who lives in the outskirts of the capital.

During the vigil, Pope Francis lauded the “joy and enthusiasm” of the singing crowd.

He encouraged the youth not to fall into “bitterness” or to lose hope, even when they lacked the “necessary minimum” to get by and when “educational opportunities were insufficient”

800,000 faithful expected

Sunday will mark the high point of Francis’ visit with a huge mass in the capital expected to be attended by some 800,000 faithful.

Many had already started setting up tents on the outskirts of the city on Friday, armed with posters of the Argentine pontiff.

Prospere Ralitason, a 70-year-old farm worker, arrived with some 5,000 fellow pilgrims from the central eastern town of Ambatondrazaka, 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

“We are tired, but it’s worth making all these sacrifices to see the pope with our own eyes and receive his blessing,” he told AFP,

John Paul II

The last pope to visit was John Paul II 30 years ago.

“I was a lieutenant when I helped with the security of John Paul II in 1989. Today I am a divisional general and overseeing security for Francis’ visit to Madagascar,” said Samuel Rakotomalala.

Some 700 police officers will be deployed at the site, which is also equipped with 200 surveillance cameras and the 12,000 young scouts will also help out.

In June, 16 people were killed and dozens hurt in a stampede outside a sports stadium in the capital during a free concert.

Francis visited Mozambique earlier in the week. He is also due to travel to the island of Mauritius, which like Madagascar is situated off the eastern coast of Africa.

Pope Francis In Mozambique Seeks To Strengthen Peace Accord

A girl celebrates after Pope Francis blessed her rosary during the Interreligious meeting with the Youth at the Maxaquene Pavillion in Maputo, on September 5, 2019. TIZIANA FABI / AFP

 

After a jubilant arrival in Mozambique at the start a three-nation African tour, Pope Francis on Thursday will meet with political and civil leaders to encourage them to consolidate a fragile peace accord.

The pope’s 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.

Mozambique’s 16-year civil war devastated the former Portuguese colony, killing around one million people, and Renamo had never completely disarmed.

Francis, the first pope to visit Mozambique since John Paul II in 1988, was whisked away in his popemobile after arriving on Wednesday as crowds waved and danced in welcome.

He starts Thursday with a private meeting with President Filipe Nyusi, who wants to run for a second term in an election scheduled for October 15. The two men had already met one year ago at the Vatican.

As well as discussing the peace agreement, Francis is expected to address the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones earlier this year in the poor southeast African country.

He will not travel to Beira, the second city of the country swept away in March by Cyclone Idai, which left 600 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Even six months on, many people are without shelter and food.

“Even if I can not go beyond the capital, my heart is with you and embraces you all, with a special place for those who live in difficulty,” he said to the victims of the cyclone, before his trip.

‘Pope of the Poor’

On Friday, the pope will address a mass at the giant Zimpeto stadium in the seaside capital Maputo.

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

Francis could also speak about climate change, a key topic for the pontiff who has organised in a global meeting of bishops in Rome dedicated to the Amazon, which has been hit by devastating fires.

According to the World Bank, Mozambique, with its more than 2,000 km of coastline along the Indian Ocean, is among the ten most threatened countries in the world due to the consequences of climate change.

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

Mozambique and Madagascar are among the world’s poorest countries and Francis’ choice to visit has been seen as act of solidarity from a cleric who was often in shantytowns of Argentina and is now called the “pope of the poor”.

Pope Says Got Stuck In Vatican Lift, Freed By Fireman

Pope Francis 
Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he was late to his weekly Angelus prayer because he had been stuck in a Vatican elevator and had to be freed by firemen.

“I have to apologise for being late. I was trapped in a lift for 25 minutes, there was a power outage but then the firemen came,” the smiling 82-year old pontiff said.

READ ALSO: Fire, Tear Gas And Petrol Bombs As Hong Kong Protest Turns Violent

Pope Warns Against Hate-Fomenting ‘Fake News’

Pope Francis speaks as 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.
Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Internet-based “fake news” is fomenting prejudice and hatred, Pope Francis said on Tuesday, warning our culture “has lost its sense of truth and bends the facts to suit particular interests”.

He issued the stark warning in a letter to young people around the world following last October’s youth-themed bishops’ synod.

“There are huge economic interests operating in the digital world, capable of exercising forms of control as subtle as they are invasive, creating mechanisms for the manipulation of consciences and of the democratic process,” the pope wrote.

Social networks encourage contact between people who already think alike, precluding them from debate, he said.

“These closed circuits facilitate the spread of fake news and false information, fomenting prejudice and hate.”

The Argentine pontiff cited prolific Catholic teenager and Internet user Carlo Acutis, who died of leukaemia in 2006.

READ ALSO: Chinese Firefighters Contain Forest Fire After 30 Dead

“He saw that many young people, wanting to be different, really end up being like everyone else, running after whatever the powerful set before them with the mechanisms of consumerism and distraction,” the pope wrote.

“As a result, Carlo said, ‘everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies’. Don’t let that happen to you!”

“It is not healthy to confuse communication with mere virtual contact,” the pope wrote.

“Indeed, the digital environment is also one of loneliness, manipulation, exploitation and violence… blocking the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.”

In the wide-ranging document, the pope also warned of the dangers of historical revisionism, as exploited by increasingly powerful populist politicians.

“If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them?”

“He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans.”

The synod recognised that many young people no longer see the Church as significant in their lives, but rather as “a nuisance, even an irritant”, the pope said.

Some of the reasons for this are understandable, including “sexual and financial scandals; a clergy ill-prepared to engage effectively with the sensitivities of the young… the passive role assigned to the young within the Christian community.”

It is important for the Church to be “living”, so it can “look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence”.

“With this outlook, (the Church) can support the call to respect women’s rights… while not agreeing with everything some feminist groups propose.”

AFP

Pope Francis Lands In UAE For Historic Visit

 

Pope Francis landed in the United Arab Emirates Sunday on the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula — the birthplace of Islam.

The pope touched down in Abu Dhabi for the 48-hour trip during which he will meet leading Muslim clerics and hold an open-air mass for some 135,000 Catholics.

The pontiff will take part in an interreligious conference on Monday, meeting Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning.

Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, he will lead mass in a stadium in Abu Dhabi — set to be the largest gathering ever in the UAE, according to local media.

His visit comes with the UAE engaged in a long-running military campaign in Yemen and embroiled in a diplomatic spat with nearby Qatar.

Before heading to the Gulf, the pontiff urged warring parties in Yemen, where the UAE backs the government against Huthi rebels, to respect a truce agreement.

READ ALSO: Taliban To Meet Afghan Opposition In Moscow – Official

“I appeal to all parties concerned and to the international community to allow the urgent respect of established accords to ensure the distribution of food,” he said.

“The population is exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, but cannot access food depots, he added.

“The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God.”

‘Great week’

Nearly one million Catholic migrants reside in the UAE, mostly hailing from the Philippines and India. Around 135,000 have secured precious tickets to Tuesday’s mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

On Sunday morning, hundreds of Catholics queued in drizzling rain outside St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi to get their passes.

“I think the pope coming really opens doors for conversations about tolerance that the whole world needs to hear,” said Collins Cochet Ryan, a 39-year-old expectant mother from the US.

For Indian Doris D’Souza, who lives in Goa, Pope Francis’s trip to the UAE was not to be missed.

“Since I came to know about the pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi, we jumped (at) the opportunity to be witness.”

The UAE capital’s main streets and those leading to St. Joseph’s Cathedral — which the pope is set to visit on Tuesday — were lined with Vatican City flags and banners of the interreligious meeting.

‘Terrorism vs. love’

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash extended an official welcome to Pope Francis on Sunday.

“It is a visit that carries great humanitarian value, and the UAE adds a new (chapter) in the history of fraternity and tolerance,” he tweeted.

He took an apparent jab at Qatar, which hosts Islamist cleric Youssef al-Qardawi and is engaged in a bitter standoff with its Gulf rivals.

Gargash pointed out the difference “between those hosting a cleric of violence and terrorism… and those who host the pope and the Al-Azhar sheikh for a dialogue of love and communication”.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, cut all ties with Doha in June 2017 over allegations it supports extremists.

The UAE prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity.

It has eight Catholic churches. Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four.

Qatar and Bahrain have one each, while ultra-conservative Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim places of worship.

Rights controversy

The UAE has however been criticised by rights groups for its involvement in a bloody Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, where an estimated 10,000 people have been killed in four years of war.

Millions of Yemenis face imminent starvation, according to the UN.

Rights groups have also slammed the Gulf state for upholding a 10-year prison term against activist Ahmed Mansoor on December 31 — two weeks after the UAE declared 2019 the “Year of Tolerance”.

“Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said Sunday.

“But the UAE has shown how sensitive it is to its image on the global stage, and Pope Francis should use his visit to press UAE leaders to meet their human rights obligations at home and abroad.”

Pope Francis: Reaching Out To Muslims

 

Pope Francis has made dialogue with Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, which began in 2013, and visited several countries with large Muslim populations.

In February he will become the first pontiff to go to the Arabian Peninsula when he visits the United Arab Emirates. He is scheduled to travel to Morocco in March.

Here is a recap of some of his other trips to meet Muslims.

Jordan, Palestinian territories, Israel

In May 2014 Pope Francis receives a warm welcome in Jordan’s capital Amman from King Abdullah II and meets with Syrian refugees.

A day later he begins a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, stopping off for a silent prayer at the controversial separation wall erected by the Israelis.

Francis also visits some of the most sacred sites in Islam and Judaism, including the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the Western Wall.

Albania

In September the same year he visits Albania where he praises the peaceful coexistence of its Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, labelling it “a precious gift to the country”.

Francis says it is especially important “in these times where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted”.

Turkey

In November 2014 he travels to Turkey where there is a comparatively tiny Christian community — just 80,000 among about 75 million Muslims.

In Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque, Francis clasps his hands in prayer alongside a senior Islamic cleric, a gesture of fraternity with Islam similar to that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in the same place eight years before.

While the pope defends the alliance of religions against terrorism, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responds by issuing a strong warning about “seriously and rapidly” rising Islamophobia in the world.

Central Africa

In November 2015 Pope Francis is given a rapturous welcome in the Central African Republic, a country plagued by sectarian violence.

During his 26 hours there, he visits a mosque in Bangui’s flashpoint PK5 Muslim neighbourhood where he says Christians and Muslims are “brothers”.

“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence,” he says.

Among the crowd are several Muslims from PK5 wearing T-shirts bearing the pope’s image.

Azerbaijan

In October 2016 the pontiff makes a brief visit to mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, a volatile ex-Soviet Caucasus region.

There he praises the “benefits of multiculturalism and of the necessary complementarity of cultures” where the different religions practise “mutual collaboration and respect”.

Egypt

In April 2017 Francis pays the second papal visit to Egypt of modern times, 17 years after that of pope John Paul II.

In a country where 10 percent of the population of 92 million is Coptic Christian, he says “true faith” depends on “the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.”

He visits Al-Azhar university, one of the Muslim world’s leading religious authorities with whom the Vatican’s ties soured in 2006 when Benedict XVI made a speech in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence.\

Myanmar and Bangladesh

In December 2017, during a visit to Bangladesh, the pope asks for “forgiveness” from Muslim Rohingya refugees who have fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar in their hundreds of thousands.

“In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness,” he says after meeting 16 Rohingya refugees.

The pontiff had just made a four-day visit to Myanmar where he called on Buddhist clergy to conquer “prejudice and hatred”, without explicitly referring to the Rohingyas.

 

AFP

Christmas: Pope Sues For Peace In Yemen, Syria And Other Flashpoints

 

Pope Francis used his Christmas message Tuesday to appeal for peace in conflict zones such as Syria and Yemen, whose populations face some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas… Fraternity among persons of different religions,” he said in his traditional “Urbi and Orbi” (To the City and to the World) address in Saint Peter’s Square.

The pontiff said he hoped a truce in conflict-ravaged Yemen would end a devastating war which has killed around 10,000 people since 2015 and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

READ ALSO: 43 Killed, Dozens Injured As Gunmen Attack Government Compound In Kabul

“My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine,” he said.

The Pope also evoked the war in Syria, from where US President Donald Trump has decided to pull out some 2,000 troops in a controversial decision, arguing that the Islamic State has been defeated.

“May the international community work decisively for a political solution… so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country,” he said.

He also said he hoped for renewed peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians “that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love.”

700 Catholic Clergy Accused Of Sexual abuse In Illinois

 

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.

READ ALSO: Church Will ‘Never Again’ Ignore Abuse Accusations – Pope

“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.

Church Will ‘Never Again’ Ignore Abuse Accusations – Pope

File photo of Pope Francis 

The Catholic Church will never again treat abuse allegations without “seriousness and promptness”, Pope Francis told the Church’s governing body on Friday.

“The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” the pope said in his annual address to the Roman Curia at the Vatican.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes,” the pope said.

“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due.

“That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”

AFP

Pope Francis To Organise Anti-Paedophilia Summit

Pope Francis 

Pope Francis on Friday revealed the organizing team for a special meeting on the protection of children to be held in February, in response to the pedophilia scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church worldwide.

His hand-picked team is all close associates: the archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna, Father Hans Zollner, US cardinal Blase Cupich and Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias.

Archbishop Scicluna spent 10 years as a Vatican prosecutor investigating cases of pedophilia among the priesthood.

Zollner, a Jesuit priest, is an academic and psychotherapist who has traveled widely as part of his work in child protection. He is already part of the committee of experts advising the pope on the issue.

“The February meeting is unprecedented, and one that shows Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.

“This is about keeping children safe from harm worldwide. Pope Francis wants Church leaders to have a full understanding of the devastating impact that clerical sexual abuse has on victims.”

Two women with senior positions inside the Vatican will also help organize the event and survivors of abuse will have a role, he said. The event will run from February 21 to 24.

“The meeting is primarily one for bishops – and they have much of the responsibility for this grave problem,” said Burke.

Burke was speaking a day after a French priest was handed a two-year jail term for abusing children — and his superior, the former bishop of Orleans, 83-year-old Andre Fort, received a suspended sentence for having covered up the offenses.

The meeting is expected to attract 180 participants, including the presidents of 113 episcopal conferences from around the world.

The Church has had to contend with a wave of scandals involving pedophile priests who have hit the Catholic faith in countries worldwide from Ireland and the United States to Australia.

AFP