Pope Francis Silent On Approval Of Married Priests

Pope Francis delivers a speech from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter’s Square in The Vatican / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday pleaded for social justice and environmental respect for the Amazon basin, but did not recommend the controversial idea of married priests.

In a highly anticipated text, Francis urged Catholics to “feel outraged” over the exploitation of indigenous people and destruction of land devastated by illegal mining and deforestation.

But there was no mention of priestly marriage, a controversial suggestion made by Amazon bishops last October as a way to increase the number of priests who could perform Mass in remote areas.

Instead, the pope argued for more missionaries and for women and lay people to take larger roles in the region. He also urged more training for priests to better interact with Amazonian cultures.

Francis has weighed in before on the hotly debated question of whether to allow “viri probati” — married “men of proven virtue” — to join the priesthood in remote locations.

In January last year, he said he did not believe that optional celibacy should be allowed but conceded “some possibilities for far-flung places”, a statement that opened the door to speculation that he might make an exception for the Amazon.

In 2017, Francis convened 184 bishops — over 60 per cent of whom hailed from the Amazon region —  to reflect on the Amazon.

Among other proposals in a final document, the bishops suggested ordaining “suitable and esteemed men of the community” who had “a legitimately constituted and stable family”.

But the suggestion aroused fierce opposition from traditionalists within the Church, concerned that exceptions could pave the way to the abolition of priest celibacy globally.

Francis’ text released on Wednesday was a so-called apostolic exhortation in response to the bishops’ document.

 ‘Injustice and crime’ 

Francis has made his name as a defender of the marginalised — whether the poor, migrants or prisoners — and his Amazon text focused on the local people’s “history of suffering”.

Saying the Amazon’s ecological problems should not be separated from social ones, he highlighted how marginalised indigenous people were forced out of their homes by illegal deforestation and mining.

Those people were now living on the outskirts of cities marked by “an increase of xenophobia, sexual exploitation and human trafficking,” he wrote.

“We need to feel outraged, as Moses did, as Jesus did, as God does in the face of injustice. It is not good for us to become inured to evil,” wrote the pope.

“The businesses, national or international, which harm the Amazon and fail to respect the right of the original peoples to the land and its boundaries, and to self-determination and prior consent, should be called for what they are: injustice and crime.”

However, Francis acknowledged the challenges faced by the Church in remote areas of the Amazon, urging bishops to send out more young missionaries, in keeping with his status as the first pope from the Jesuit order — famous for its missionary work.

The pope stressed the need for ministers who could “understand Amazonian sensibilities and cultures from within” and highlighted the potential role for nuns as well as laywomen and men.

“It is not simply a question of facilitating a greater presence of ordained ministers who can celebrate the Eucharist,” he wrote.

Among those he hinted could take a bigger role in the Amazon were “permanent deacons” — men who serve as ministers in the Church but are not priests and so can be married.

AFP

Priests Accused Of Sexual Abuse To Face Trial

 

An Italian priest accused of sexually abusing altar boys in a seminary and another priest who allegedly facilitated that abuse have been referred to Italian justice, the Vatican said Tuesday.

A statement said the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice has recommended that Father Gabriele Martinelli stand trial over charges of sexual abuse, and that Father Enrico Radice also be tried over charges of covering it up.

The alleged abuse took place at the pre-seminary of St Pius X, an institution located on Vatican grounds that trains altar boys destined to serve at papal masses.

“The investigation was launched in 2017 following press reports,” the Vatican said. Martinelli was a seminarian and aged 21 when the alleged abuse took place.

AFP

Killing Of Priest: Ugwuanyi, Security Agencies, Others Pledge To Apprehend Culprits

 

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, heads of security agencies, religious leaders and other relevant stakeholders in the state, rose from an emergency security meeting at the Government House, Enugu, condemning in its entirety the killing of the Parish Priest of St. James, The Greater, Ugbawka in Nkanu East Local Government Area of the state, Rev. Fr. Paul Offu.

The priest, according to reports, was shot dead along Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu Local Government Area by yet to be identified hoodlums.

Gov. Ugwuanyi upon receiving the unfortunate news of the incident summoned an emergency security meeting at the Government House, Enugu, which was attended by all the security agencies in the state, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), representative of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, among others.

Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the State Commissioner of Police, Suleiman Balarabe, stated that they “condemned in totality the dastardly act and we all prayed that his soul rest in peace”, adding that the governor mandated the security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous act.

Balarabe disclosed that the state government resolved to have air surveillance in all the flashpoint areas, stressing that the exercise will commence on Monday, August 5.

READ ALSO: Ogun Police Confirm Kidnap Of Pastors Along Lagos-Benin Expressway

The police commissioner added that the meeting resolved that the security architecture of the affected areas will be reviewed with immediate effect.

He said that the meeting observed with deep concern the proliferation of dangerous arms in the state, stating that those in possession of illegal weapons have been given three days to submit them to the police “and after which anybody found with illegal weapons will be dealt with in accordance with the law”.

Balarabe revealed that in keeping with the outcome of the recent meeting of the South East Governors Forum, the Enugu State Government resolved at the emergency meeting to employ the services of Forest Guards and equally strengthen the services of the Neighborhood Watch groups in the state.

In his remark, Archbishop Chukwuma, condoled with the Catholic Church over the sad incident and appealed to the Inspector General of Police to increase the number of policemen in the state, saying “they are inadequate”.

The Archbishop insisted that “Enugu State is safe and secure for everybody”, stressing: “We are very much behind the government of Enugu State and we are commending the efforts of the governor and the state government in their efforts to make sure that lives and property are secured in Enugu State”.

According to him, “we are not afraid and nobody should think that he can get Enugu State into a state of violence or insecurity”.

Commending Gov. Ugwuanyi for his prompt action in summoning the meeting, Archbishop Chukwuma said: “I think the governor and the security agencies are out to make sure that anybody who goes after priests or human beings again in Enugu State will have himself or herself to blame”.

Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Nwankwo, stated that “the Catholic Diocese of Enugu wishes to thank the governor for his quick response to this sad incident that has taken place in this state”.

The priest said that “some people are trying to sabotage the efforts of the state government and the popular saying, which is true, that Enugu is safe”, noting that “we are sad”.

His words: “We have come here to dialogue with the governor and the state security agencies and I am very much impressed with the outcome of this security meeting and all the resolutions taken.

“I am particularly interested, that the Miyetti Allah and other Northern groups have been helping the governor in security issues and discussions. I am particularly impressed; however, we are asking them to do more because we don’t want to live in fear.

“So we thank everybody, we thank especially the governor. We know what he is going through, we know the pressure, and this state is the ideal state for peace in the whole nation, and we encourage him not to be distracted, relent or in any way give up his efforts. Rather, let these things happening encourage him to work harder. He is the father of the state and as he has given some directives today. I am impressed, and may God bless our Governor.

Earlier, the Enugu State Government had condoled with the family of the late Rev. Fr. Offu and the entire Catholic Diocese of Enugu over the painful death.

In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, the state government noted that the priest’s death “represents another ugly manifestation of security challenges in the entire country- East, West, North and South”.

The state government in the statement summoned a crucial meeting of all local vigilante and Neigbourhood Watch groups with the governor at the Government House, Enugu, on August 5 at 1pm.

It also notified the public of planned air surveillance by the Nigerian Air Force along Ihe –Agbudu axis, Awgu, Aninri, Nkanu East Local Government Areas and their environs and enjoined citizens not to panic in the course of the exercise.

Spanish Victims Of Sex Abuse By Priests Speak Out

File Photo: Survivors of sexual abuse by priests and clergy stand before photos of accused religious men during a news conference with lawyer Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates on February 14, 2019 in New York City. Anderson, who has specialized in representing survivors of clergy abuse, announced the filing of a lawsuit naming the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men for concealing from the public, parishioners, and law enforcement, the histories and identities of religious order of priests and brothers accused of sexually abusing children. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A trickle of accusations of sexual abuse against priests in schools and seminaries is starting to erode the wall of silence in Catholic Spain, whose Church representatives are set to attend a major Vatican meeting on child protection.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” warned Miguel Hurtado, who recently made his case public.

“They’re not ready for the tsunami that is coming,” the 36-year-old said defiantly.

For 20 years, Hurtado stayed quiet, trying to come to terms with the abuse he suffered when he joined a boy scout troup at the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, which sits high up in jagged mountains northwest of Barcelona.

His alleged abuser, whom Hurtado accuses of fondling him for a year, was a charismatic monk who founded the group and died in 2008.

“I would have reported it earlier but I was a kid and I was too scared,” said Hurtado, who revealed his accusations in a Netflix documentary on abuse in Spain’s Church.

“The secret was killing me and I needed to come out with the truth, whether people believed me or not.”

Since then, nine others have come out to allege they were victims of the same monk and fresh accusations have emerged in religious schools in the Basque Country, various Catalan parishes and in a college in Barcelona.

Even the football world was affected.

On Thursday, Atletico Madrid said it had parted ways with a former monk who once trained its young players after he acknowledged having sexually abused one of his students in the 1970s.

‘Discouragement’

The heads of around 100 bishops’ conferences from every continent will convene from Thursday to Sunday for the Vatican meeting on the protection of minors.

“There is a chain-reaction… It’s easy to imagine that there is a lot hidden that has not yet come out,” says Josep Maria Tamarit, a professor in criminal law at the Catalonia Open University who is leading an investigation into the issue.

As scandals erupted in countries like the United States, Ireland or Australia, complaints in Spain were few and far between despite the Church’s loss of influence over the years, particularly with younger generations.

Hurtado believes this was down to how Spaniards deal with trauma in general.

“For example, we have dealt with the traumas of the (1936-9) civil war and the (ensuing) dictatorship via omission,” he says.

“Forgiving and forgetting as it’s part of the past. Leaving it all hidden.”

Many allegations that are proved have also either gone past the time limit in which legal proceedings can be initiated or the accused have died, says Tamarit.

“There is a lot of discouragement,” he adds.

In 2016, one of Spain’s biggest paedophile scandals erupted at schools run by the Marist Roman Catholic community in Barcelona.

Most of the 43 complaints made against 12 teachers were shelved.

Just two teachers ended up facing charges, one of whom was sentenced and the other is awaiting trial.

It’s a similar situation in Italy, another Catholic country criticised by a recent United Nations report for “the numerous cases of children having been sexually abused by religious personnel… and the low number of investigations and criminal prosecutions”.

Tamarit links this to a certain Catholic mentality which sees all sexual acts as sins and therefore “there is not much difference between any old impure act and abuse of a minor”.

“This meant it wasn’t made visible and there was no awareness of its importance and seriousness.”

Silence ‘has to stop’

In Spain though, the recent scandals have pushed the Spanish Church into action.

In October, it announced the creation of a commission to rework its protocol on abuse after being accused of covering up cases by the El Pais daily.

“There has been a kind of silence and the Church has taken part in this silence, which was also a part of society,” says Norbert Miracle, spokesman for the bishops’ conference in Catalonia and neighbouring Valencia and Andorra.

“But that has to stop.”

The justice ministry has also asked prosecutors and religious authorities for a report on all cases of abuse.

In December, it unveiled a new draft bill for child protection that wants the time frame within which legal proceedings can be initiated to start when the victim turns 30 rather than 18 as is the case now, giving victims more time to make their complaints.

But Infancia Robada (Stolen Childhood), the first such victims association created in January, is asking for this time frame to start when the victim turns 50.

“In most recent cases, this time frame wouldn’t have been of any use,” says founder Juan Cuatrecasas.

Two Priests Kidnapped By Unknown Gunmen In Anambra

Gunmen Kidnap Priests
Gunmen Kidnap Priests (File)

 

Two Catholic Priests have been abducted by unknown gunmen while coming from Onitsha to prepare for the visit of Cardinal Arinze to the town.

The priests, whose names are yet to be disclosed are said to be clergymen in charge of St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, Umueze Anam.

They were kidnapped at Nneyi village, Umuleri area on their way to Umueze Anam.

READ ALSO: 13 Soldiers, Police Officer Killed In Boko Haram Ambush

Confirming the report, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Haruna Muhammed in a press statement said that at about 7: 25pm on Monday, a patrol team attached to Otuocha Division recovered a light grey Toyota Corolla Car with REG NO FST 689 FL.

Haruna said the vehicle was abandoned at Nneyi Umueri road.

However, a preliminary investigation revealed that the car belonged to a one of the Reverend Fathers who was kidnapped.

The police spokesperson revealed that the case is under investigation and efforts are ongoing to rescue the victims and bring the perpetrators to Justice.

Priests Hold Mass For Victims Of Anambra Church Attack

Priests and Catholic faithful gathered on Monday to pray for victims of Sunday’s attack on St Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Anambra State.

During a mass, led by the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Reverend Hilary Okeke, and attended by reverend fathers and sisters as well as some church members, prayers were said for the repose of the souls of the dead and the quick recovery of the wounded.

Bishop Okeke explained that it was necessary to gather and assure the people of God’s presence and love despite the tragedy that befell them on Sunday.

He said, “We have come here to turn to God in confidence and in trust: for the dead, so that the dead will have eternal rest; for the wounded, so that they will have healing; for the parents and the families, that they may be consoled and helped in every way; for the parish, that the parish will have confidence in God and even though they have gone through this suffering that they will still know that God has not abandoned them.”

Bishop Okeke

Gunmen had invaded the church on Sunday morning while the mass was ongoing and opened fire killing 12 worshippers and injuring many others.

The attack which shocked and threw the community into mourning has been widely condemned with many Nigerians calling on security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators are made to face the law.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, on Monday evening that those behind the attack will be made to face the law.

“The Acting President has been in touch with the Anambra State Governor, Willy Obiano, police authorities and other security agencies, and assures that the perpetrators of the heinous crimes would be brought to justice,” the statement read in part.

It added that Professor Osinbajo has been receiving regular updates on the status of investigations regarding the atrocious and mindless acts of violence.