Ex-Papal Altar Boy Denies Sex Abuse Charges In Court

People wearing protective masks walk with their bicycles in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 8 October 2020. – The authorities of the Italian capital Rome have ordered to always wear face protection outdoors, in an attempt to counter the spread of coronavirus disease. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

An Italian priest accused of sexually assaulting a fellow teenager while both served as papal altar boys appeared in a Vatican court Wednesday to profess his innocence. 

“These are unfounded accusations,” said Gabriele Martinelli, who is accused of assaulting another boy over a five-year period starting from 2007, when they were aged 14 and 13.

They were both enrolled at the St Pius X pre-seminary, an institution located on Vatican grounds that hosts boys interested in the priesthood.

Under Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI, the Vatican has taken an increasingly harder line against clerical sex abuse and cover ups, after repeated worldwide scandals.

In Martinelli’s case, it is the first time that the Vatican is criminally prosecuting acts believed to have happened within its territory.

Martinelli, who was ordained in 2017, characterised the accusations as part of a smear campaign against him and the pre-seminary, and as an attempt to block his path towards priesthood.

He denied that sexual abuse took place in the dormitory of the pre-seminary and even — as claimed by the alleged victim in several letters — in a small toilet inside St Peter’s Basilica.

Several phone and social media messages were read out during the interrogation, in which the alleged victim, known only as L.G., accused Martinelli of “sexual perversion” and of “only being interested in people’s penises”.

The former rector of the pre-seminary, Father Enrico Radice, is a co-defendant in the trial for allegedly hushing up the affair and shielding Martinelli from justice.

Radice and L.G. were not in court on Wednesday.

The boarders at St Pius X are mainly children and adolescents who live there while they attend a private school in Rome, and participate as altar boys in the masses celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Appoints First Woman To Senior Synod Post

Pope Francis delivers a homily during Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica mass on April 5, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP.

 

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff’s desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master’s degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.

AFP

Priests To Face Trial In Vatican Over Choir Boys Abuse Case

 (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

An Italian priest accused of sexually abusing choir boys in a seminary and another priest who allegedly facilitated that abuse will go on trial in the Vatican next week.

The alleged abuse took place in 2011 to 2012 at the pre-seminary of St Pius X, an institution located on Vatican grounds that trains choir boys and is very close to Pope Francis’s residence.

Gabriele Martinelli is suspected of carrying out repeated sexual assaults on at least one victim when he was a seminarian aged 21 and lived in the building.

Martinelli was made a priest in 2017.

The boarders at St Pius X are mainly children and adolescents who stay there while they attend a private school in Rome, and participate as choristers in the masses celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica.

Enrico Radice, rector of the residence at the time of the alleged events, is accused of covering the abuse up.

The Vatican said last year the pair would be tried. The first hearing will be held on October 14, it said.

An investigation was launched into the allegations following the publishing in 2017 of a book called “Original Sin” by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, which detailed the alleged abuse.

In it, Polish seminarian Kamil Tadeusz Jarzembowksi said he had witnessed repeated sexual assaults on his roommate.

He claimed that Martinelli came to his room to have relations with the boy — who was then aged 17.

He said he had witnessed such acts up to 140 times and that Martinelli used “power and intimidation” to impose his will on young seminarians.

Jarzembowksi, who says he is gay, accused the priests of double standards, saying: “During the day, they are homophobes and at night they unwind in gay discos.”

The Pole, who lived there between the ages of 13 and 18, denounced Martinelli to superiors and also in a letter written to cardinals along with two other seminarians.

Shortly after the book’s release, Martinelli’s alleged victim gave an interview, without revealing his identity, in which he said he had been sexually abused in his first year at the pre-seminary, at the age of 13.

-AFP

Pope ‘Very Distressed’ Over Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Conversion To Mosque

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, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he was “very distressed” over Turkey’s decision to convert the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I’m thinking about Hagia Sophia. I am very distressed,” the pope said in the Vatican’s first reaction to a decision that has drawn international criticism.

The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano had on Saturday carried reaction from different countries about Friday’s decision to turn the monument from a museum back into a mosque but without any comment.

A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics say is chipping away at the Muslim-majority country’s secular pillars, announced Friday that Muslim prayers would begin on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Koran at Hagia Sophia.

Erdogan’s announcement came after a top court cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision under modern Turkey’s secularising founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

Pope Tells Priests To Have Courage And Help Those Sick With Coronavirus

This photo taken and handout on March 10, 2020, shows Pope Francis celebrating a daily mass alone in the Santa Marta chapel at the Vatican, as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19. PHOTO: HANDOUT / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Pope Francis urged Catholic priests on Tuesday to “have the courage” to go out and help those sickened by the novel coronavirus, hours after Italy was placed on a nationwide lockdown.

“Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and visit the sick… and to accompany the medical staff and volunteers in the work they do,” the pontiff said during a mass in Vatican City.

St Peter’s Square in the Vatican — in the centre of the Italian capital Rome — was almost empty on Tuesday with only a few dozen people walking around, most of them without masks.

PHOTO: China’s President Xi Pays First Visit To Wuhan

The Italian government has asked for people not to travel if they can avoid it and to avoid contact with the sick.

Officials passed a decree late Monday extending nationwide restrictive measures that had been put in place at the weekend in the hardest-hit northern regions.

The restrictions — including checkpoints on roads and in railway stations — are set to remain until April 3.

Italy is the epicentre of the European virus outbreak with more than 9,000 cases and 463 deaths so far.

Globally, more than 110,000 cases have been recorded in over 100 countries, although health experts are hopeful that the virus has peaked in China, where it originated late last year.

AFP

Pope Francis Apologizes For Slapping ‘Exuberant Admirer’ At Saint Peter’s Plaza

 

Pope Francis apologised Wednesday for his widely-viewed slap of a woman who had grabbed his hand as he greeted Catholic faithful on New Year’s Eve.

The image of Francis slapping his way free from the clutches of the admirer was an instant hit on social media.

A personal apology followed.

“We lose patience many times,” Francis confessed.

“It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.

Twitter enthusiasts commented with abandon on the pontiff’s prompt riposte to the woman.

Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s square and was turning away when the woman who had crossed herself then cried out something, pulled on his hand and almost caused him to fall.

The 83-year-old pope grimaced before managing to break free by slapping her hand twice.

He continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.

Twitter comments were mostly supportive of the pontiff’s instinctive reaction.

“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.

In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff later denounced “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman.”

Francis also said women were “the source of life” but deplored that they were constantly “offended, beaten, abused and forced into prostitution” and forced to “supress the life they carry within” them.

He emphasised that the “rebirth of humanity began with a woman,” and bemoaned that women’s bodies were “sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, profit, pornography.”

Pope Slaps ‘Exuberant Admirer’ At Saint Peter’s Plaza

Pope Francis (L) celebrates the New Year’s day mass on January 1, 2020 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

 

An image of Pope Francis slapping his way free from the clutches of an admirer late Tuesday had social media abuzz with comments on the pontiff’s prompt riposte.

Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s plaza and was turning away when the woman cried out something, grabbed his hand and almost caused him to fall.

The 83-year-old head of the Catholic church grimaced before managing to break free by slapping the woman’s hand twice.

He then continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.

Comments on Twitter were mostly supportive of the pontiff’s instinctive reaction.

READ ALSO: Nine Dead After Indonesian Capital Hit By New Year Flooding

“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.

In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff nonetheless denounced Wednesday “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman,” a position underscored by several Twitter enthusiasts.

Another concluded that as 2020 dawned, “the pope is trending.”

I ‘lost patience’ with exuberant admirer

Pope Francis confessed Wednesday he had “lost patience” with an exuberant admirer who had grabbed his hand on Saint Peter’s Square, prompting a swift pair of slaps.

“We lose patience many times. It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.

AFP

Jonathan, Pope Promise To Promote Inter-Faith Dialogue

vlcsnap-2014-03-22-22h32m55s47President Goodluck Jonathan at the Vatican City conferred with Pope Francis I on the promotion of inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria and other parts of the world to foster greater global peace and security.

Speaking to journalists after his private meeting with Pope Francis, President Jonathan said that the promotion of inter-faith dialogue was a cause to which the pontiff was very committed.

The president who said that his administration was already working in close collaboration with Cardinal John Onaiyekan who was “the team leader” for the effort to strengthen inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria, assured the pope of his administration’s continued commitment to the promotion of religious harmony and the peaceful co-existence of people of all faiths.

In their meeting, the President assured the Pope of diligence in the administration’s effort to alleviate poverty in the land. He also gave the pope an update on the interfaith programme in Nigeria.

The Pope, President Jonathan said, also assured him that he would continue to pray for God Almighty to bless the country and its people.

“My coming to see the Pope was to discuss issues, especially that of inter-faith dialogue which the Vatican has been promoting.

“Also the Pope has been advocating that the world should do more to eradicate poverty and make sure that the ordinary people of this world are in a position to live more decent lives. The Pope is very dedicated to poverty alleviation and I also interfaced with him on how we can collaborate more with the Vatican on what we are already doing in this regard back home,” the President said.

After his private meeting with President Jonathan, Pope Francis received the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof Viola Onwuliri, Governor Godswill Akpabio and his spouse, Governor Gabriel Suswam, former Governor Peter Obi and his spouse, the wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Helen Mark and other members of the President’s entourage.

Others present at the enlarged audience with the Pope included Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Dr. Francis C. Okeke, the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa, Venerable Obioma Onwuzurumba and Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.

Before leaving the Vatican, President Jonathan also conferred with the Secretary of State, Monsignor Pietro Parolin. He had received Nigeria’s Vatican-based Cardinal Francis Arinze earlier in the day at the St. Regis Hotel in Rome.

 

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85, the Spokesman to the spiritual father, Federico Lombardo, said on Monday.

The Pope told the Cardinals of the Catholic Church on Monday that he decided to take the decision due to “ill health”.

The last pope  to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He was said to have taken the decision to end a supposed civil war in the church where more than one person claimed to be the Pope.

Benedict is the 265th Pope, and the sixth German to serve in this capacity. Benedict, who became Pope in 2005 is the first German to appointed since the 11th Century.

Below is the official Vatican translation of Pope  Benedict’s statement on his resignation:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 11 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI