Nobel Peace Prize Winning Bishop Accused Of Child Abuse

A file photo of Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo
A file photo of Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo

 

The Vatican said Thursday it has sanctioned a Nobel Peace Prize winning bishop accused of sexually abusing underage boys in East Timor over a 20-year period.

Bishop Carlos Belo, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, was first investigated by the Vatican in 2019, spokesman Matteo Bruni said amid allegations he had assaulted youngsters and bought their silence.

“In the light of the accusations it received… (the Vatican) imposed certain disciplinary restrictions upon him” in September 2020, he said.

“These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with” East Timor, Bruni added.

Those measures were “modified and reinforced” in 2021, and Belo formally accepted them, he said.

The statement came a day after the publication of an investigation by the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, in which Belo was accused of assaulting teenagers from the 1980s to 2000.

“The bishop raped and sexually abused me that night”, one alleged victim, now 45, is quoted as saying. “He also left money for me. That was meant so that I would keep my mouth shut”, he said.

A highly respected figure among the East Timorese, Belo won the Nobel Prize for his role in the defence of human rights in the country during the Indonesian occupation.

He resigned from office in 2002 citing health reasons.

De Groene Amsterdammer, which mentions other victims, says it has spoken to about 20 people — including politicians and members of the local church — who were aware of allegations against Belo.

 

AFP

Pope Appeals For Peace To ‘Beloved’ Ukraine On Independence Day

Pope Francis looks down during a news conference aboard the papal plane on his flight back after visiting Canada, July 29, 2022. – Pope Francis ended his six-day trip to Canada on July 29, 2022 as he began with a historic apology for the harm done to the country’s indigenous people, again expressing his “outrage and shame” to Inuit in the Arctic. (Photo by GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis renewed calls for peace Wednesday “for the beloved Ukrainian people” on the war-torn country’s Independence Day and the six-month anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion.

Following his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Francis directed his address to “the beloved Ukrainian people who for six months today have been suffering the horror of war,” while warning of the risk of nuclear catastrophe in the region.

“I hope that concrete steps will be taken to put an end to the war and to avert the risk of a nuclear disaster in Zaporizhzhia,” he said, referring to the Russian-controlled nuclear plant in southern Ukraine — Europe’s largest – that has been the target of military strikes, blamed by each side on the other.

The 85-year-old pope cited “so many innocents who are paying for madness” — whether prisoners, refugees, children or orphans — as the war drags on.

“I think of that poor girl who died because of a bomb under the seat of her car in Moscow,” added Francis, referring to Daria Dugina, the daughter of a Russian ultranationalist intellectual allied with President Vladimir Putin, killed by a car bomb Saturday.

“Those who profit from war and the arms trade are criminals who kill humanity,” the pope said, while denouncing long-standing military conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andriy Yurash, wrote on Twitter he was disappointed in Francis’ speech, saying the pontiff should not have put “aggressor and victim” in the same category.

Vatican Puts Online WWII Letters From Jews Pleading For Help

A letter from a university student of “Israelite origin” from a concentration camp in Spain (1942: Historical Archive of the Secretariat of State)

 

 

The Vatican said Thursday it would publish online thousands of letters to the pope from Jews in Europe seeking help during World War II, including liberation from Nazi concentration camps.

The archive of 2,700 cases “gathers the requests for help sent to Pope Pius XII by Jewish people… after the beginning of Nazi and fascist persecution”, said the Vatican’s de facto foreign minister, Paul Richard Gallagher, in a statement.

Although the documents have been available for consultation by scholars since March 2020, Pope Francis requested they be accessible to everyone, said the statement.

Putting the archive online “will allow the descendants of those who asked for help to find traces of their loved ones from any part of the world”, it said.

Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis, 85, has pushed for more transparency in church dealings.

In March 2019, under pressure from historians and Jewish groups, Francis announced he would unseal the secret archives of wartime pontiff Pius XII , who critics say did not do enough to protect Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust.

“The Church is not afraid of history,” Francis said at the time.

The newly released documents — labelled “Jews” in the Vatican’s archives — include requests from all over Europe from Jewish people seeking visas or passports, finding asylum, help reunifying families or searching for news about those already deported.

Some are more dire, such as pleas for help being freed from concentration camps.

– ‘Little hope’ –
Most requests involve entire families or groups. And in most, the ultimate fate of those asking for help is unknown, the Vatican said.

One letter included in the Vatican’s press release Thursday was written in 1942 by a 23-year-old German university student seeking freedom from a concentration camp in Spain.

“There is little hope for those who have no outside help,” wrote Werner Barasch.

The Vatican archive reveals no further information about Barasch. But research from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington shows he was released a year after his letter, ultimately settling in California, the Vatican said.

Francis unsealed Pius XII’s archive 62 years after the pontiff’s death in 1958, ahead of the usual lag of 70 years.

His move followed decades of pressure from scholars fiercely divided over the former pope’s perceived passivity during Nazi Germany’s extermination of millions of European Jews.

The Vatican has defended Pius XII, saying he saved many Jews by having them hidden in religious institutions and that his silence was born out of a wish to avoiding aggravating their situation.

The archive of Jewish letters shows that those within the Vatican working for the pope “worked tirelessly to provide Jewish people with practical help”, according to Thursday’s statement.

Thousands Join Pope For Good Friday Service With Ukraine In Mind

Pope Francis presides over the Way of The Cross on Good Friday, April 15, 2022 by the Colosseum monument in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

Thousands of faithful attended the “Way of the Cross” prayer service, presided over by Pope Francis at Rome’s Colosseum on Friday, a ceremony overtaken by the war in Ukraine.

It was the first time the traditional event on Good Friday, which marks the day Jesus Christ died on the cross in the Christian calendar, was held at the Roman monument since 2019, due to the Covid pandemic.

It also comes two days before Easter, Christianity’s most important holiday.

The pope, who has repeatedly condemned the conflict in Ukraine, and has called for an Easter ceasefire, prayed that the “adversaries shake hands” and “taste mutual forgiveness”.

“Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother,” he said.

“I have lived in Rome for more than 30 years but today it seemed very important to come,” Stefania Cutolo, a 52-year-old Italian teacher, told AFP as a choir rehearsed for the evening event.

“The message tonight, after two years of closure due to the pandemic, is doubly important. In this context where nationalism is returning to Europe, we must act,” she added.

Shortly after 9pm (1900 GMT), in front of 10,000 faithful, the Pontiff opened this highlight of Holy Week.

Organised since 1964 in the sumptuously illuminated Roman amphitheatre, the Way of the Cross event was held in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican for the last two years, with very low attendances amid the health crisis.

“We meet the whole world here, we hear all languages. It’s marvelous,” enthused Marie-Agnes Bethouart, 71, who arrived at Friday’s event with her husband and two grandsons.

Among the crowd, a yellow and blue flag stood out among the candles. They are the colours of Ukraine.

Among the families who were entrusted with carrying the crucifix at each of the 14 stations of the cross were two women, one Russian and one Ukrainian, who are life-long friends.

The women carried the cross during one portion of the Way of the Cross, the traditional procession that commemorates the 14 stations of Jesus’ suffering and death, from his condemnation to his burial.

 

This photo taken and handout on April 15, 2022 by The Vatican Media shows Pope Francis bless a family of migrants by the Colisseum monument in Rome, during the Way of The Cross presided over by the Pope on Good Friday. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) 

 

– ‘Inappropriate’ –
But the Vatican’s initiative, intended as a gesture of reconciliation in the face of the war that began February 24, was not well received by Ukrainian officials.

On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, denounced an “inappropriate, premature and ambiguous idea, which does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression”.

For his part, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See said he “shared the general concern”.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the Ukrainian media boycotted the broadcast of the ceremony, while the Vatican had added commentary in Ukrainian and Russian for the broadcast.

In the crowd at the event, Anastasia Goncharova, an 18-year-old tourist from Kyiv, said “I don’t think it’s a really good idea because we are no longer brother nations. They are killing our children, they are raping our children, stealing our house. It’s disgusting”

 

Pope Francis presides over the Way of The Cross on Good Friday, April 15, 2022 at the Colosseum monument in Rome. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

 

In the end the two Russian and Ukrainian friends did carry the crucifix together.

A contemplative silence replaced an original text for the occasion, which was intended to deal more specifically with the war in Ukraine.

Most of those attending welcomed the Vatican’s Russia-Ukraine initiative.

“It is the cross, and therefore the pain of these two peoples, but also hope, because we believe that after the war there will be peace. It is very beautiful,” said Bethouart.

Ex-Pope Benedict XVI Asks For Forgiveness Over Sex Abuse Scandal

In this file photo taken on February 14, 2015 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attends a papal consistory for the creation of new Cardinals at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican. Andreas SOLARO / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 14, 2015 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attends a papal consistory for the creation of new Cardinals at St. Peter’s basilica in Vatican. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Ex-pope Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness Tuesday for clerical child sex abuse committed on his watch, but aides rejected allegations of a cover-up while he was archbishop of Munich.

“I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness,” the 94-year-old said in a letter published by the Vatican.

The letter from the former pontiff — who stepped down in 2013 — was released in response to a German inquiry last month that criticised his handling of cases involving paedophile priests in the 1980s.

“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” he wrote.

However, organisations representing abuse victims criticised the lack of specifics in his comments.

German group Eckiger Tisch said Benedict continued a Catholic Church tradition of declaring that “there were acts and faults, but no one takes concrete responsibility”.

Last month’s German investigation accused the former pope of knowingly failing to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse when he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

Benedict, who is in frail health, asked a team of aides to help him respond to the lengthy findings by law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), charged by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to examine abuse between 1945 and 2019.

The aides insisted in an accompanying statement Tuesday that “as an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse”, using the pope’s birth name, Joseph Ratzinger.

Not Aware

In one case, a now-notorious paedophile priest named Peter Hullermann was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany where he had been accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy.

Benedict’s team has already admitted to unintentionally giving incorrect information to the report authors when they denied his attendance at a meeting about Hullermann in 1980.

But they denied any decision had been taken at that meeting about reassigning the priest to pastoral duties, and on Tuesday said the abuse had not been discussed.

“In none of the cases analysed by the expert report was Joseph Ratzinger aware of sexual abuse committed or suspicion of sexual abuse committed by priests. The expert report provides no evidence to the contrary,” the statement said.

In his letter, Benedict expressed hurt that the “oversight” over his attendance at the 1980 meeting “was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar”.

Benedict, who lives in a former monastery within the Vatican walls, said he was grateful “for the confidence, support and prayer that Pope Francis personally expressed to me”.

Francis has said nothing in public although the Vatican defended Benedict last month, noting his meetings with abuse victims and introduction of laws to combat paedophilia.

Fear and Trembling

Before becoming pope, Benedict led the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, giving him ultimate responsibility to investigate abuse cases.

In his letter, he spoke of “confession”, saying that every day, he asked himself whether he was guilty of “a most grievous fault”, using the phrase said during confession at Mass.

“In all my meetings… with victims of sexual abuse by priests, I have seen at first hand the effects of a most grievous fault,” he wrote.

“I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen.”

But his comments fell short of what the SNAP survivors network said was required.

“The opportunity for cleansing (that) the report out of Munich offered has been squandered,” it said, condemning Benedict’s “lack of candour”.

Benedict finished his letter observing that “quite soon, I shall find myself before the final judge of my life”.

“As I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling,” he wrote.

But he was nevertheless “of good cheer” as he prepared to “pass confidently through the dark door of death”.

‘God Rejects You’: Man Disrupts Pope’s Speech At Vatican


Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on February 2, 2022. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

A shouting man denouncing the Church disrupted an audience by Pope Francis at the Vatican Wednesday, before being escorted outside by police.

“The Church is not the way God wants it,” the man repeated in English, as he stood in the back of the audience hall holding his mask in his hand and gesticulating.

The man, who also spoke in Spanish and Italian, appeared distraught and concerned as he implored the pope: “Please.”

While being led out of the hall by two Vatican police and a Swiss Guard without resisting, the man yelled, “God rejects you, Father. You’re not a king”.

READ ALSO: Pope ‘Concerned’ Over Ukraine, Risk To European Security

The disturbance came near the end of Francis’ weekly general audience with the faithful in the large Paul VI hall.

The 85-year-old pope, who had continued to deliver his address during the shouting, asked the audience to pray for the man.

“We heard, a few minutes ago, a person who was yelling, scolding, who had a problem — I don’t know if it’s physical, psychic, or spiritual, but it’s one of our brothers, in difficulty,” said the pontiff.

“I would like to conclude by praying for him, our brother who suffers. Poor man, he’s shouting because he’s suffering.”

“Let’s not be deaf to the needs of this brother”.

AFP

Pope Names Raffaella Petrini As First Woman To Head Vatican Governorate

Pope Francis speaks to worshipers during the weekly general audience, at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican on November 3, 2021. PHOTO: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Pope Francis appointed a woman on Thursday to head up the governorate of the Vatican, as he forges ahead with a mission to achieve greater gender equality in the Church.

The pontiff appointed Franciscan sister Raffaella Petrini as the new secretary-general of the governorate, making her the first woman to ever hold the post.

Petrini, 52, who will be responsible for overseeing administrative operations, including the Vatican museums, post office, and police, becomes the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state.

READ ALSO: Mexican President Slams COP26 ‘Hypocrisy’

The National Catholic Reporter online newspaper said the role is traditionally held by a bishop.

Francis, 84, has repeatedly said he wants women to play a greater role in the Roman Catholic Church.

In January he changed the law to allow them to serve as readers at liturgies, altar servers and distributors of communion — but stopped short of saying the change could one day open the door to female priests.

In February he broke 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.

The pope created a commission in 2016 into the history of female deacons in the early year of the Catholic Church, in a move reformers hope could open the door to women taking up the role today.

After their findings were said by the pope to be inconclusive, he set up a fresh commission to look into the issue last year.

AFP

Biden To Meet Pope Francis At Vatican

File photo: US President Joe Biden  (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden, America’s second Catholic president, and his wife Jill will have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 29, the White House announced Thursday.

“They will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor,” the White House said in a statement.

Pope Francis In ‘Good’ Condition After Surgery, Says Vatican

File photo of Pope Francis holding a weekly live-streamed Angelus prayer from the library of the apostolic palace in The Vatican. PHOTO: Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Pope Francis, 84, is doing well after surgery for an inflamed large colon, but is expected to spend around seven days recovering in hospital.

This was disclosed by the Vatican on Monday.

Francis “is in good general condition, alert and breathing spontaneously”, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement, adding that the surgery “lasted about three hours”.

“A stay of about seven days is expected barring complications,” he said.

The pontiff was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital Sunday for a scheduled operation under general anaesthetic for symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.

Afterwards, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said he had “reacted well to the surgery”.

The Vatican press office told AFP on Monday it expected to issue a fresh medical bulletin around midday (1000 GMT).

A week earlier, on the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Francis seemed to hint at the upcoming operation, saying: “I ask you to pray for the pope, pray in a special way. The pope needs your prayers”.

READ ALSO: Biden Marks ‘Independence’ From COVID, But Pandemic Woes Persist

The Argentine is likely to stay in hospital for at least five days, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

The Vatican said it could not confirm how long the stay would be.

The pontiff has already put his Wednesday general audience on hold for the summer, and has no other official appointments in his calendar until next Sunday, when he is to lead the Angelus prayer.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi sent Francis “affectionate get well soon wishes” Monday, as did the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed el Tayyeb, who wished him “a speedy recovery”.

Francis is in the same suite on the 10th floor of the Gemelli hospital used by Pope John Paul II, according to Catholic website Cruxnow.com.

The late pope underwent surgery there several times, including after an attempt on his life in 1981, and for a tumour in the colon in 1992, it said.

Francis’s condition causes potentially painful inflammation of the diverticulum, a pocket that can form on the colon walls and which tend to multiply with age.

“Stenosis” here means an abnormal narrowing of the colon, and patients with diverticulitis may experience lower abdominal pain, fever, or rectal bleeding.

The condition may be caused by high pressure within the colon or a diet low in fibre and high in red meat, according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

The pontiff had arrived at the clinic in the afternoon accompanied by his driver and one close aide, and Italian media said he was in the operating room a few hours later.

Born on December 17, 1936 in Argentina, Francis lost part of his right lung at the age of 21. He also suffers from a hip problem and sciatica.

Pope Francis To Undergo Colon Operation – Vatican

This handout photo taken on May 5, 2021, and released by the Vatican press office, the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis during his live streamed weekly audience at The Vatican.
Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

 

Pope Francis, 84, was to undergo surgery Sunday in Rome for an inflamed large colon, a Vatican statement said.

The pontiff was admitted to the Gemelli University Hospital “for a scheduled surgery for symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon”, it said.

The condition causes potentially painful inflammation of the diverticulum, a pocket that can form on the colon walls and which tend to multiply with age.

A potential complication is an abnormal narrowing of the colon.

A health bulletin was to be issued once the operation had been completed.

Born on December 17, 1936 in Argentina, Francis lost part of his right lung at the age of 21. He also suffers from a hip problem and sciatica.

The pope announced earlier Sunday that he will visit Slovakia in September after a brief stop in Hungary to celebrate a mass in Budapest.

READ ALSO: Saudi Suspends UAE Flights Due To COVID-19 Variant

Francis’ visit to Slovakia will include the cities of Bratislava, Presov, Kosice and Sastin, the Vatican said in a statement.

Although more detailed plans for the trip will be announced later, there was no sign the pope intends to meet Hungary’s political leaders during his stop in Budapest.

AFP

Cardinal, 9 Others, To Be Tried In Vatican Over Alleged Fraud

In this file photo taken on June 1, 2020 people visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) which reopened to the public in The Vatican, while the city-state eas

 

 

An influential Cardinal and nine others will be tried within the Vatican’s legal system over alleged financial wrongdoing, the Holy See announced Saturday.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was one of the most influential figures in the Vatican and a close ally of Pope Francis, will appear before the tribunal of the Holy See from July 27, according to a Vatican statement.

The 73-year-old was dismissed from a powerful Vatican job last September, after Francis told him he was accused of syphoning off Vatican charity funds to help his siblings.

Becciu will be prosecuted over embezzlement, abuse of power and witness tampering in the case, linked to a scandal concerning a loss-making Vatican investment in central London which happened under his watch. He has always professed his innocence.

Before his dismissal, he led the Vatican’s department on sainthoods. From 2011 to 2018 he was the Substitute for General Affairs, a role akin to chief of staff in the Vatican’s central bureaucracy.

Among the others set to face Vatican justice are Rene Bruelhart, former head of the Financial Information Authority (FIA), the Vatican’s financial watchdog.

He will face abuses of power charges as will Enrico Crasso, an investment fund manager who controlled millions of euros of Vatican money.

Among the others facing Vatican justice are former FIA director Tommaso Di Ruzza and Italian consultant Cecilia Marogna, known as “the Cardinal’s Lady” for her links with Becciu.

The investment at the heart of the scandal is a building in London’s upmarket Chelsea district, transformed into 50 luxury apartments.

Vatican Urges ‘Motherly Care’ For Climate Refugees

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 24, 2020 shows a view of the deserted entrance of the closed Vatican Museums in the Vatican during the lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic.  (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

 

 

Climate change is real and more must be done to protect people displaced by it, the Vatican said Tuesday, as it presented guidelines on helping millions forced to flee their homes.

The document, “Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People,” is a series of policies and proposals to bishops’ conferences, local churches, congregations and organisations dealing with people displaced by climate impacts.

“The Catholic Church has a motherly care for all those who have been displaced by the effects of this crisis,” it read.

It is not the first time the Church has addressed the dangers and repercussions of climate change.

Pope Francis, who has made environmental protection one of the top focuses of his papacy, has often spoken out against global warming, calling it a major threat to the planet.

The document released Tuesday said it was intended as a “roadmap in pastoral planning of climate displaced people.”

“We are already in a climate crisis, one that is fast accelerating,” and “causing immense suffering to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world,” it said.

“It is the poor and vulnerable communities around the world who are disproportionately affected by the ecological and climate crises.

“They are the innocent ones, having contributed least to causing the problem in the first place.”

– ‘Destructive activity’ –
Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes due to the impacts of climate change, from extreme weather to environmental degradation.

According to figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, cited by the Vatican, natural disasters triggered 24.9 million displacements across 140 countries and territories in 2019 — three times the number displaced by violence.

The new guidelines address ways to raise awareness of climate displaced people, encourage dialogue with governments and policy-makers, and call for welcoming displaced people into the Church.

In a preface to the document, Pope Francis said although people being driven from their homes due to severe climate events might look inevitable, “like a process of nature,” the reality was often otherwise.

“The deteriorating climate is very often the result of poor choices and destructive activity, of selfishness and neglect, that set humankind at odds with creation, our common home,” he wrote.

At an online press conference, the Archbishop of Beira in Mozambique spoke remotely from his diocese, describing the destruction caused by a series of unprecedented powerful cyclones over the past two years.

Monsignor Claudio Dalla Zuanna described how 2019’s Cyclone Idai destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in Beira and sparked devastating flooding, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Another priest, Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, who works in the Vatican department that complied the report, called climate change “ultimately a moral problem”.

“The poor and vulnerable communities whose carbon emissions are only a fraction of those of the rich world are already the early and disproportionate victims of the crisis,” he said.