Jun 5 2020Presiding over a liturgy on Friday in solidarity with protests being held in the US for the killing of George Floyd, Irish-American Cardinal Kevin Farrell says Christians have a duty to help all fellow citizens to return to the authentic ideals of the nation, its constitution and its laws.
Jun 5 2020The dignity of the human person, forgiveness and true wealth were some of the topics that Pope Francis discussed recently with the French Association "Lazare", or Lazarus.
Jun 5 2020Cardinal Kevin Farrell reflects on the changes that have marked the ecumenical movement in the 60 years since the foundation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Jun 5 2020The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, encourages religious education for children and young people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and earthquake in Croatia.
Jun 5 2020In a video message published on Friday, Pope Francis encourages participants of a Scholas Occurrentes online meeting organized on the occasion of World Environment Day.
Jun 5 2020
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 5, 2020 / 03:08 pm (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal intervened in an online discussion of racism on Friday to warn that a lack of welcome in U.S. churches is driving young African Catholics away from the Church.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian cardinal and prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, made a guest appearance during an online panel discussion on “Racism in Our Streets and Structures” that featured Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., along with other black Catholic leaders.
Turkson noted that “bishops and pastors from parts of Africa” have expressed concern that young Catholics leaving the continent to attend schools in Europe and the U.S. return home having left the Church.
“Feeling welcome in some of our traditional churches over here is an issue,” Cardinal Turkson said. The students reporting having had difficulty being accepted in Catholic communities, he said, and so they go to where they find “fellowship,” driven “into the fold of Evangelical movements and groups.”
The online discussion on Friday was hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, and moderated by the director of the initiative, John Carr.
Panelists included Archbishop Gregory of Washington, D.C., the only African-American archbishop in the United States, Gloria Purvis, host of the EWTN radio show “Morning Glory,” Ralph McCloud, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain a professor of history and African-American studies at Georgetown.
The event was held amid national protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis, in police custody. The killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February and Breonna Taylor in Louisville were also discussed at Friday’s panel.
Archbishop Gregory said that watching video footage of George Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck reminded him of attending the open-casket viewing of Emmett Till as a young man.
Till, a 14 year-old African-American male, was lynched by white men in Mississippi in 1955, and his mother chose to have an open-casket wake to exhibit the brutality of his murder.
Chauvin has since been dismissed from the force and arrested on charges of second degree murder.
The recent killings of Arbery and Floyd are part of a “collage of individuals who have been assassinated,” Gregory said, “for no other reason than the color of their skin.”
Purvis said that she watched the video of Floyd’s arrest in horror, wanting to yell at the police officer kneeling on his neck, “Stop in the name of God! Stop!”
“I just thought the image of God is being abused right here in front of me,” she said on Friday. “It’s like watching an abortion being performed, and you can do nothing.”
Gregory also discussed a recent statement of his that criticized a visit of President Donald Trump to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. as a political photo-op during the mass protests against racism and police brutality.
The archbishop had said the morning of the visit that it was “baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”
The White House and shrine both said that the visit had been planned in advance of the demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and other cities. A spokesperson for the shrine said on Tuesday that the White House “originally scheduled this as an event for the president to sign an executive order on international religious freedom.” Trump signed the executive order later that day.
On Friday, Gregory said that Pope St. John Paul II “was a man of incredible concern about the dignity of human beings” and even before his pontificate “was battling systems” that were intended to “deny human dignity.”
“That shrine is a holy place because of the man that it honors,” Gregory said, and it never should have been used as a “political statement.”
After some Catholics criticized Gregory’s outspoken response, he said Friday that he found the reactions “reminiscent, in my mind, to the criticism that people gave to Catholic priests and nuns that they saw marching during the civil rights period.”
“The Church lives in society,” he said. “The Church does not live behind the four doors of the structures where we worship.”
Panelists also discussed the intersection of racism and the new coronavirus pandemic. Gregory said that racism is similar to a virus in that both “are things that impact our lives that frighten us, but also come in silent and oftentimes undiscoverable ways.”
African-American communities were some of the last U.S. communities to have available testing for the virus, McCloud said. Even zoo animals and star athletes were being tested for the virus before the “equitable testing of African-American communities,” he said.
Purvis addressed the arguments that mass protests might put lives in danger by spreading the virus. Participants are well aware of the dangers of catching the virus, she said, but this speaks to the gravity of the issues of racism and police brutality they are protesting.
“The Lord is calling the entire nation to repentance,” Purvis said. Catholics should examine their consciences to see how they might have demeaned their neighbor in thought, word, or act. Catholics can always ask God, “please show me my brokenness,” she said. “He will do that.”
Offering a concrete way for Catholics to fight racism, she said “Listen to people of color. Just listen.”
The pro-life movement should also get involved to fight racism, she said, as the “Gospel imperative” behind the movement “is about the human person.”
“The call of this movement is to say we don’t want the power of the state used against us,” she said of the racial justice movement.
In her remarks, Chatelain, the Georgetown professor, asked whether Catholics are really willing to sacrifice, and to change their own attitudes, to address racial injustice.
Gregory offered that he is hopeful about change, because “if you look at the faces of so many of the protesters, the quiet, gentle, peaceful protesters—they’re white faces. There are many more white faces involved in this response than I ever saw before. And that gives me a spirit of hope that somehow this is more than just a passing moment. I pray that it’s more than just a passing moment.”
Jun 5 2020
CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- The Holy See press office announced Friday that Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi has been arrested after he was interrogated as part of a Vatican financial investigation.
Torzi played a crucial role in the controversial purchase of a London property development by the Secretariat of State.
“Today the Office of the Promoter of Justice of the Vatican Court, at the end of the interrogation of Mr. Gianluigi Torzi, who was assisted by his trusted lawyers, issued an arrest warrant against him,” a June 5 statement from the Holy See said.
The warrant was signed by the Promoter of Justice, Prof. Gian Piero Milano, the statement said, and “was issued in relation to the well-known events connected with the sale of the London property on Sloane Avenue, which involved a network of companies in which some officials of the Secretariat of State were present.”
Torzi is being charged by Vatican prosecutors with several counts of “extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering,” the Holy See said, noting that the crimes Vatican Law provides for sentences of up to twelve years imprisonment for such crimes.
He is detained in special premises at the Gendarmerie Corps Barracks.
CNA has previously reported that Torzi acted as a commission-earning middleman for the Secretariat of State as it finalized its purchase of the London property, on which it spent approximately $300 million.
The building at 60 Sloane Avenue was bought by the secretariat in stages between 2014-2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.
When it sold to the secretariat 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company retained the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. Mincione eventually offered to part with those, at greatly inflated prices and Torzi acted to broker the sale.
Torzi reportedly earned 10 million euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.
In May, CNA reported that Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay secretariat official who oversaw investments, was appointed a director of a company owned by Torzi while the businessman was finalizing the Vatican’s purchase of the London property.
According to corporate filings, in November 2018 Tirabassi, who was responsible for managing financial investments for the secretariat, was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a company owned by Torzi and registered in Luxembourg.
Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés show that Tirabassi was appointed a director on 23 November, 2018 and removed by a filing sent on December 27. At the time of his appointment as director, Tirabassis’s business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.
In May, CNA asked Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin if he was aware of the appointment, and whether he considered it appropriate for an official at the secretariat to accept such a position. CNA also asked if officials at the secretariat are generally permitted to accept such positions.
Cardinal Parolin told CNA at the time, saying that it would not be appropriate for him to respond, “especially taking into account the ongoing legal proceedings.”
Tirabassi is one of five Vatican employees suspended in October, 2019, following a raid conducted by Vatican gendarmes, who seized computers and documents related to financial dealings at the department.
Tirabassi has not since returned to work, and it is unclear whether he remains employed. An April 30 announcement from the Holy See press office confirmed that “individual measures” had been taken against some employees in relation to the ongoing investigations, but did not specify what that might mean.
Last month, CNA reported that tens of millions of euros have been frozen in Swiss banks as part of the investigation into the London property investment. At the end of April, Swiss authorities also forwarded documents to Vatican prosecutors as part of the investigation into investments made by the Secretariat of State.
Torzi and his family were reportedly granted a private audience with Pope Francis in the Domus Santa Marta the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, 2018, as the London property deal was being finalized.
CNA has made numerous requests to the Vatican press office in recent months to clarify why Torzi was afforded this honor, and who arranged the audience; those requests have not been answered.
Torzi also has connections to the British-Italian architect, Luciano Capaldo, who is the sole director of London 60 SA Ltd., a U.K. registered holding company owned by the Secretariat of State, which controls the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London.
Capaldo has previously served as a director of several companies at which Torzi has also served as a director, or in which Torzi and his companies have had financial interest: Sunset Credit Yield Ltd., Virtualbricks Ltd., Odikon Services Plc. At least one of these, Odikon Services, has been the subject of a lawsuit for fraud in the U.K., and suspended by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.
At a November press conference, Pope Francis was asked about the London investment. While confirming that he had personally authorized the October raids, he emphasized that proof of corrupt or illegal activity was “not yet clear,” before concluding that “it passed what passed: a scandal,”
“They have done things that do not seem clean,” the pope said.
Jun 5 2020
CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 02:19 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ migration chairman called on Congress to advance a bill that would help “Dreamers” and other immigrants gain a pathway to citizenship.
Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, issued a statement June 4 challenging the Senate to reconsider the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6).
“One year ago, today the House of Representatives passed H.R.6, a bill offering a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders. Today, sadly, Dreamers and TPS holders remain vulnerable and without permanent legal status,” he said.
“As we await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we again call on the Senate to push forward with legislation that provides a path to citizenship for these individuals, who are essential to our communities, our Church and our country.”
The bill had passed the House by a 237-187 vote June 4, 2019. It seeks to make citizenship an easier option for “Dreamers,” children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents; immigrants with Temporary Protected Status; and Deferred Enforced Departure holders.
Dorsonville said the lack of certainty that such migrants face is a particular stress during the coronavirus pandemic, as many of them work in health care or other sectors that may expose them to the virus.
“This continued uncertainty for Dreamers and TPS holders comes at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when many Dreamers and TPS holders are, alongside U.S. citizens, on the frontlines providing essential work for our country in health care, food supply, and transportation. For example, currently, more than 62,000 workers. . . who are DACA-eligible are working in healthcare,” he said.
If it became law, the bill would immediately grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence. With two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment, they could then receive permanent legal residence.
In the cases of armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions, TPS allows people who are unable to return safely to their home countries to remain in the United States until the disaster is resolved. It protects them from deportation and grants them permission to work. TPS is available to qualified individuals from 10 foreign countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.
Similarly, DED protects from deportation people from countries or regions facing political violence or natural disaster, and allows them to work. The status is currently given only to Liberians.
Under the bill, those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.
Over a year ago, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston decried an alternative immigration plan from the Trump Administration. The plan prioritizes immigration status based on skills rather than family ties. It would not provide legal status for “Dreamers” nor does it provide a clear path to citizenship for TPS holders.
“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” they said. “Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system.”
Jun 5 2020
Vatican City, Jun 5, 2020 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- In response to racism, the Catholic Church should be united in Christ, not take ideological sides, Cardinal Kevin Farrell said at a prayer service for George Floyd in Rome on Friday.
“When the Church makes the words of the Gospel resound, she wants to be faithful to Jesus, but she does not want to take one side against another,” Farrell said during the service June 5.
“Jesus addressed his message of salvation and mercy to all, without excluding anyone,” the U.S. cardinal said. “This simple fact should be a strong appeal to all of us, who instead often make distinctions based on social class, economic status, race, or political affiliation.”
When Catholics distance themselves from those they consider on “the other side,” they lose sight of Christ, he continued: “We end up identifying our Christian faith with the ideological vision of the side we have embraced.”
Farrell spoke at a prayer vigil for George Floyd and his family at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere June 5. Farrell is prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.
At least 100 people attended the vigil, with more watching online.
The service was organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic association. In a June 4 press release, the community said participants would pray for “peaceful coexistence” in the U.S., which has been rocked by protests since Floyd was killed in police custody May 25.
The prayer service included hymns, the Our Father prayer, and a Gospel reading from John 14:23-27, in which Jesus tells his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich, and former U.S. representative Newt Gingrich were present at the service, as well as UK ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy.
In his homily, Cardinal Farrell emphasized that an “us-versus-them” mentality conflicts with the words of St. Paul in Galatians: that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“Returning to this purity of the Gospel becomes the best way of promoting the social good, avoiding partial and ideological visions,” the cardinal stated.
Farrell urged Catholics to not close their eyes to racism and discrimination, which he said will always need to be fought, “because the human heart can always close itself in its selfishness and return to being polluted in sin.”
Condemning violence and destruction, he also encouraged Christians to unite in building a culture of respect, saying “for us Christians, it is also a duty to insist that the means are always in harmony with the ends.”
“Looting and violence lead to nothing good for the future,” he added.
“For this reason, we Christians must not hide in fear. On the contrary: precisely in this delicate moment of social tension, we must be present to address the true and lasting good, the just desire for equality, for respect, and for justice that is present in the heart of every man and woman.”
Jun 5 2020
CNA Staff, Jun 5, 2020 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders in El Salvador say a recent CBS News report on abortion in the country is misleading, and does not accurately portray factual narratives, amid a fight over the legalization of abortion in the country.
A CBS documentary “Jailed for Abortion in El Salvador” and an accompanying print report, were published online May 28. Pro-life advocates in the country say the report leaves out or misrepresents crucial information regarding landmark fights over abortion in the country.
The CBS report claimed that “more than 140 women have been charged under El Salvador's total ban on abortion since 1998, incarcerated for up to 35 years in some of the world's most notorious prisons. Many say they never had an abortion, but instead claim that after suffering a miscarriage they were wrongfully convicted when their doctors accused them of intentionally terminating their pregnancies.”
Alabama state Representative Merika Coleman visited last November a prison in El Salvador where some of those women are incarcerated. She told CBS News that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned “things that are going on in El Salvador could actually happen in the United States,"
The report mentioned the case of “Manuela,” whose real name is María Edis Hernández de Castra, a woman who according to CBS, claimed to have had a miscarriage and “was charged and convicted for aggravated homicide, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.”
Hernández served two years of her sentence before she died from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2010.
“But a lawsuit brought on behalf of Manuela's family after her death may bring change. Next year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is expected to hear her case, and if the international body sides with Manuela and her family, El Salvador could be barred from prosecuting women who say they miscarried, according to an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the law firm representing the family,” CBS reported.
El Salvadoran pro-life organizations say that the case of Hernández, or Manuela, is one of numerous cases in El Salvador in which acts of infanctide have been reported as miscarriages, and used in litigation intended to promote the legalization of abortion.
According to VIDA SV, the trial documents in Hernández’ case indicate that her child died when he was discarded in a latrine shortly after his birth. At trial, Hernández claimed she did not know she was pregnant until she miscarried in the latrine. Prosecutors presented evidence that she discarded her child while he was alive, and argued that evidence indicated she’d done so knowingly. A jury agreed with the prosecution.
Sara Larín, president of the Fundación VIDA SV, and Ligia Castaldi, a professor at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, published this year in the International Human Rights Review an exhaustive legal investigation of 25 cases, which explains in detail "the fraud involved in the Hernández case before the Inter-American Court" and the other cases.
Speaking June 3 to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Larín said that the Center for Reproductive Rights had "sent an intimidating letter” requesting Hernández’ name be redacted from that investigation, “alleging that it is necessary to protect the privacy of the relatives of the alleged victim."
Larín pointed out that "CBS News itself and a documentary made by the Center for Reproductive Rights show the faces of family members and the family's living conditions to emotionally manipulate public opinion in favor of this case."
Larín further noted that Hernández "was not a victim, but a victimizer," given her conviction for aggravated homicide.
"The sentence is public precisely because the right to privacy is reserved to the victims and not to the victimizers," Larín stressed.
"She never disputed her guilt, did not file any appeal for review, and gave conflicting versions of the facts. The evidence shows that she committed the crime and those false versions were never found reasonable by the Court. It’s not true that she didn’t know that she was pregnant, she had already had three children previously, ”Larin explained.
In her testimony, “Maria Edis said that she had fallen into the river, that she had inadvertently expelled the child in the latrine, which according to forensic doctors was not possible; there was no evidence of any injuries from the alleged fall into the river. It was determined that the child was born alive, breathing, and survived between 10 and 20 minutes after being thrown into the latrine," Larín said.
The court’s sentence said that Hernández’ statements were "contrary to logic and medicine," and concluded that she deliberately caused the baby's death.
The international campaign to legalize abortion
According to Larín, abortion proponents intend to create a legal precedent that forces the Salvadoran government to pay millions in compensation to the organizations that filed the lawsuit.
"That money will have to be financed from the taxes of the entire Salvadoran people so these pro-abortion groups can continue to use it to bombard us with ideologies contrary to the law, morality and good customs," she said.
Another pro-life leader, Julia Regina de Cardenal, the president of the Fundación Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life) in El Salvador, told ACI Prensa June 3 that this “slanderous international campaign against El Salvador to legalize the abortion industry is financed by petty interests capable of the worst tricks to achieve their goal. "
De Cardenal said that the other cases presented in the documentary and in the CBS News articles were also "being manipulated" since "they have nothing to do with abortions."
"These women were convicted for the aggravated homicide of their children who were born alive," she said.
Babies allegedly miscarried have been found “strangled, struck with a stone, with fractures to the neck, stabbed, abandoned in septic tanks or inside plastic bags that had been hidden,” she said.
"They were all full term babies who breathed, but were cruelly killed."
De Cardenal pointed out that in El Salvador “there is not a single serious media outlet that has published the lies repeated in the international propaganda media, that women are hated and persecuted here; that hundreds of women are imprisoned for abortion; that poor women who had ‘miscarriages,’ ‘obstetric emergencies’ or ‘non-hospital deliveries’ are given 40 years in prison.”
“That’s false,” she underscored.
De Cardenal emphasized that in El Salvador miscarriage is not punishable, and that "this farce is so absurd because women are not even imprisoned for induced abortion."
"Why? Because the penalty for induced abortion is 2 to 8 years (not 40) and the judges don’t hate or persecute the women, instead they give them alternative sentencing, " she explained.
The Yes to Life Foundation representative said that the Salvadoran people “are fed up with the lack of respect and insults of deceitful foreign actresses and journalists who accuse us of having a 'medieval, draconian law,' when in reality we have legislation that truly protects equal human rights for all people, which ought to serve as a model for the rest of the world. ”
"Why are they lying? Because they know that very few people would support the infanticide they are defending, ” she said.
De Cardenal believes that "it is not surprising that those who profit from exploiting women in crisis pregnancies by killing their unborn children, also defend killing them after they’re born."
"Fortunately, we Salvadorans are pro-life and we know that these women need all our support, not violence and death," she added.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.