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Pope Francis will visit Bari to host ecumenical day of prayer for peace

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 07:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will travel to the Italian town of Bari July 7 for an ecumenical gathering with the heads of other Christian churches to pray for peace in the Middle East.

According to the April 25 Vatican communique announcing the visit, the event will primarily be “a day of prayer and reflection on the dramatic situation of the Middle East which afflicts so many brothers and sisters in the faith.”

The pope has invited faithful to prepare for the event with prayer and will invite heads of the Christian churches and communities in the region, which is home to several different Catholic and Orthodox rites.

Located in Italy's southern Puglia region, Bari is home to the relics of St. Nicholas. Widely known by his more commercialized title of “Santa Claus,” St. Nicholas is one of the most important saints in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Pope Francis lent relics of the saint, which consisted of several bone fragments, to Russia last summer in a bid to build further bridges with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The relics were sent from Bari to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow from May 22-July 12, 2017, marking the first time in 930 years that a part of St. Nicholas' body left Bari for veneration abroad. While in Russia, the relics were venerated by more than two million Orthodox faithful, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Francis sent the relics after Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a specific request during the historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.

Since the Bari encounter in July is designed to be an ecumenical gathering, it is likely that Patriarch Kirill will attend alongside other leaders. It is also likely that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will also attend, given the frequency of when he and Francis meet.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087. At the time, the sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where the saint had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

At the same time that the pope lent the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia, he also lent the relics of St. Philip to Patriarch Bartholomew in Turkey.

St. Philip's relics arrived in the Turkish city of Izmir, also known as Smyrna in ancient Greek, May 8, 2017, where they remained for the summer.

During his life, St. Philip evangelized the area and was also martyred there. His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century, however, in 2016, they were taken out and underwent an examination. They were then exposed for public veneration.
 
The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today. Pope Francis himself has often spoken of prayer as a way to build bridges and bring members of different rites and confessions together.

Pope Francis: the Christian life is a battle against evil

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 04:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the temptations encountered in the Christian life, encouraging faithful to not be discouraged by the struggle, but to be reassured and strengthened by the prayers of the Church.  

“It is difficult to fight against evil, to escape from its deceptions, to regain strength after a tiring struggle, but we must know that all of Christian life is a battle,” the pope said April 25.

“But we must also know that we are not alone, that the Mother Church prays so that her children, regenerated in Baptism, do not succumb to the snares of the evil one. Strengthened by the Risen Lord, who defeated the prince of this world, we too can repeat with the faith of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me,’” he said.

At his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis continued his reflections on the sacrament of Baptism – including its power over the evil of sin and the hope that Christians gain through the prayers of others and through membership in the Catholic Church.

We know from personal experience how easily, even in the Christian life, we are tempted to separate ourselves from God, “from his will, from communion with him, to fall back into the bonds of worldly seductions,” Francis said.

Baptism is not a “magic formula, but a gift of the Holy Spirit,” he continued, emphasizing that it “prepares us, gives us strength for this daily struggle, even the struggle against the devil who – as St. Peter says – like a lion tries to devour us, to destroy us.”

Quoting from the Rite of the Baptism of Children, he said the sacrament enables “those who receive it to fight against the spirit of evil believing that God has sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of Satan and transfer man from darkness into his kingdom of infinite light.”

Another important aspect of the sacrament, the pope noted, is that one never goes to the baptismal font to receive Baptism alone but is always accompanied by the prayers of the entire Church, as can be heard in the litany of the saints.

The prayers of the Church are always active, he said, encouraging those present to enter into this prayer, praying for the people of God and for those in need.

In the Baptism of adults, following the litany of the saints the prayer of exorcism and the pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of the catechumens takes place.

These are gestures, Francis said, which since ancient times have assured those preparing to be baptized that the prayer of the Church assists them “in the fight against evil, accompanies them on the path of good, helps them to escape the power of sin to pass into the kingdom of divine grace.”

This is one reason that, for adult catechumens, the path includes repeated prayers of exorcism pronounced by the priest, he said. These prayers call for the liberation of the person from everything which separates him or her from Christ, preventing intimate union with him.

After his catechesis on Baptism, Pope Francis made several comments about the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit, which will take place April 27 in Panmunjeom, the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area.

It will be attended by both the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and marks the first inter-Korean summit in eleven years. The intended focus of the summit is the North Korean nuclear weapons program and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The meeting will be a good opportunity to begin a “transparent dialogue and concrete path of reconciliation... in order to guarantee peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the whole world,” the pope said.

He assured the Korean people of his personal prayer for peace and the closeness of the whole world and stated that “the Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages all useful and sincere initiatives to build a better future, in the name of meeting and friendship among peoples.”

The pope also encouraged those with political responsibilities to be “artisans” of peace, adding that God is the Father of all and the Father of peace, and inviting those present to join him in praying an ‘Our Father’ for the Korean people.

Why Catholics should beware as high-tech 'deepfake' videos emerge

Dallas, Texas, Apr 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Like any figure of importance, there is high likelihood that the Pope or another Catholic leader could be the subject of a fake video using a rapidly improving technology—and everyone needs to take care not to empower such a hoax, said Rudolph Bush, director of journalism at the University of Dallas.

“It’s very likely to happen, I think, and the consequences could be serious,” Bush told CNA April 23. “Depending on who is targeted by this, depending on how ripe that target is to be manipulated, it could be very damaging.”

For Bush, the prospect is “really worrisome,” given reports that social media have been used to incite societies during elections or times of racial or ethnic tensions. These tensions are manipulated to foment “not only political strife but war and in some cases genocide.”

Bush has worked as a professional journalist since 1997, serving as Dallas and Enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News. He has written for the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News on politics and crime.

He spoke in response to the development of so-called “deepfake” videos, which are created with artificial intelligence software. One video published by Buzzfeed appeared to feature former U.S. President Barack Obama in a public service announcement about fake news.

“We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time — even if they would never say those things,” Obama’s image said.

“So, for instance, they could have me say things like, I don’t know, ‘Killmonger was right!’” said the digitally modified president, referring to the antagonist in the 2018 hit movie “Black Panther” who aimed to launch a global African uprising.

In the video, Obama appears to insult President Donald Trump and make fun of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, before it is revealed that the president’s image is a digital modification. His lips have been synchronized with those of filmmaker Jordan Peele, who has acted as an Obama impersonator.

“This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet,” Peele’s Obama says.

The footage of President Obama was manipulated and set to a script. Adobe After Effects and a program called FakeApp were used. Rendering of the clip took about 56 hours. Peele, a filmmaker who won an Oscar for the movie “Get Out,” conceived the video with his brother-in-law BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti.

With the prospect of such videos, Bush said, one has to work to “straighten out what is fake news and what is real news.”

“What it does is sow seeds of distrust and worry in societies,” he said. “And of course democracies are based on communal trust, the idea we can get together and solve our problems peacefully.”

The rise of the “deepfake” video also poses the question: will falsehood triumph?

“There used to be an old saying that the truth will win out. That is something that we based our societies on, our journalism on: over time, what is true will carry more weight than what is false,” Bush continued. “That’s being tested now.”

“We live in an age when there is so much false information, at such a volume, that it can be hard to sort out what is true,” he said. “We have a responsibility as consumers to verify what is true, and when we understand what is true, to share it with our fellow parishioners.”

He advised readers to find trusted sources of information within their community, whether in their church community or in the local newspaper, and to rely on those.

“This is a really difficult conversation in our society: whether people will trust the so-called traditional media or mainstream media,” Bush said. “A great deal of effort has been put into sowing distrust in those organizations.”

“Know from where your news comes. That’s very important.”

Both the fundamentals of Catholic teaching and of journalism and communication have shared priorities: “we seek truth, and we also verify truth,” said Bush.

“That has to be a priority when we go and we communicate. It’s a responsibility to communicate truthfully, to make sure the information we’re disseminating is truthful, it’s verified, that it’s critically appraised, before we start disseminating it,” he said.

“Otherwise we just become part of the problem.”

For Bush, it is hard to say whether the new video technology will fundamentally change the media environment or simply continue current trends.

People have become more savvy about relatively new technological hoaxes, such as scam emails promising money from a Nigerian prince, he noted.

“Nobody believes that kind of stuff anymore. So we do adapt,” Bush said. “At the same time, as these things become more sophisticated, particularly if they’re used by state actors or groups with a high level of understanding of what it takes to manipulate a society or a group, then we’ll see whether we can parse what’s real or not real.”
 

New Cardinal Newman Guide helps families navigate college search

Arlington, Va., Apr 25, 2018 / 12:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Cardinal Newman Society on Monday released its annual guide to help young Catholics make an informed choice as they navigate their search for colleges.  

The organization noted that this year marks 10 years since Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States. The pope addressed the importance of Catholic education during that trip.

“First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God, Who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth,” Pope Benedict XVI told educational leaders at The Catholic University of America on April 17, 2008.

One year later, the Cardinal Newman Society published its first Newman Guide to Catholic Colleges, which the organization’s president, Patrick Reilly, presented to Pope Benedict in Rome.

Every year since, the Cardinal Newman Society has released an annual guide of recommended colleges, chosen based on strong Catholic identity and fidelity.

This year’s guide lists 17 recommended residential Catholic colleges in the U.S.: The Catholic University of America, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Walsh University, University of St. Thomas, Benedictine College, University of Mary, De Sales University, Mount St. Mary’s University, University of Dallas, Belmont Abbey College, Ave Maria University, Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Wyoming Catholic College, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and Northeast Catholic College.

It also lists 11 non-residential, international, or online colleges in the country.

Each institution also includes a profile highlighting its unique characteristics, such as educational approach and culture on campus.

The Cardinal Newman Society explained that different types of colleges may fit different students’ personalities, interests and needs, and the guide is intended to help them compare options to find the best fit for their situation.

A copy of the guide is currently available online, and a printed copy will be accessible in the fall.

The organization is also promoting its “Recruit Me” program, where high schools students can be recruited by Catholic colleges, find tips on the college decision process, and take part in the Newman Society’s $5,000 Essay Scholarship Contest.

The society also runs www.CatholicEdJobs.com, a website for Catholic schools to be connected with faithful Catholic job candidates.

Founded in 1993, the Cardinal Newman Society advocates for faithful Catholic education at all levels.

 

Michigan diocese brings in retired judge for investigation, recommits to cooperation

Saginaw, Mich., Apr 24, 2018 / 05:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired judge who will be overseeing the internal investigation of the sex abuse scandal in the Diocese of Saginaw said he is committed to reporting abuse allegations to the proper authorities.

Earlier this month, Bishop Joseph Cistone of Saginaw announced the appointment of Judge Michael Talbot as an independent delegate appointed to oversee the internal investigation of the diocese, following numerous allegations against priests in the diocese, including one who has been criminally charged.

In March, police raided the home of Bishop Cistone, as well as the chancery and its cathedral rectory, citing a lack of cooperation on the part of the diocese in the ongoing clerical sex abuse investigation.

Talbot said in a statement released by the diocese that he will adhere to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of policies and procedures for handling instances of sexual abuse approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.

"As delegate, I intend to comply with the mandatory requirements of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Catholic bishops of the United States," he said. "As soon as the Diocese of Saginaw receives such a complaint it will be reported to the county prosecutor where the abuse is alleged to have occurred."

Talbot, a Catholic, currently serves in the Archdiocese of Detroit on the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart Major Seminary and is the Chair of the Board of Madonna University.

He was also a founding chairperson of the Detroit Archdiocesan Review Board in 2002, and assisted in writing the first Victim’s Rights Law for the State of Michigan, which he was responsible for implementing in Wayne County courts.

“On the occasion a person contacts the Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator to make a complaint of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or other diocesan representative, that person will be told about the diocesan reporting obligation and also will be encouraged to directly report the allegation to civil authorities,” Talbot said in the statement.

“I also intend to seek formal reporting agreements with the 11 County Prosecutors in the Diocese of Saginaw. Beyond the legalities involved, it has been my experience that communication and full cooperation with local law enforcement serves this process well,” he added.

At a press conference following his appointment, Talbot asked that anyone with accusations of sexual abuse against diocesan authorities to come forward.

However, law enforcement involved in the investigation said afterward in a statement that people should report sexual abuse and misconduct directly to police, and not to the diocese.

According to police involved in the investigation, the diocese "cannot and should not be used as a clearing house for the reporting of crimes by victims."

"That is the function of law enforcement. Any victims of abuse or other crimes should report their allegations directly to law enforcement as opposed to the Diocese or Judge Talbot, its independent delegate."

Two priests have been placed on leave from their duties after a recent wave of accusations of sexual abuse against priests in the Saginaw diocese.

In February, Fr. Robert DeLand, pastor of St. Agnes parish in Freeland, was charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of gross indecency between male persons, and one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct/personal injury, following the accusations of a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old high school student.

In early April, DeLand was charged with two additional counts of felony sexual misconduct against a minor, as well as one count of possessing a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol for a minor, according to local media.

On March 8, the diocese released a statement clarifying that further review of records determined that the diocese had been informed of rumors about DeLand in 1992, and that in 2005 a woman contacted the diocese about the possibility that DeLand might have sexually abused her brother, who since had died, in the 1970s.

The diocese said it had contracted an investigator to assess the matter, and that “the independent Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Robert Carlson, who was Bishop of Saginaw at the time, as well as the family agreed that the suspicion against Father DeLand was unfounded.”

DeLand, who also served as judicial vicar for the Diocese of Saginaw, has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. He is also banned from school properties and from presenting himself as a priest.

The second priest to be placed on leave in the recent investigation is Father Ronald J. Dombrowski, following an accusation that he sexually assaulted a minor. According to the diocese, the alleged victim first brought the complaint to the diocese, which contacted the authorities.

While Dombrowski has not been criminally charged, he has also been banned from school properties and from presenting himself as a priest during the investigation.

In 2012, Cistone was accused of misleading a grand jury about his compliance in the destruction of documents containing the names of priests suspected of child molestation in 1994, while he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cistone was not criminally charged in the incident.

In Bavaria, government buildings will display a cross over their entrance

Munich, Germany, Apr 24, 2018 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The government of Bavaria has decided to instruct all state administrative buildings in the German state to display a cross in their public entrances by June 1.

The move intends to “express the historical and cultural character of Bavaria” and present “a visible commitment to the core values of the legal and social order in Bavaria and Germany”, the office of Markus Söder, Bavaria’s premier, announced April 24.

The Bavarian Interior Minister, Joachim Herrmann, hailed the decision as a “clear signal for Christian tradition”. Söder was quick to put his cabinet's decree into action, personally hanging up a cross on the wall of the State Chancellery, and tweeting that this constitutes a commitment to Bavarian identity and Christian values.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="de" dir="ltr">Klares Bekenntnis zu unserer bayerischen Identität und christlichen Werten. Haben heute im Kabinett beschlossen, dass in jeder staatlichen Behörde ab dem 1. Juni ein Kreuz hängen soll. Habe direkt nach der Sitzung ein Kreuz im Eingangsbereich der Staatskanzlei aufgehängt. <a href="https://t.co/o99M0dV4Uy">pic.twitter.com/o99M0dV4Uy</a></p>&mdash; Markus Söder (@Markus_Soeder) <a href="https://twitter.com/Markus_Soeder/status/988768341820170240?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 24, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Municipal and regional district buildings are not compelled, but encouraged to do likewise. Classrooms and courtrooms in traditionally Catholic Bavaria are already required to display a cross.

As some observers were quick to point out, the decision to display the crosses in the entranceways and not the actual government office rooms may be aimed at avoiding the controversy the display of the Christian symbol in classrooms and courtrooms has caused in the past.

Opposition party members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Greens criticised the move as an election campaign tactic. Meanwhile, the elected representative of the famous village of Oberammergau, whilst denouncing any political instrumentalization of the cross, also welcomed the potential for his electorate’s artisanal woodcarvers.

Bavarian voters will go the polls Oct 14 to elect a new government – and will likely return the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) government. The conservative CSU is the Bavarian sister party to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany. It has dominated Bavarian politics – and provided the State Premier – since 1957.

After Alfie Evans breathes on his own, judge again strikes down transfer to Rome

London, England, Apr 24, 2018 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ailing toddler Alfie Evans will not be permitted to fly to Rome for additional treatment, a judge ruled on Tuesday during an emergency hearing.

The emergency hearing came the day after Evans’ life support machine was removed, then oxygen and hydration were readminsitered when the boy survived for several hours, contrary to the prediction of doctors.

Judge Anthony Hayden of the High Court said that this will be the “final chapter in the case of this extraordinary little boy.”

New: Alfie Evans family has lost its legal challenge to fly him to Italy for treatment in what judge calls the “final chapter in the case of this extraordinary little boy”

— Josh Halliday (@JoshHalliday) April 24, 2018 Earlier this week, Evans had been granted Italian citizenship in hopes that this would convince the court to allow him to be sent to Rome to be treated at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. The judge, however, ruled that this would not be within his best interest and he would not be allowed to travel to Rome or Munich, where another hospital had offered to treat him. An air ambulance had been at the ready to quickly transport Evans to Italy had the judge approved the transfer.

Instead, Evans will remain at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, or may eventually be permitted to return home with his parents.

Evans is a 23-month-old toddler who is in what physicians have described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Hospital have not been able to properly diagnose. He has been hospitalized since December of 2016.

In March, London’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision to end life support for Evans. Judge Hayden of the High Court ruled that “continued ventilator support is no longer in Alfie’s interests.”

Evans’ parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, had repeatedly made requests to transfer him to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome, for further diagnosis and treatment.

They said that Evans had recently grown “stronger and more responsive,” noting that he could take a few breaths on his own and was stretching, coughing, swallowing, and yawning. However, Alder Hey Hospital repeatedly refused the transfer, deeming it “futile.”

Until Monday, doctors did not believe that he was capable of breathing on his own, but he surprised his doctors by surviving the night breathing unaided after the removal of his ventilator. According to his father, doctors eventually gave Evans water and supplemental oxygen, but the child has not been given nutrition for nearly a day.

“Coming up to 24 hours (without breathing assistance) and he’s fighting,” said his father, Tom Evans. “Gorgeous features, pink lips, handsome grown up face, an odd cheeky smile now and again.”

Evans’ father traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Francis on April 18. He pled for asylum for his family in Italy, so that his son could be moved.

Pope Francis had offered prayers for Evans and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts.

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday.

Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 23, 2018 On April 23, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti granted citizenship to the toddler, in hopes that being an Italian citizen would allow the child to be transferred to Italy immediately.

Evans’ supporters--who include bishops, members of parliament, and other prominent figures--have dubbed themselves “Alfie’s Army” to spread awareness and to provide encouragement for the family.

In recent days, protesters numbering in the hundreds had swarmed around Alder Hey Hospital, calling on the institution to respect the rights of Evans’ parents and allow him to be transferred.

Friends, let's join with the Holy Father in praying for this poor boy and his family. May God bless them! https://t.co/bN4yllRNKk

— Bishop Robert Barron (@BishopBarron) April 24, 2018  

 

A UK hospital is holding an Italian citizen hostage and intends to deprive him of life-giving treatment against the wishes of his parents. @BorisJohnson & @foreignoffice must act quickly to let Alfie live. https://t.co/rJtMBGXhzs @ItalyinUK #AlfieEvans #AlfiesArmy

— Sir Edward Leigh MP (@EdwardLeighMP) April 23, 2018  



Let’s offer heartfelt prayers today for little Alfie Evans - now an Italian citizen - and his courageous parents. If there is anything at all that can be done, may the Lord enable us by His love and grace to effect it.

— Bishop Philip Egan (@BishopEgan) April 23, 2018



 

Dictatorship the underlying problem in Nicaragua riots, priest says

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 24, 2018 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As violent clashes continue between security forces and anti-government protestors in Nicaragua, an eye witness has said the country's underlying problem is the president's authoritarian bent.

Nicaraguans began protesting in the streets of Managua April 18 following the government’s announcement of reforms to the country’s social security system. The army has been deployed and as many as 27 people have been killed.

The social security reforms were abandoned April 22 by president Daniel Ortega, but protests have increased over what is seen as an overly harsh response to protesting pensioners.

Nicaragua “is living under a dictatorship with the facade of democracy,” a priest working in the country told CNA.

“We could see a transition to peaceful negotiation in the coming days and an end to protests on the street and violent repression. Or we could see an accelerated effort to amplify the protests and fight for a complete take down of the Ortega regime.”

The priest spoke on condition of anonymity due to the unpredictability of the situation.

“The continued aggression and violence on the part of the government continues to incite people to protest. One step forward followed by two steps back,” he said.

A reporter was killed during a broadcast covering the protests over the weekend, and the priest believes that  the government’s strong reaction against protestors, and in particular students – including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by riot police – motivated the latest round of protests Monday.

Nicaragua's social security system has needed an overhaul due to poor management of funds and a lack of transparency from officials, the priest said.

However, the reforms proposed last week would make Nicaraguans pay for these errors: “it was a trigger for massive protests,” he said, pointing out that though social security reforms lit the fire, the conversation surrounding the protests has changed.

The plan would have required retirees to pay 5 percent of their pension into a medical expenses fund, the social security withdrawal from employees' salaries would have increased from 6.25 to 7 percent, and employers would have had to increase contributions as well.

Though the reform was tossed out, larger-scale protests and looting broke out April 23, including demands for Ortega to resign and resulting in further violent clashes with police.

The priest said he believes older Nicaraguans had been reluctant to protest corruption because they feared violence, having lived through the Nicaraguan Revolution throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

Young people, on the other hand, “feel like it is their turn, to take up the mantle of their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, to fight for a better future for Nicaragua.”

Bishop Silvio José Baez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, thanked a group of some 2,000 students gathered in the Managua cathedral April 21 for being “the moral reservoir” of the Church and assured them of the Church’s support for their cause. “You have woken the nation up,” he said.

Fr. Víctor Rivas Bustamante, from the Nicaragua bishops’ conference, told Vatican News that the local bishops are “working to recover the concerns and demands of young people and of different social sectors, to lay out to the government what is being demanded so that the government can act and change its position.”

The problem is no longer just welfare reform, but “other issues: there is talk of democracy, freedom of expression, and many other things,” Bustamante said.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014. His wife, Rosario Murillo, is also his vice president.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1985 as coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction, and from 1985 to 1990 as president.

In Toronto, cardinal urges prayers for victims of van attack

Toronto, Canada, Apr 24, 2018 / 12:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto offered prayers this week for the victims of a van attack that left 10 people dead and over a dozen injured on Monday.

“I invite the Catholic community across the Archdiocese of Toronto to join me in offering our prayers for all those who were killed and injured in the violence incident earlier today,” said Cardinal Collins in an April 23 statement.

“I will be asking all 225 Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto to offer special prayer intentions this week for all those who have suffered. Let us all unite in our efforts to bring comfort and care to those who are hurting today,” he continued.

On April 23, a white van was driven down a busy street north of midtown Toronto, swerving in and out of traffic along the sidewalks and leaving a trail of destruction almost a mile long. One witness, Diego DeMatos, said the scene was like “a war zone,” according to reports from CNN. 

“Based on witness accounts, we have a vehicle that started north on Yonge Street from Finch [Avenue] and drove southbound at some point in times on sidewalks, at some point in times driving southbound in northbound lanes,” said Mark Saunders, the Toronto police chief, according to CNN.

Although authorities have not labeled the incident as an act of terrorism at this time, and are still investigating the motive behind it, Saunders did note that the “actions definitely look deliberate.”

Police arrested 25-year-old suspect Alek Minassian several blocks from the scene of the attack, less than 30 minutes after authorities had received a 911 call.

Minassian was charged on Tuesday in a Toronto court with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, the BBC reported. Minassian’s bail hearing will be held on May 10.

Toronto officials said Minassian, who is from the northern Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, had not previously been on their radar. However, a U.S. law enforcement agent said that the suspect had been known to them.

The death toll from the incident currently stands at 10, while 15 others have been injured, including at least five who are in critical condition, according to reports. Mourners have set up a makeshift memorial on Yonge Street where part of the attack took place.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to the victims and their families, and applauded the first responders for their quick and life-saving efforts.

“We should all feel safe walking in our cities,” Trudeau said.

“We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.”

 

Abuse survivor: Forgiveness, positive outlook key to healing

Rome, Italy, Apr 24, 2018 / 11:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the age of 16, Deborah Kloos was a distraught young woman who turned to the Church in hopes of finding solace, peace, and a reprieve from a “dysfunctional” and complicated family life.

She attended Mass often and sought comfort in the Eucharist. But she was sexually abused by a parish priest in Ontario.

After years of living with anger, sadness, and guilt, Kloos made her way back to the Church and was able to find healing through the sacraments. Now, she wants the Church to make praying for abuse survivors a priority.

She believes the Church has made progress on the abuse front, and has said that for real healing to happen, learning to forgive is key, as is keeping a positive attitude about the concrete efforts the Church is making.

“If we want to heal and make progress in healing we have to open up our hearts, pray together, communicate with one another, forgive one another, focus on the small changes in progress because they all count,” Kloos told CNA.

The Church “has made a lot of progress on the issue of clerical sexual abuse,” she said. “I know people are hurting deeply for this irreparable damage done as a result of clergy abuse and I know how painful it is as an abuse survivor.”

“When an infected wound like clergy abuse is covered up, it will fester and eventually will explode,” she said. “Only until the pus and ugliness is out of the wound, can it begin a healing process. It takes time, but we have to pray together and talk about it.”

Everyone deals with the trauma differently, she said, noting that in many cases people affected by abuse will likely never come back to the Catholic Church or bring their families to Mass.

“It is such a huge wound that only God can help with healing,” Kloos said, explaining that it is important for people to look at the progress that has been made and to “respect one another, because we are all human beings who are not perfect. We need God.”

Kloos, who lives in Canada with her husband, stopped attending Mass after she was sexually abused by a 63-year-old priest at her parish.

After the abuse happened, Kloos said she felt “sad and frustrated,” and was estranged from the Church for 20 years before eventually coming back when she enrolled her son in Catholic school.

“I carried a lot of guilt for years,” she said, but explained that she wanted her son to learn about God, so she put her son in Catholic school and started attending the school Masses. Eventually she began attending Mass everyday, and joined her parish choir.

The whole process “was emotionally hard for me, because I still carried so much anger and sadness, but I kept attending Mass,” she said, explaining that “the times I felt saddest and angry, I would feel this warm, supernatural light around me like a spiritual hug, like the Lord was hugging me and asking me to stay in the Church and not give up.”

However, Kloos said that after coming back to the Church, it was still hard for her to feel fully welcomed, because those wounded by abuse were not yet prayed for during Mass.

She began sending letters to her bishop in the Diocese of London, asking him to offer a Mass for victims of clerical abuse. For seven years she wrote with the same request, and she also made rosaries which she sent to clergy asking them to pray for those who have been wounded by abuse and who are far away from the Church.

She spoke of the importance of receiving the Eucharist, and lamented the fact that there are “thousands of people wounded by clergy and generations of people who may never enter a church again because of the irreparable damage caused by abuse that separated them from the Eucharist.”

There are many people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, who struggle with mental health problems, families have broken up and there have been suicides, “all caused by abuse,” she said, stressing that this is why prayer is so necessary, yet often times the issue is still too taboo to talk about publicly in the Church.

“People just did not know how to deal with this,” she said.

“It is uncomfortable. I understand this. It hurts to acknowledge and talk about sin and abuse in the Church, but only when we pray together and bring the darkness into the Light, by asking God to help us, can communication, forgiveness, and healing occur.”

When the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established in March 2014, Kloos began writing to members voicing her desire for a day of prayer for abuse survivors. She also sent them artwork she had made as a way to heal and show how she found hope.

In 2016 the commission recommended that a day of prayer for abuse survivors be established, and Pope Francis accepted the proposal, asking that it be organized at a local level.

In the London diocese, the day of prayer was held on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, and “it was beautiful.” Kloos voiced her gratitude to the clerics of her diocese for organizing the now-annual Mass, saying she believes they are doing their best, and are trying to move in the right direction.

“They are good people in my diocese and I care about them,” she said. “We have really dedicated clergy in the diocese. I feel it is important to focus on the positives and when people change for the better, then we should encourage them because a change of attitude and behavior takes time.”

Kloos has maintained close correspondence with members of the pontifical commission, including Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, head of the Center for Child Protection.

Commission members “need encouragement and positive support from people, especially clergy abuse survivors,” she explained. The members “work hard and need lots of prayer and support. I want to give them this support as a clergy abuse survivor and thank them.”

Kloos said she believes that while there is still more that needs to be done to prevent abuse and help survivors heal, the Church has made progress.

Citing guidelines and safety policies that have been put into place as well as suggestions for tougher screenings for Church employees and free counseling for clergy abuse survivors, Kloos said these are “huge changes” that she appreciates.

She also pointed to a course organized by the Center for Child Protection on the dangers of abuse in the digital world, and the degrees in child safety being offered by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Kloos voiced appreciation for Pope Francis' recent apology for having made “serious mistakes” in the Chilean sexual abuse case.

Francis “had the courage to admit what he said was wrong to the Chilean abuse survivors and is meeting them now to apologize personally.”

She voiced her hope that the Church will continue to pray more intentionally for abuse survivors, especially during Mass.

Prayer “changes hearts to enable forgiveness and healing to occur, it opens up communication between people and asks God for help for the irreparable damage of clergy abuse that people feel uncomfortable talking about.”

“I understand that clergy abuse is something very painful for everyone, especially clergy, so they need lots of prayers and support too,” Kloos said.

In terms of learning how to talk about the issue more and make it less of a taboo subject, Kloos said she knows it will take time, because people “feel uncomfortable, threatened, afraid, and it is just human nature.”

“All that matters is that the right thing is done and that people work together for healing to make our Church better.”