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West Virginians meet their new Catholic bishop as humble, holy man

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Christopher Gunty

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- People from around the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston already have a good feeling about their new shepherd, Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who was installed Aug. 22 as the ninth bishop of the diocese.

Ron and Jenny Gaither came from Fairmont, southwest of Morgantown, for the installation of the bishop because they believe he is an honest and holy man. The parishioners of St. Anthony in Fairmont said they were hoping to get someone who could help Catholics in West Virginia forget about the scandals in the church. They said they had heard from priests who already met Bishop Brennan that he is a wonderful man.

John Neely of St. John Neumann Parish in Marlinton, a town with a population just over 1,000, said he hopes the bishop will be concerned with the rural parts of the state. "It's very important to get someone down to the parishes," he said, noting that they haven't had bishops visit in 20 years.

Many of the priests in the rural areas serve three or four parishes. "Our pastor has an hour (to drive) to each of his other churches," Neely said. "They do everything for themselves; they don't have an office staff."

He said he wants Bishop Brennan to be "a man of the people and for the people -- the poor people of the diocese."

Father John Chapin Engler Jr., is one such pastor of three parishes in a rural part of the state northwest of Charleston.

Before solemn vespers Aug. 21, Father Engler said, "It's a new day. I'm just thrilled" with the appointment of Bishop Brennan. He said the people of the diocese had been praying a prayer provided by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who was apostolic administrator of the diocese from September 2018 until Bishop Brennan's installation.

The people of the diocese prayed for a humble and noble pastor full of zeal and a love for Jesus and the poor. "It's almost like he knew when he wrote it" the kind of man the pope would appoint.

He praised Bishop Brennan for showing up in his own Ford Taurus, carrying his own bag and serving breakfast at Wheeling's Catholic Charities Aug. 21.

Father Engler's country parishes in Bancroft, Nitro and Dunbar are small -- 30, 50 and 70 parishioners. He said their needs are the same as many others in the diocese, "to continue to try to be a light for people in darkness."

Noting that the state is about 4% Catholic and "that means 96% are not," Father Engler said of the new bishop: "He seems to have a knack for reaching out, with a pastoral zeal for the poor."

He said the bishop had already agreed to visit his three parishes for their combined Labor Day picnic. That sends a good message to his people that they won't be forgotten, he said.

Sam and Karen Gross came from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, where Sam is a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and participated in the honor guard at the installation Mass.

"He's a fresh change," Sam said, noting that Bishop Brennan's crosier is made of wood, not gold.

Karen said she believes the bishop will help heal and end the divisiveness in the church and "bring a spiritual message to us so we can all be disciples of Jesus Christ."

The Grosses also mentioned the challenges of life in the diocese, noting that priests in rural parishes have needs that parishioners in Charleston, Morgantown and Wheeling cannot even imagine.

She said the bishop is humble and approachable. "You can tell by his demeanor that he puts others ahead of himself," she said. "Jesus brought him to us for a reason."

Morgan Yost, who works for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on the program staff of the youth ministry office, said she hopes the bishop will see the youths as part of the church community now, not just in the future, and hopes he will see that they have a role in the church.

She said the bishop sent a video message to a Catholic summer youth camp held in Huttonsville shortly after his appointment was announced July 23. In that video, he said he hoped to be able to visit the camp in person next year.

Lia Salinas, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, attended the installation Mass to honor her former boss. Bishop Brennan had been archdiocesan vicar for Hispanics; he was a Baltimore auxiliary bishop until his appointment to Wheeling-Charleston.

"He's a pastor who smells like his sheep. We're sorry to lose him but we know this is what West Virginia needs," she told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan media outlet.

"He's a person you grow to love, a real servant of God," Salinas said.

She described the bishop as hard-working and a people person, noting that he will spend as much time talking to a janitor as with a clergyman or a business executive.

That attitude was visible after the installation Mass when Bishop Brennan standing on a small balcony on the corner of the cathedral blessed the crowd gathered on Eoff Street below. Returning to the street level, still in his liturgical vestments, the bishop crossed the street to greet residents of the Formosa Apartments who had been sitting on chairs in front of their building.

Yvette Smith, Zyanne Hamlin and Kiara Moore, who live in the building, and Carrie Chambliss, who lives around the corner, were pleased to meet the new bishop, whose cathedral directly faces the apartments.

Smith said she hopes the church opens more doors and helps the homeless and others in need, like those who live in the Formosa.

Chambliss added that maybe they could use some prayers too, "because we're all sinners."

"I expect good things from him," she said.

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Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Latin American bishops urge action to save burning Amazon rainforest

IMAGE: CNS photo/NASA, NOAA handout via Reuters

By Lise Alves

SAO PAULO (CNS) -- "Crying out to the world for solidarity," leaders of the Latin American bishops' council urged international action to save the Amazon rainforest as massive fires continued to burn.

"We urge the governments of the Amazonian countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the lungs of the world," said the statement Aug. 22 by the top officers of the council, known by its Spanish acronym, CELAM.

"What happens to the Amazon is not just a local issue, but is of global reach," the bishops said. "If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers."

The Amazon produces 20% of the world's oxygen, according to scientific measurements.

Brazil's space research institute, which is responsible for satellite monitoring of the Amazon, had reported that the number of wildfires, common in July and August, had reached a record number already in 2019, with 72,843 fires spotted.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, Aug. 21 and 22 released satellite imagery showing how smoke from the fires had created "a shroud that is clearly visible across much of the center of South America."

French President Emmanuel Macron called on world leaders to place the fires at the top of their agenda as they meet in France for the Group of Seven summit starting Aug. 24. Attendees will include President Donald Trump, Macron and the leaders from Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said publicly that he believes nongovernmental agencies -- including Catholic-backed agencies such as the Land Pastoral and the Indigenous Missionary Council -- are behind the illegal burnings because they have opposed his call for development of the rainforest. The organizations have strongly denied the allegations.

In its edition released Aug. 23, the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, led with two articles about the Amazon fires. The first, titled "The Amazon must be protected," included general coverage of the fires' scope and the alarm launched by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. A second article reported on the CELAM statement under the headline, "Save the forest to save the world."

In their statement, the bishops noted that the upcoming October Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will discuss the plight of the indigenous living in the area as well as the deforestation of the region. Sixty percent of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil.

"Hope for the proximity of the Amazon synod, convened by Pope Francis, is stained by the pain of this natural tragedy," the bishops said. "To the brethren indigenous peoples who inhabit this beloved territory, we express all our closeness and join your voices with yours to shout to the world for solidarity and pay attention to end this devastation."

And while the deforestation of the world's largest tropical forest and the violence against the indigenous population there have been a great concern to the Catholic Church, the upcoming synod also has caused apprehension for the Bolsonaro government.

In February, the Brazilian government was forced to deny that it was spying, through its intelligence agency, ABIN, on more "progressive" bishops and priests working on the synod.

The government's Institutional Security Cabinet, known as ISC, however, admitted it was worried that the meeting would be used to criticize the Bolsonaro administration's stance on environment and indigenous rights.

"There are no general criticism of the Catholic Church. There is the functional concern of the Minister of State Chief of the Institutional Security Office for some points of the synod's Amazon agenda that will take place at the Vatican in October this year," said an ISC statement at the time.

The CELAM bishops, quoting Pope Francis from his homily at his papal inauguration in March 2013, requested to "please ask all those who hold positions of responsibility in the economic, political and social fields, all men and women of goodwill: (to) be guardians of creation, of the design of God inscribed in nature, guardians of the other, of the environment; let's not let the signs of destruction and death follow the path of our world."

The declaration was signed by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, of Trujillo, Peru, CELAM president, as well as the officers of the organization.

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

 

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Matters of life and death: Pope to bring his message to southern Africa

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stringer, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rejecting violence, promoting interreligious harmony, caring for the environment and stamping out government corruption are expected to be high on the agenda Sept. 4-10 when Pope Francis visits Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

"The pope's very presence will be his principle message to the people of Mozambique," said Father Giorgio Ferretti, an Italian missionary and pastor of the cathedral in Maputo, Mozambique. "Just the fact of him walking these streets, meeting the people, speaking to them will be a great message of peace."

After 15 years of civil war in Mozambique, a peace agreement was signed in 1992, concluding a two-year mediation process facilitated by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, the Catholic archbishop of Beira and representatives of the Italian government.

The country has been at peace for 27 years, "but there still hasn't been a real de-militarization of some parts of what had been the armed opposition, so we must still pray and work for peace in this country," Father Ferretti said. "Then, in the north of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado -- where there are Americans, Italians and others involved in the extraction of gas -- there has been disorder; it still is not clear at all whether we are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists, but there has been violence."

When the incidents began in October 2017, many were quick to suspect Islamic fundamentalists; however, others believe the violence is more closely linked to the foreign expansion of the natural gas industry in a region where most people are very poor.

St. John Paul II's visit to Mozambique in 1988 "laid the foundations for a commitment to peace," Father Ferretti said. "Now, the visit of Pope Francis can be like a final seal on that process for an effective and definitive peace in the country. This is the great hope of the church and the people for the visit of the pope."

Leah Marie Lucas is director of Caritas Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, where in addition to the insecurity mentioned by Father Ferretti, people are struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Cyclone Kenneth in April.

Pope Francis will not be visiting the areas devastated by Cyclone Idai in March or Cyclone Kenneth a few weeks later, but he is likely to remember the hundreds of Mozambicans who died in the violent storms and the thousands left homeless.

In Cabo Delgado, some people already were displaced by the violence when the cyclone wiped out more homes, Lucas said. "Even if they remain close to their home village, they are not able to farm, and this year will experience serious food security challenges."

More frequent and more violent super storms like Idai and Kenneth are headline-making signs of the devastating impact climate change already is having on the countries of southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, including Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Franciscan Father Jean-Charles Rakotondranaivo, "custos" or superior of Franciscans in Madagascar and Mauritius, said people in the two nations "are already experiencing the effects of climate change," much of it caused by the people themselves.

Particularly in Madagascar, "we are experiencing rapid and growing deforestation," he said. "In 50 years, we have lost three-quarters of our forest" to meet the demand for fuel wood and charcoal and to clear areas for farming.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholic overseas aid and development agency, has been working in Madagascar for more than 50 years; meeting the challenges of climate change while helping poor farmers is a key part of its work there.

Partnering with other development agencies, for example, CRS is helping farmers sow plants that can stabilize sand dunes along the southern coast and prevent them from encroaching on farm plots. Another project helps subsistence farmers create cooperatives and generate income by growing spices since the island is the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla and also produces black pepper, cloves, turmeric and cinnamon.

Shaun Ferris, CRS director of agriculture and livelihoods, said soil and water management is a key focus of the agency's programs in Madagascar "where more than 50% of all households can be classified as food insecure, and 90% of the country's population lives on less than $2 a day."

Pope Francis' social-environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," was "a brilliant document," Ferris said, and its message "is the message of the decade" because climate change and ecological degradation are real and strongly contribute to poverty, hunger, conflict and migration.

Father Rakotondranaivo sees the pope's repeated condemnations of corruption and his teaching on politics as service as another essential message for the region, particularly for Madagascar.

Unfortunately, he said, having political and civil responsibility too often is seen "not as a service but as a great privilege, a way to enrich oneself. Generally, politicians get rich very quickly. Madagascar is a country rich in natural resources, but the population is very poor. The inequality between a handful of rich and the poor majority is blatant. It is time to wake politicians up to focus more on the common good."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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Update: Australian pro-life leaders organize to block bill legalizing abortion

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giovanni Portelli, courtesy Right To Life NSW

By Catherine Sheehan

SYDNEY (CNS) -- Thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrated in the streets of Sydney, expressing their opposition to a bill in the New South Wales state parliament that would permit abortion until birth for any reason.

The demonstration Aug. 20 called on members of parliament (MPs) to defeat the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill that was introduced Aug. 1.

The bill passed Aug. 8 in the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the state parliament, 59-31, following a limited three-day period for comment.

The bill is pending in the Legislative Council, the upper house of parliament. Legislators had planned to vote on the bill by Aug. 23. However, in response to MPs angry at the lack of due process, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejilkian announced the vote had been delayed until mid-September. Berejilkian supports the measure.

New South Wales is the only Australian state where abortion remains a criminal offense. Abortion is permitted only when the mother's physical or mental health is in danger.

As MPs debated the bill in the lower house, the pro-life movement maintained a vigil lasting several days outside of parliament. Many were young women concerned about the lack of protection in the bill for women and babies.

Bethany Marsh, 21, a university student, was one of those leading the peaceful but lively gathering.

The chairperson of LifeChoice Australia told Catholic News Service many young women are increasingly opposed to the ideology behind the push for abortion on demand, which pits women against their unborn children.

"The bill, while claiming to be 'compassionate', is possibly the most demeaning and inhumane piece of legislation to have ever been considered by the NSW parliament," she said.

"The presence of hundreds of young women outside parliament should have sent the message, loud and clear, that we, the young pro-life generation, do not want these abhorrent practices."

Later, thousands gathered for the Stand for Life Rally Aug. 20 in Sydney's Martin Place to protest the bill. The rally brought together secular pro-life groups and representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney addressed the crowd, saying they were evidence of "people power" and "God power." He thanked participants for saying "'no' to a bill that says you can kill babies right up to birth and even after they're born."

MP Tanya Davies, a member of the Liberal Party who voted against the bill, said the public deliberately had been shut out of the democratic process.

"Citizens of NSW, you have an equal voice in this debate and up to now the process has been designed to exclude your voice and the voice of your communities," she told the crowd.

She called for "a tsunami" of opposition to the legislation over the next three weeks.

If enacted, the legislation would further the financial aims of abortion providers, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, CEO of Right To Life NSW, told Catholic News Service.

"This is harmful to mothers who, instead of getting the help they need during a crisis, will be automatically be redirected to the cheapest option, i.e., termination of their unborn child," Carling-Jenkins said.

"This bill opens up an opportunity for abortion providers to further profit from women uncertain of their options."

Tiana Legge, CEO of Women and Babies Support, said the lack of restrictions on abortion in the legislation would make pregnant women even more vulnerable to coerced abortion.

"What we've heard from women is that many are pressured and coerced and coercion can take many forms," Legge said. "It can include a male partner who is using physical or emotional threats and violence against her to coerce her to have an abortion. It can also involve pressure from parents, others close to them or work colleagues and also just a general lack of support."

In its present form, the bill does not require that women seeking abortion be offered counseling, that babies born alive after failed abortions be rendered medical assistance, or that parental consent be obtained before performing abortions on minors young than 16. It also does not prohibit sex-selective abortion.

The bill mandates, however, that a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion must refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor willing to perform the procedure.

MPs in the lower house sought to have protections for women, babies and medical practitioners added to the legislation, but the amendments were rejected.

 

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Fly tying gives Vermont religious brother a supportive connection to vets

IMAGE: CNS photo/Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic magazine

By Cori Fugere Urban

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- The Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Burlington was quiet on a steamy summer day except for the sound of a fan and occasional banter among the veterans who concentrated on the tiny pieces of feathers, fur and thread in front of them.

Their hands worked diligently, yet carefully, illuminated by adjustable desk lamps. Their task: Tying fishing flies.

The therapeutic task and the camaraderie are what has them hooked on their weekly get-together sponsored by Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc.

Dr. Leigh Wheeler, 75, a parishioner at St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, Vermont, was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and drives 35 miles each week to join the group. He finds support from the other veterans who empathize with his experiences in the war, especially having had a "number of contacts with the enemy" and witnessing soldiers being killed in action.

"It's a comfortable environment," the retired emergency physician told Vermont Catholic magazine, publication of the Burlington Diocese.

Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and related activities including education and outings. The nonprofit organization is incorporated in Maryland.

Though not a veteran, Edmundite Brother Francis Hagerty, a spiritual and retreat director based at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, is active in the Burlington group.

He began fly fishing in the 1980s after a friend got him interested and taught him the basics. Soon he was taking a fly-tying course and learned how to tie flies that mimic insects and small fish that fish like to eat.

"I enjoyed catching fish on flies that I had made myself. That got me hooked; but I found there is a lot more to fly fishing," he said.

Brother Hagerty always has loved being in nature and fly fishing has brought him closer to it. "The more I've learned about the life cycles of insects and the habits of fish, the more deeply I have appreciated the beauty of creation and the wonder of it all," he said.

Daphne Zencey, a Project Healing Waters volunteer and Veterans Administration peer support specialist, is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. She also is a former Project Healing Waters participant.

"We are searching for that camaraderie and being part of a group of veterans who understand a different perspective of life and serving the greater good," she said.

Brother Hagerty's fly-tying skill and his presence are appreciated in the group, Zencey added.

The Edmundite likes fly fishing because it pulls him into a meditative mood.

"I need to approach the water slowly and carefully, so I don't spook the fish," he explained. "I need to watch for insects and perhaps fish rising to catch them. I need to observe the water flow, and think, 'If I were a trout, where would I be?'"

Then there's the sounds of the water and the rhythm of casting. "The intense focus on all these things help me to quiet myself and feel the wonder of creation more deeply," he said.

Cliff Lang, a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Burlington and a U.S. Army veteran, enjoys fly tying and building fly rods then fishing "in any river I can find."

"It's a 'me' time. It takes your mind away from troubles," the former mechanic and truck driver said. "You feel blessed to be out in a stream or brook and be back with nature."

Moe Forcier, a retired Vermont Department of Public Safety training officer who lives in Jonesville, Vermont, is another Army veteran. He said fly tying and fishing in Project Healing Waters "takes your mind off your demons because you have to concentrate." And when he is outside fishing, "it is kind of like a prayer ... being in tune with God through nature."

Brother Hagerty said a veteran once told him, "When you're tying flies or fishing, all the bad stuff goes away."

Fly tying pauses the busyness of the religious brother's life and gives him an opportunity to be alone with God. "I might be working on something that is fairly intricate, but I find myself quieted and able to listen to God's still, small voice," he said.

He has to be vigilant in his prayer, too, alert for the signs of God trying to catch his attention. He calls these signs "Oh, wows" because they show him something he hadn't noticed before or something with which he is familiar but now sees differently. They make him say to himself, "Oh, wow."

The Department of Veterans Affairs recorded 25 veteran suicides in Vermont in 2016.

Aware of this and knowing several friends who were deeply affected by their experience in the military, Brother Hagerty knew that fly tying and fishing have to be good for vets because he knows how the activities help him.

"I got involved with (Project Healing Waters) as a volunteer, and it has been a privilege to help folks heal and a blessing for me."

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Urban is content editor/staff writer for Vermont Catholic magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.

 

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Update: Appeals court upholds Cardinal Pell conviction on abuse charges

IMAGE: CNS photo/AAP Images, Erik Anderson via Reuters

By

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- An Australian appeals court upheld the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys more than two decades ago.

A three-judge panel of the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria announced its decision Aug. 21 in Melbourne with the cardinal in attendance.

"Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today," said his spokesperson, Katrina Lee. "Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence," and his legal team will study the panel's judgment before deciding whether to appeal to the High Court of Australia.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said an investigation of the cardinal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would not begin until after the entire civil process concludes.

"As in other cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case," he said.

Nevertheless, Bruni said, as the Vatican affirmed in February when the cardinal's conviction was announced, "the Holy Father had already confirmed the precautionary measures imposed on Cardinal Pell upon his return to Australia, that is, as is the norm, the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors."

Possible church penalties, including removing a cleric from the priesthood, are imposed only after the doctrinal congregation completes its process.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson had read the appeals panel decision during a 30-minute hearing. She said the court was split 2-1 on the cardinal's argument that the conviction was "unreasonable" given the evidence presented at trial to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Justice (Chris) Maxwell and I accepted the prosecutor's submission that the complainant was a compelling witness, was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth," Ferguson said.

The third judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, agreed with Cardinal Pell's attorneys.

The chief justice also told the court that the three judges unanimously agreed to throw out the two other grounds for appeal: that the cardinal should have presented his not guilty plea in person to the trial jury in December rather than by video and that the cardinal's lawyers were not permitted to play a 19-minute animation to the jury in their closing statement.

Ferguson said the court decided that Cardinal Pell must continue to serve at least three years and six months of the six-and-a-half-year sentence he received following his conviction in December.

"Whether he will be released on parole will be a decision of the adult parole board, not the court," she said.

"While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system," the Vatican "recalls that the cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court," said Bruni, director of the Vatican press office.

"At this time, together with the church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse," Bruni said.

The surviving victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that he never wished to damage the church and he had never sought compensation.

"After attending the funeral of my childhood friend, the other choir boy, I felt a responsibility to come forward," he said. "Some commentators have suggested that I reported to the police somehow for my own personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said through his lawyer, Vivian Waller.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said the bishops "believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today's judgment accordingly."

The archbishop also acknowledged the pain of survivors of abuse and the deep differences of opinion among Catholics about whether Cardinal Pell was treated fairly.

Survivor support groups applauded the judges' decision. "For many survivors, a conviction being upheld against a high-profile, once-powerful perpetrator underlines faith in the justice process and the possibility of speaking out," said Pam Stavropoulos, spokesperson for the Blue Knot Foundation.

The decision from the three-judge panel followed a two-day hearing June 5-6 in which Cardinal Pell, 78, and his attorneys argued that his December 2018 conviction on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys was "unreasonable" given the evidence presented.

The conviction occurred during the second trial for Cardinal Pell. The first trial in September 2018 resulted in a hung jury.

The guilty verdict regarded one count of "sexual penetration," in this case oral sex, and four counts of indecent acts with or in the presence of a minor under 16 years of age.

The jury accepted the victim's testimony that the incidents occurred in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996 when the cardinal was an archbishop.

Following the conviction, the former key adviser to Pope Francis was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He began serving the sentence in March and is being held in solitary confinement in Melbourne Assessment Prison because of the nature of the offenses and his high profile in Australia.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, the cardinal's successor, said in a statement Aug. 21 that the two trials and appeal demonstrate how "the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so."

The archbishop said his "thoughts and prayers are with the man who brought this matter before the courts," and said that if the survivor should want pastoral and spiritual support, he was ready to offer it.

Archbishop Comensoli also said, "In Christian charity, I will ensure that Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison."

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, where Cardinal Pell served as archbishop from 2001 to 2014, said the appeal panel's "split decision" is "consistent with the differing views of the juries in the first and second trials, as well as the divided opinion amongst legal commentators and the general public. Reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence and I urge everyone to maintain calm and civility."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

New Orleans' women religious donate 25 acres for flood control project

IMAGE: CNS photo/

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- In topographically challenged New Orleans, where "running water" can be a pejorative depending on whether it is flowing inside or outside the house, a long-promised, 25-acre stormwater management and flood control project called the Mirabeau Water Garden will be a welcome sight.

After eight years of design discussion and government delays, the ambitious project made possible through the vision and generosity of the Sisters of St. Joseph appears ready to start.

The garden will be able to store 9.5 million gallons of water in a park-like setting and then slowly release it back into the city's overtaxed drainage system.

David Waggonner, the project's lead urban and environmental architect, is eager to see how the water retention area on the Mirabeau Avenue site where the Sisters of St. Joseph's motherhouse stood before Hurricane Katrina, will transform both the hydraulics of the surrounding area and, more importantly, the deeply held view that the only solution to keeping the city safe from flooding is to pump water out of the New Orleans bowl.

"The sisters were way ahead -- maybe because their faith lets them move forward," said Waggonner, the founding principal of Waggonner & Ball. He first approached the Sisters of St. Joseph in 2011 when he heard they might be thinking of making their land available for the project.

When the motherhouse took on 7 feet of flooding from Katrina in 2005 and then was struck by lightning and gutted by fire in 2006, the sisters prayed about what to do with the large and mostly undeveloped site they no longer needed. As New Orleanians began returning home from the Katrina diaspora, the sisters easily could have sold the undeveloped parcel for millions as homesites, using the money to provide for the retirement needs of their aging members.

Instead, after meeting for months with Waggonner and latching on to his vision about working with the environment to manage water, the sisters decided to jump-start the project by leasing their land to the city for $1 a year, a monumental step on the way to securing funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government entities to construct the garden.

"We could have sold the property 15 times to this day," said Ed Sutoris, who oversees the congregation's properties from his office in Chicago. "Every two weeks someone is calling me. It probably was worth about $2 million-$4 million. But the sisters' definition of 'best use' was this project.

"This caught the heart of the sisters because if they could show that this 25-acre parcel could protect thousands of surrounding acres, then that would be big enough proof to encourage other landowners in New Orleans to do something similar."

"Actually, we kept vigil with that land, praying that some idea would come to us that would help the land serve the people of New Orleans, just as our sisters had done all those years," said Sister Pat Bergen, the former congregational leader, who lives in St. Louis. "When David approached us with this idea, we initially knew this is what we were praying for," she told the Clarion Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of New Orleans.

Waggonner said construction is expected to begin by the end of the year.

The major phase of the $20 million project -- the gross water storage features -- will cost about $13.2 million and is expected to take 14 months to complete. The second phase calls for the construction of educational buildings by 2022. The buildings will be used to teach students and others about the science of water management and how the site's newly planted cypress trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses will help create an ecosystem that can mitigate flooding.

The site will have stormwater features to store and filter water and allow it to "infiltrate" the ground. Excess water will be released back into the drainage system. The site also has a planned reflection area commemorating the Sisters of St. Joseph for their commitment to the project and to the people of New Orleans.

A. Baldwin Wood's "world-class" invention in the early 1900s -- the screw pump that could lift large quantities of water -- drained large parts of previously uninhabitable New Orleans, Waggonner said, but that engineering breakthrough came with "a tradeoff."

"The part that was not factored in was the subsidence," Waggonner said, referring to a gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land.

"The pumping of shallow groundwater was not understood as the cause of subsidence," he explained. "Because of the way we've constructed our drainage pumps -- with open joints -- and because we put these big suction pumps on them, you're constantly dragging down the groundwater, which is dragging down the land. So, we're actually sinking the city by pumping it. This system has a radical cost, an unsustainable cost."

For now, Waggonner is buoyed by his collaboration with Dutch groundwater expert Roelof Stuurman, who has stressed the need for innovative water management areas in New Orleans, and with the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"It's always been a matter of trust with the sisters," Waggonner said. "And, in this case, perseverance, because it's been years."

Sister Pat agreed.

"The need is visible and apparent," she said. "All of us sisters are praying that movement will happen on this adventure quite quickly because we see its potential -- and its hopes for the people of New Orleans."

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

 

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Chaldean Catholics celebrate Mary, culture, family at Ohio national shrine

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Rutter

By Katie Rutter

CAREY, Ohio (CNS) -- With its one stoplight and surrounding cornfields, the small Ohio village of Carey seems an unlikely travel destination. Yet, once a year, an estimated 5,000 visitors swell the town population to more than double.

For nine days, climaxing on the evening of Aug. 14, scores of charter buses drop off pilgrims, most of whom are Iraqi Christians. Hundreds of families fill a five-acre plot with tents, recreational vehicles, Middle Eastern food and music.

"We feel that we're like in our old village back home. Like when I walk around I know a lot of people," said Khalid Markos, who is now a resident of Sterling Heights, Michigan, but was born in Alanish, Iraq.

His family, like most of the pilgrims, fled from war and persecution in their home country. Now exiled refugees, they have found consolation by celebrating their faith and traditions at the aptly named Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey.

"We love our faith a lot and as you may know, we left our country because we didn't want to deny our faith," Conventual Franciscan Friar Raad Eshoo told Catholic News Service, "and it's sad that we see a lot of people here and in Iraq there are few Christians, Chaldean Christians."

The Chaldean Catholic Church, based in Iraq, is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with Rome. Chaldean Catholics trace their faith back to the second century and still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

In recent decades, however, war and terrorism has caused hundreds of thousands of these Christians to flee their homeland.

The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce estimates that 160,000 Chaldeans now reside in the Detroit metropolitan area.

"My mother says, 'Even if someone paid me a million dollars, I wouldn't go back,'" said Martha Yousif, niece of Markos, whose parents fled Iraq in 1997.

"You can't guarantee (you will) come back safe," she related.

"Many things I faced -- bombing. In front of my clinic, even," said Syrian Orthodox Christian Nawar Awbawyvalsheikh, a physician and native of Mosul, Iraq.

"Terrorists. They came to our building to kill us and American soldiers saved us," she recalled.

These exiled Christians began traveling two hours from Detroit to the Carey shrine about two decades ago. Many were drawn by stories of miraculous healings, others by a devotion to Mary. All are reliving an Iraqi tradition of visiting shrines and holy sites for pious practices and celebration.

"We have a lot of feasts we call them 'shera,' (with) a lot of people camping, music, dancing, food, and we end it with Mass and procession," said Friar Eshoo, who was born in Mosul.

"When I'm here, I feel like home," he said.

The nine days of celebration in Carey are marked by a constant line for confessions, regular blessings by clergy and several Masses daily, often in Aramaic.

At dusk Aug. 14, the pilgrims carried candles and processed with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation from the basilica to an open field, called Shrine Park. There Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo presided over an outdoor Mass for the vigil of the feast of the Assumption.

"It breathes a lot of new life into me and I think the friars that come here love to do this," said Conventual Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill, the shrine's rector. He was joined by dozens of fellow Conventual Franciscans to help care for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims.

"The people are so hungry for anything that is faith-based and so hungry to practice their Catholic faith and receive the sacraments," Father Merrill said.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation was established in 1875 by a priest from Luxembourg and has welcomed regular waves of pilgrims, often immigrants.

The lower church contains three display cases full of crutches and mementos left by those healed or those who want to thank Our Lady of Consolation for a favor received.

"(The Chaldean people have) suffered a lot. They go through a lot of problems. God and the Virgin Mary saved them to come over here and live peacefully," Markos told CNS.

"Anytime you're in need of something, you ask for it, she always (provides), especially here," said Rafa Kattoula, whose family has made a pilgrimage to the shrine for over 40 years.

Expressing gratitude for Mary's intercession, Kattoula concluded: "We've asked and we come and we receive from her."

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Investigation underway into cause for sainthood for martyrs of Burundi

IMAGE: CNS photos/courtesy Xaverian Missionaries

By Francis Njuguna

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The grisly murders of missionary priests and a local priest, a lay volunteer and 40 seminarians in Burundi are the focus of a recently opened investigation into their sainthood cause.

Catholic bishops in this central African nation June 21 welcomed the step petitioned to the Vatican by the Xaverian Missionaries, founded in 1898 by St. Guido Conforti as the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions.

"The church that is in Burundi through us bishops wants to celebrate a group of people who, in the name of Jesus, offered their lives to show that our fraternity in Christ is more important than belonging to an ethnic group," the bishops said in a statement. "It is a great testimony, a message that we believe is truly necessary for all Christians."

The step, which was approved by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, is the first involving the Burundian church, according to the Fides News Agency of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

The killings occurred at different times and localities in the country. Those who died include two Italian Xaverian Missionary priests, Father Ottorino Maule, 53, and Father Aldo Marchiol, 65; lay volunteer Catina Gubert, 74; local priest, Father Michael Kayoya, 38; and the seminarians.

The Italian missionaries and Gubert were killed Sept. 30, 1995, at Buyengero parish.

An account of their deaths revealed that women religious who lived near the parish heard shots from the mission area but dismissed them because gunshots occurred regularly in the area.

"On Sunday morning, since they had not seen the fathers for Mass, they decided to go to the mission, where they found the three bodies in the living room. It was a real execution: The missionaries had been killed with a blow to the head. Only Catina had been killed with a blow to the chest. Nothing in the house had been touched or stolen," the account said.

Father Kayoya was executed in Gitega May 17, 1972, with 50 others imprisoned by the government during a dispute between majority Tutsi and minority Hutu people. Those imprisoned were Hutu.

"He was a priest, poet and philosopher," the Burundi Catholic Church recounted. "Through his publications, he always emphasized those ethnic differences more than being a threat are a wealth, and a mutual gift. He was charismatic figure, lover of truth, preached love without ever separating it from justice."

The killing of the 40 seminarians, according to a church account, occurred in the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1997, when rebels attacked the minor seminary of Buta in the Diocese of Bururi.

Faced with the refusal of the seminarians to separate according to ethnicity, the bandits opened fire, killing 40 young people, who hailed from the dioceses of Bururi, Bujumbura, Ruyigi and Gitega.

The rebels fled after ransacking the seminary and adjacent pastoral center. Today, an onsite chapel memorializes the seminarians.

Father Maule was born in Gambellara in northern Italy on April 7, 1942, and was ordained in 1967.

He left for Burundi on Sept. 3, 1970, returned to Italy in 1979. He was then a teacher and superior of the Xaverian Seminary of Zelarino near Venice and from 1984 to 1990, he served as regional superior of the Xavierians of Italy.

After a brief period in Paris to prepare again for missionary life, he left for Burundi in September 1991. He served as a priest in Buyengero parish, where he was killed with the others.

Father Marchiol was born in Udine in northeastern Italy on March 9, 1930, and was ordained a priest in 1958. After a long period dedicated to the formation of young missionaries in Italy, he went to Burundi in 1978. Other than a short period in 1987-88 when he returned to Italy, he was in Burundi until his death.

Gubert was born in Fiera di Primiero, Italy, and was in Burundi as a lay volunteer. She had been in Burundi between 1976 and 1979 until the first expulsions of missionaries.

She moved to Tanzania to continue her ministry, remaining linked to the Xaverian Missionaries in Burundi. Later returning to Buyengero, she ministered to women until her murder.

The Burundian bishops in their message stressed that "these brothers and this sister in Christ are the heroes that we, the bishops of Burundi, present to you as a single model that inspires love for fraternity."

"They represent the first group of probable martyrs that we present to the universal church, to be officially declared martyrs and are for us all models of fraternity in Christian life and also in our whole Burundian society."

 

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LCWR award recipient embraces 'holy chaos' of her ministry to migrants

IMAGE: CNS photo/Global Sisters Report, courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley

By Soli Salgado and Dan Stockman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CNS) -- "Holy chaos" is how Sister Norma Pimentel describes her ministry.

As the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sister Pimentel sees up to 800 migrants every day pouring into her center in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. The center is often their first stop after being released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Here, the Missionaries of Jesus sister and her staff help them organize the rest of their journey to their final destinations, and provide them with new clothes, a hot meal and shower.

More than 150,000 migrants have passed through her ministry's doors.

That work has led to her being praised by, and later meeting, Pope Francis, being featured on "60 Minutes," "20/20," CNN and in newspapers around the world. On Aug. 16, she received the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Outstanding Leadership Award during the organization's annual assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"There are times we must decide who we are, what we stand for," Sister Pimentel told the nearly 700 Catholic sisters attending the assembly. "We must ask ourselves, dear sisters, 'What else must I do in the world today?'"

The need is urgent, she said.

"If it is not now, then when? If it is not you, then who?" Sister Pimentel asked. "For it is in times of extreme pain and suffering, extreme measures of love are needed."

In 1980, the bishop of Brownsville asked the Missionaries of Jesus if they could oversee a shelter for refugees called Casa Oscar Romero. There Sister Pimentel became "100 percent absorbed in really advocating and defending immigrant families and children. Since then, that was very much a part of who I am."

Sister Pimentel worked and lived at Casa Oscar Romero for 10 years until 1992, when she went back to school to "better prepare myself to respond to families and the people who needed help."

She became the executive director in 2004. Back then, she said, seeing 200 migrants would have been considered a busy day, as new detention facilities had been built in McAllen, Texas, which meant fewer families would be released to them.

But 10 years later, in June 2014, the border experienced one of the most memorable waves of migrants, particularly of unaccompanied children.

Sister Pimentel said she took the lead in organizing the humanitarian response to migrants U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol dropped off at a McAllen, Texas, bus station, visiting the detention facilities where they were apprehended and processed, and teaming up with local parishes to utilize their parish halls for additional space during the 2014 surge.

"To visit the detention facility where they were apprehended and processed and seeing the children in those cells was very heartbreaking for me," she said. "(It was) like I had a dagger in my heart when I saw the suffering children with faces full of tears asking me to help them and not being able to remove them from there."

"That experience has marked me forever," she said. "That triggered in me a profound sense of commitment and dedication to make sure that I become that voice for them, that I can be that force that can defend and protect life, especially the immigrants."

"What connects me to what I'm doing is the face of a child," she said. "Bringing a smile to their face always gives me focus as far as the importance of what I do. No matter how tired I am, if my presence and efforts bring a sense of relief to a family or child in distress, my sense of self is energized, and I go to sleep knowing I've done something good."

Though the number of incoming migrants may vary over the years, their reasons for leaving their home countries remain consistent, Sister Pimentel said.

"It's the gangs and instability and how easily they're abused," she said. "They're afraid for their children, afraid of how easily someone can break into their house and kill their children or themselves if they don't cooperate, if they don't hand over their children to join the gang."

Such instability also makes finding work more difficult, she said, and families are often extorted for more money than they have, and having to work for gangs to pay off whatever is asked.

"That's the constant message we hear over and over again on why they come," she said.

Traffickers and the cartel are "part of the cause and effect of all this," taking advantage of the deterrence policies the U.S. puts forward by exploiting those who forgo the journey, Sister Pimentel said. "President (Barack) Obama was strong in deterrence and deportation, and this new administration under President (Donald) Trump has just followed up on that and amplified it more, with greater emphasis on this negative narrative toward immigrants."

There's an "unwillingness to see immigrants as people," she added, and instead view them "as just intruders or as people who are here to hurt us. ... I feel that I must protect the immigrants and keep them from being exposed too much to the community so the community doesn't feel threatened."

"The fact that they're immigrants is not a reason to be afraid," she said. "Learning to help people make that distinction is important to me, and I find it more challenging to do because sometimes they're so close-minded in their beliefs," which she said she attributes to the influence of the current political climate.

Sister Pimentel said in a video shown before the leadership award was presented that through her work, something inside her had changed. She no longer feels boundaries between people, no matter their station in life. "It is as if we all have become one," she said.

There were murmurs and gasps in the audience at the assembly as Sister Pimentel described the fear on children's faces as they appear at her door, the tears of relief on mothers' faces when they see volunteers welcoming them, fathers kneeling in prayer, thanking God for a place they are finally respected, and the shame on a child's face as they pull her close and ask in a whisper for clean pants because theirs are soiled.

The sisters rose in one accord in a standing ovation for Sister Pimentel, who wiped away tears as the award was presented.

In an interview with the Global Sisters Report, she elaborated, saying, "that connectedness to each other as human beings -- that is key in every relationship and every ministry we do. If we put that as secondary, then we've lost why we're doing what we're doing."

"As consecrated people dedicated to our ministries, we must never lose sight of why we're doing this," she said. "I can be comfortable with chaos, and sometimes the Humanitarian Respite Center can be chaotic (in) how it looks, but there's a sense of order within that chaos, and that's why I call it 'holy chaos.'"

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Salgado and Stockman are staff writer and national correspondent, respectively, for Global Sisters Report.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]