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Order of Malta to provide first aid at World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Jan 22, 2019 / 09:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There will be 120 volunteers of the Order of Malta in Panama for World Youth Day, with the task of “providing first aid to young pilgrims”, Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Monbel, Grand Hospitalier of the Order, told CNA.

Within the Order of Malta, the Grand Hospitalier includes the office of Minister of Health and of Social Affairs, for Humanitarian Action, and for International Cooperation.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order of a military, noble, and chivalrous nature. It is a subject of international law, and in that capacity it has diplomatic relations with over 100 states and the European Union, and also holds a Permanent Observer status at the United Nations. It is preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with Panama.

The Order of Malta is currently active in 120 countries, with a wide network of social and humanitarian work.

De la Rochefoucauld recounted that the Order of Malta organized for World Youth Day “120 volunteers, coming from Germany, France and Italy,” whose main task will be that of providing first aid to the pilgrims.

Given the number of pilgrims coming from long distances, “there are people who do not feel well, some of them faint, some of them simply cannot manage the energy. And so, there is the need of professionals there, who are able to care for these people.”

The Order of Malta volunteers are all specifically trained to face any kind of crisis. The Grand Hospitalier underscored that “they have been trained to help in crisis situations like earthquake,” not to mention that “our first aid units in France were among the first assisting the injured at the Bataclan theater.”

De la Rochefoucauld-Mombel also recalled the Paris 1997 World Youth Day, where he was among the first aid corps: “We were called because one of the girls of the group was not feeling well. When we got there, she had fainted, so we started the procedure, automatically: we opened the buttons, untied shoes, put her in the right position to let her breath. The doctor was in front of me. We stared from one to the other and in that moment the crowd started saying the ‘Our Father’ prayer. And we prayed the prayer, too, while continuing to provide the first aid.”

Vatican again denies prior knowledge of allegations against Argentine bishop

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 08:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a statement Tuesday the Vatican again denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to a Vatican office.

In a Jan. 22 statement, interim director of the Vatican Press Office Alessandro Gisotti “resolutely” repeated a Jan. 4 Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.

The Vatican’s latest statement came in response to recent articles on the Zanchetta allegations carried by several news outlets. Gisotti said it was necessary to correct “some misleading reconstructions.” He also confirmed that Zanchetta’s case is being studied and that “information will be forthcoming regarding the results” of that process.

Bishop Zanchetta, 54, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Quilmes in 1991. He remained there until his 2013 appointment by Pope Francis as Bishop of Orán. In July 2017, he announced his resignation as bishop, citing health problems and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up the position of assessor at APSA, which manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings, in December 2017.

In a Jan. 20 report from the Associated Press, Zanchetta’s former vicar general said that information about alleged sexual abuse by Zanchetta had been sent to Rome several years prior to the Argentine bishop’s appointment to APSA.

Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017. According to Manzano, these complaints concerned alleged “obscene behavior” by Zanchetta, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and the possession of naked selfies on the bishop’s phone.

“In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous,” Manzano, now a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, he noted.

In May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP, he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the apostolic nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican.

According to Gisotti’s Jan. 4 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

“If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

Zanchetta has been placed on temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.

 

Getting to February: The decisions that could shape the pope's summit

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- As the Church continues to wrestle with the fall-out of last year’s sexual abuse scandals, the Vatican faces a series of crucial decisions in the coming weeks. How they are resolved, and in what order, will likely set the tone for the rest of the year.

 

One month from today, the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences will gather in Rome for a special summit to address the abuse crisis. Ahead of that meeting, the Vatican has attempted to lower what it has called “excessive” expectations.

 

These efforts notwithstanding, the credibility of its discussions and conclusions will likely play a large part in shaping wider assessments of the Church in 2019. But before the three-day meeting begins, two other events could do much to frame how the February session will be seen from the outside.

 

The first of these events is the replacement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, DC. The second is the conclusion of the penal process handling the allegations against Wuerl’s predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Both are expected imminently, and both seem sure to cast a shadow, for good or for ill, on February’s meeting and whatever it produces.

 

As has been previously reported, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently concluded the investigative phase of its handling of the McCarrick case. The CDF also confirmed that, instead of a full canonical trial, McCarrick was facing a penal administrative process - ordinarily reserved for handling cases where the evidence is clear and compelling.

 

Officials in different Vatican departments, if not the CDF itself, have already begun pointedly referring to the former cardinal as “Mr. McCarrick” in a nod to his likely laicization if he is found guilty of sexual abuse.

 

While Rome appears intent on ensuring the McCarrick case is resolved - one way or another - before the February meeting, how much detail the CDF makes public about the resolution will be important.

 

McCarrick is accused of a number of grave crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors and adults. What is done and said about his alleged abuse of adults may prove more significant, even if it represents the lesser charge canonically speaking.

 

If McCarrick is found guilty of abusing seminarians over a period of years, it will be far harder for the February meeting to ignore the growing calls for an expansion in law of the definition of “vulnerable adults” to include victims like McCarrick’s.

 

On the other hand, if no decision is reached, or publicly acknowledged, on those charges, the seminarians who submitted their testimony as part of the CDF process may well feel ignored, and their suffering marginalized all over again.

 

Either result is likely to inform perceptions of the Vatican summit next month and present a serious obstacle to those hoping to force through a narrower focus and agenda based only on the abuse of minors, about which there is less disagreement among the bishops.

 

Meanwhile, the replacement of Cardinal Wuerl in Washington remains a significant and increasingly urgent priority for Rome.

 

Just months ago, before the scandals of last summer, Wuerl seemed likely to continue in office until he was nearly 80, well past the normal retirement age for bishops, which he passed when he turned 75 three years ago. His resignation, submitted in 2015, was accepted last October (with obvious reluctance by the pope) due to mounting pressure on the cardinal following the Pennsylvania grand jury report - in which he was named more than 200 times - and questions about what Wuerl did or did not know about his predecessor.

 

Recent weeks have seen confirmation by Wuerl that, despite his earlier denials, he was aware of accusations against McCarrick involving misconduct with seminarians as early as 2004. His current tenure as administrator of the Washington archdiocese has helped to keep both him and McCarrick in the news.

 

While a replacement for Wuerl would likely be received as a welcome turning of the page for both Washington Catholics and the Vatican, deciding who that replacement should be has proven difficult for Rome to resolve. Sources in Washington and the Vatican, including the Congregation for Bishops, have spoken to CNA about a lack of consensus on who is best placed to succeed Wuerl.

 

Some in Rome had previously speculated that picking a successor for Wuerl might wait until after the February meeting, allowing it to be presented as part of an ongoing process of renewal. Recent events have now made his replacement a more pressing priority.

 

Further urgency now seems likely, given the expectation of a decision on the McCarrick case. Given the esteem Wuerl still enjoys in Rome, it is unlikely that the Vatican would announce his replacement soon after a guilty verdict on McCarrick, lest the two been seen as related events. If McCarrick’s fate is expected soon, the next archbishop of Washington may well be expected sooner still.

 

With the Congregation, the pope’s own inner circle of advisors, and Wuerl himself all eager to put forward their own candidates, a succession of supposed front-runners have been touted, beginning with Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, passing through Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and now appearing to settle around either Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport or Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta.

 

Whoever emerges as the next Archbishop of Washington (and likely cardinal), they will have been chosen with an eye on presenting a credible face of change but one not expected to further rock the boat of the capital see.

 

If both McCarrick and Wuerl’s different situations can be resolved in the next few weeks, it may offer some breathing room before the February summit. But even assuming the most positive outcome and reception in both cases, little seems likely to dampen expectations for what many are calling a make-or-break meeting in Rome. Senior figures, like former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors Marie Collins, are already warning that the meeting must produce a “practical” outcome and not merely “more talk.”

 

Earlier this month, Pope Francis wrote to the American bishops about the crisis of credibility facing the hierarchy. He and the Vatican are now facing three major events in the space of a few weeks. How each of them is handled could affect profoundly how quickly that credibility is regained.

Latest Planned Parenthood numbers show more abortions—and higher profits

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the U.S., has released its annual report, and its critics object to the organization’s increase in abortions and financial profits even as its number of adoption referrals has fallen.

“The big business of abortion is evident in this report, as Planned Parenthood turned a profit of nearly $250 million, a 150 percent increase, according to its own accounts. What a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said Jan. 21.

“While Planned Parenthood pushes talking points about healthcare, the fact remains that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s number one abortion vendor, profiting by violently ending life,” Hawkins charged. “But pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion. Women deserve real, life-affirming care, and taxpayers deserve a return on their investment that helps women and their children, born and preborn.”

The Planned Parenthood annual report, covering the 2017-2018 fiscal year, was published over the weekend of Jan. 19-20.

The number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood rose to 332,757, an increase of over three percent. Adoption referrals dropped by over 25 percent to 2,831. The abortion provider makes one adoption referral for every 117 abortions.

Hawkins backed the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood “to invest in life-saving care.”

Millennials and young adults prefer that tax money go to federally qualified health centers instead of Planned Parenthood, Hawkins said. She cited a Students for Life poll of 18- to 34-year-olds, conducted in January, whose respondents showed a 3-to-1 preference against tax dollars for Planned Parenthood.

Students for Life of America trains and organizes students for campus outreach to young mothers and to fellow students, with the goal of ending abortion. Since 2006 it has helped establish or build over 1,200 pro-life student chapters and has trained over 55,000 students.

While federal funds for abortion are limited, the abortion provider Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in federal funding for programs involving contraception provision and other services.

It is also in the public eye for possible involvement in illegal sale of fetal tissue from aborted babies’ remains, after a series of videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress alleged that Planned Parenthood was involved in the sale of aborted fetal parts for profit.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Planned Parenthood due to these videos. Congress has launched several investigations.

In 2018 Dr. Leana Wen became the new president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Planned Parenthood services — from birth control to cancer screenings to abortion — are standard medical care,” Wen said in the report. “Reproductive health care is health care. Women’s health care is health care. And health care is a fundamental human right.”

The report claims 12 million supporters and claims its contraceptive services averted about 400,000 pregnancies.

 

‘Zimbabwe is burning’: Bishops call for peace amid violent protests, crackdown

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan 22, 2019 / 12:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As political protests in Zimbabwe have turned violent and even fatal, reportedly leaving at least 12 people dead, the bishops of the country have called for peaceful resolutions to the crisis.

“Zimbabwe is burning; its economy is hurting; its people are suffering. Many ordinary Zimbabweans express disappointment that hoped-for changes are yet to be felt, in access to employment, cash and broad stakeholder consultations. Our quasi currency, operating with multiple exchange rates, is fueling a national crisis,” the bishops said in a Jan. 17 letter.

“We call upon [the] Government and the Opposition to put their differences aside and work together to free Zimbabwe from economic shackles and international ostracisation.”

Last week, a sharp spike in fuel prices in Zimbabwe sparked violent protests from members of groups who oppose the current government.

According to the BBC, Presidential spokesman George Charamba told local journalists that the opposition group Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was responsible for the violence.

“The MDC leadership has been consistently pushing out the message that they will use violent street action to overturn the results of (last year's) ballot,” Caramba said.

However, the United Nations called on the Zimbabwe government to stop using “excessive” force to cull the protests, after reports surfaced that the government was conducting door-to-door searches and beating, torturing and using live ammunition on the protestors.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that he would be returning early from a foreign tour in order to help address the situation.

The clashes took place largely in the capital city, Harare, and the southern city of Bulawayo, where looting and riots have been reported and all schools have been forced to close. Reuters reported that more than 60 people were treated for gunshot wounds, following the government’s alleged use of live ammunition on the protestors.

News of the protests came despite government blocks on Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter messaging apps. The government said the blocks were part of an attempt to quell the violence, while human rights groups have said they were attempting to mask human rights violations.  

The protests come after a long period of political and economic instability, from “the military-assisted political change that took place in November 2017 to the total shutdown of Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres that began on Monday, 14 January 2019,” the bishops said.

They said that while they had hoped for good change after November 2017, they have “witnessed with sadness and concern [the] Government's piecemeal and knee-jerk reaction to the worsening economic situation, exemplified by the unilateral imposition of 2 percent tax on the country's major money-transfer and payment system and by the hefty increase in fuel prices on 12 January 2019, the immediate cause of the violent demonstrations and riots that brought Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres into complete lockdown.”

The bishops said that they are “saddened and concerned” by the government’s failure to stabilize the economy, which has put the livelihood of many Zimbabweans in jeopardy, as well as by the violent riots and demonstrations, the disruption of essential services, and by the government’s intolerance for people expressing opposing views, leading to their torture and even death.

“We are writing at a time when our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history. Once more the resilience and resolve of Zimbabweans is being put to test. We thank the many Zimbabweans who continue to pray ceaselessly for our Country. We, your Shepherds, write to you at this time to help rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in Zimbabwe,” the bishops said.

They encouraged the government and all citizens of Zimbabwe to help build a free country, with free elections and strong, politically inclusive institutions.

“We do not need a strong man or woman but strong institutions. We need to develop a new and challenging kind of politics, a new cooperation and harmony based on reasoned argument, generous compromise and respectful toleration,” they said.

“Zimbabwe is faced with a crisis that is not just political and economic but moral and spiritual. A new Zimbabwean politics needs to be more collaborative, inclusive and based not on one or two leaders, however effective and charismatic, but rather on strong democratic institutions that embody and secure the values of our democracy, regulate our politics, build trust and administer peace, truth and justice to all.”

The bishops urged the government to work to ease the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe rather than contribute to it, and they urged all citizens towards tolerance and peaceful, nonviolent protests that are within their constitutional rights.

“We believe in a God of second chances, who is always offering us new opportunities. Even in the midst of current tensions and disturbances there are new opportunities to rebuild hope, trust, confidence and stability in our country,” they said.

“The task at hand requires our collective responsibility in upholding everything that is good and right, to promote unity, reconciliation, and national cohesion. We wish to state our firm belief that Zimbabwe would easily become one of the best countries to live in on earth if only all of us, its people, committed to living and working with each other in harmony, tolerance and peace, putting the interests of the country before selfish and political party interests.”