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Meet Aiku who dreams of becoming a deacon

This is a conversion story. It is also the story of the evangelization of French Guiana. Aikumale Alemin, of Amerinda Wayana ethnicity, is a convert to Catholicism who is training to become a deacon. His spiritual journey is not an easy one, as he lives in a landlocked territory where Catholics are a minority.

Christians persecuted in Nigeria amid deafening silence

A Catholic priest in Nigeria releases an appeal for attention and action to the international community as Christians continue to be persecuted and murdered in his country.

Pope appoints woman under-secretary in Vatican Secretariat of State

Pope Francis appoints Dr Francesca Di Giovanni as under-secretary in the Section for Relations with States. She will be coordinating the multilateral sector.

Pope at Audience: Even if Church is persecuted, it never tires of welcoming

Pope Francis, concluding his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles tells pilgrims that even if the Church is persecuted and chained, it never tires of welcoming with a motherly heart.

Legion of Christ abuser dismissed from clerical state

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- This week Fernando Martínez Suárez, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, was dismissed from the clerical state. He had been found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Martinez, 79, will remain a member of the Legion of Christ. He had been ordained a priest in 1964.

The Legion of Christ stated Jan. 13 that Martinez, "who was found guilty of delicts of sexual abuse of minors, as a result of the process before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has lost the clerical state and can no longer exercise the priestly ministry."

Fr. Andreas Schöggl, secretary general of the Legion, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to Martinez' victims that "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith submitted the request to the Holy Father after an attentive study of the case.”

Martinez abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún.

He was also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969.

Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15.

An internal commission of the Legion published a report last month saying that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

Fr. Maciel abused at least 60 minors.

Fourteen Legionaries who committed abuse of minors were themselves victims of abuse in the order.

The Legion of Christ was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.

From that point, Benedict XVI carried on a process of reform for the Legion of Christ, a process continued under Pope Francis.

Pope Francis' General Audience: English summary

At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis concluded his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles reflecting on Paul’s arrival in Rome, to appeal his case to Caesar.

CAR: After 125 years of Catholicism, time for introspection

As the Church in the Central African Republic clocks 125 years of evangelization, Bishops have a message of “hope, peace and the re-awakening of consciousness.”

South Sudan peace declaration signed in Rome

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The Republic of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) have signed a peace declaration in Rome Sunday that will go into effect Jan. 15.

“I think this process will help the country to change to bring peace for the people,” Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, told CNA Jan. 13.

In peace talks in Rome facilitated by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, opposition groups and the South Sudanese government recommitted to cease hostilities, pursue political dialogue, and allow humanitarian aid for the people of South Sudan.

Signers of the “Rome Declaration on the Peace Process in South Sudan” notably included representatives of the opposition groups in SSOMA, who refused to sign an earlier peace agreement in Sept. 12, 2018 in Khartoum, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and National Democratic Movement (NDM) as witnesses.

Dr. Sunday De John, communications director for the opposition alliance, told CNA that he hopes this will pave the way for a long-awaited visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan.

“We have accepted the cessation of hostilities, and therefore there will be no confrontation between the forces of the opposition and that of the government. It means there will be relative security, and would allow the mobility of South Sudanese locally and international visitors, like His Holiness the pope as early as February,” De John said Jan. 13.

“South Sudan is a country that is made up of Christians, notably of the Catholic faith. We believe in His Holiness the pope, and should he come to South Sudan -- even if the opposition is unable to be there for security reasons -- we will be happy because our country is our symbol,” he said.

Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, facilitated the peace declaration. He said that faith played an important role in the South Sudan peace talks hosted in Rome Jan. 11-12.

“All of them are Christians, so for them to start a meeting with a prayer was very important. They attended Holy Mass on  Saturday evening with Sant’Egidio ... The fact that Pope Francis is so engaged in their country for them is something that they cannot forget,” Impagliazzo told CNA.

“We kept the two delegations separated in different hotels, different rooms for coffee breaks, and a plenary room where they entered together, shaking hands and sitting on the two sides of the table,” he said.

The Community of Sant’Egidio is a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor. The community has previously worked with the peace process in Mozambique and the Ivory Coast.

In the declaration, the government and the opposition recommitment to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of Dec. 2017 to cease armed confrontation in South Sudan, and to allow humanitarian access to local and international organizations.

IGAD, the UN’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development, participated as an observer.

“Rome was not built in one day, so with our peace, we are building it,” Barnaba Maria Benjamin, head of the South Sudan government envoy, said in a press conference Jan. 13.

Benjamin said it is important that Sant’Egidio will be monitoring whether the agreement is implemented. He underlined that the government of South Sudan is committed to “inclusivity,” calling it the “cornerstone of the future of the Republic of South Sudan.”

“The cessation of hostilities is important because it allows our people …  to have humanitarian assistance reach all rural parts of South Sudan and it allows us to build forgiveness, reconciliation and harmony,” Benjamin said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in South Sudan’s civil war, which began shortly after South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. The fighting primarily took place between those forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups led by Riek Machar, the former vice president.

The signers of the declaration wrote that they were “humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Former Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Scotland, as well as those of the South Sudanese religious leaders for reconciliation, peace and fraternity.”

The two groups also reaffirmed their will to foster political dialogue under the auspices of the Catholic community Sant’Egidio in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization.

The Vatican hosted South Sudan’s political leaders for a peacebuilding retreat in April 2019, at which Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of the president of South Sudan and the leader of the opposition movement.

“We came together here in appreciation to the tireless effort of His Holiness Pope Francis when he called the leadership of our country and begged them for peace,” Pa’gan Amum Okiech, member of the leadership council of SSOMA and Interim Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Pope Francis, who does not have any international trips scheduled for 2020, has repeatedly expressed his hope that he will be able to visit South Sudan, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in the coming year.

The pope sent a Christmas message together with Archbishop Welby and Rev. John Chalmers, the former moderator of the Scottish Presbyterian Church to the people of South Sudan expressing best wishes for a swift implementation of the peace agreements.

“May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, enlighten you and guide your steps in the way of goodness and truth, and bring to fulfilment our desire to visit your beloved country,” the message states.


What does Benedict XVI actually say in new book on priestly celibacy?

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 12:37 pm (CNA).- In his chapter in a new book on priestly celibacy, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says a historical understanding of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments makes it clear that celibacy is an ontological, rather than optional, part of the Catholic priesthood.

“From the Depths of Our Hearts” is set to be released in French this week and in English next month. The book consists of chapters written individually by Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, as well as a joint introduction and conclusion.

Controversy has shrouded the book since its publication was announced Jan. 12, largely over disagreement about how much Benedict contributed to the book's introduction and conclusion, and whether he gave permission for publishers to identify him as a coauthor of the text.

While that controversy is ongoing, less discussed is what Benedict XVI actually said in the chapter of the book that the pope emeritus did write.

What did Benedict XVI say in his chapter of the book?

At the core of his writing is an argument that the sexual abstinence that was merely “functional” for the priests of the Old Testament has been transformed into something “ontological” in the priesthood of the New Covenant, according to a draft text of the book seen by CNA.

Benedict’s chapter examines the history of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments, saying that a proper understanding of the nature of the priesthood is crucial in answering contemporary questions about priestly celibacy.

“At the foundation of the serious situation in which the priesthood finds itself today, we find a methodological flaw in the reception of Scripture as Word of God,” Benedict says.

Abandoning a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament has led to a “deficient theology of worship” among many modern scholars, who fail to recognize that Jesus fulfilled the worship owed to God, rather than abolishing it, he continues.

Looking at the history of the priesthood in the Old Testament, Benedict says that “the relation between sexual abstinence and divine worship was absolutely clear in the common awareness of Israel.”

He notes that the priests of Israel were required to observe sexual abstinence during their time that they spend leading worship, when they were “in contact with the divine mystery.”

“Given that the priests of the Old Testament had to dedicate themselves to worship only during set times, marriage and the priesthood were compatible,” he says. “But because of the regular and often even daily celebration of the Eucharist, the situation of the priests of the Church of Jesus Christ has changed radically.”

Since the entire life of the priest in the New Covenant is “in contact with the divine mystery,” he says, it demands “exclusivity with regard to God” and becomes incompatible with marriage, which also requires one’s whole life.

“From the daily celebration of the Eucharist, which implies a permanent state of service to God, was born spontaneously the impossibility of a matrimonial bond. We can say that the sexual abstinence that was functional was transformed automatically into an ontological abstinence. Thus its motivation and its significance were changed from within and profoundly.”

Benedict’s text seems focused on the Latin Catholic Church; many Eastern Catholic priests do not celebrate Mass daily, and the former pope does not address specifically theology of Eastern Catholic married priests.

The pope emeritus rejects the idea that priestly celibacy is based on a contempt for human sexuality within the Church. He notes that this claim was also dismissed by the Church Fathers, and that the Church has always viewed marriage as a gift from God.

“However, the married state involves a man in his totality, and since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously,” he says. “Thus, the ability to renounce marriage so as to place oneself totally at the Lord’s disposition became a criterion for priestly ministry.”

Just as the priests from the Tribe of Levi renounced ownership of land, priests in the New Covenant renounce marriage and family, as a sign of their radical commitment to God, he says.

This is seen in the Psalm prayed when a man entered the clergy before the Second Vatican Council, he says: “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage.”

Benedict concludes with a reflection on the words of John 17:17-18: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

He says these words struck him deeply on the day before he was ordained a priest, and led him to reflect on the lifelong calling of a priest to continually unite himself to Christ and renounce “what belongs only to us.”

“Thus, on that eve of my ordination, a deep impression was left on my soul of what it means to be ordained a priest, beyond all the ceremonial aspects: it means that we must continually be purified and overcome by Christ so that He is the one who speaks and acts in us, and less and less we ourselves,” the pope emeritus says.

Ignatius Press to keep Benedict XVI listed as coauthor of new celibacy book

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 10:32 am (CNA).- Amid still-unfolding controversy surrounding a new book on priestly celibacy, the book’s US publisher says it plans to continue identifying pope emeritus Benedict XVI as coauthor of the text. The former pope’s private secretary requested Tuesday that Benedict not be listed as a coauthor.

The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” is a text on priestly celibacy, initially identified as being coauthored by Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s office on liturgy, and emeritus pope Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy in 2013.

The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.

News of the book’s existence emerged Sunday, and by Monday afternoon the contribution of Benedict XVI to the work had been called into question.

On Jan. 14, Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of the book and had not seen its cover, adding that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.

Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him.

“The name of Benedict XVI as 'co-author' of the book should be deleted and replaced with 'with a contribution by Benedict XVI.' His name must also be deleted after the introduction and the conclusions, because they are texts by Cardinal Sarah. It is simply a matter of correctly assigning the authorship. It is not about changes in content," Gänswein told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The book is set for English publication by Ignatius Press. The publisher said Tuesday it still considers the text to be coathored.

“Ignatius Press published the text as we received it from the French publisher Fayard. Fayard is the publisher with whom we have collaborated on three other Cardinal Sarah titles. The text we received indicates the two authors are Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah. That text also indicates that Benedict XVI co-authored an introduction and a conclusion with Cardinal Sarah, as well as his own chapter on the priesthood, wherein he describes how his exchanges with Cardinal Sarah gave him the strength to complete what would have gone unfinished,” Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, said in Jan. 14 statement.

“Given that, according to Benedict XVI’s correspondence and Cardinal Sarah’s statement, the two men collaborated on this book for several months, that none of the essays have appeared elsewhere, and that a joint work as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style is  ‘a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole’, Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication.”

“Cardinal Sarah indicates the content of the book remains unchanged. That content, as noted, includes a co-authored introduction, a chapter by Benedict XVI, and a conclusion coauthored by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah.,” Brumley added.

The publisher’s statement followed a Jan 14. release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”


Communiqué officiel :

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) January 14, 2020  

Sarah said that Benedict approved that “complete manuscript” on Nov. 25, and that the two discussed the matter in person on Dec. 3.

Gänswein said attribution of the introduction and conclusion, and Benedict’s identity as a co-author, was a “misunderstanding.”

Later on Jan. 14, Sarah tweeted that, while he stood by his version of events, he had requested that Fayard, the book’s French publisher, acquiesce to Gänswein’s request. The cardinal has insisted that “the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged.”


Je confirme que j’ai pu parler ce matin avec Mgr Georg Gänswein. Ce communiqué reste ma seule et unique version du déroulement des faits. J’ai également eu une conversation avec la direction de Fayard pour mettre en place les demandes spécifiques de Mgr Gänswein. +RS

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) January 14, 2020  

A spokesperson for Ignatius Press told CNA Jan. 14 that while the publisher is “aware” of Gänswein’s request, it stands by its statement, and considers the text a co-authored work.

“There is no doubt that Pope Benedict wrote the section ‘The Catholic Priesthood;’ and since Cardinal Sarah says ‘the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged,’ then the entries in the table of contents: ‘Introduction by the Two Authors’ and ‘Conclusion by the Two Authors’ say all we need to know,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson told CNA that Ignatius “can’t speak to what Ignatius might do if Fayard acquiesces,” and that it will address that question if it becomes necessary.

Beyond the question of how the emeritus pope is credited in the work, the book has been the source of controversy because it addresses priestly celibacy while Pope Francis is said to be considering recommendations from a 2019 synod to permit the priestly ordination of some married men in the Amazon region, where there is an acute priest shortage.

Some critics have suggested that a retired pope should not have spoken on a controversial subject under consideration by the current pope. Other critics have suggested that Sarah unfairly manipulated Benedict in order to lobby Pope Francis on the subject.

Supporters of Benedict say the retired pope has been encouraged by Pope Francis to engage on Church matters.

On Jan. 13, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican’s communications office, praised the book.

“Ratzinger and Sarah — who describe themselves as two Bishops ‘in filial obedience to Pope Francis’ who ‘are seeking the truth’ in ‘a spirit of love for the unity of the Church’ — defend the discipline of celibacy and put forth the reasons that they feel counsel against changing it,” Tornielli wrote.