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Vatican Museums: Beauty that Unites! 61

Beauty creates communion. It unites onlookers from a distance, uniting past, present and future. Pope Francis has recalled this on a number of occasions. The Church has always translated the universality of the Good News into the language of art. From this premise, this dramatic moment in history characterized by uncertainty and isolation, gives rise to this initiative which is a partnership between the Vatican Museum and Vatican News: Masterpieces from the Vatican Collection accompanied by comments from the words of the Popes.

Italy considers allowing abortion pill without hospitalization

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2020 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- Italy’s health ministry is expected to approve a proposal to remove mandatory hospitalization for the administration of the abortion pill and to expand the time frame in which it can be prescribed.

The RU486 drug is prescribed to induce a chemical abortion. Use of the drug was legalized in Italy in 2009, and in 2010 standards were set which require women to be hospitalized for three days during its administration.

The proposed change in guidelines will allow the drug to be administered in an outpatient clinic or at home. Italy’s Ministry of Health is also expected to expand access to the abortion pill by two weeks, allowing it to be prescribed until the ninth week of pregnancy.

“This is a real abortion. It is no less ‘abortion’ due to the fact that it does not occur with surgical instruments,” Marina Casini, president of Movimento per la Vita told Vatican News.

She pointed to the significant health risks associated with chemical abortions, stating that Italy is “facing propaganda in favor” of the abortion drug RU486.

Casini said the proposed changes are based on ideology -- an attempt to convince people that abortion is “a trivial fact -- after all, it is enough to drink a glass of water -- to make us forget that at stake is the destruction of a human being in the prenatal stage.”

RU486 is the administration of two different drugs several days apart. Mifeprex causes the mother’s body to stop nourishing the unborn child; Misoprostol, taken afterward, causes contractions and expels the child and placenta from the mother’s body.

Currently, only two out of 10 abortions which take place in Italy are chemical abortions.

Italian media noted that dropping the hospitalization requirement could result in more Italian women choosing to have a chemical abortion instead of surgical.

In a document from the Superior Health Council, the drop of the hospitalization requirement was also noted to have potentially cost-saving benefits to the health system.

Casini condemned this attitude. “It is much less expensive to give this product to the woman and say: do it yourself, do it alone. It saves beds, anesthesia and even human investment of doctors and health workers,” she noted. “There is a nice cut in spending, however, it is carried out on the skin of children on their way to birth and their mothers.”

Abortion was legalized in Italy in 1978 with the establishment of “Legge 194.” The law made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.

Since its legalization, it is estimated that more than 6 million children have been aborted in Italy.

Church and state in Panama working together to fight Covid-19

The Church in Panama and the nation’s Ministry of Health sign a cooperation agreement, in order to work together to combat the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

People helping people after bomb in Beirut

Ordinary people, such as university student Lori Sleiman, and eye doctor Corrine Lahoud, help as best they can in recovery efforts in Beirut.

Pope: prayers, little gestures sow seeds of God's love in the world

Pope Francis sends a message to the Franciscan Minims of the Sacred Heart on the occasion of the death centenary of their foundress.

Facts surrounding bombing in Beirut continue to unfold

The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group has denied rumours that his movement had stored arms at Beirut's port.

US Church in solidarity with the Church in Africa

Catholics in the United States hope to aid the Church in Africa as it confronts both pastoral needs and the growing needs caused by Covid-19.

Vatican cardinal promotes rural tourism as sector projected to lose billions

Rome Newsroom, Aug 7, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- As the global economy braces to lose billions in international tourism in 2020 due to coronavirus travel restrictions, a Vatican cardinal is encouraging travelers to explore “hidden places.”

Tourism and rural development, the theme of the 2020 World Day of Tourism, could indicate a way forward for the industry once the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic ends, Cardinal Peter Turkson said in a message Aug. 7.

“It begins with the invitation to take seriously and put into practice sustainable development which, in the field of tourism, means a greater interest in extra-urban tourist destinations, small villages, hamlets, roads and little-known and less frequented places,” the cardinal said, “those most hidden places to discover or rediscover precisely because they are more enchanting and unspoiled.”

The United Nation’s 41st World Tourism Day will be September 27.

Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, noted the grave impact the coronavirus pandemic has and will have on the tourism industry and on those whose livelihoods depend on it.

“The suspension of international flights, the closure of airports and borders, the adoption of severe travel restrictions, including domestic ones, are causing an unprecedented crisis,” he said.

The cardinal cited “fears that in the worst-case scenario, at the end of 2020 there will be a decrease of about one billion international tourists, with a global economic loss of about 1.2 billion dollars.”

“The result would be a huge loss of jobs in the entire tourism sector,” he said.

Turkson also quoted the secretary general of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, who said “tourism has been the sector most affected by the global lockdown, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy.”

Despite these facts, Turkson encouraged people to remain optimistic and to consider how sustainable development can be put into practice through a slower, more “rural” tourism.

“It is, therefore, the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism which, implemented according to principles of social and economic justice and in full respect of the environment and cultures, recognizes the centrality of the host local community and its right to be a protagonist in the sustainable and socially responsible development of its territory,” he stated.

It is “a tourism, therefore, that favors the positive interaction between the tourism industry, the local community and travelers.”

This would in turn also help the rural economy, on which many farmers, families, and small businesses depend, he argued.

According to Turkson, traveling in a “conscious and sober way” can also help people to “grasp the differences, small or large, among the traditions, places and communities encountered.”

“So why not turn to tourism that enhances rural and marginal areas by meeting them while walking?” he said. “This will allow us to slow down and avoid the risks of frenzy.”

Pope Francis sends donation to Beirut for explosion recovery

Rome Newsroom, Aug 7, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has sent a donation of 250,000 euros ($295,488) in aid to the Church in Lebanon to help with recovery efforts after the devastating explosion which occurred in the capital city of Beirut earlier this week.

“This donation is intended as a sign of His Holiness’s attention and closeness to the affected population and of his fatherly closeness to people in serious difficulty,” a Vatican press release stated Aug. 7.

More than 137 people were killed and thousands injured in a blast near Beirut’s port Aug. 4. The explosion caused extensive damage to the city and flattened buildings near the port. Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, said around 300,000 people were left temporarily homeless.

Church leaders have warned that the city and nation are on the brink of total collapse, and pleaded with the international community for aid.

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, and Bishop Elias Zeidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles described Beirut as an “apocalyptic city” in a joint call for assisstence on Wednesday.

“This country is at the verge of a failed state and total collapse,” they said. “We pray for Lebanon, and we ask for your support for our brothers and sisters at this difficult time and in response to the catastrophe.”  

Pope Francis’ donation, made through the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will go to the apostolic nunciature of Beirut “to meet the needs of the Lebanese Church in these moments of difficulty and suffering,” according to the Vatican.

The explosion destroyed “buildings, churches, monasteries, facilities and basic sanitation,” the statement continued. “An immediate emergency and first aid response is already taking place with medical care, shelters for the displaced and centres of basic needs made available by the Church through Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Internationalis and several Caritas sisters organizations.”

Lebanese officials say the blast appears to have been caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which is commonly used in fertilizer and mining explosives, stored in an unsecured warehouse on the docks for six years.

Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the people of Lebanon after his general audience address Aug. 5.

Speaking via livestream, he said, “let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

SSPX accused of intimidating would-be whistleblowers amid abuse investigation

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- After an official with the Society of St. Pius X told priests and staff they should speak with criminal investigators only in the presence of an attorney provided by the group, the group’s leaders say their message was not intended to suggest anyone should cover up alleged sex abuse.

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is a breakaway traditionalist group of priests and bishops with no official canonical status in the Church.

Rev. Scott Gardner, bursar of the U.S. district of the SSPX, told staff and priests at St. Mary’s SSPX chapel and school in Kansas last weekend that they did not have to cooperate with state investigators of alleged child sex abuse.

He added that employees and priest should speak to police only in the presence of a lawyer, who would be provided by the organization.

Some former members of the organization said the message, sent by email, seemed designed to silence witnesses or whistleblowers of abuse.

“It looks like they’re trying to hide things, trying to keep people from speaking and definitely stonewalling,” Kyle White, who has alleged that priests in the organization covered up reports of sexual abuse, told the Kansas City Star Aug. 4.

“They don’t want any more stuff like this getting out,” White added.

Gardner said when he emailed priests and staff, he was simply informing them that they did not have to speak to investigators without a lawyer present.
 
“It was certainly not an attempt to intimidate anyone or to discourage cooperation with the KBI,” Gardner said in an Aug. 5 statement.

“This email was clearly sent to priests and employees and not to people attending our church or school in St Mary’s or elsewhere,” the priest said, adding that it was not “an attempt to intimidate anyone or to discourage cooperation” with investigators.

The SSPX is under investigation in the state of Kansas for alleged sex abuse, along with the four Catholic dioceses.

The group was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970. When Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II in 1988, the bishops involved were excommunicated.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the surviving bishops, while noting that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

The group has been in intermittent talks with the Vatican about returning to full communion with the Church. In 2015, Pope Francis extended the faculty to hear confession to priests of the society as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In the group’s U.S. district, however, a number of abuse allegations have surfaced in relation to the large SSPX community at St. Mary’s, Kansas, which includes the society’s K-12 school, as have several allegations that priests engaged in cover-ups of abuse by priests or attendees of SSPX chapels.
 
In 2019, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) announced it would investigate clerical sexual misconduct in four Catholic dioceses in the state; the investigation was subsequently expanded to include the SSPX.

In May, a spokesperson for the KBI told CNA the investigation is “ongoing” and that as of February 1, the bureau had 186 reports of abuse and had opened 112 investigations. KBI did not say how many of the investigations pertained to the SSPX.
 
In addition to the Kansas City Star, the weekend email from Gardner was reported on the Church Militant website. Gardner’s statement said of that report that “Church Militant has once again tried to wring fake news out of an internal email by falsifying the context.”

Gardner’s statement did not address the Kansas City Star, or indicate whether he perceived that newspaper as well to be reporting “fake news.”

The priest did say that the SSPX is “making any priest, employee, or agent” available to the KBI “without the need for a subpoena.”
 
Gardner said in his correspondence that he has “no indication that the KBI has been intimidating” anyone, but added that “our legal system is adversarial” and thus it is “common sense for the Society to protect itself and its priests and employees by having its attorney present at an interview with law enforcement.”

“I hope that anyone with evidence of abuse will go freely to the KBI or other appropriate authorities,” he said.
 
KBI has said that it is accepting reports of abuse by phone at 1-800-KS-CRIME, or by email. [email protected]