Browsing News Entries

Catholic archbishop: Church must do reparation, but don’t scapegoat orders over mother-and-baby homes

CNA Staff, Jan 19, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).- A Catholic archbishop said on Sunday that religious orders should not be scapegoated for the failures exposed by a report on Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes.  

Archbishop Eamon Martin made the comment in an interview with RTÉ’s “This Week” program on Jan. 17 after the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes published its final report.

“I would be disappointed if we were, having read the commission’s report, to scapegoat the religious congregations,” said Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

“They were commissioned by the state, and by local authorities and county councils. They were expected to intervene when the rest of society had basically banished these mothers and their unborn children and infants.”

“They too were Irish women who answered a call to serve. And they found themselves kind of on the front line of this.”

The 2,800-page report was issued on Jan. 12 following a six-year inquiry into the treatment of around 56,000 women and girls at mother-and-baby homes and four county homes in Ireland between 1922 and 1998.

Mother-and-baby homes were generally run by religious orders, with government assistance and under the authority of the local bishop, while county homes were overseen by the state. 

The institutions housed women who became pregnant outside of wedlock. About 57,000 babies were born in the homes over the 76-year period examined by the commission. There was a significant mortality rate, with 15% of babies dying before they left the homes. Some 200 women who gave birth died while living at mother-and-baby homes.

The report made 53 recommendations regarding financial redress, memorialization, and the publication of documentation relating to the homes.  

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin issued a formal state apology on Jan. 13.

“On behalf of the government, the state and its citizens, I apologize for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in a mother-and-baby home or a county home,” he said.

Archbishop Martin said: “There is clear evidence that the day-to-day running of the institutions, which some of the sisters were involved in, was very harsh.” 

“I do think it’s important, though, that they were subject to monitoring and inspection and oversight by the state. They too were basically hidden from society and as soon as women and children went into these places, society didn’t seem to want to know anymore, be they living or dead.”

“So I think that, yes, if it’s just, if it’s proportionate, and if it’s in account of the findings of the commission, I do feel the Church needs to do reparation for this. I do accept that.”

Pressed on whether religious congregations should be legally obliged to pay compensation, the archbishop said that he wasn’t privy to the details of agreements made by orders.

“But I do think that the congregations -- and indeed all those who were involved in any way in this awful and appalling story -- I think there is a moral obligation on us to participate in whatever way one can to help the survivors who for so long have carried this by themselves,” he said.

Martin confirmed that Catholic dioceses accepted the report’s recommendation that archive material concerning the homes should be made available to the public. 

“All of those who have any information would like to be able to help in whatever way we can to bring some kind of healing to people who have suffered so much,” he said.

ASIA/IRAQ - Christian migration minister rejects criticism of the closure of the refugee camps

Baghdad - In Iraq, efforts are being made to close refugee camps and return internally displaced people to their respective regions of origin. However, the positive results already announced by the Iraqi political authorities are controversial. The Chaldean Christian Evan Faeq Yakoub Jabro, who is currently head of the Iraqi Ministry of Immigration and Refugees, is responsible for the plan to close the refugee camps . In a recent interview with al Monitor, Evan Jabro reported that "of 76 displacement camps that were set up before the formation of the current government, only 29 are still open". All facilities are to be closed by the end of the year. According to official government sources, at least 66,000 Iraqi internally displaced persons have returned to their homes in the past few months. Criticism is above all of the methods of closing the camps: the "guests" were urged to return to the areas from which they fled. Evan Jabro continues to repeat in interviews and official statements that the resettlement of refugees to their areas of origin takes place in cooperation with the local authorities and always on a voluntary basis. Aid and health protection measures for those who remain in refugee camps have also been strengthened. Meanwhile, groups of refugees are reporting that after the closure of the Habbaniyah camp in the Nineveh province, hundreds of families have become homeless and that no concrete option has yet been offered to find alternative accommodation. In November, the plan presented by the Baghdad government called for the closure of all refugee camps across the country by March 2020. However, implementing the plan proved far from easy, and the temples have lengthened. In many refugee camps there are internally displaced people who have fled the northern Iraqi regions that fell under the rule of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in 2014. The government's will to close the camps also arises from economic and health needs - not least in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic - and public policy requirements. Difficulties in implementing the plan can in some cases also be traced back to the resistance of refugees who do not want to return to their respective regions of origin, where they can hardly imagine a peaceful future for their families in view of the continuing insecurity and lack of work. Evan Jabro, who was commissioned by the Iraqi government in June 2020 to deal with the migration emergency and the relocation of internally displaced persons, is a lecturer in biology and has distinguished herself in the past for his particular attention to the social needs of the younger generations, which normally neglected by Iraqi politics. In the past, Evan Jabro worked with the NGO Al-Firdaws, founded by Fatima Al-Bahadly in 2003, and was involved in the development of social and work projects aimed primarily at women and young people. The minister was also an adviser to the governor of Mosul on minority issues, and in the Iraqi political elections in May 2018 she ran for one of the five seats reserved for Christian minorities.

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Appointment of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies

Vatican City - On 8 October, 2020 Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed Fr. Jeremiah Joseph Browne, of the diocesan clergy of Port Elizabeth as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in South Africa for a five-year period .
The new National Director was born on February 26, 1963 in the County of Kerry, Ireland. After high school and entering the world of work, he entered the Seminary in Dublin in 1987, obtaining a bachelor's degree in theology. He was ordained a priest on 6 June 1993 in Dublin for the diocese of Port Elizabeth . After his ordination he was assistant parish priest and parish priest in various parishes of the diocese of Port Elizabeth as well as diocesan director of pastoral vocations. In the years 2001-2002 he obtained a Master's Degree in Education from Boston College . Returning to South Africa, he was parish priest and held various positions at a diocesan level, among others for the formation of permanent deacons, for the coordination of diocesan pastoral care and the presbyteral council.

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Catholic Church mourns loss of Archbishop Abel Gabuza to Covid-19

Johannesburg - His Exc. Mgr. Abel Gabuza, Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Durban, failed to overcome the crisis due to Covid-19. Archbishop Gabuza, 65, died at Hillcrest Hospital on Sunday 17 January, after a week in ICU battling Covid-19.
In a tweet posted on 10 January 2021, Cardinal Napier appealed for “spiritual solidarity” with Archbishop Abel Gabuza. At the time, the latter was said to be in the Intensive Care Unit with the second strain of COVID-19. “Please pray for the Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban, Abel Gabuza, who has tested COVID-19 positive, and is in ICU,” Cardinal Napier wrote. Now, in announcing the death of Mgr. Gabuza, Cardinal Napier writes: "The Archbishop had not been with us in Durban long -just short of two years- but in that time we came to recognise him as a gentle, caring and warm-hearted pastor. Through his gentleness, caring and warmth, he made an immediate impact on everyone who was privileged to make his acquaintance. That’s an added reason why his passing is such a tremendous loss to us and the entire Church in Southern Africa". The Cardinal reported that Mgr. Gabuza had been affected by a new mutation of Covid-19 identified as variant 501.V2 , expressing his concern for the devastating effects of this second variant of the virus. Archbishop Gabuza was raised in the township of Alexandra, during the difficult days of Apartheid. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Pretoria on 15 December 1984. During his time as Bishop-chair of the Justice and Peace Commission under the auspices of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Gabuza furthered his reputation as a forthright, respected and even outspoken Bishop on matters of corruption and social justices. The death of Archbishop Gabuza is added to that of 9 other Bishops, aged between 53 and 91, who died on three continents as a result of Covid-19 during the week of January 8 to 15.

ASIA/INDONESIA - Year of Reflection for the Local Church of Jakarta

Jakarta - "Reflection is the spiritual tool to strengthen personal integrity and faith, in a time marked by suffering and difficulties": with these words Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, Archbishop of Jakarta, officially proclaimed the year 2021 as the "Year of reflection" for the faithful of the Archdiocese. As Agenzia Fides learned, the aim is to encourage the faithful and Catholic movements to "dedicate themselves to reflection as a traditional practice of contact with God, to rediscover and revive our authentic identity as Christians". "By exercising reflection, both individually and in community, we are called to renew our commitment as good Christians and by recognizing our true identity as disciples of Christ, we strengthen our personal integrity", said the Cardinal. Speaking to hundreds of faithful live on the Internet, the Archbishop of Jakarta and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, urged the faithful to "take the annus horribilis 2020, marked by the pandemic, as a good basis to start a deep reflection of a spiritual nature", to discern God's will. "Let us ask ourselves what God wants to tell us and what He expects us to do to make our life an instrument of good for others", said Father Edy Mulyono SJ, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Jakarta to representatives of Catholic organizations and movements of the Local church present online.
The Archdiocese has created a sort of "special envoy" in the person of the Vicar General, whose mission is to remain in close contact and to encourage members of Catholic organizations, communities, movements, parishes, so that they remain "anchored to the true identity of being Christians". "This means that every baptized person is called, as the purpose of his life, to be compassionate towards others and to show, through the works of his life, the loving and merciful face of God", said the priest.
"The source of this spiritual energy - concluded Cardinal Suharyo - is the daily Eucharist. The grace of God who gives the daily Eucharist changes our course of life and gives us a better life, in relationship with God and in love towards our neighbor".

AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Appeal of the Episcopate against war and divisions in the presence of a people suffering from unspeakable misery

Bangui - "The exacerbated division of the political class and the lack of patriotism have left the country at the mercy of predators and mercenaries of all kinds, subsidized in arms and equipment. The war imposed on us today aims to destroy the deep aspirations of the Central African people, who are tired and disappointed by endless calculations, conflicts and political divisions", denounce the Bishops of the Central African Republic in a message sent to Agenzia Fides. yYesterday, January 18, the confirmation of the victory of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, in the elections of December 27 by the Constitutional Court, did not resolve the fragility of an election where only 35% of the voters were able to express their preference. The control of large areas of the territory by rebel groups has in fact prevented a large part of the Central Africans from going to the polls, while the capital Bangui suffered an attack by a rebel coalition . The Bishops express their "dismay" at the resurgence of looting and destruction of barely rehabilitated administrative premises, as well as the theft of private property. "The misery of the Central African people is unspeakable, when populations, perpetually displaced, are forced to find refuge in inhuman conditions in the bush and when children have yet to finish their schooling after a bad year due to the Covid-19 pandemic". "To politicians and armed groups, we say that the Central African Republic is not owned by any individual, clan or interest group. We have been living in a political-military crisis for eight years", write the Bishops, who renew the call for dialogue: "Various proposals aiming to get out of the crisis through several agreements have been concluded but we are blocked". "We call for a sincere and frank, fraternal and constructive dialogue, to find a just and lasting peace, rejecting hatred, violence and a spirit of revenge. Let's stop harming ourselves collectively. Let's stop creating divisions that are contrary to the spirit of our motto. Let us stop giving the wealth of our country to a minority according to their political affiliation or their tribal affinities. Let's stop destroying ourselves. Our country has suffered too many external plots with local complicity. Let's not forget the motto "Coming together is a start, staying together is progress, working together ensures success". Let us unite forever to save our nation", the Bishops conclude. In the meantime, Bangassou, the town taken by the rebels earlier this month, has been liberated. His Exc. Mgr. Juan José Aguirre Muñoz, Bishop of Bangassou, announced the arrival, on January 14, of a battalion of 150 Rwandan soldiers from MINUSCA , who have secured the city. In recent days, the priests of the diocese have distributed clothing to more than 100 people in addition to oil, chickpeas, lentils and cans of tuna. Before leaving, the rebels ransacked shops and homes as well as the Niakari mission, 18 km from Bangassou. Two Blue Helmets lost their lives yesterday, January 18, in a rebel ambush 17 km from the city.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Another pandemic is added to the Covid-19 pandemic: irrational violence that does not stop

Pasto - "The pain for the more than 1,000 dead due to the Covid-19 pandemic in our region is reinforced by the deaths that continue due to the other pandemic, namely irrational violence": this is what declared the Bishop of Pasto, His Exc. Bishop Juan Carlos Cárdenas Toro, after the most recent and cruel episode of the murder of young Marbel Rosero, in Las Mesas, municipality of El Tablón de Gómez. "This and other murders cannot leave us indifferent", underlined the Bishop, who expressed his closeness as Pastor to the parents and relatives of the young woman and of the other four women who were murdered during the first week of the year. By celebrating Mass for this purpose, he also called for peace for the region. "Every human life is sacred", recalled Mgr. Cárdenas Toro, inviting those responsible to repent and stop these violent actions. He then called on the competent authorities to "do their utmost to guarantee the fundamental right to life of every person, in particular those whose rights have been violated and who are vulnerable: women, children of both sexes, adolescents, ethnic and peasant communities. People expect justice, truth and effective protective actions from you". Finally, the Bishop urged priests, men and women religious to promote days of prayer, through social networks and without provoking gatherings, "in order to raise prayers to God by asking for peace and reconciliation, but also to express, according to our faith, the rejection of violence and the commitment to respect for life". Another murder, of an 11-year-old girl, Mayra Alejandra Orobio Solís, took place in the Apostolic Vicariate of Guapi, where Mgr. Carlos Alberto Correa Martínez, expressed his pain and rejection of all violence. "We vehemently reject the torture, rape and subsequent murder of the little Mayra, found on land belonging to the Vicariate near Hogar Mónica, a place of refuge and protection for vulnerable children", said the Bishop, noting that, unfortunately, death events continue to increase in this territory. He further recalled that "every life is a gift, because someone gave it to us - God for us believers – and therefore no one has the right to destroy a life". Quoting Pope Francis, Mgr. Correa Martínez recalled that "violence generates more violence, hatred generates more hatred and death more death. We must break this chain which is presented as inevitable". By offering his prayers and closeness to the minor's relatives, he called on the competent authorities to speed up the investigation into this murder". There is a certain systematic nature in the persisting violations of girls and young people in our municipality, but intimidation and fear silence our community of Guapireño with a touch of complicity", underlined Mgr. Correa, inviting not to lose confidence in the Lord of life and to defend life from conception to natural death.

ASIA/INDIA - A new home for street women and children in Calcutta

Calcutta - "Taking care, helping and serving others without distinction of caste or religion is the way to manifest God's love for human beings": with these words, released to Agenzia Fides, Sister Lucy Kurien , a religious of the institute of the Holy Cross of Chavanod, reports the opening of a new home for women and street children in Calcutta. For 35 years the nun has been working in favor of welcoming and restoring their dignity to women and children. The house which has just opened is the 50th center run by Sister Lucy and is the first in West Bengal . "We have the grace to open our new center in Calcutta, where Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, lived and worked. I was inspired by her during my youth", Sister Kurien told Fides. During her youth, in the time of her formation, the nun used to work as a volunteer in the homes of the Missionaries of Charity in Bombay, in the west of the country. "The encounters and experiences I had with the Missionaries of Charity made me aware of the importance of social and missionary service in favor of women and street children", she says. Sister Kurien is the foundress and director of the Maher Humanitarian Network - literally my mother's house in the Marathi language - which is headquartered in Pune and runs a series of centers for people living in poverty and destitution in various parts of India. "Maher is grateful to all of our friends and neighbors who came to visit us and offered their help. This is an encouraging initiative even though the fear of Covid-19 is in all of us. Love can overcome all fears. We have the strong hope that everything will go well", said the nun, defined by many as a "heroine" for having rescued thousands of children from the streets in India through her "Maher" organization. "Our Center offers all-round support - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual - to women and children for their well-being, so that they can experience safety and protection, to grow up and live as people with dignity and responsibility within society", explains Sister Kurien. "Our work continues to help these women and children in difficulty by trusting in the power and grace of God. It is a work of divine mercy, accomplished thanks to human means: people of different religious background and of different religions are willing to help their neighbor for the common good. God willing, other houses for women living in the streets and for needy children will open in other areas of India, she added. The nun is the only Catholic among the 20 women whom the Indian government has honored by awarding her the Nari Shakti Puraska, an award intended for those who work in favor of female emancipation that she received on March 8, 2016 for her exceptional contribution to the society. In recent days, she has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world during the 2020 pandemic crisis by Austrian magazine "OOOM".

AMERICA/PERU - Digital Plenary Assembly of the bishops: restructuring of CELAM, health crisis and current situation are on the agenda

Lima - The 117th Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of Peru opened yesterday, Monday 18 January. The 54 Bishops of the 46 ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the country will meet in virtual form until next Thursday, 21 January. The meeting will be chaired by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, Archbishop of Trujillo and President of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference . The "Renewal and restructuring of CELAM" is also on the agenda. In a spirit of communion and synodality, the bishops will also deal with other issues and analyze the latest developments in the country, both with regard to the health crisis and the socio-political and pastoral situation. In Peru there have been demonstrations in the last three months, in which young people in particular have called for radical political change and the resignation of the president . In anticipation of the presidential elections on April 11, 2021 and in view of a second wave of the corona pandemic, Peru is currently facing political uncertainty and has no political leadership that unites the majority of the population. In mid-November 2020 the Peruvian Bishops' Conference published a declaration on the country's political crisis, which reflected what the population had expressed in many public demonstrations: "Every day, mistrust, uncertainty and insecurity are irreversibly affecting the country's progress. We need a clear path to get out of this crisis. It is essential to listen to the cries and demands of the people, in order to regain trust, tranquility and social peace. Therefore, efforts to achieve a profound and comprehensive "social dialogue" are of fundamental importance in the search for alternative solutions to confrontations and conflicts", .

Catholic saints among those to be honored in garden of American heroes announced by Trump

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2021 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- The National Garden of American Heroes will include statues of many notable Catholic figures, including five saints and numerous people who are on the path to sainthood.

President Donald Trump announced in an executive order Jan. 18 that a garden will be built to “reflect the awesome splendor of our country’s timeless exceptionalism,” and to serve as a response to the spate of vandalism on statues during the summer of 2020.

“On (the National Garden’s) grounds, the devastation and discord of this moment will be overcome with abiding love of country and lasting patriotism,” said Trump. “America is responding to the tragic toppling of monuments to our founding generation and the giants of our past by commencing a new national project for their restoration, veneration, and celebration.”

The executive order included a list of names who will be featured in the park; Trump referred to these figures as people who embody “the American spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love.”

“Astounding the world by the sheer power of their example, each one of them has contributed indispensably to America’s noble history, the best chapters of which are still to come,” said Trump.

Among those who will be memorialized in the National Garden of American Heroes include St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint; St. Katharine Drexel, the first born-U.S. citizen to be canonized; St. John Neumann; and St. Junipero Serra, the first saint canonized on U.S. soil.

Ven. Fulton Sheen and Ven. Augustus Tolton, one of the first black priests in the United States, as well as Servant of God Dorothy Day, will be honored.

Archbishop John Carroll, S.J., the first Catholic archbishop in the United States, will also be included, as will March for Life founder Nellie Gray, poet and activist Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO, and Fr. John P. Washington, a US Army chaplain who died helping save soldiers on the sinking Dorchester during World War II.

The first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, is one of the 17 presidents who will be featured in the National Garden. Other Catholic political figures who will be honored include Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence; William F. Buckley; 20th century playwright and Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce; and Antonin Scalia.

Catholic athletes who will be enshrined in the garden include Kobe Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Vince Lombardi, Babe Ruth, and Jim Thorpe.

Not everyone on the list was a U.S. citizen, or even lived in what is now the United States. Christopher Columbus, statues of whom were frequently targeted over the summer of 2020, is set to be honored in the National Garden of American heroes.

“The National Garden will feature a roll call of heroes who deserve honor, recognition, and lasting tribute because of the battles they won, the ideas they championed, the diseases they cured, the lives they saved, the heights they achieved, and the hope they passed down to all of us — that united as one American people trusting in God, there is no challenge that cannot be overcome and no dream that is beyond our reach,” said Trump in the executive order.