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Pope begins Lenten spiritual exercises reflecting on Christ's gaze

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- A Benedictine abbot is leading Pope Francis and the Roman curia in Lenten spiritual exercises this week, with the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

“Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism,” the Italian monk Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni said in the first of his spiritual reflections March 10.

Gianni, the abbot of San Miniato al Monte Abbey in Florence, will provide two meditations each day of this week’s papal retreat, which also includes daily Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

“Look at how He looked. Looking at the rich young man, He loved him; the meeting of eyes with Zacchaeus, who climbs up a tree to see the Lord Jesus, who looks up to meet him,” the Gianni said.

The monk told the Roman curia, “Our pastoral action, our taking care of the people entrusted to us … of the humanity that is entrusted to us by the Lord, can really be a new flame of ardent desire, and a return to being a garden of beauty, peace, justice, measure, harmony.”

Citing the Italian poet Mario Luzi and Venerable Giorgio La Pira, a mayor of Florence in the 1950s and '60s, the abbot said that the Benedictine tradition “prolongs the gaze of the monk from the cloister to the city in front of the monastery.”

“The perspective of the monastery is not an alternative to the city, but an exemplary, paradigmatic, authentic testimony, in which the city could rediscover the reasons for its vocation, its mystery, present and future,” he continued.

The pope’s spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Francis chose to hold the retreat outside Rome.

All of the pope’s activities are suspended this week until he returns from his Lenten retreat March 15.

President of U.S. Bishops’ sends letter to Chairman of Catholic Relief Services following deadly plane crash

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent a letter to the Most Reverend Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, following the tragic plane crash yesterday. Bishop Mansour serves as the chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. Of the 157 lives lost, four were employees of Catholic Relief Services.
The full letter is below:

Dear Bishop Mansour,

It was with great sadness that I learned of the deaths of four of our esteemed colleagues from Catholic Relief Services who were on the airplane that crashed on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

I, along with my brother bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, join together with the entire CRS family, especially CRS Ethiopia and our EARO colleagues, in mourning the tragic loss of Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. Their service to the poor and their accompaniment of the marginalized stand as a great witness to Christ and His love for us all.

Please know that I have asked all our brother bishops here in the United States to pray for the repose of the souls of Sara, Getnet, Sintayehu, and Mulusew, and we will especially do so at the upcoming meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee this week. May the consolation of the Savior’s embrace be now a source of comfort to their loved ones and co-workers on this difficult and painful day.

United in prayer and vigil for the Risen Lord, I remain,

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Gregory Mansour, Eparchy of Brooklyn, Catholic Relief Services

Media Contact:
Judy Keane


U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishes Revised Translation of the Rite for Blessing the Holy Oils

WASHINGTON—The publishing division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recently made available a revised translation of the rite for blessing the holy oils, entitled the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism.

The book is used at the Chrism Mass, which is one of the highlights of the year in a diocese, normally held on Holy Thursday morning or on an earlier day of Holy Week. At that Mass the bishop, surrounded by a great number of clergy, religious, and faithful, blesses new holy oils for the coming year. The oils will be used for various ceremonies, such as for the preparation and celebration of baptism and for the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. They are used in some of the most majestic Catholic ceremonies, such as the dedication of a new church, and also in some of the simplest, like an anointing in a hospital room.

“USCCB Publications has produced an attractive book that is worthy of a ceremony as important as the Chrism Mass. The use of the holy oils is a striking part of the Church’s prayer in various moments of a person’s life and in important moments in the life of a parish,” explains Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship. “All of these ceremonies throughout the diocese are linked together through those oils blessed by the bishop.”

The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism is intended primarily for bishops in the United States and for their diocesan worship offices, but will also be a useful reference for seminaries, theological libraries, and for those interested in the Roman liturgy. It may be ordered online at Please also click on the following link for a cover image of the revised translation:

Additional books and resources pertaining to marriage and family life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, ministry and more can be found by visiting the USCCB’s online bookstore at


Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism, Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, Holy Week, holy oils, anointing of the sick, Catholic ceremonies, Father Andrew Menke, Secretariat of Divine Worship


Media Contact:

Judy Keane



Catholic aid group to set up kidney dialysis clinic in Guadalajara

Guadalajara, Mexico, Mar 7, 2019 / 07:28 pm (CNA).- In response to the growing number of patients with kidney conditions in Guadalajara, Mexico, the Catholic charitable agency Caritas is implementing plans to set up a kidney dialysis clinic in the region.

Caritas of Guadalajara currently has the donated office for the clinic, but around $410,000 is still needed to remodel the facility and purchase dialysis machines.

To raise the necessary funds, Caritas will hold a gala event March 28.

Once set up, the kidney dialysis clinic is expected to serve 180 patients a week.

Fr.  Francisco de Asís, an adviser to Caritas of Guadalajara, called the clinic a “dream come true…especially for people needing the treatment who can’t afford this service, who will be able to find in Caritas the treatment they need.”

In 2018, Caritas of Guadalajara helped provide dialysis for 711 people with donations of about $36,000.

An estimated 900,000 people in Jalisco state suffer from kidney problems, Caritas says. Of these, some 6,000 have been diagnosed with chronic renal insufficiency.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Costa Rican police raid Church offices after priests accused of sex abuse

San José, Costa Rica, Mar 7, 2019 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- The offices of the Archdiocese of San José and the Costa Rican bishops' conference were raided by police Thursday as part of an investigation of two priests accused of sex abuse.

The Judiciary Investigation Department confiscated computers and files March 7 in search of information regarding Fathers Manuel Antonio Guevara Fonseca and Mauricio Viquez Lizano, and proof of potential cover-up by Archbishop José Rafael Quiros Quiros of San Jose, according to the AP.

Viquez, 54, has been dismissed from the clerical state, the San José archdiocese announced March 4. Nine canonical complaints of sexual abuse of altar boys had been filed against him. He had been teaching at a local university, but he fled Costa Rica Jan. 7, and prosecutors in the country have issued an international arrest warrant.

Guevara, 52, was arrested earlier this month for one allegation of sexual abuse against a minor. He has been released from prison, but has strict regulations to follow and is suspended from his work at Santo Domingo de Heredia parish.

The 52 year-old priest was only kept in prison for one night, but he must check in with civil authorities once a month, cannot change addresses, and has surrendered his passport. He is also forbidden from any form of contact with the victim.

The Costa Rican bishops' conference issued a statement a day after his arrest, seeking forgiveness for a lack of an appropriate response in other sex abuse cases, according to Q Costa Rica.

“We humbly acknowledge our mistakes and ask forgiveness for the faults that have been painfully committed by some members of our church,” the bishops said.

Pope Francis: Abuse revelations are purifying the Church

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- God is purifying his Church through the painful revelations of the abuse scandals, so do not be discouraged, Pope Francis said Thursday in a meeting with the priests of the Diocese of Rome.

“Sin disfigures us, and we experience with pain the humiliating experience of when we ourselves or one of our brother priests or bishops falls into the bottomless pits of vice, corruption or, worse still, of the crime that destroys the lives of others,” he said March 7.

Speaking in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Francis told the priests of the Rome diocese that he feels with them “the unbearable pain and suffering that the wave of scandals – which the whole world’s newspapers are now full of – causes in us and in the whole ecclesial body.”

“Still, do not be discouraged! The Lord is purifying his Bride and is converting us all to himself,” he continued, stating that this “test” is to help them understand that without God “we are dust.”

“It is saving us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances. He is blowing his Spirit to restore beauty to his Bride, surprised in flagrant adultery,” he added.

Referencing a part of his homily for the closing Mass of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church, he said the “true meaning of what is happening is to be found in the spirit of evil, in the Enemy.”

The pope’s remarks were made the same day Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon was convicted of failing to report allegations abuse by a priest of his archdiocese, and days before Cardinal George Pell will be sentenced in Australia for an abuse conviction handed down in December.

The convictions are the latest developments as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

Pope Francis meets with the priests of the Diocese of Rome every year at the start of Lent. In a change from past meetings, he forwent responding to questions from the priests, opting instead to give both prepared and un-prepared remarks. He also heard the confessions of several priests.

Reflecting on Confession and the sinfulness of priests, the pope said God “never tires of using us to offer reconciliation to people.”

“We are the poorest sinners, yet God takes us to intercede for our brothers and to distribute to human beings, through our hands, not at all innocent, the salvation that renews,” he said.

He also reflected on the temptation to self-sufficiency, calling it a “holy mirror.”

“We must never cease to warn each other of the temptation of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, as if we were People of God for our own initiative or our own merit,” he said, adding that “we are and always will be the fruit of the Lord’s merciful action.”

“The Master told us: ‘without me you cannot do anything!’ … I am not the center of activities, even the center of prayer, so many times ... No, no, He is the center,” he reminded.

“This is why this time of Lent is truly a grace: it allows us to relocate before God, letting him be everything.”

Bishop Barron: Proclaim the Gospel more boldly in times of crisis

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2019 / 01:41 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Barron said Thursday that rather than becoming hesitant in sharing the Gospel, the Catholic Church should proclaim the truth even more boldly “during these times of crisis.”

“Wounds have got to be addressed and healed. If we just turn the other way or cover that up, that is not going to help the project,” Barron told CNA March 7.

“It is a precarious time. It is a time when a lot of us feel threatened in a way. It has affected me … but my sense has always been during these times of crisis, we bring the Gospel forward more boldly,” he said.

Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is known for his Catholicism video series and online YouTube video apostolate, which he said began at a time when the American Church was beginning to grapple with clerical sex abuse. In response, his ministry, Word on Fire, leads with the beauty and the intellectual depth of the Catholic faith.

“This is the moment for novelty and creativity and simplicity in the best sense, the return to the Gospel basics,” Barron said.

The American bishop was in Rome to receive an honorary doctorate from the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, on the 745th anniversary of Aquinas’ death.

“Among the saints, [Aquinas] is the greatest and the most intimate of my spiritual friends, and he has followed me all of my life long,” Barron said in his homily at the Angelicum’s Church of St. Dominic and Sixtus.

The bishop reflected that St. Thomas Aquinas taught him that “the person of wisdom is one who sees the world from the standpoint of the highest cause.”

“What happens to all of us sinners is that we see the world from the standpoint of all kinds of proximate causes,” he explained.

“We start seeing our life in terms of power and honor and wealth, privilege and worldly success, and then we fret and we worry and we spend hours and hours of our lives preoccupied with secondary and relatively unimportant things.”

“But when we see our lives and our world from the standpoint of the highest cause, from God's point of view, that same kind of peace and serenity ... invades our souls,” he said.

This high viewpoint, he added, is ultimately “the hilltop of Calvary” from which we “see the whole world from the standpoint of self-emptying love.”

Bishop Barron’s lecture at the Angelicum University offered a Thomistic response to a postmodern critique that a person’s gift-giving can never be completely altruistic.

“What makes all the difference in the particular Christian claim … is that divine manner can through grace become our being and action,” he explained. This occurs through the divine “indwelling of the one whose proper name is donum, gift,” he said, referring to the Holy Spirit.

Barron told CNA that this is just one of the ways Aquinas can help to bring truth and clarity to our culture permeated by postmodern ideas, like today’s “culture of self-invention.”

“Most young people in America would believe that that there's your truth, my truth, but there is no real objective truth, and so I make it up. I think that is the form of postmodernism that is really dangerous,” he said.

“If there is no real truth, there is no real goodness, there is no objective value … Aquinas would stand with the great classical tradition, the Biblical tradition in affirming the objectivity of truth and value, and the idea is not to make it up on my own, but to learn to love it,” he continued.

“When you fall in love with objective value, that is when life gets very wonderful. You get outside of the narrow range of your own preoccupations and you fall in love with something that calls to you from beyond your ego,” Barron said.

French cardinal to resign after conviction for failing to report abuse

Lyon, France, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:50 am (CNA).- French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty Thursday of failing to report to authorities the alleged sexual abuse of a priest in his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence. The cardinal has announced that he will resign his diocesan position.

French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. Barbarin was not present in court for the verdict.

Five other archdiocesan officials on trial with Barbarin were acquitted March 7. Barbarin was also expected to be acquitted after even the prosecutor of the case argued there was no proof of the cardinal’s legal wrongdoing and therefore no grounds for conviction, the Associated Press reports.

The cardinal will appeal the verdict, according to AP. Barbarin’s lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said Thursday about the conviction that "this is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level." Implying hope in the success of an appeal, he stated: "We hope that at the next step, justice will be done."

In a press conference after the verdict March 7, Barbarin told journalists that he will soon meet with Pope Francis and intends to submit to him his resignation as Archbishop of Lyon.

Barbarin also said that "after the decision of the court, regardless of my personal fate, I want to reiterate first of all compassion for the victims and the whole place that they and their families have in my prayers."

The trial against Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report facts of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early '90s.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but said that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.

Allegations against Preynat became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case, the Guardian reports.

Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015.

The priest has acknowledged abusing minors, according to the Guardian, and will face trial later this year.

Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also ordered to testify in the case. In October, the Vatican invoked diplomatic immunity in refusing to deliver a French court summons to Ladaria, saying that as a minister of Vatican City State, he is protected under international law.

The court summons had involved a letter Ladaria sent to Barbarin, advising him to take disciplinary action against Preynat, “while avoiding public scandal.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers wanted Ladaria to testify as to whether the direction to prevent scandal was intended as an injunction to avoid going to court, in which case they accuse the CDF prefect of being complicit in failing to report the allegedly abusive priest to authorities.

Barbarin’s trial comes as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.


This story was updated with the statement of Barbarin at 6:32 AM MST.

Age verification to access online porn arriving in UK next month

London, England, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:36 am (CNA).- Next month, the United Kingdom will roll out new online restrictions in an attempt to protect children under the age of 18 from accessing pornography.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order for the Digital Economy Act in 2017. After two years of development, the program will be released on April 1.

To view online pornography, internet users will need to confirm their age by entering information from a driver’s license, credit card, or passport. If users do not wish to input their personal information, they may purchase a special ID card, available at thousands of retail shops across the nation for under £10.

Websites that fail to follow the age verification rules may face a nearly $330,000 fine or be blocked by the country’s internet service providers.

Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth and creator of the new 21-day porn detox STRIVE, voiced support for increased restrictions surrounding pornography.

“If it’s something as simple as age verification, I’m all for it,” he told CNA. “It just sounds like we are expecting the same thing of people online that we already expect of them offline.”

Among the available age verification services is AgeID, built by MindGeek, which operates and owns several common pornographic sites.

Some critics of the new UK policy say it violates the privacy and safety of pornography users. Others argue that it does not go far enough to protect minors.

“It may make it harder for children to stumble across pornography, especially in the younger age range, but it will do nothing to stop determined teenagers,” said Dr. Victoria Nash, deputy director of the Oxford Internet Institute, according to BirminghamLive.

Dr. Joss Wright, senior research fellow at the institute, added that the new policy raises “privacy issues - you're requiring people to effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities. And there's serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites.”

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the age verification is a valuable first step, but that other measures need to be taken alongside it.

“The NSPCC is calling for social networks to be required by law to give under-18s safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world,” read a statement from the organization, according to BirminghamLive.

Fradd said the restrictions are enforcing age requirements that are already established offline. He said there is often confusion among parents about the seriousness of material viewed online compared to explicit material accessed in stores or movie theaters.

“Imagine a 17-year-old going to watch 50 Shades of [Grey] and being turned away and within five minutes looking at something a hundred times worse on their phone. So either allow children to watch 50 Shades of Grey and buy pornography from stores, or be consistent and require age verification,” he said.

Children’s access to online pornography has been identified as a significant problem: A 2016 study by internet security company Bitdefender found that about 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites is under age 10.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that works to educate on the harmful effects of pornography, has highlighted numerous studies showing the negative impact of pornography on underage users, including the creation of addictions, changes in sexual taste, and physical impact on the brain.

“Just more broadly, I would say pornography perverts a child’s understanding of human intimacy and sexual life, which is a very beautiful thing,” Fradd stressed.

“It’s as pernicious as sex is beautiful and human intimacy is worthwhile. Since those two things are beautiful and worthwhile, the corruption of it [in regards to] a child is all together something despicable and horrid.”


Santiago archdiocese comments on priest sentenced for sex abuse

Santiago, Chile, Mar 6, 2019 / 03:33 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santiago commented Tuesday on the case of Father Tito Rigoberto Rivera Muñoz, who was found guilty in August 2018 of the sexual abuse of adults.

Rivera's victim claims that he told the Archbishop of Santiago of the attack, but the prelate gave him money and asked him not to report it.

The March 5 statement of the Santiago archdiocese's Truth and Peace Commission follows the appearance of the victim, Daniel Rojas Alvarez, on state television.

Rivera sexually assaulted Rojas, who was then about 40, in a room of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.

Rojas claims he told Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of the attack, who asked him to pray for the abuser, gave him 30,000 pesos ($45), and asked that he not asked him not to share what happened.

During proceedings initiated by the Chilean justice system, another victim reportedly presented photographs and videos that confirmed Rivera's abuse of other youths.

The Santiago archdiocese stated that it received a complaint of possible abuse of minors by Rivera in August 2011, but that during enquiries into the case “it was not possible to contact the complainant.”

The Pastoral Office for Complaints then received a complaint against Rivera from an adult in March 2015, which permitted the start of a preliminary investigation and the implementation of the precautionary measure of removing the priest from all pastoral responsibilities.

The preliminary investigation “was widened with new information that was provided to the Chilean Investigative Police, which included the possible theft of the religious objects.”

In August 2015, Cardinal Ezzati sent the information on the case to the apostolic nunciature.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the request of the Santiago archdiocese, “gave new instructions to continue the preliminary investigation and to start an administrative penal process” in September 2016.

The preliminary investigation was closed in November 2016, leading to the administrative penal process which concluded with the Decree of Condemnation of Aug. 16, 2018.

The priest was declared “guilty of crimes against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue continued  over time and involving scandal, with adults, as is specified in Canon 1395§1 of the Code of Canon Law,” the archdiocese said.

Rivera was suspended from public ministry for ten years, “only being able to celebrate the Eucharist privately and with the company of a person over 50 years of age.”

He was also prohibited from “meeting with or maintaining contact with young people” and was required not to move anywhere.

Once the ten years are completed, if the priest does not comply with the measures, he risks “being suspended for a greater period of time.”

The archdiocese also noted that these four penalties were “among others.”

It concluded, saying that “besides the canonical sentence which was implemented  in September 2018, an exhaustive review was begun to clarify all the information that was made known publicly.”

Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, an Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago and secretary general of the Chilean bishops' conference, has called the Rivera's abuse “repugnant, unacceptable and terrible. The question we have to ask ourselves is how a priest came to that.

Cardinal Ezzati has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of other abusive priests, including Fernando Karadima and Oscar Munoz Toledo.



This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.