BY A CORRESPONDENTMay 25, 2006
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI condemned attempts to ban religious conversions in India. Taking a very strong stand, he told New Delhi's new ambassador to the Vatican, Amitava Tripathi that efforts in some Indian states to outlaw conversions were unconstitutional and should be trounced.A few days before that the Pope had told Muslim countries that Christian minorities should be given the same rights that are given to Muslim minorities in Western countries."The disturbing signs of religious intolerance that have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected," the Pope is said to told Tripathi. He further added that anti-conversion laws were contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers.He specifically cited attempts by some Indian states to introduce legislation to ban what right-wing Hindus call "forced conversions".In addition, representatives of different religions will be meeting in in Rome this week to work on a "code of conduct" that would affirm conversion as a basic right but curb aggressive proselytising.The Vatican and the mostly Protestant and Orthodox World Council of Churches launched the initiative after Christian minorities in India complained about aggressive proselytising by newly arrived evangelical groups. India's foreign ministry has responded strongly to the Pope's comments. "India is a secular and democratic country, in which adherents of all religious faiths enjoy equal rights," said Junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma. Sharma told the parliament that the India's disapproval had been communicated to the Pope. According to reports, Sharma comments sprung from noises that the opposition made that India has taken the comments from the Pope meekly. The BJP had responded to the Pope a few days back. BJP President Rajnath Singh said in his letter to the Pope, "My interference in your religious domain within the Vatican will be unwelcome, uncalled for and will be treated as interference in your religious management and administration."Only recently, the state governor of Rajasthan refused to sign a religious freedom bill that would ban people from being converted to religions "against their will". Minority groups and human rights agences who feel that the bill was being introduced to please radical Hindu groups are also opposing it.The BJP stand is that they are against religious conversion that uses sops and freebies. BJP leaders are upset with the Pope's "interference". They feel that the church is crossing bounds by converting Hindus by force and enticements. Some not-so-radical BJP leaders feel that the Pope was within his right to be concerned about the welfare of Christians, but even then he should not have intefered in the legislative processes of another democratic country.Christians in India are feeling defensive, though. "The pope was trying to reiterate the freedom of conscience guaranteed on the universe declaration of human rights," said Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).Christians, who make up just over 2% of India’s total population, have been targeted for some time in BJP-ruled states. In central Madhya Pradesh, many Christians have been arrested this year for preaching Christianity.
Pope Benedict XVI used a famous Portugueseshrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday as a stage to denounce abortion and gay marriage, just days before Portugal is expected to join five European countries that have legalized same-sex weddings.
Pope Benedict XVI greeted Portugal’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva, left, at the end of a mass at the Catholic shrine of Fatima in central Portugal on Thursday.
In a speech here to Catholic social service groups, Benedict called for initiatives aimed at protecting “the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
He also said he expressed his “deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socioeconomic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion.”
The audience in a chapel at the shrine gave the pope a standing ovation.
The pope’s remarks came on the third day of a four-day visit aimed at shoring up Christian belief in increasingly secular Europe, although it has been somewhat eclipsed by the sexual-abuse scandal confronting the Vatican in recent weeks. Benedict also has used the visit to signal a more forceful tone in confronting the abuse, which he has called a “sin inside the church.”
Although it is 90 percent Catholic, Portugal has seen a notable shift away from Catholic teaching in recent years. The country legalized abortion in 2008 and its Parliament recently approved a bill permitting same-sex marriage. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
The church has opposed the measure, but Portuguese society appears to be largely supportive.
Portugal would be the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. France and Denmark recognize same-sex unions, which convey many but not all of the rights enjoyed by married couples.
Throughout his five-year-old papacy, Benedict has endeavored to shape a new identity for the church as a “creative minority” in an increasingly secular Europe. On Thursday, he denounced “the pressure exerted by the prevailing culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain.”
The pope also told the social service groups to find alternatives to state financing so they would not be subject to legislation at odds with Catholic teaching, urging them to “ensure that Christian charitable activity is granted autonomy and independence from politics and ideologies, even while cooperating with state agencies in the pursuit of common goals.”
Addressing bishops later on Thursday, Benedict called for “authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ” in “those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life.”
He added that “in such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.”
Earlier on Thursday, Benedict celebrated Mass before an estimated half a million faithful on the anniversary of the day three peasant children are said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary here in 1917.
Tradition has it that the Virgin revealed three secrets to the children: One was interpreted as predicting the end of World War I and the start of World War II, the second to have predicted the rise and fall of communism, which gave Fátima an anti-communist allure during the cold war.
Pope John Paul II credited the Virgin of Fátima with saving him from an assassination attempt in 1981. In 2000, the Vatican revealed the third secret of Fátima, which it said prefigured the attempt.
Since arriving in Portugal on Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beatification of two of the peasant children, Benedict has sought to broaden the significance of the message of Fátima to help the church overcome its difficulties in the sexual-abuse scandal.
By Julia Duin
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday voiced his strongest words yet against sex abuse by priests, blaming "sin within the church" as the reason why the world's largest Christian denomination needs to "re-learn penance" and "accept purification."
In answers to three questions posed by reporters on board a flight to Portugal — where the pope is to celebrate the 93rd anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima — the pontiff accepted more responsibility for a crisis that has seeped from the United States into European dioceses.
"Attacks against the pope or the church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the church come from within, from the sins that exist in the church," he said.
"This, too, has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: The greatest persecution of the church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice," he told reporters. "Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. In one word we have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues."
The pope did not specify where "from within the church" its sins resided nor what sort of penance or justice he has in mind. Because the pope was handed questions several days in advance, his answering a query about the abuse crisis told observers he is taking some initiative in addressing the problem.
"His language does reflect an advance," said Jason Berry, author of "Vows of Silence" (2004) and "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" (1992), two books on the sex-abuse crisis. "He's acknowledging an internal crisis and he used the word 'justice,' which has to translate into church justice."
Referring to recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse committed by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Mr. Berry suggested the pope's cleanup has only just begun.
"With all due respect," he said, "I don't see how he can resolve this crisis without getting rid of Cardinal [Angelo] Sodano, who protected Maciel and stands as the largest symbol of the coverup."
Cardinal Sodano, dean of the Vatican's College of Cardinals, was accused last weekend by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna of blocking a 1995 Vatican inquiry into sex-abuse accusations against Vienna's then-Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who died in 2003. Cardinal Sodano has also been criticized for Easter Sunday remarks that dismissed international criticism of the church as "idle gossip."
Thus, the pope's comments Tuesday were seen as a reframing of the crisis.
"The important line in this is the one on forgiveness," said Nicholas Cafardi, former chairman of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.
"In the past, priestly pedophiles … asked for forgiveness and they were forgiven but that was not justice. Justice would have been to put them through a penal process and to punish them for the harm they caused those youngsters." Instead, priests were subjected to "fraternal correction," which canon law mandated as a pastoral — as opposed to a judicial — solution.
"But that was not justice for the victims," Mr. Cafardi said. "I disagree with people who say he has not been on top of this. I think he has been. [Tuesday's quotes] were more direct and clear, but they are consistent with his prior positions."
In recent months, five bishops from Ireland, Germany and Belgium have resigned either over their handling of the crisis or because they have been charged with abusing minors.
"The fact he has accepted those resignations is important," Mr. Cafardi said. "Remember, when Cardinal [Bernard] Law tried to resign the first two times, that was not accepted." Cardinal Law was heading the Boston Archdiocese when clerical abuse in his archdiocese became national front-page news. He eventually resigned in late 2002.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was not impressed.
"The pope does a disservice to children, victims, and Catholics by trying to perpetrate the myth that the church is somehow a 'victim' in its ongoing child sex abuse and cover up crisis," she said in a statement. "Many are tiring of hearing about his 'strong comments.' They want to see strong action. … When will the pope begin at least disclosing predator priests and disciplining complicit bishops, so that children will be safer, truth will be revealed and justice will done?"
The pope's hand-picked replacement to oversee abuse cases at the Vatican did nothing to restrict a California priest after learning in 1995 that the priest had molested a 13-year-old boy a decade earlier.
Cardinal William Levada, then archbishop of San Francisco, said in a 2005 deposition obtained by The Associated Press that he did nothing and didn't contact police because he trusted the Rev. Milton Walsh would not re-offend and his predecessor handled the case adequately.
There were no known allegations of later abuse by the priest and a Vatican attorney says Levada acted appropriately under standards of the time.
When Levada learned of the abuse, Walsh had been pastor for six years at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, a parish of about 1,000 people. He remained there for two more years and was removed from active ministry in 2002, when U.S. bishops passed a "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse and police started investigating.
Levada is now the highest-ranking American at the Vatican and head of the office that defrocks pedophile priests. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held the post before he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
The Vatican's lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, says Levada handled the case properly by the era's norms, which have evolved significantly in recent years. The Holy See told bishops this month they should report abuse to police rather than keep cases quiet as had been the practice for decades.
Rio De Janeiro - A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil is facing charges he abused eight boys in cases dating back to 1995, prosecutors said Wednesday, adding to a growing list of allegations against clergy in Latin America.
Father Jose Afonso, 74, is accused of abusing altar boys between the ages of 12 and 16, Sao Paulo state prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.
Prosecutors said the reported abuses occurred this year, in 2009 and in 2001 in the city of Franca, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Sao Paulo city. At least one case was reported in 1995 in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais.
Afonso remains free while a judge decides if he should be jailed.
Calls to the Franca diocese rang unanswered. After-hours of calls to the offices of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops were not returned.
The case is the latest to hit Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation, and Latin America as a whole.
Earlier this month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on video tape having sex with a young man, a former alter boy.
He is under house arrest while an investigation continues. Two other priests in the same archdiocese as Barbosa are also accused of abuses.
A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.
Earlier this month Chile's bishops' conference issued a statement apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a "total commitment" to prevent it in the future.
Also this month, a Mexican citizen filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court in California against former priest Nicolas Aguilar Rivera and the Roman Catholic cardinals of Mexico City and Los Angeles, claiming they moved the priest between the two nations to hide abuse allegations.
Church reaction to the controversy around the globe has angered many who think the Vatican leadership has not acted strongly enough.
Pope Benedict XVI's second-in-command outraged many this month in Chile when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse. The comments by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.
Late Tuesday, a top Vatican official said the pope may issue a strong apology for the church's handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world's clergy in June.
Cardinal William Levada, who handles the abuse cases as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.
"It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that," Levada said.
He acknowledged the Vatican was caught by surprise, even though it was well aware of the scope of scandals in the U.S. and Ireland, but he also blamed "a certain media bias" for keeping the story alive.
Benedict has come under increasing pressure to admit some form of higher responsibility on the part of the Vatican for fomenting a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to fester unchecked for decades.
Benedict has expressed sorrow and shame for the abuse, he has wept with victims and promised new measures to protect children and bring justice to pedophile priests. But he has admitted no personal or institutional responsibility, blaming instead the abusers themselves and their bishops for mishandling cases when they arose.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report
The Diocese of Venice released the following statement regarding the allegations against the Rev. Thomas Anglim:
"In August 2008 Mr. Jimmy Wilkins approached the Diocese of Venice in Florida with an allegation against Father Thomas Anglim which is alleged to have taken place in 1967 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers.
Immediately the allegation was presented to the Diocesan Review Board. The Review Board is a consulting body for the Bishop which deals with cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults and consists of laypersons and one member of the clergy. The Review Board spoke with Mr. Wilkins during a formal review of the information available. The Diocese then offered Mr. Wilkins counseling and pastoral care which was accepted by Mr. Wilkins.
At the time of the allegation, Father Anglim was in retirement which he had entered on Oct. 15, 2004. Further, at the time he was no longer physically capable of caring for himself, nor was he any longer able to speak. Father Anglim died Jan. 19, 2010.
Throughout this period, to the present time, the Diocese of Venice has supported the counseling for Mr. Wilkins.
Before the allegation was made by Mr. Wilkins in 2008, and since that time, the Diocese of Venice has not received any claims against Father Anglim. However, in late 2008 a letter was read at all Masses at St. Francis Xavier Parish which included the following: "Anyone who believes that he or she has been sexually abused by any other person connected with the Diocese of Venice in Florida or any organization should either contact law enforcement officials or the individual responsible for victim assistance in the Diocese of Venice in Florida."
The Diocese has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct against minors and has a system in place to ensure a safe environment in churches, schools and other Diocesan entities. This policy conforms to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rio De Janeiro - In an investigation spanning 21 countries across six continents, The Associated Press found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad. Some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in another country, and some abused again.
A priest who admitted to abuse in Los Angeles went to the Philippines, where U.S. church officials mailed him checks and advised him not to reveal their source. A priest in Canada was convicted of sexual abuse and then moved to France, where he was convicted of abuse again in 2005. Another priest was moved back and forth between Ireland and England, despite being diagnosed as a pederast, a man who commits sodomy with boys.
"The pattern is if a priest gets into trouble and it's close to becoming a scandal or if the law might get involved, they send them to the missions abroad," said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and critic of what he says is a practice of international transfers of accused and admitted priest child abusers. "Anything to avoid a scandal."
Church officials say that in some cases, the priests themselves moved to another country and the new parish might not have been aware of past allegations. In other cases, church officials said they did not believe the allegations, or that the priest had served his time and reformed.
Joe Callander says he was 14 when he was raped three times and abused on other occasions in 1959 at the now-closed Xaverian Missionary Faith High School in Holliston, Mass. The Xaverians settled the case for $175,000 in 1993. At least two other accusations of sexual abuse were leveled against Rev. Mario Pezzotti in the Boston area.
In the meantime, from 1970 to 2003, Pezzotti was in Brazil, where he worked with the Kayapo Indians.
In a handwritten note of apology to Callander in January 1993, Pezzotti said he had cured himself in the jungle.
"I asked to leave Holliston and go to Brazil to change my life and begin a new life. Upon arrival in Brazil, confiding in God's mercy, I owned up to the problem," Pezzotti wrote. "With divine help, I overcame it."
There is no evidence that Pezzotti, now 75, abused children in Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation. Brazilian law enforcement officials said they were unaware of any complaints about him.
The Rev. Robert Maloney, provincial of the Xaverians who worked closely on Callander's settlement, said Pezzotti was allowed to stay in Brazil for another decade and work with children after a psychological evaluation. He added that a Xaverian investigation into Pezzotti and his work in Brazil turned up nothing.
After Pezzotti returned to Italy in 2003, "he was constantly being asked for by Brazil and by the people he worked with," Maloney added.
In 2008, Pezzotti returned to Brazil. A few months later, Callander saw the photos of him on the Internet and complained to the church. The priest was quickly sent back to Italy.
The Xaverian vicar general, Rev. Luigi Menegazzo, said Pezzotti works at Xaverian headquarters in Parma tending to sick and elderly priests. Asked if Pezzotti had any contact with children or public parish work, he said, "Absolutely in no way."
Reached by telephone, Pezzotti said only: "I don't see why I have to talk about it. Everything was resolved and I don't feel like talking."
Father Vijay Vhaskr Godugunuru was forced to return to India and then was transferred to Italy after pleading no contest to assaulting a 15-year-old girl while visiting friends in Bonifay, Fla. He now ministers to a parish in a medieval town of about 4,000 in Tuscany, where he hears confessions, celebrates Mass and works with children.
The bishops supervising him said they were aware of the case but believed he was innocent.
"The evidence that has been given does not support the accusation," Monsignor Rodolfo Cetoloni, the bishop of the Montepulciano diocese, told the AP last week.
Cetoloni said he saw no reason for any restrictions. Godugunuru, now 40, "enjoys the esteem of everybody," he said.
Godugunuru had been charged with fondling a parishioner in her family's van on June 23, 2006. The priest, visiting from India's diocese of Cuddapah, had been allowed to assist at the Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Bonifay.
The girl, now 19, told police in a sworn statement that Godugunuru "fondled her breasts and penetrated her vagina with his fingers." In his own interview with police, Godugunuru said the girl "had taken his hand and placed it between her legs." He denied intentionally touching her.
The priest was arrested the next month for lewd or lascivious battery on a minor. He faced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine but in exchange for his no contest plea was required to return to India, undergo counseling, not supervise minors for a year and not return to the United States.
The girl's mother brought the case to the attention of Pope Benedict XVI.
"My family and others have been forced out of our church," she wrote in an Aug. 23, 2006, e-mail obtained by the AP. "Just when our faith and our faith in our church were tested most, our Priest chose the side of silence. ... To make matters worse, it was my daughter who was the one being attacked and he just sat back and watched. ...
"This is the biggest problem my family has ever dealt with," she continued. "Please Father, help us. Remember us in your prayers, especially for the speedy healing of my daughter."
The e-mail also said she had contacted the bishop of Cuddapah, the Most Rev. Doraboina Moses Prakasam, and asked if there had been any past accusations of sexual improprieties against Godugunuru. "I have not heard back from him and I don't expect to," she said.
The pope never answered.
Prakasam told the AP he was under the impression that Godugunuru had been absolved of the charges.
"What I was told by the people looking after that case was that he was cleared and ... he was allowed to come back to India," he said.
He said he told the Italian bishop of the case when Godugunuru moved to Tuscany.
The priest of San Lorenzo parish told the AP by phone last week that Godugunuru works as his deputy. He refused further comment, except to say that Godugunuru "does what all deputy parish priests do" and "helps the parish priest."
Godugunuru declined to be interviewed by the AP.
Clodoveo Piazza is an Italian Jesuit who ran a homeless shelter for street children and worked in Brazil for 30 years. In 2005, he was awarded $600,000 from Brazil's national development bank to set up four facilities in the northeastern city of Salvador.
Last August, prosecutors said at least eight boys and young men had come forward to say either that they were abused by Piazza or that he allowed visiting foreigners to sexually abuse boys. Brazilian police are seeking his arrest.
Piazza now works in Mozambique, according to the Catholic nonprofit Organizzazione di Aiuto Fraterno, and the church has come to his defense.
"The Italian Jesuits express their solidarity with the brother and father Piazza," reads one note on the religious order's website. The nonprofit adds that "the slander against missionaries is becoming an increasingly popular game."
Brazilian prosecutors say Piazza, a naturalized Brazilian, has refused to respond to the charges of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
Interviewed in Maputo, Mozambique, this week, Piazza said the charges were false and part of a campaign to blackmail him by "political circles" in Brazil that he did not identify. He said he had been acquitted of the charges twice in Brazil, and that there is no evidence against him.
A spokeswoman with Bahia state's Public Ministry said there were no records of Piazza ever being tried or acquitted and that the case against him is still open. She spoke on condition of anonymity, in keeping with department policy.
"This is propaganda in order to earn money," Piazza told the AP, saying people in Brazil had asked him for money, which he could not pay.
He said he has been living in a Jesuit residence in Maputo for about seven months. He said he was working with Italy's Turino University on "economic projects" and was not working with children.
Joseph Skelton was a 26-year-old student at St. John Provincial Seminary in Detroit, Mich., in 1988 when he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy. He was given three years' probation and dismissed from his seminary.
Two decades later, he lives in the Philippines, where he was ordained a priest and now serves as parochial vicar of the St. Vincent Ferrer parish in the remote town of Calape, according to the diocese directory. He is also a popular gospel singer in the heavily Catholic country.
Reached on his cellphone, Skelton declined comment.
He finished his seminary studies in Manila, the capital, and was ordained in 2001 in the diocese of Tagbilaran in Bohol province.
The bishop who ordained Skelton said he wouldn't have made him a priest if he had known about the criminal conviction.
"I ordained him because, while there was some talk about his effeminate ways, there was no case against him," Bishop Leopoldo S. Tumulak said.
Tumulak, who has since stepped down, said it would be up to his successor to reopen the case.
"The priest is trying to live well," Tumulak said. "If he has really changed, the heart of the church is compassionate — although in America, Europe, they have different ways of looking at it. Not the church, but the government, the people. In the Philippines, it's a little bit different."
The archdiocese of Detroit, after learning Skelton had been ordained, sent a letter about his conviction to the Tagbilaran diocese in early 2003. Tumulak, the former bishop, said he doesn't remember if he received the letter, and in any case it would have been too late.
Informed of the case, current Bishop Leonardo Medroso said he would investigate. But he added:
"The case has been judged already. He was convicted and that means to say he has served already the conviction. So what obstacle can there be if he has already served his punishment or penalty?"
Transferring abusive priests was called "the geographical cure," according to Terry Carter, a New Zealand victim. Carter won $32,000 in compensation from the Society of Mary, which oversees the Catholic boarding school outside Wellington where he was abused by the Rev. Allan Wood****.
Wood**** molested at least 11 boys at four church facilities in New Zealand before being sent by the church to Ireland. He was extradited to New Zealand in 2004, pleaded guilty to 21 sexual abuse charges involving 11 victims and was sentenced to seven years in jail. He was paroled in September 2009.
"They whipped him out of the country to Ireland," Carter said. "They took him out of New Zealand after years of offending in different locations."
Society of Mary spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer told the AP that some families of Wood****'s victims asked that he be sent offshore.
"He was sent to Ireland for intensive psychotherapy. He had no permission to exercise his ministry or to be involved with youth," she said.
Wood**** was suspended from his ministry in the New Zealand branch of the Society of Mary in 1987, according to Freer. He was removed from the priesthood in 2001, she said.
Freer noted that even 20 years ago, it was accepted belief that "pedophilia could be cured," often with intensive psychotherapy. "Pedophilia is now seen as recidivist," she said.
Wood**** is believed to be living in New Zealand's North Island coastal city of Wanganui. A woman who gave her name as Catherine Wood**** and described herself as "a relative" said she didn't think he would want to make any comment to the media. Asked why, she replied: "It is not appropriate at this stage."
Back in Windsor, Vermont, Callander lives a quiet life with Sandi, his wife of 35 years. It was only last week that he told his siblings about the abuse.
Callander says he is coming forward now because the Xaverians failed to keep their promise that Pezzotti would not be around children. He wants the church to change by defrocking or isolating priests who admit abuse so they cannot work in the same positions again — anywhere in the world.
"All I want is for the church to do what is right for once," Callander said. "To end the facade that a man like that should have the right to call himself a Catholic priest."
Contributing: Rizzo reported from Rome. Also contributing to this story were AP writers Daniel Woolls in Spain, Fran d'Emilio and Nicole Winfield in Italy, Angela Charlton in France, Robert Barr in London, Eliane Engeler in Switzerland, Veronika Oleksyn in Austria, Matt Sedensky in Miami, Gillian Flaccus and Raquel Dillon in Los Angeles, David Runk in Detroit, Sean Farrell in Montreal, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Bill Kaczor in Tallahassee, Fla., Pat Condon in Minneapolis, Emanuel Camillo in Mozambique, Alan Clendenning in Brazil, Ian James in Venezuela, Olga Rodriguez in Mexico, Vivian Sequera and Libardo Cardona in Colombia, Michael Warren in Argentina, Eva Vergara, Federico Quilodran and Brad Haynes in Chile, Ravi Nessman in India, Hrvoje Hranjski and Teresa Cerojano in the Phillippines, and Ray Lilley in New Zealand
Rome, Italy - A priest accused of child abuse denied the charges Tuesday in a high-profile trial taking place in the shadow of the Vatican.
"I am not a monster. I am innocent," the Rev. Ruggero Conti said in court.
Conti is accused of molesting seven young boys at the Nativita di Santa Maria Santissima parish in Rome. He faces charges of committing sexual violence and prostitution.
Two alleged victims told police that Conti masturbated them and forced them to perform oral sex on him in his home, where he often invited them to dinner and to watch movies, according to court documents.
Anti-abuse activists say Conti's superiors knew of allegations against him as early as 2006 but did not do enough to stop him.
Prosecutors say they will call Conti's bishop, Monsignor Gino Reali, to testify. Reali was interrogated by police as part of their investigation into Conti, the activists say.
Putting a bishop on the stand in Rome, the capital of deeply Catholic Italy, would be potentially explosive, particularly against the background of a European-wide scandal.
The Catholic Church has been rocked this year by allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, following similar accusations in the United States in the past decade. A damning Irish government-backed report last year said the Dublin Archdiocese had systematically covered up the allegations.
Pope Benedict XVI met this month with a group of men in Malta who say they were abused. He prayed and cried with them.
He has repeatedly insisted the church will do everything in its power to prevent child abuse.
But the trial taking place on his doorstep may undercut such assurances, not least since the alleged abuse of boys took place well after the scandal came to light in the United States.
Conti, a former adviser to the mayor of Rome, was arrested in June 2008, more than a year after an anti-pedophilia organization says it brought accusations against him to Catholic Church officials.
Roberto Mirabile, the president of the organization, said his group was warned about Conti by another priest in the spring of 2007. The group, La Caramella Buona, met with the alleged victims and their families, Mirabile told reporters on Friday.
Mirabile himself went to top Vatican officials, including the man responsible for prosecuting alleged child abusers within the Catholic Church, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, he said.
Scicluna told the child-protection activist there was no Vatican record of complaints about Conti and advised him to go to the police with his concerns, Mirabile said.
Mirabile accused Scicluna of washing his hands of the matter.
Scicluna did not respond to CNN attempts to contact him about the case.
Caramella Buona officials did go to the police, who launched an investigation in November 2007.
Conti was arrested as he prepared to go to World Youth Day in Australia in June 2008. Police believe he continued abusing children until March 2008, Mirabile said.
Conti's superior, Bishop Reali, told police in December 2008 he knew of vague accusations against the priest two years before he was arrested but did not take action, according to court documents.
Nino Marazzita, a lawyer for La Caramella Buona, provided CNN with what he said were transcripts of the prosecutor's interrogation of the bishop.
"You know that there are so many 'rumors,' " Reali told investigators, according to the lawyer. "And I can't run after each one of them."
Conti accused La Caramella Buona of being ideologically opposed to him in his testimony Tuesday. The group denies it.
Reali did not respond to CNN attempts to contact him by phone and e-mail
The Vatican has confirmed the authenticity of a letter in which a cardinal praised a French bishop for not denouncing a paedophile priest.
The letter, originally published in the French press, was written in 2001 by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then in charge of clergy around the world.
A Vatican spokesman said the letter showed the wisdom of a 2001 decision to centralise the handling of abuse cases.
The case comes amid a continuing child sex abuse scandal engulfing the Church.
Allegations of abuse and cover-ups have emerged recently from countries across Europe as well as the US.
The letter from Cardinal Hoyos was addressed to the bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux in northern France, Pierre Pican.
Father Pican had just been given a three-month suspended prison sentence for not denouncing Rene Bissey, an abbott who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2000 for paedophilia.
"I congratulate you on not having spoken out to civil authorities against a priest," wrote Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who at the time was prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
"You have done well and I am delighted to have an associate in the episcopate who... preferred prison to speaking out against a son-priest."
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the letter confirmed "how opportune it was to centralise treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
That step was taken in 2001 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time.
Earlier this week, the Vatican published what it said was a long-standing Church policy telling bishops that they should report abuse cases to police - though critics said the move was an attempt to rewrite history.
On Thursday, Pope Benedict called on Roman Catholics to "do penance" for their sins, an apparent reference to the recent sexual abuse scandal.
Personally and professionally, I'm always up for discussing the Catholic Church's insistence on mandatory celibacy for its clergy, particularly when most people still don't know that this wasn't an original requirement and that there are exceptions made for married converts and eastern rite Catholics in places like Ukraine.
While the celibacy debate has floated around for decades -- cue that haunting "Thorn Birds" theme music -- it reliably surfaces in clergy sex abuse scandal coverage. Sexual frustration hasn't been pinpointed as the root cause of any specific cases, but logic dictates that the Catholic Church would have a much wider pool of applicants if married men were eligible for ordination (as they are in Orthodox Christian churches, though they can't go on to become bishops).
So, I found this story interesting today: about three dozen Italian women who say they are romantically involved with Roman Catholic priests have sent a letter to Pope Benedict, urging him to end mandatory celibacy.
Maybe this will prompt their "sisters" in other countries to write in, as well -- America must have at least as many clergy mistresses as Italy, if not many more. The Daily Mail reports that tens of thousands of men have left the priesthood since the 1960s, after having relationships with women. (Remember Father Alberto Cutié, the popular Florida pastor caught cavorting with his girlfriend? He's now a married Episcopal priest, and he and his wife are expecting a baby.)
["39 Popes Were Married!" was written and recorded by Father John Shuster. It was produced by Celibacy Is The Issue. This tape is copyrighted, but it can be freely duplicated in its entirety and distributed without profit so that the truth about the married Catholic priesthood can be made available to everyone. This tape is also available in printed form with footnotes and a bibliography. Tax deductible contributions may be sent to CITI, PO Box 2850, Framingham, MA01703. Our newsletter, Come As You Are, is written by married priests and is available for $10 per year. Thank you again for your time and interest.]
I'm no canon law expert, but this story certainly raises interesting questions about the disparity in the Catholic Church's handling of clergy disciplinary issues: Sister Margaret McBride, an administrator at a Catholic hospital in Arizona, has been declared "automatically excommunicated" by a bishop for approving an abortion to save a critically ill mother's life (at 11 weeks, the pregnancy's first trimester) last year. NPR's story points out that meanwhile, no pedophile priests have ever been automatically excommunicated; rather, the norm over the years has been for bishops to protect them.
Apparently, McBride can be un-excommunicated if she goes to confession and repents. No word on what her plans are, though she apparently remains with her religious order, the Sisters of Mercy, and employed by St. Joseph's Hospital.
So, someone please enlighten me, because I'm still confused even after reading Catholic News Agency's ethical analysis of the situation: how does a life-saving medical procedure for a mother that costs the life of a 11-week-old fetus -- as opposed to both lives -- merit automatic excommunication, but not the serial raping of children? Is this a gender equity issue -- male bishops giving priests more benefit of the doubt than nuns? Does the church really view an early-term abortion to save a mother's life as a greater sin than raping children? And if so, isn't this something that ought to be clarified by now?
Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër in Vienna in 1995. The cardinal died in 2003, out of the public spotlight.
Defenders of Benedict cite his role in dealing with Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna as evidence that he moved assertively, if quietly, against abusers. They point to the fact that Cardinal Groër left office six months after accusations against him of molesting boys first appeared in the Austrian news media in 1995. The future pope, they say, favored a full canonical investigation, only to be blocked by other ranking officials in the Vatican.
A detailed look at the rise and fall of the clergyman, who died in 2003, and the involvement of Benedict, a Bavarian theologian with many connections to German-speaking Austria, paints a more complex picture.
Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had the ear ofPope John Paul II and was able to block a favored candidate for archbishop of Vienna, clearing the way for Father Groër to assume the post in 1986, say senior church officials and priests with knowledge of the process. His critics question how this influence failed him nine years later in seeking a fuller investigation into the case.
Benedict’s ambiguous role has made the Groër case a kind of Rorschach test of the future pope’s treatment of sexual abuse during his long stewardship of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal body.
There are indications that Benedict had a lower tolerance for sexual misconduct by elite clergy members than other top Vatican officials.
Unlike John Paul, his predecessor, Benedict has as pope apologized and met with sexual abuse victims. But while he often, as a cardinal, used his clout to enforce doctrine and sideline clergy members whose views diverged from his own, he seemed less willing at that time to aggressively pursue sexual abusers.
Msgr. Helmut Schüller, a former vicar general of the Vienna Archdiocese, says the church cannot win back the trust of Catholics unless the pope is more forthcoming about his past role in managing abuse scandals.
“He cannot expect others to be transparent, like the Irish bishops he appeals to in his letter, and not be transparent himself,” said Monsignor Schüller, who until 2005 was the archdiocese’s ombudsman for sexual abuse cases.
The Groër case occurred before the most recent public uproar over sexual abuse in the American church, and also before Cardinal Ratzinger was formally given the task of supervising the Vatican’s response to such scandals in 2001.
But it was also not an ordinary case of abuse. It involved a clergyman, Cardinal Groër, with influential friends in the Roman Curia, the church’s administrative body, and a reported bond with John Paul over their shared devotion to the Virgin Mary. The results of a Vatican investigation at Cardinal Groër’s abbey in 1998 have never been released by the Vatican.
Four Austrian bishops, including his successor in Vienna, Archbishop Christoph Schönborn, now a cardinal, have deemed the accusations against Cardinal Groër accurate with “moral certainty.” Some of his young victims, whose estimated number ranges from half a dozen to 30, later recounted how he would ask them to come to his room for confession, demand they take off their clothes and then abuse them.
Thousands of Austrian Catholics left the church as a result of the Groër scandal and many more joined grass-roots movements challenging Rome’s centralized control and conservatism.
For the rest of his life, until his death seven years ago, Cardinal Groër never confessed or faced trial. His punishment was to withdraw from public life and, with the exception of a brief but contentious period at a German convent, live in another convent that he had founded years earlier.
The future Cardinal Groër, a Benedictine monk who organized high-profile monthly pilgrimages to a shrine in rural eastern Austria where he said he once had an apparition of the Virgin Mary, was a surprise choice when he was named archbishop on July 15, 1986, priests and senior church officials say.
A Favorite Is Blocked
The favorite on the final short list was a conservative clergyman, the Rev. Kurt Krenn, who had close ties to some of John Paul’s closest confidants, two senior officials with knowledge of the process said.
“The energetic protest of Cardinal Ratzinger was decisive in removing Kurt Krenn from the list,” said one of the officials, who worked at the Vienna Archdiocese at the time and who declined to be identified because the procedure is confidential.
Benedict, known for his rigorous theology, objected that his Austrian colleague, Father Krenn, did not have a Ph.D. in theology, but rather in philosophy, say officials and priests in Vienna who knew both men.
Father Krenn, who became a bishop in 1987, also had a reputation for being a loose cannon. In 2004, he had to retire early after dismissing the discovery at his seminary of a large cache of child pornography and images of young priests having sex as “boyish pranks.”
Bishop Krenn, said to be in poor health, was unavailable for an interview.
The Rev. Rudolf Schermann, at the time in charge of two parishes and now the publisher of the weekly magazine Kirche-In
, said Benedict’s veto effectively propelled Cardinal Groër into the archdiocese.
In the words of Cardinal Schönborn, who first met Cardinal Ratzinger in 1972 when he was the future pope’s student and has been close to him ever since, Benedict “was the second most important man in the Vatican and had without doubt the ear of the pope.”
But blocking Bishop Krenn does not appear to have been accompanied by a thorough vetting of Cardinal Groër, who was already under suspicion within his own abbey of sexually abusing minors and young men.
The Rev. Udo Fischer, a priest who attended the Hollabrunn boys’ seminary in eastern Austria in the 1960s and early 1970s, where Cardinal Groër had lived and taught for decades, said that in 1985 he personally warned the abbot of their local Benedictine monastery about Cardinal Groër’s inappropriate behavior with boys, whom he often referred to as “little angels.”
Father Fischer told Abbot Clemens Lashofer of Göttweig Abbey that he himself had been molested by Cardinal Groër when they worked together on a youth movement devoted to the Virgin Mary in the early 1970s, and that he had observed him acting inappropriately with others who were not willing to come forward.
When Father Fischer learned about Cardinal Groër’s appointment as archbishop, he said he sent an angry telegram to Abbot Lashofer and asked why he had not spoken up. The abbot, who was head of Austria’s Benedictine order at the time, claimed he had never been questioned by the Vatican’s representative, the nuncio.
“If they really did not ask him, they did not want to know,” Father Fischer said. Abbot Lashofer died last year.
Priests and church law experts say that the process of due diligence the Vatican performs on candidates for bishop is usually rigorous.
Members of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, whose ranks included Cardinal Ratzinger at the time, tend to review detailed files about the candidates before deciding which ones to recommend to the pope.
“It is a very complicated procedure,” said Lorenz Wolf, judicial vicar of the archdiocese in Munich. “It is very improbable that someone could hide something.”
The rumors surrounding Cardinal Groër’s transgressions went beyond the circle of those who suffered at his hands. Josef Votzi, the journalist who broke the scandal in 1995 in the magazine Profil, is another Hollabrunn alumnus and said that even among staff members of the Vienna Archdiocese he interviewed when Father Groër was named archbishop, his history was “an open secret.”
In 1995, a victim came forward, telling Profil that the archbishop, then his religion teacher and confessor, had sexually abused him for four years two decades earlier at Hollabrunn.
In Rome a few weeks later, Cardinal Schönborn said, Cardinal Ratzinger told him behind closed doors that he wanted to set up a fact-finding commission to establish clarity. “That for me is one of the best indications that I know from personal experience that today’s pope had a very decisive, clear way of handling abuse cases,” he said.
In a subsequent conversation later that year, Benedict “explicitly regretted that the commission had not been set up,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “It became clear very quickly that the current that prevailed in Rome was not the one demanding clarity here. Cardinal Ratzinger told me that the other side, the diplomatic side, had prevailed.”
Where John Paul II stood himself remains unclear, church officials in Vienna with knowledge of the case said. The “diplomatic side,” they said, was led by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary of John Paul II.
Cardinal Schönborn said he could not explain why Cardinal Ratzinger had so much influence with the pope on other matters, but lacked the clout to have Cardinal Groër investigated for abuse. “I am not responsible to explain everything,” he said. “I just know that that is how it was.”
Nor did Benedict’s subsequent communications on the matter shed much light on the scandal. In letters he sent to Austrian clergy members after the scandal, he made no mention of the former archbishop’s transgressions, instead warning bishops against ceding ground on the reformist proposals of the Catholic grass-roots movements that had sprung up.
In 1996, Cardinal Groër was named head of a priory in Germany then overseen by Göttweig Abbey and still appeared at official church functions. This sparked a vocal rebellion in Göttweig in late 1997, among some of his former students and victims, who called for his resignation.
Faced with such upheaval, church officials removed Cardinal Groër from the priory and sent him back in January to the convent where he had lived after he was forced out in 1995. Shortly afterward, John Paul II approved a Vatican investigation.
Abbot Franziskus Heereman, who helped conduct the inquiry, or visitation, says that Cardinal Ratzinger was the driving force inside the Vatican behind the investigation.
After the one-week visitation ended in March, Cardinal Groër was removed from the priory (for “health reasons”), told to stay out of public view and sent to a convent in eastern Germany for six months. “Imposing on a cardinal to stay out of the public view and forbidding him to take part in official ceremonies is a very serious punishment,” Cardinal Schönborn said.
But no result of the investigation was ever made public, and Cardinal Groër never faced a church court or even a public rebuke from Rome, let alone a secular trial.
Many in the Austrian clergy criticized what they saw as an attempt by Rome to protect a cardinal while ignoring victims demanding justice. Prior Gottfried Schätz, the No. 2 at Göttweig Abbey who had helped lead the outcry against Cardinal Groër, left in September 1998 and requested removal from the priesthood, which he was granted unusually quickly, within a year, Father Fischer said.
Father Schermann said, “They did as much as they had at each point in time given the public outcry, and no more.”
Vatican City: Pope Benedict on Friday begged forgiveness from God and victims of child sexual abuse by priests and promised that the Catholic Church would do everything in its power to ensure that it never happens again.
The pope made his comments, some of his clearest ever about the sexual abuse scandal that has swept the Church around the world, during a homily in St Peter's Square to conclude the Roman Catholic Church's "Year of the Priest" celebrations.
In his homily before some 15,000 priests, the pope said the year had been marred because "the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones."
He added: "We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again."
He also promised that the Church would enact stronger controls on choosing men who enter the priesthood.
"In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life's dangers," he said.
(AFP) – Jun 26, 2010
BRUSSELS — A Catholic archdiocese could sue the Belgian state over police raids on church property carried out as part of a paedophilia investigation, a lawyer said Saturday, amid Vatican indignation.
Fernand Keuleneer, lawyer for the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese, said he had his "doubts" over whether the authorities' actions on Thursday were legal.
His comments came as the Vatican returned to the attack over the police raids on Thursday against a background of fresh claims of child abuse by members of the clergy.
Vatican number two Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the detention of a number of bishops during the raid was "serious and unbelievable", comparing it to the practices of communist regimes.
Keuleneer, speaking by phone, told AFP he hoped the police action was "more than a fishing expedition because if that's what it is then this would not be a legitimate purpose for a search."
He said he wasn't aware of "any impending charges" as a result of the raids.
On top of that is the matter of proportionality "what the (investigating) judge has indication of must be of a rather explosive nature in order to justify" the action, he added.
He also took exception to the television cameras which he said arrived at the scene half an hour before the police, raising questions on whether the raid was carried out with the "necessary levels of discretion and confidentiality.
"If we come finally to the conclusion that this was not legitimate and not proportional then we will take legal action, at least I will advise my client to take legal action against the Belgian state," he concluded.
Keuleneer said the police had drilled into the tombs of two cardinals at Mechelen cathedral north of Brussels, in order to send down cameras, and broke away part of one tomb.
Phones, computers, the archdiocese accounting system and other items were taken, and had not yet been returned, making it impossible for the church authorities to run the archdiocese properly, he added.
Father Eric De Beukelaer, spokesman for the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese, said something that the Belgian church particularly regretted was searching the premises of a committee probing priest paedophilia allegations.
"This is putting the work of the committee and its confidentiality at risk," he said of the body which has been handling a flood of complaints, often in the strictest confidence, since the Belgian church's longest-serving bishop, 73-year-old Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April after admitting sexually abusing a boy for years.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, complained in an interview to Vatican Radio, that the search and the detention of the bishops had given the impression that they were suspects.
Earlier the archbishop said "it looks like the police were searching for the Da Vinci code," a reference to the Dan Brown's church mystery thriller.
The Brussels prosecutor has said the raid followed a string of accusations "denouncing abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church figures."
The authorities also seized computer files at the home of Belgium's top cardinal for the last 20 years, Leonard's predecessor Godfried Danneels.
The Roman Catholic Church in Belgium has endured some of the worst of the worldwide child sex scandal besetting the Vatican, having been rocked in April when Vangheluwe resigned from his Bruges post after admitting sexually abusing a boy.
According to retired priest Dirk Deville, hundreds of cases of sexual abuse had been signalled to Danneels going back to the 1990s, but Danneels himself recently denied being involved in any cover-up.
In a bid to restore confidence within an increasingly sceptical flock, Belgium's bishops came together in May to publicly beg forgiveness from victims both for the actions of paedophile priests and for the Church's "silence" down the years
Belgium's Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged widespread sexual abuse over many years by some members of its clergy and has promised to take action.
Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard said on Monday it would offer "maximum availability" to victims of sexual abuse, but did not provide concrete plans to deal with the crisis.
His comments were in response to a report published on Friday that revealed hundreds of abuse cases over the past 50 years including 13 victims that committed suicide as a result.
"The report and the suffering it contains make us shiver," Leonard told reporters.
"We want to learn the lessons of the errors of the past. The reflections and conclusions contained in the report [on sexual abuse in the church] will be taken on board."
Pope Benedict XVI feels "much pain" following revelations about the magnitude of the priest paedophilia scandal in Belgium, his spokesman told Belgian television on Monday.
"The pope is following very closely what is happening in the Belgian Catholic Church," Federico Lombardi told RTL-TVI in the wake of last week's report.
"Like everybody, he feels much pain after the publication of the report, which again reveals the huge suffering of victims and gives us an even more vivid sense of the gravity of the crimes."
Call for confessions
Friday's report, published by the Commission on Church-related Sexual Abuse Complaints, was set up by the Catholic Church and headed by a child psychiatrist.
The 200-page report said it had investigated 475 complaints between January and June this year, contained testimonies from some 124 anonymous "survivors" and revealed that the sexual abuse for most victims began at age 12, although one was just two years old.
Leonard "reiterated" a call for guilty priests and church workers to confess their crimes as well as their sins, saying past pleas to come forward had "not really been heard".
Following a string of similar scandals in Germany, Ireland and the United States, the story broke in Belgium in April when the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, quit after having admitted sexually abusing his nephew between 1973 and 1986.
Vangheluwe announced on Sunday that he would now leave the Westvleteren abbey where he had sought refuge for several months to withdraw "to another place, away from the Bruges diocese."
"As my regrets have only increased, now I see all the harm that my actions caused," he said.
Leonard said it was "up to Rome to decide" Vangheluwe's fate within a "reasonable timeframe".
But some human rights campaigners have expressed disappointment at the response.
"You can't investigate crimes committed when the body is controlled by the institution itself," Lieve Halsberghe of Human Rights in the Church, an association of victims of sex abuse by priests, said.
Critics have also accused the Church of not acting against errant priests and turning a blind eye to abuse.The commission said it found no evidence that the Church had systematically covered up crimes, although had found instances where nothing was done.
It was the second time in as many days that Benedict had criticised the policies of Spain’s Socialist government and called for Europe as a whole to rediscover Christian teachings and
As he headed to the church named for the sacred family, about 200 gays and lesbians
Benedict has focused much of his pontificate on trying to fight secular trends in the West such as the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
Benedict has visited Spain twice so far and has a third trip planned in 2011, an indication he sees this once staunchly Roman Catholic country as a battleground for the future of the faithful in Europe.
Freedom of religion, liturgy, openness to Anglicans, and sexual abuse are the most pressing issues that the Catholic Church is facing today and of which Benedict XVI wants the cardinals from around the world to be informed, in their role as the closest papal advisers.
For this reason, on the eve of the consistory in which he will create 24 new cardinals, the Pope met today in the Vatican Synod Hall about 150 cardinals.meeting, which is an expression of that collegiality that is “particularly important to the Pope” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office.
A press office statement informs that this morning, speaking at the beginning of the meeting, Benedict XVI recalled that in the Lord's command to proclaim the Gospel implies the need for the freedom to do so and yet, in the course of history, it has meet several obstacles. The relationship between truth and freedom is essential, but now faces the challenge of relativism, which at first glance, seems to complete the concept of freedom but in reality threatens to destroy it like a veritable "dictatorship." We find ourselves in a time where we must work hard to assert the freedom to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and the great achievements of Christian culture. As to the second theme, the Pope recalled the crucial importance of the liturgy in the Church, because it is the place of God's presence with us. Thus, the place where truth lives with us”.
In the next intervention card. Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, presented a panoramic overview of current attempts to restrict the freedom of Christians in various parts of the world, inviting people to reflect on the situation of religious freedom in Western States. We are witnessing, he said, a process of secularisation accompanied by attempts to remove spiritual values from social life”.
The Cardinal Secretary went on to address the situation of religious freedom in Muslim countries, recalling the conclusions reached during the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. Finally, he explained the activities the Holy See and local episcopates make to defend Catholics, in both East and West. On this subject he also recalled the great efforts made by the Holy See at a state level and also at United Nations organisations to promote respect for the religious freedom of believers.
In the course of extensive discussions have taken 18 cardinals studied the issue of religious freedom and the difficulties encountered by the Church in different parts of the world: specific situations in Europe, the Americas, Africa, in Asia, the Middle East and in Muslim majority countries were discussed. The serious difficulties currently encountered by the Church in defending the basic values of natural law, such as respect for life and family, were also mentioned.
For his part Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, addressed the question of the liturgy in the Church today. In the afternoon reports will be presented by Mgr. Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on "Dominus Iesus," the instruction on the Catholic doctrine of salvation; by card. William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the "Church's response to cases of sexual abuse" and the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus" for the welcoming of groups from the Anglican Communion into the Catholic Church.
Returning, finally, to tomorrow's consistory, Father Lombardi explained that Benedict XVI, in selecting the new cardinals " the Pope takes many different criteria into account, first among which are certainly duties in the service of Church and the universality of representation" "In this way – he explains in his editorial for Octava Dies, the weekly information of the Vatican Television Center - the Pope forms a group of prominent personalities, who are entrusted with the crucial task of the election of the Successor of Peter, but who must also cooperate and support the Pope in his ministry with full spiritual solidarity".
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, center, meets with members the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments, at the Vatican, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. The Pontiff told priests Saturday to do a better job counseling would-be spouses to ensure their marriages last and said no one has an absolute right to a wedding.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, right, meets with members the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments, at the Vatican, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. The Pontiff told priests Saturday to do a better job counseling would-be spouses to ensure their marriages last and said no one has an absolute right to a wedding.
Pope Benedict XVI told priests Saturday to do a better job counseling would-be spouses to ensure their marriages last and said no one has an absolute right to a wedding.
Benedict made the comments in his annual speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments. An annulment is the process by which the church effectively declares that a marriage never took place.
Benedict acknowledged that the problems that would allow for a marriage to be annulled cannot always be identified beforehand. But he said better pre-marriage counseling, which the Catholic Church requires of the faithful, could help avoid a "vicious circle" of invalid marriages.
He said the right to a church wedding requires that the bride and groom intend to celebrate and live the marriage truthfully and authentically.
"No one can make a claim to the right to a nuptial ceremony," he said.
Benedict has used his annual speech to the Rota to impress on its members the indissolubility of marriage and that they should avoid the temptation of granting annulments on a whim. Last year, he urged the tribunal to work harder to encourage couples to stay together and not confuse "pastoral charity" with the need to uphold church law.
On Saturday, Benedict said priests had an important pastoral job to discern whether would-be spouses are prepared and able to enter into a valid marriage.
"The church and society at large place too much importance on the good of marriage and the family founded on it to not make a profound commitment to it pastorally," Benedict said.
The Vatican's concern about marriage annulments is largely directed at the United States, which in 2006 had more annulment cases launched than the rest of the world combined.
வாடிகன் கார்டினல் சிறுவன் வல்லுறவு வழக்கின் காரணமாக பதவி விலகினார்பேயை கும்பிடும் பித்தர்கள் பித்து பிடித்து பைத்தியக்காரர்களாகி இபப்டி வக்கிரம் பிடித்து அலைகிறார்கள்கிறிஸ்துவத்திலிருந்து வெளியேறினால்தான் இவர்களுக்கு பிடித்த பைத்தியம் அகன்று மனிதர்களாக ஆவார்கள்Philadelphia Cardinal Rigali resigns after abuse probe Cardinal Rigali spent 30 years as a Vatican diplomat Continue reading the main story Related StoriesPriests suspended in abuse probeThe archbishop of the US city of Philadelphia has resigned, months after renewed accusations that the Catholic Church covered up child sex abuse.Cardinal Justin Rigali had submitted his resignation in April 2010 upon turning 75, but Pope Benedict XVI did not act on it until now.Archbishop Charles Chaput of the US city of Denver is to replace him.US grand juries in 2005 and 2011 said the church protected abuser priests and left some in contact with children.Time limitsCardinal Rigali has been Philadelphia archbishop since 2003 and his retirement was expected this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.In 2005, a Philadelphia grand jury said Cardinal Rigali's predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bevilacqua, and his predecessor, Cardinal John Krol, knew priests were sexually abusing children but transferred the priests among parishes.Time limits prevented that panel from bringing charges, however.The archdiocese reacted by saying the grand jury's report was "discriminatory" and "sensationalised" and accused investigators of "bullying" Cardinal Bevilacqua during his testimony sessions.Cardinal Bevilacqua, however, repeated "my heartfelt and sincere apologies" to abuse victims.Priests suspendedThen, in February 2011 a second grand jury report said at least 37 priests were kept in assignments that exposed them to children despite "substantial evidence of abuse".Cardinal Rigali responded by suspending more than 20 priests.His successor, Cardinal Chaput, 66, is known as a staunch conservative and a vigorous opponent of abortion rights.Last year he defended the decision by a Catholic school in Denver, Colorado to expel two children of a lesbian couple.
கன்னியாஸ்திரியை கற்பழித்த இத்தாலி மிஷனரிக்கு 9 வருட சிறைதண்டனைகிறுக்கு பிடித்த கிறிஸ்துவ மதத்தில் சேரவைக்கப்பட்டு பேயை கும்பிடுபவர்களாக மாறிவிட்ட நம் சகோதர்களான தமிழர்களுக்காக இறைவனிடம் பிரார்த்தனை செய்யுங்கள்.மீண்டும் இந்துக்களாக ஆகி மனிதர்களாக வாழ உங்கள் பிரார்த்தனைகளுக்கு நிச்சயம் பலன் இருக்கும்Former monk convicted in Italy of raping nun(AP) – Jul 6, 2011 MILAN (AP) — A former monk in Italy has been convicted of raping a nun and sentenced to nine years and three months in prison. He then vented his rancor outside a southern Italian courthouse.Television footage following Wednesday's verdict showed Fedele Biscelgia yelling "shame" at the nuns after the sentence, and proclaiming his innocence. Prosecutors had requested a lesser term of eight years.The news agency ANSA said Bisceglia's secretary also was convicted and sentenced to six years and three months for participating in the attack.Bisceglia was accused of raping the nun inside a structure for immigrants and the poor.Bisceglia had worked with the poor in Italy and in Africa, and was well-known to Italian TV viewers as an enthusiastic soccer fan who led stadium cheers in monk's garb.Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
உலகெங்கும் உள்ள கிறிஸ்துவ பாதிரிகள் செய்யும் தொழில் அனைவருக்கும் தெரிந்த விஷயம்தான். ஒவ்வொரு பாதிரியாராக கிழிக்கபப்ட்டுகொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள்.தமிழர்களே ஜாக்கிரதை. கிறிஸ்துவ பேய்களை கண்டு ஏமாறாதீர்கள். பேயை வணங்காதீர்கள்.கிறிஸ்துவ பாதிரிகளை சாமியார் என்று நினைக்காதீர்கள்.முக்கியமாக குழந்தைகளை தனியாக பாதிரியார்களிடமோ கன்யாஸ்திரிகளிடமோ விடாதீர்கள்.ஜாக்கிரதை ஜாக்கிரதை ஜாக்கிரதைNamed and shamed priest still won't apologise for raping teenage victimPRINT EMAIL TEXT SIZE NORMALLARGEEXTRA LARGE 16 11 ShareThis29By Luke ByrneSaturday July 16 2011ONE of the paedophile priests investigated in the Cloyne Report into allegations of sexual abuse in the diocese has refused to apologise for raping his teenage victim.Fr Brendan Wrixon (75) is the only one of the 19 priests referred to in the report who has been convicted by the courts.Identified as Fr Caden in the report, he began fondling a 16-year-old boy in the early 1980s and moved on to penetration and oral sex, it is alleged.His victim, named Patrick in the report, went on to become a priest in the diocese of Cloyne.Fr Wrixon is retired and no longer says Mass in the parish church. He doesn't live in the parochial house but he has never been defrocked.A spokesman for the Cloyne diocese said he was in receipt of a "modest" pension from the church.The Irish Independent tracked him down to an address on the outskirts of Newmarket, Co Cork, yesterday.He refused to answer the door, and later refused to speak when asked if he would apologise to his victim or if he had anything to say about the Cloyne report.He quickly drove away.In 2010, Fr Wrixon was charged with three counts of gross indecency between October 16, 1982, and February 15, 1983, and was given an 18-month suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to one count.He appeared before Judge Sean O Donnabhain in Cork Circuit Criminal Court in November last year.Fr Wrixon's case was singled out in the Cloyne Report as an example of how Bishop John Magee and Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan dealt insufficiently with allegations of sexual abuse.- Luke Byrne
Pope Benedict XVIOn March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted assaying that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican," and that "when one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.
He was wrong twice. In the first place, nobody has had to strive to find such evidence: It has surfaced, as it was bound to do. In the second place, this extension of the awful scandal to the topmost level of the Roman Catholic Church is a process that has only just begun. Yet it became in a sense inevitable when the College of Cardinals elected, as the vicar of Christ on Earth, the man chiefly responsible for the original cover-up. (One of the sanctified voters in that "election" wasCardinal Bernard Law of Boston, a man who had already found the jurisdiction of Massachusetts a bit too warm for his liking.)Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing—indeed endless—scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear,said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse." He stupidly went on to say that "those efforts have failed."
There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individualresponsibility of the pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general andinstitutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it. The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing "abuse"?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for "therapy" by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger's deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to "pastoral" work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.
It is, of course, claimed, and it will no doubt later be partially un-claimed, that Ratzinger himself knew nothing of this second outrage. I quote, here, from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former employee of the Vatican Embassy in Washington and an early critic of the Catholic Church's sloth in responding to child-rape allegations. "Nonsense," he says. "Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He's the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he's trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope."
This is common or garden stuff, very familiar to American and Australian and Irish Catholics whose children's rape and torture, and the cover-up of same by the tactic of moving rapists and torturers from parish to parish, has been painstakingly and comprehensively exposed. It's on a level with the recent belated admission by the pope's brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, that while he knew nothing about sexual assault at the choir school he ran between 1964 and 1994, now that he remembers it, he is sorry for his practice of slapping the boys around.
Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated "in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication." (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)
Not content with shielding its own priests from the law, Ratzinger's office even wrote its own private statute of limitations. The church's jurisdiction, claimed Ratzinger, "begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age" and then lasts for 10 more years. Daniel Shea, the attorney for two victims who sued Ratzinger and a church in Texas, correctly describes that latter stipulation as an obstruction of justice. "You can't investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10, the priest will get away with it."
The next item on this grisly docket will be the revival of the long-standing allegationsagainst the Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-reactionary Legion of Christ, in which sexual assault seems to have been almost part of the liturgy. Senior ex-members of this secretive order found their complaints ignored and overridden by Ratzinger during the 1990s, if only because Father Maciel had been praised by the then-Pope John Paul II as an "efficacious guide to youth." And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.
போப் பெனடிக்ட் மீது விசாரணை நடத்தக்கோரிசர்வதேச கோர்ட்டில் மனுhttp://www.dailythanthi.com/article.asp?NewsID=674126&disdate=9/15/2011தி ஹேக், செப்.15-போப் பெனடிக்ட் மீது விசாரணை நடத்த வேண்டும் என்று கோரி தி ஹேக் நகரில் உள்ள சர்வதேச கோர்ட்டில் மனு தாக்கல் செய்யப்பட்டு உள்ளது. இந்த மனுவை பாதிரியார்களால் பாதிக்கப்பட்டவர்கள், மனித உரிமைக்குழுவின் வழக்கறிஞர்கள் ஆகியோர் தாக்கல் செய்து உள்ளனர். இது தொடர்பாக அவர்கள் 80 பக்க புகாரையும் அதற்கு ஆதாரமாக 20 ஆயிரம் பக்க ஆவணங்களையும் அவர்கள் தாக்கல் செய்து உள்ளனர்.சிறுவர்களுக்கு எதிரான குற்றங்களில் பாதிரியார்கள் ஈடுபட்டனர். இந்த குற்றங்களை வாடிகனில் உள்ள உயர்மட்ட அதிகாரிகள் மறைத்து விட்டனர். இதற்கு காரணம் போப் பெனடிக்ட் தான். எனவே அவரை இது தொடர்பாக விசாரிக்க வேண்டும் என்று அந்த மனுவில் கூறப்பட்டு உள்ளது. இந்த வழக்கு பற்றி வாடிகன் எதுவும் கூற மறுத்து விட்டது.
அமெரிக்க பெண்ணை கற்பழித்ததாக தமிழ்நாட்டு பாதிரியார் மீது வழக்குவழக்கை திரும்ப பெறுவதற்காக ரூ.3 கோடி கொடுக்கப்பட்டது http://www.dailythanthi.com/article.asp?NewsID=672797&disdate=9/9/2011சிகாகோ, செப்.9-அமெரிக்காவில் உள்ள கிறிஸ்தவ தேவாலயத்தில் பாதிரியாராக இருந்த போது தமிழ்நாட்டு பாதிரியார் ஒருவர் அந்த நாட்டை சேர்ந்த இளம் பெண்ணை கற்பழித்ததாக அவர் மீது வழக்கு தொடரப்பட்டது. இந்த வழக்கை திரும்பப் பெறுவதற்காக அந்த பெண்ணுக்கு ரூ.3 கோடி இழப்பீடாக வழங்கப்பட்டது.கன்னியாஸ்திரியாக விரும்பிய பெண்தமிழ்நாட்டை சேர்ந்த பாதிரியார் ஜோசப் பழனிவேல் ஜெயபால். இவர் இப்போது ஊட்டி பேராயத்தில் கல்வி கமிஷன் செயலாளராக இருக்கிறார். இவர் 2004-ம் ஆண்டு அமெரிக்காவில் உள்ள கிறிஸ்தவ தேவாலயங்களில் பாதிரியராக பணியாற்றினார். மின்னசோட்டாவில் உள்ள குரூக்ஸ்டன் பேராயத்தில் வேலைக்கு சேர்ந்தார்.அப்போது அந்த நகரை சேர்ந்த இளம் பெண் மேகன் பீட்டர்சன் கன்னியாஸ்திரியாக ஆசைப்பட்டு அதற்கான வழிகளை தெரிந்து கொள்வதற்காக ஜெயபாலை சந்தித்தார். அப்போது அவர் மேகனை கற்பழித்து விட்டார் என்று கூறப்படுகிறது.கோர்ட்டில் வழக்குஅப்போது மேகனுக்கு வயது 14 தான். இப்போது அவரது வயது 20 ஆகும். அதன் பிறகு பல முறை அவர் என்னை கற்பழித்தார் என்று அந்த பெண் கூறினார். இது குறித்து தேவாலயத்தில் மேகன் புகார் செய்ததாகவும் இதற்கு எந்த நிவாரணமும் கிடைக்கவில்லை என்றும் அவர் கூறினார். இதனால் அவர் மீது வழக்கு தொடரப்பட்டது. வழக்கு தாக்கல் செய்யப்பட்ட நிலையில் ஜெயபால் இந்தியா திரும்பி விட்டார்.இந்த வழக்கில் ஜெயபாலுக்கு சம்மனும் அனுப்பப்பட்டது. தன் மீதான குற்றச்சாட்டை மறுத்த ஜெயபால் தான் அப்பாவி என்றும் எந்த தவறும் செய்யவில்லை என்றும் கூறினார். கோர்ட்டில் ஆஜராகி பதில் அளிப்பதாகவும் தெரிவித்தார். பிறகு அவர் தன் மனதை மாற்றிக் கொண்டார். அமெரிக்கா வர மறுத்து விட்டார்.ரூ.3 கோடி இழப்பீடுஇதற்கிடையில் பாதிக்கப்பட்ட பெண்ணான மேகனுக்கு இழப்பீடு கொடுக்க குரூக்ஸ்டன் பேராயம் முன்வந்தது. அதற்கு பதிலாக அவர் வழக்கை திரும்பப் பெற வேண்டும் என்று கேட்டுக் கொண்டது. இதற்கு மேகனும் சம்மதித்தார். அதன்படி அவருக்கு ரூ.3 கோடி இழப்பீடு வழங்கப்பட்டது.
Pope Benedict railed against the commercialisation of Christmas
Pope Benedict XVI has attacked the commercialisation of Christmas, as he held the traditional Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
In his homily, he urged worshippers to "see through the superficial glitter of this season and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem".
The Pope also lamented the enduring presence of violence in the world.
The pontiff will deliver his annual Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) speech in a few hours.
Meanwhile, Christian pilgrims and tourists from around the world last night converged on Bethlehem for Christmas.
Celebrations culminated in Midnight Mass at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where it is believed Jesus was born.
About 120,000 visitors were in the Palestinian West Bank town, 30% up on last year, officials said.
A lucky few of the thousands of visitors to Bethlehem got to join Midnight Mass
Christmas Eve Mass in Rome was brought forward two hours to 22:00 local time (21:00 GMT) from midnight - in order to spare Benedict a late night.
Wearing cream and gold vestments, the Pope, who is 84, proceeded slowly up the aisle of St Peter's on a mobile platform.
In his homily, he urged the faithful to focus on the story of Jesus' birth, saying this would help "find true joy and true light".
He also prayed for those who would spend this Christmas in poverty and suffering.
Even if he is physically more frail now, his message was firm, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says.
In a few hours, the pontiff will give his traditional blessing and message in St Peter's square before tens of thousands of people from around the world.
In Bethlehem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, led the Midnight Mass.
He passed through the massive gate in the controversial Israeli barrier that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem and arrived in Manger Square, where he was greeted with a bagpipe band.
Patriarch Twal, a Palestinian who is a Jordanian citizen, has expressed concern for Christians in the current upheavals in the Middle East and asked them to support moves towards freedom and democracy.
His midnight homily urged "the return of calm and reconciliation in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa".
It reads: "O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future."
American visitor Irma Goldsmith told Associated Press: "I watch Christmas in Bethlehem each year on TV, but to be here in person is different. To be in the spot where our saviour was born is amazing."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attended the celebrations.
He said: "I wish for the Palestinian people that next year will be the year of implementing peace in the occupied Palestinian lands."
Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh also said he hoped the festivities would bring Palestinians closer to their dream of statehood.
HAVANA: Pope Benedict XVI prayed for freedom and renewal "for the greater good of all Cubans" before the nation's patron saint Tuesday, but the island's communist leaders quickly rejected the Roman Catholic leader's appeal for political change after five decades of one-party rule.
The exchange came hours before Fidel Castro confirmed that he would happily meet with Benedict before he leaves for Rome on Wednesday. Castro made the much-awaited announcement at the end of a short opinion piece posted on a government website late Tuesday, saying he had decided to ask for "a few minutes of his busy time."
Expectations of a meeting have dominated Benedict's three-day visit to Cuba, which culminates with a morning Mass in Havana's Revolution Plaza.
On Tuesday, Benedict had a 55-minute closed-door meeting with Fidel's brother, President Raul Castro, in which the pontiff proposed that Good Friday, when Catholics commemorate the death of Christ, be made a holiday.
There was no immediate response. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was natural for the government to take time to consider such a request, which followed on the Cuban government's decision to declare Christmas a national holiday after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit.
"It's not that it changes reality in a revolutionary way, but it can be a sign of a positive step — as was the case of Christmas after John Paul's visit," Lombardi said.
Asked if the pope raised the matter of political prisoners or Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba on spy charges, Lombardi said "requests of a humanitarian nature" came up, but he had no information about whether individual cases were discussed.
Benedict spent nearly twice as long with Castro as he normally does with heads of state, which Lombardi attributed to the pontiff's desire to get to know the man.
Days after dismissing the Marxist ideology on which the Cuban system is based, Benedict continued to gently press themes highly sensitive to Cuban government in his prayer and short speech at the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre near the eastern city of Santiago.
"I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans," the pope said. "I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty."
It wasn't long before a top official back in Havana responded.
"In Cuba, there will not be political reform," said Marino Murillo, Cuba's economic czar and a vice president.
The pope has kept his language lofty, his criticism vague and open to interpretation, but Murillo's comments left no room for doubt, and they were quickly picked up by pro-government blogs and on Twitter accounts.
Raul Castro has said that opening up Cuba's political system would inevitably spell doom for its socialist project since any alternative party would be dominated by enemies across the Florida Straits and beyond.
Alfredo Mesa, a Cuban-American National Foundation board member whose trip to Cuba was organized by the Miami Archdiocese, said the government's strong reaction would reinforce the pope's message and the need for change.
"I'd rather have them say this now than tomorrow," Mesa said.
During a quiet moment at the shrine of the Virgin of Charity, Benedict also prayed for more Cubans to embrace the faith in a country that is the least Catholic in Latin America. While most Cubans are nominally Catholic, fewer than 10 percent practice the faith.
The pontiff knelt before the crowned, wooden statue, which stood on a covered table shrouded in blue and white cloth. Helped by two bishops, the 84-year-old pontiff rose and approached the icon, lit a candle and stood in prayer as a choir sang hymns.
He called on all Cubans "to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials."
The pope pointedly referred to the Virgin by her popular name, La Mambisa, in a gesture to the many non-Catholics on the island who nonetheless venerate the statue as an Afro-Cuban deity. Mambisa is the word for the Cuban fighters who won independence from Spain at the turn of the last century.
In subtle ways, the pope has acknowledged a lack of faith in the island nation, and tried to make his trip appealing to potential believers. The visit is timed to the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the statue of the Virgin to two fishermen and an African slave in Cuba's Bay of Hipe.
Dunia Felipillo, 45, said she was proud to see the pope praying before the Virgin of Charity, even though she herself was not Catholic.
"We all ask favors of la Cachita," she said, using the Cuban slang for the Virgin, as she watched the ceremony on TV from the lobby of a Santiago hotel.
Benedict's frequent references to the Virgin also highlighted what the church shares with Cuba's nonreligious population, in contrast to his views that would spark more opposition, such as the church's position on divorce and abortion and his strong comments against Marxism.
Benedict has emphasized devotion to Mary throughout his Latin America trip, also making frequent reference to Our Lady of Guadalupe earlier in Mexico. But he has also warned the faithful in the past not to overdo it and forget that Christianity is about Christ.
Meanwhile, dissidents on the island say they still don't know the man who yelled "Down with the Revolution! Down with the dictatorship!" before the pope's Mass on Monday in Santiago.
Security agents hustled him away. Video of the incident showed him being slapped by another man wearing the uniform of a first-aid worker before security agents separated them.
"We do not know his name or his whereabouts, only that it was somewhat violent," said Elizardo Sanchez, head of a group that monitors detentions of government opponents.
He urged Cuban authorities, who have not commented on the incident, to identify the man.
Benedict seemed to walk with renewed vigor Tuesday as he greeted officials and clergy when his plane arrived in Havana. The previous evening, his spokesman acknowledged that the pope was fatigued from days of traveling in Mexico.
He was greeted on the tarmac by clergy, government officials and children who played music, danced and offered him flowers.
Ana Blanco, a 47-year-old Havana resident complained about people being told to attend a papal Mass on Wednesday in Havana, saying the pressure seemed odd in a country that in her early years taught her religion was wrong.
"Now there's this visit by the pope, and I don't agree with giving it so much importance or making anyone go to the Mass or other activities," the office worker said. "Before it was bad, now it's good. That creates confusion."
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who led a pilgrimage of about 300 mostly Cuban-Americans to the island for Benedict's visit, got a sustained standing ovation Tuesday when he gave a homily in a Havana cathedral packed mostly with Floridians. Wenski called for increased respect for human rights and political change on the island, while also warning against unbridled capitalism.
"The pope and the Cuban Church want a transition that is dignified for the human being, dignified for Cubans," he said in Spanish, repeating a theme he has spoken on in recent weeks. "The church wants a soft landing ... and a future of hope."
A Cuban exile group launched a flotilla of boats to park in international waters a little over 12 miles (20 kilometers) off Havana and set off fireworks to welcome the pope.
Havana has bristled at similar demonstrations in the past, calling them provocative acts that seek to violate its sovereignty.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in Havana receiving radiation treatment for cancer, sent his greetings to Benedict, but said there was no plan to meet with the pope: "They have their agenda. I'm not going to be interfering at all."
Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/22/pope-benedict-disputes-jesus-date-of-birth/#ixzz2D0bzMn3T
Pope Benedict XVI has revealed in the third installment of his trilogy, dedicated to the life of Christ, that Jesus may have been born earlier than previously thought. The calendar we use today, which commences with the birth of Christ and was created by a Dionysius Exiguus, a sixth century monk, may be mistaken. According to the Telegraph,the Pope explains in his book that Exiguus, who is considered the inventor of the Christian calendar, “made a mistake in his calculations by several years. The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before.” The suggestion that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25 has been tirelessly debated by theologians, historians and spiritual leaders, but what makes this case different is that now the leader of the Catholic Church is the one asking the questions.
Pope Benedict’s book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives,’ was published on Tuesday. Like the previous two installments, its predicted to be a bestseller, and a million copies of the book have already been printed. It is expected that the book will be translated into another 20 languages for publication in 72 countries. ‘The Infancy Narratives’ follows the life of Jesus from conception to his presentation in the temple at the age of 12. The Pope describes this third book as a “small antechamber” to the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth, reports the Vatican Press Office.
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Pope Benedict makes some arguably controversial statements in the book. He writes of how the Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was born when Herod the Great ruled in Judea. However, given that Herod died in 4 BC, Jesus must have been born earlier than Exiguus originally documented. Arguments surrounding Jesus’ exact date of birth have confounded scholars for centuries. Even the Gospel of Luke contends that the birth took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria in 6 AD.
The author takes the opportunity not only to dispute the date of birth of Jesus, but to reaffirm the doctrine of the virgin birth as an “unequivocal” truth of faith. Reuters writes that Benedict reminds his readers that sexual intercourse did not play a part in the conception of Jesus. He states that a belief in the immaculate conception of Christ is a “cornerstone of faith” and a sign of “God’s creative power.” “If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God,” the Pope argues. “But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation.”
Pope Benedict also examines the “question of interpreted history,” referring in particular to the attempts of the gospels, like Matthew and Luke, to make sense of events after they had occurred, notes Reuters. “The aim of the evangelists was not to produce an exhaustive account,” the Pope explains, “but a record of what seemed important for the nascent faith community in the light of the word. The infancy narratives are interpreted history, condensed and written down in accordance with the interpretation.”
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There have been countless interpretations of the birth, life and death of Christ throughout history. One such interpreter is Bill Darlison, former Unitarian church minister and current Vice President of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in the United Kingdom. Like others before him, he asks whether Christ was actually born on December 25th or whether perhaps he was born “on one of about 150 other dates which have been proposed down through the centuries. Was he born in Nazareth or in Bethlehem, and, if Bethlehem, was it Bethlehem in Judea or Bethlehem in Galilee?” He also argues that the spiritual birth, or immaculate conception, “is always a virgin birth, because it is not related in any sense (except symbolically) to physical birth.” Nearly a decade ago TIME asked the same question, with David Van Biema wondering if “one might be tempted to abandon the whole Nativity story as ‘unhistoric,’ mere theological backing and filling.”
The historical revisionism continues with the Pope raising the issue of the presence of animals at the birth of Christ. He reveals in ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ that “there is no mention of animals in the gospels.” This may come as a shock to the thousands of schools across the country currently preparing their nativity play. But Pope Benedict reassures his readers not to worry — that “no one will give up the oxen and the donkey in their Nativity scenes,” notes the Telegraph. Even if animals did not feature at the birth, the Vatican seems happy to keep up the myth as it presents an elaborate life-size Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square this Christmas.
‘Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives,’ is available in English and published by Image Books. It follows the first two books, which dealt with Christ’s adult life and death.