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Masked men brutally attack priest in Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- A group of masked men entered the home of a priest in the Diocese of León in Nicaragua and savagely beat him in the early hours of Saturday, in a new direct attack against the Church in the country.

According to local media, unidentified men entered the home of Fr.  Abelardo Toval Ayesta, the pastor of Saint John the Baptist of Sutiaba parish in León, and struck him hard in the face and ribs, and even tried to suffocate him on Sept. 15

Fr. Victor Morales, communications director for the Diocese of León, told the media that “three people came in through the courtyard with faces masked, tied up (the priest), beat him badly and left him tied up. The stole several valuables from him.”

Following the incident, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, strenuously protested the attack.

“I deplore and condemn the brutal aggression inflicted today by masked men on Father Abelardo Toval, the pastor of Sutiava in León. The priest is in danger of losing an eye. My prayers for him, for Bishop Bosco Vivas and for all the clergy of the Diocese of León,” the prelate wrote on Twitter.

The Archdiocese of Managua reported on Facebook that “His Eminence Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Managua, has been in direct contact with Father Abelardo Toval of the Diocese of León.”

The cardinal expressed to the priest “his closeness and prayer concerning the violent situation he experienced this morning. (The cardinal) asks the faithful to continue to pray for all the priests.”

Amid Nicaragua's recent crisis, numerous churches have been desecrated and both bishops and priests have been attacked.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country's bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.


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

This 87-year-old woman feeds the homeless in Chile every week  

Santiago, Chile, Sep 18, 2018 / 12:06 am (ACI Prensa).- Every Wednesday night, 87-year-old Elena Donaire goes out onto the streets of Santiago, Chile, to meet the homeless and attend to their needs.

For 40 years, Donaire has taken part in the “Street Route” of the Hogar de Cristo (Christ's Home), an organization that includes numerous outreach programs and facilities to help the poor.

Donaire starts her evening by fixing sandwiches, boiling water and organizing the warm clothing that she will give to the people she encounters on the streets. When everything is ready, the volunteers leave in their van.

Donaire is often the first to get out of the van to begin serving. Many of the homeless people on the streets of Santiago know her and greet her by the affectionate title “Dear Mama.” The other volunteers call her by the nickname “Grandma.”

In an interview with the Archdiocese of Santiago's communications office, Donaire explained that her mission has its origin in her friendship with Saint Alberto Hurtado.

Known in Chile as Padre Hurtado, the Jesuit priest, author and lawyer founded Christ’s Home, a network of homeless shelters that also included trade schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities to serve the poor.

He was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Before Hurtado died in 1952, Donaire said she had “promised him to continue serving the people just as he did.”

“That's the biggest reason I have to continue helping – it's a joy for me,” Donaire said. “I am going out on the street until he calls me from above. I know that if he were alive, he would be here on the street helping along with me, I would like to be at his side.”

Remembering the Jesuit saint, Donaire said that “he didn't smile a lot, but when it was an occasion for smiling, he was always there with us. He enjoyed sharing with the people, especially the children, he treated them with such love and affection that it still moves me to this day to remember those moments. I have never met a person as good and committed as he was.”

For Donaire, who lives alone in a small house and works selling clothes in a street market, “It doesn't matter if it's raining, or cold, there are no excuses for not going out on Wednesdays.”

“I anxiously wait for [the other volunteers] to come and pick me up for the simple reason that I want to be with these people. I like them and they make me happy. I know their stories and they tell me them.”

She acknowledged that she sometimes feels bad that she cannot do more to help the homeless people she encounters on the streets.

“I know I am going home to a house, I'm going to get a good night's sleep, and I see that these people aren't going to,” she said.

Still, she stressed the importance of doing what one can to help those in need.

“Help your brothers on the street,” she encouraged. “Many times, it's enough just to talk with them, to listen to them, to find out how they are doing. I assure you that [they] feel happier just to share their troubles with someone. We all have commitments or things to do, but making an effort doesn't cost anything.”


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

Chilean priest guilty of abuse dismissed from clerical state

Santiago, Chile, Sep 17, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- Pope Francis has decreed, without recourse to appeal, the dismissal from the clerical state of Cristián Precht Bañados, who was found guilty of abuse of minors in 2012.

The Santiago archdiocese stated Sept. 15 that Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith, had notified the archdiocese that day of the Sept. 12 laicization.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found Precht guilty of abuse in 2012.

After Precht was found guilty, he was prohibited from “exercising priestly public ministry for a period of five years, leaving to the bishop the power to extend the indicated period for the time he considers appropriate,” according to a December 2012 statement of the Archdiocese of Santiago.

At that time, Precht was also put under a “prohibition from administering the sacrament of confession and giving spiritual direction young people and minors,” and was ordered to “live a life of prayer and penance.”

He was also required to obtain a place of residence approved by Church authorities and had to request permission to travel abroad. Failure to adhere to the norms could bring further sanctions, the archdiocese stated at the time.

The accusations against Precht, who is now in his late 70s, were made in 2011.

The result of the penal process established “the verification of the mentioned abusive conduct and agreement with the request to repeal the prescription, in consideration of the gravity of the reported incidents.”

Precht defended human rights during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinchot. He was one of the founders of the Vicariate for Solidarity, an institution created to aid victims of the regime.

He was also one of the founders, in 1991, of the youth ministry organization Vicariate of Hope for Youths.

Chilean officials have in recent months been raiding offices of Catholic institutions as part of an investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed by members of the Church.


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

Chilean officials raid four dioceses in sex abuse investigation

Santiago, Chile, Sep 15, 2018 / 04:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- As part of the investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed  by members of the Catholic Church in Chile, the offices of the Archdiocese of Concepción and the dioceses of Valparaíso, Chillán, and Osorno all raided on Thursday.

The Sept. 13 raids were carried out by prosecutors and police, and ordered by prosecutor Emiliano Arias.

Among some the cases being investigated, in the Archdiocese of Concepción Fr. Reinaldo Méndez is accused of rape, and in Valparaíso, Bishop Emeritus Gonzalo Duarte is being investigated over accusations of cover-up and abuse.

In Chillán there is a complaint against Bishop Carlos Pellegrín for an unspecified sexual crime.

In the Osorno case, the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Juan Barros, is being investigated for alleged cover-up of abuse perpetrated by the priest Fernando Karadima who in 2011 was found guilty of sexual abuse by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and sanctioned with canonical penalties.

In June, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of bishops Barros and Duarte.

The Archdiocese of Concepción explained in a statement that besides the raid of files and archives, statements were also taken from the Judicial Vicar, the Promoter of Justice, the Chancellor, and the Notary.

A prosecutor “was shown that copies of the files and related sought for information  had already been handed over to the Public Prosecutor. In any case, the original files were placed at his disposal,” the archdiocese said.

The raids are the latest in a series which have been carried out in recent months, including at the Santiago tribunal, the Chilean Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the dioceses of Rancagua, Temuco, Villarrica, and the military ordinariate.


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

Mexican bishops publish 'plan for building peace'

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 12, 2018 / 05:52 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops' conference published Tuesday the “Catholic Church's Plan for Building Peace,” in an effort to “redouble efforts and united action” against corruption and violence racking the country.

The goal of this plan, the bishops explained Sept. 11, is to “make known and assist in the coordination of all peace building efforts” undertaken by both Catholic and civil society organizations.

The bishops stated that building peace in Mexico will be a “pivotal axis” in their work of pastoral social ministry.

The plan will thus promote continuity in the work of caring for victims, the “workshops for forgiveness and reconciliation” will be reactivated, and strategies will be developed to care for the victims of human trafficking throughout the country.

The plan includes pastoral accompaniment and oversight for the work of the migrant centers and shelters spread throughout Mexico, working with prisoners, the care of orphans, preserving green spaces as common areas, and working with the media to get out messages that foster peace in the country.

The Mexican bishops also emphasized the importance  of “collaboration with the new administration elected in our nation in 2018.”

To that end, the Mexican bishops met Sept. 4 with president-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador and had a “fraternal and proactive” dialogue.

In statement released Sept. 5, the bishops indicated “the main items” covered in their meeting with López.

The first item was the president-elect's “presentation of the administration's program” for the country.

The second item discussed at the meeting was “mutual concern for attention to the pressing issues: poverty, migration, violence, corruption, impunity, life and religious liberty for all confessions.”
The possibility of establishing an ongoing open channel for dialogue with the government was also addressed.
Additionally, the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Franco Coppola met with López Sept. 10. Afterwards, foreign minister designate Marcelo Ebrard emphasized that one of the points in common with the incoming administration and the Catholic Church is “the search for peace in Mexico” as well as the effort to reduce inequality in the country.

Ebrard also noted that López “has met or will meet with almost all” the religious communities in Mexico “to invite them to participate in the peace process,” seeking to bring about “a conversation and common reflection on how we can achieve peace in Mexico.”

The next Mexican foreign minister also said regarding the position of the Vatican on the peace forums in Mexico “we are not expecting from the Holy Father more than his message and point of view. The Holy Father gives important messages every day.”

The Mexican bishops' conference has agreed to participate in these forums intended to lead to a National Reconciliation Pact.

In an Aug. 16 statement, the bishops said proposals coming out of these forums will provide input “to develop public policies that will allow progress in overcoming violence, building peace and national reconciliation.”

The “Catholic Church's Plan  for Building Peace” comes in the context of the July 1 presidential elections in Mexico. López won with 53 percent of the vote and his National Regeneration Movement party obtained majorities in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

López campaigned against corruption and violence, but he or his party have also expressed support for abortion, gay marriage, and assisted suicide.

Chilean civil court could get access to Vatican documents on Karadima case

Santiago, Chile, Sep 10, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santiago in Chile has requested that the country’s Court of Appeals send an “exhorto” or judicial request, to the Vatican Secretary of State, asking the Vatican to provide all available information about the abuses perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The request comes amid litigation following a lawsuit that has accused the archdiocese of covering-up Karadima’s actions.

“This request seeks to obtain all the information that may help determine the facts of the case,”  the archdiocese wrote in a statement.

In Chilean judicial proceedings, an “exhorto” is akin to a subpoena for documents or information.

In 2011, Karadima was declared guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican, which sentenced him to “a life of prayer and penance, also in reparation of the victims of his abuse.” In addition, the Vatican prohibited him from “the public exercise of any ministerial act, in particular confession or the spiritual direction of all categories of persons.” Controversially, he was not laicized.

In 2015, Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton, three of Karadima's victims, filed a lawsuit for “moral damages” against the Archdiocese of Santiago and requested the compensation of 450 million pesos (about $640,000) in addition to a public apology by the Church for the alleged cover-up of abuses.

In March 2017, after an investigation and more than 30 statements given, the Chilean court determined that there was no cover-up by the archdiocese and so dismissed the case.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling and the lawsuit is now being reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

Archdiocese of Santiago spokesman Nicolas Luco said in a recent statement that “the judicial proceedings have not shown any evidence of cover-up  as the lower court determined and for that reason it's important to discover any new evidence in this matter.”

On April 28-29, the victims of Karadima met with Pope Francis in the Vatican. Those attending said that “the pope formally asked forgiveness in his own name and in the name of the universal church.”


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


Dominican Republic pro-life march: 'Let’s save both lives!'

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 10, 2018 / 04:51 pm (ACI Prensa).- A pro-life demonstration in the Dominican Republic on Sunday voiced opposition to a bill to reform the Criminal Code that would open the door to abortion in the country.

Abortion is illegal in all instances in the Dominican Republic. However, the National Congress is considering an effort to legalize abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

Led by Archbishop Francisco Ozoria Acosta of Santiago, pro-life marchers gathered September 9 in front of the National Congress in the country's capital. Under the theme “Let's Save Both Lives,” the demonstration argued against the legalization of abortion, with speakers giving presentations from legal, scientific, and medical perspectives.

While the march was organized by the Catholic Church, large crowds of Evangelical Christians also participated.

The Archdiocese of Santo Domingo explained in a statement that “our obligation is to warn what will happen if abortion on three grounds [of fetal deformity, rape and incest] is approved.”

In other countries where abortion has been legalized on narrow grounds, the archdiocese said, “the culture of death groups demand that unrestricted abortion be approved, maternal mortality does not go down, neither do teen pregnancies.”

After the legalization of abortion, the archdiocese warned, “the rich countries will still be rich and the poor countries will still be poor. Our country would be no exception.”

The legalization of abortion in the Dominican Republic is being heavily promoted by international groups, including Planned Parenthood, Women on Waves, George Soros' Open Society, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Population Fund.

Other pro-life efforts are also in the works. An annual walk called “A Step for My Family” is planned for November this year. In addition, the CitizenGo international platform has collected more than 7,000 signatures demanding the Dominican Congress “pass without further delay the Criminal Code without the three grounds that seek to legalize abortion.”


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

Argentine abuse investigation involves priest previously reported to Pope Francis

Mendoza, Argentina, Sep 10, 2018 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- An Argentine investigation into clerical sexual abuse involves a priest previously accused of abuse in Italy, who was the subject of a 2014 letter to Pope Francis from sexual abuse victims concerned about his ongoing ministry.

The priest, Fr. Nicola Corradi, is a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy. The schools are named for Antonio Provolo, a nineteenth-century Italian priest who founded Corradi’s religious community.

He was arrested in 2016, along with another priest and three other men after at least 20 children claimed to have been abused at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, Argentina, according to the Associated Press.

A religious sister, Sr. Kosako Kumiko, was arrested in May 2017, and charged with facilitating and covering-up sexual abuse at the school. Some students claim that Kumiko herself committed sexual abuse as well. She has maintained her innocence.

Argentine police raided a Provolo Institute campus in La Plata last week, seizing documents as part of their investigation. The raid, which took place Sept. 6, seized documents and records that could pertain to charges dating back to at least 1987.

Corradi was first accused of sexual abuse in 2009, when 14 Italians reported that they had been abused by priests, religious brothers, and other adults at the Provolo Institute in Verona, during a period of time spanning several decades. After an investigation, five priests were sanctioned by the Vatican. Corradi, then living in Argentina, was among those accused of abuse, but was not arrested or otherwise sanctioned.

Pope Francis was notified directly of the allegations against Corradi in 2014, when former students of in the school wrote to him and Verona’s bishop, expressing concern that Corradi was living in Argentina and apparently still in priestly ministry.

They reportedly got no response from the pope, but they did receive a limited response from the Vatican. According to the Associated Press, Vatican official Archbishop Giovanni Becciu wrote to the group in 2016, saying that he had referred their request for an investigation to the Italian bishops’ conference.

In the same year, Corradi and others were arrested on the charges of sexual abuse made against them in Argentina. Pornographic videos and magazines, along with $34,000 in cash, were found in Corradi’s room at the time he was arrested, according to the Associated Press.

The Archdiocese of Mendoza told the Associated Press in 2016 it had been unaware of the allegations made previously against Corradi in Italy, saying it had not been informed about them by the priest’s religious community.

If convicted by Argentine prosecutors, Corradi could face up to 50 years in prison.

This is not the first case in which Pope Francis has been accused of inaction in response to reports about clerical sexual abuse.

In 2015, he was hand-delivered a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse victim, who accused Chilean Bishop Juan Barros of covering-up and participating in sexual abuse perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The pope continued to defend Barros, calling allegations against him “slander,” until a 2018 media firestorm led the pope to say that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” He accepted Barros’ resignation shortly thereafter.

Francis has not answered questions about whether he received to Cruz letter, or how he responded to it.

In August, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, former Vatican ambassador to the US, wrote a testimonial claiming that Francis had been aware of allegations that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually assaulted and abused seminarians and young priests. Viganò claimed that Francis lifted restrictions formerly placed on McCarrick’s ministry after receiving that information.

The pope has not yet spoken on that matter.


Chilean Senate passes bill allowing minors to change legal gender

Santiago, Chile, Sep 7, 2018 / 07:28 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Chilean Senate has passed a gender identity bill that would allow minors as young as 14 to change their name and gender in the civil registry.

The bill, which passed Sept. 4 by a vote of 26-14, will now go to the Chamber of Deputies, where it must be approved before becoming law.

The legislation defines gender identity as the “personal and interior conviction of being male or female, according to how one perceives oneself, which may or may not correspond with the sex and name as attested on the birth registration certificate.”

This “may or may not involve the alteration of appearance or bodily function through medical, surgical or other analogous treatments, as long as they are freely chosen.”

Under the bill, a minor between the ages of 14 and 18 could process the application through a family court and must have the approval of at least one of their legal guardians. Without that approval, the person must ask for the intervention of a judge to proceed with the change of name and gender in the civil registry.

Once the minor makes the change, they cannot retract it until they turn 18, the age of majority in Chile. Those over 18 can go through the legal procedure but will be unable to retract it.

Javiera Corvalán, a lawyer and the legislative coordinator for the Community and Justice association, said the bill has numerous consequences and gaps that were not considered in the debate.

For example, Corvalán said, a woman who is listed in the civil registry as a male, if sentenced for a crime, could not demand to go to the prison of her biological sex.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, the lawyer said that LGBT advocates had conducted a strong campaign through films, talks in schools, and media, which allowed them to change the population’s view on the issue.

However, Corvalán warned that if the law is passed, “a battle on the cultural level awaits us mainly in the schools and the family.”

Senator José García Ruminot agreed with the lawyer, saying that “complex matters have been treated that could greatly harm families.”

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

Chilean Church celebrates National Day of the Migrant

Santiago, Chile, Sep 6, 2018 / 02:07 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Church in Chile’s capital celebrated the National Day of the Migrant September 2 with a Mass of Thanksgiving and a charitable collection for the more than one million displaced people who currently live in the country.

In Santiago, Catholics of more than 20 nationalities gathered at Our Lady of Pompeii parish to celebrate the Eucharist and share their traditions. The parish is locally known as the “Latin American parish” because its members hail from many different Latin American countries.

Auxiliary Bishop Cristián Roncagliolo of Santiago presided over the Mass. He noted that the Church “is a migrant people which traverses the world and announces the Gospel, which constantly calls us to conversion.”

The bishop highlighted that in the midst of different charisms, gifts, nations and rites, “the unity of the Church comes through faith – we’re different but we are members of one and the same faith.”

In his homily, Bishop Roncagliolo encouraged those present to take up the challenge of working for communion, integration and welcome.

“In Chile in recent years, we have taken in a great number of migrants. For us Chileans, this is not just a sociological issue but an issue of charity, to help our brothers from different parts of the world feel at home,” he said.

After Mass, participants enjoyed more than 20 stands with typical food from different countries, cooked by migrants as a way to share their culture and thank the Chileans who have welcomed them.

As part of the observation of the National Day of the Migrant, a collection was held in all dioceses throughout the country, raising money for the Chilean Catholic Migration Institute, which assists migrants, primarily from Venezuela and Haiti.

The fund-raising campaign will last the entire month of September through online donations.

In neighboring Argentina,  the Church commemorated the Day of the Migrant and Refugee September 2 with a call to “welcome, protect, assist and integrate those experiencing this situation.”

The Argentine Bishops' Committee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People offered a series of online resources including Pope Francis' message for the 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and liturgical suggestions for the day.


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