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How Pope Francis is changing the shape of the Roman Curia

Pope Francis in April 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Aug 19, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

The new round of promotions and demotions in the Vatican is the consequence of two decisions recently taken by Pope Francis: Firstly, the publication of the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, which regulates the functions and tasks of the Roman Curia. And secondly, the publication of Traditionis Custodes. This motu proprio restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass after Benedict XVI had liberalized it.

As a result of the reform of the Curia, several priests who served in the Vatican’s dicasteries no longer have a position there. Others are called to leave Rome because they have completed the reform's five-year mandate, and their role has not been renewed.

On the other hand, the question of Traditionis Custodes is more complex. Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of the risk of "backwardness" (looking backward, in Italian 'indietrismo') and defended his decision to restrict the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) as a “necessity.” 

In other words, the pope argued he was restricting the celebration of the ancient liturgy to avoid what he sees as a tendency to go “backward.” This thinking appears to guide his choice of appointments in the Vatican.

In fact, these two criteria are dominating the reshuffle of the Roman Curia. 

Now, as we know, after Praedicate Evangelium came into force, Pope Francis did not immediately proceed with naming or appointing the heads of dicasteries.

For example, the Dicastery for Education and Culture is the result of a merger between the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture. The prefect of the Congregation is Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, while the President of the Pontifical Council is Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. Ravasi will turn 80 on October 18, while Versaldi turned 79 on June 29. Both are well beyond retirement age.

Not only has no successor been formally appointed yet. The responsibilities of the previous heads have not been defined, even if it is logical that Versaldi is the one who, for now, continues to lead the Dicastery.

Moreover, the secretary and undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education have ceased their office. Archbishop Vincenzo Zani is still waiting for a new position, while it seems that the undersecretary, Monsignor Friedrich Bechina, will be sent back to his home diocese.

That the undersecretaries are destined to return to their diocese seems evident from the fate of another undersecretary, Monsignor Matteo Visioli. 

Since 2017, Visioli has been Number 3 in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. With the reform, it was thought that Monsignor Visioli would be promoted to Secretary. Instead, the papal reform resulted in the appointment of two secretaries for the disciplinary and doctrinal sections, both taken from the ranks of the Dicastery: Monsignor Joseph Kennedy for the disciplinary section and Monsignor Armando Matteo for the doctrinal section.

On July 6, Monsignor Philippe Curbelié was appointed as undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the announcement, there was no mention of the fact  that he would take the place of Monsignor Visioli. Curbelié, among other things, was an official of the Dicastery of Culture and Education.

Monsignor Visioli has returned to his original diocese of Parma, where he was assigned to the post of the parish priest of Fornovo, a small town. His new post is a first effect of the reform: he does not stay in the Vatican for more than five years, and he returns to the diocese, to whatever post he may be assigned according to rank.

Given that for Visioli, there was insistent talk of promotion to Secretary of the Dicastery, his new position immediately made us think that the problem was not operational but ideological.

According to the generally well-informed traditionalist blog Messa in Latino, Visioli would not have been renewed because he was considered close to Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. In addition, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was involved in the official confirmation that blessing homosexual unions was not possible.

Archbishop Morandi was nominated bishop of Reggio Emilia last January, kicking off the profound renewal of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will soon see the appointment of a new prefect.

There is, however, a case of repression that would concern traditionalism. On May 7, Father Tait Cameron Schroeder was appointed office head of the Disciplinary Section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Schroeder, a priest and canon lawyer from the Diocese of Madison, was already working in the Congregation and had been promoted because he had handled the abuse cases of the English language desk very well. But the promotion never took place, despite being published in the bulletin. This news, too, was first reported by the Latin Mass blog.

According to a CNA source, Cardinal Ladaria called the promoted priest in, apologizing and hinting that the decision came from above — in other words, Pope Francis personally. There was a report that Father Schroeder had occasionally celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass for groups of pilgrims. This had only happened sometimes and never after the publication of the Traditionis Custodes. However, because of this, there seems to have been pressure by the pope for the Monsignor to resign from the post he had just received — which he promptly did.

While waiting for the Curia's organization chart to be finally completed and for all appointments to be confirmed or not, these episodes help to understand the criteria that may underlie some choices. In the end, when the term is five years, a transfer is effortless, and it can happen even for those officials whose mandate has just been renewed but who have already been in the Curia for more than five years.

A Priest and Martyr for the Faith: The cause for the beatification of Father Ragheed Ganni

Father Ragheed Ganni / Chaldean Patriarchate

Erbil, Iraq, Aug 19, 2022 / 02:40 am (CNA).

It has been fifteen years since the martyrdom of Father Ragheed Ganni, the Chaldean priest of the Holy Spirit parish and the secretary of the Bishop of Mosul, the martyr Archbishop Faraj Rahho. Father Ganni may soon be given the title ‘blessed.’ 

Father Ganni, considered one of the most influential martyrs of the Catholic Church in Iraq, was killed by fanatical terrorists on June 3, 2007, after celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul.

"Simplicity of spirit and zeal for the faith." These words were used to describe Father Ganni by the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bishop Bashar Warda, when he met him in 1997 in Ireland. Archbishop Warda continued: "When Father Ragheed was asked to volunteer to serve the pilgrims who came to pray and seek advice at the Shrine of Love Derg, he accepted the invitation and brought happiness and joy to all of our hearts."

Archbishop Warda stressed that the martyred Father Ragheed was very close to the youth. He always accompanied them and conducted activities that motivated them and helped them strengthen their spirituality and ecclesiastical knowledge. He added: "I have always admired his leadership and his closeness to them. He was a father, a brother, and an educator for all of them."

The life of Father Ragheed Ganni

Father Ragheed was born in Mosul in 1972, where he completed his university studies, graduating with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He had loved the Church since childhood and learned its liturgical rites and melodies. He decided to devote his life to the Church in the sacred priesthood. . Bishop Georgios Jarmo sent him to Rome in 1996 to begin his priestly formation journey. He studied at  the Irish Institute and continued his studies in theology at the University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

He had a strong desire to return to Mosul and serve the believers and members of his Church who were in tribulation due to the persecution of extremist Islamic groups since 2003. His wish was granted; he returned to  Mosul and committed himself to serving its people, in addition to teaching at the Babylon College of Philosophy and Theology, in 2004.

During this period, the city of Mosul suffered from campaigns of intimidation, kidnapping, and killing of Christians, in addition to bombing many churches and monasteries. Many people were forced to seek refuge and escape to other cities and villages in northern Iraq, and many families were forced to migrate to other countries, fearing for their lives and their faith.

These challenges were not an obstacle to Father Ragheed, who continued all pastoral activities, celebrated Masses in the various churches in his diocese, and provided moral and spiritual support to his church children even in the most challenging times.

Father Ragheed constantly said: "The terrorists want to end our lives, but the Eucharist gives us life. When I hold the cup of the Eucharist in my hands, I say: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. I feel His power overwhelm me. I hold the cup in my hand, but He is the one who holds me and us all, defying the terrorists and making us united in His boundless love."

He emphasized more than once in his conversation with those close to him that he would continue to spread the message that obligated him to be a missionary in the name of Christ, saying: "The terrorists think that they are killing us physically or scaring us spiritually with their brutal methods. Many Christian families have fled because of the abuses committed against them, but the paradox is that we have come to realize, through the violence of terrorists, that the dead and risen Christ gives us life. This gives us hope and helps us survive every day."

Mosul's Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit is known as the "Al Safina" Church. Rody Sher
Mosul's Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit is known as the "Al Safina" Church. Rody Sher

The martyrdom of Father Ragheed Ganni

The threats directed at Father Ragheed continued because of the various activities he led with the youth in the Church. His ministry angered the terrorist groups in Mosul, and death threats began to emerge.

On the third Sunday of June 2007, the terrorists arrested him after he celebrated the Divine Liturgy with three deacons: Basman Yusef Daoud, Waheed Hanna Isho, and Ghassan Essam Bidawid. At that time, the terrorists asked him: "Did we not ask you not to open the church for prayer?" He replied, "How can I close the House of God in the face of worshipers?"

These were the last words uttered by Father Ragheed Ganni, days before he became a martyr for  Christ and his Church.

The last prayer of Father Ganni 

Father Ragheed Ganni realized that the Islamic terrorists would not let him live, given his disobedience to their orders and his continued celebration of the liturgy in Mosul, so he wrote his last prayer on October 12, 2006:

"Lord, I don't think they will look at my prayer

Although it was a pessimistic prayer, everyone knew me as an optimist.

And perhaps, for a moment, they forgot. They wondered why I was so optimistic,

They have seen me smiling, braver and stronger in the most difficult situations.

But, when they remember the times of trouble I lived,

and the hardships I've been through,

The ones that showed how weak I am and how capable you are

You revealed how fragile I am and how strong you are,

They will know that I, my hope, have always spoken of you

Because I knew you, and you were the reason for my optimism

Even when I knew my death was near,

But let me be with you now,

May I please put it before you,

You know better than I what time we are living.

I am a human being and know how weak a person is.

I want you to be my strength so that I will not allow anyone to insult me in the priesthood that I hold.

Help me not to weaken and surrender myself in fear for my life

Because I want to die for you, to live with you and with you.

Now I am ready to meet you; help me not to lose time for trial

Because I told you that I knew man, but I also said that I knew you

Oh, my strength, my power, my hope."

Fresno bishop joins march for farmworkers’ union voting rights bill

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno speaks at a rally of the UFW march for a labor union voting rights bill in Calwa, Calif., Aug. 11, 2022. / Diocese of Fresno

Denver Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno joined the United Farm Workers last week for a portion of the union’s march through California’s Central Valley to support a union voting rights bill.

The more than 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento is in support of Assembly Bill 2183, the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act. The bill would allow farmworkers to use mail-in ballots for union elections.

The march passed through Fresno Aug. 11. Bishop Brennan, along with his predecessor, Bishop Armando Ochoa, joined the march at St. Anthony Mary Claret Church, and then spoke at a rally at Calwa Recreation & Park District, where Bishop Brennan also gave a blessing to the marchers.

“Our diocese is almost all agricultural land … and many people, many of the faithful here within our diocese,  people sitting in the pews, have some ties to farm workers or to agriculture,” Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Diocese of Fresno, told CNA. 

“Farmworkers here and their rights are very important because they're the ones who make the harvest happen for us.”

The Fresno diocese has long had warm relations with farmworkers, Marquez added. After the 1948 crash of a DC-3 killed the 32 persons aboard, most of whom were migrant farm laborers, the diocese covered their burial costs, and in 2013 aided in erecting a memorial with their names.

Regarding AB 2183, Marquez explained that “right now, the way the farmworkers vote [on unionizing] is on grower land, which could cause some intimidation, from performance supervisors and so forth. So this bill would actually just let them vote in the comfort of their own home without fear of that retaliation.”

He added that the California Catholic Conference “decided that they were going to support, back this bill to further the vote union voting rights of the farmworkers here in California.”

When the UFW was founded by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s, their marches “almost always led with an Our Lady of Guadalupe flag,” Marquez said. 

“And so because farmworkers are primarily Hispanic, and Catholicism is so prevalent within the Hispanic and Latino communities, the two, the Church and and the farmworkers, are kind of organically linked in that way.”

Each day, the march begins with Mass or a blessing from a cleric.

The march near Turlock, Calif., Aug. 17, 2022. United Farm Workers
The march near Turlock, Calif., Aug. 17, 2022. United Farm Workers

Elizabeth Strater, director of strategic campaigns at the UFW, told CNA that “with the diocese engaged, that's really inspirational to folks, and, you know, we've got everyone, from the low rider car folks to the Bishop Emeritus, it's really, a broad swath.”

She said 30 farmworkers had committed to walking the entire march, which lasts Aug. 3-26, and that daily numbers of participants vary widely from day to day, but that 250 or 300 were participating in the Fresno area. 

“A lot of people are coming and joining to march for one or two days, who will bring their families on the weekends, so it's fluctuating, but there's a steady growth,”she said.

A bill similar to AB 2183 was vetoed last year by Governor Gavin Newsom, who wrote to the state Assembly that it “contain[ed] various inconsistencies and procedural issues related to the collection and review of ballot cards.”

Strater emphasized the strength of community support that the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act has this year: “We have an incredibly mobilized amount of community support; the might of the California labor movement is behind us.”

She said hospitality workers had recently joined the march, and the UFW has re-affiliated with the California Labor Federation, which is now led by Lorena Gonzalez, a former Assemblywoman who was a a coauthor of last year’s bill.

“We really do want to be a part of this statewide solidarity that we're seeing from hospital workers, from autoworkers, from teamsters, to farmworkers who might really fold in with this … unified California Labor Federation.”

In meetings with Newsom’s office and Assemblymember Mark Stone, the UFW has been “able to just clearly communicate the ways that farmworkers are experiencing intimidation, they’re experiencing voter suppression, and much of the conversation that we've had has has been focused on how that voter suppression, how that fear, is preventing workers from being able to organize,” Strater explained.

AB 2183 is currently in the state Senate, and faces a third reading. The bill passed the Assembly in May.

Man arrested for burglary, property destruction at Catholic school in DC

Father Fred Close, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., blesses St. Anthony students after a blessing of the statue. / Courtesy photo

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2022 / 17:35 pm (CNA).

Police have arrested and charged the man believed to have vandalized St. Anthony School in Washington, D.C., last week.

The property destruction led to national outcry and support for a Catholic school celebrating its 100th year this fall. 

St. Anthony’s principal of 12 years, Michael Thomasian, believes the incident was a hate crime targeted at the school’s Catholic witness. The school serves grades Pre-K-8 in the Brookland neighborhood.

In a phone interview with CNA, Thomasian pointed out that the only objects destroyed in the attack were Catholic symbols of the faith.  

“Vandalism is always a violation,” Thomasian said, “but the devastation is elevated when sacred statues, symbols of our faith and Christian identity, are desecrated.”

“I don’t know what else to say, it was an act full of hate,” he added. 

The incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department said, in which 32-year-old Demitrius Hansford of Northeast Washington vandalized the school’s St. Anthony of Padua statue, stole $1,400 in cash, and trampled areas on the property in two incidents, on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15.

Hansford was charged with vandalism and theft Aug. 16.

The St. Anthony statue, which has been a fixture at the school for eight years, was toppled over in the attack. Statues of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph were also desecrated, in addition to Advent candles.  

The head of the St. Anthony statue broke off in the fall and is still missing, according to Thomasian. He told CNA that the school seeks the help of anyone in the community who may have knowledge as to its whereabouts, so that it can be returned and fixed. 

More than a statue 

How the statue came to the school was the result of one parent’s good idea and a search that ended with a blessing. 

Thomasian’s effort to move the school’s front entrance in 2014 was a major upgrade, with a new central location, small flower beds, and the American flag.

“But something was missing,” Thomasian reflected. When parent and neighbor Maria Jones suggested the school find a statue of its patron, St. Anthony of Padua, the search for the perfect one began. 

High-quality religious statues are expensive and often hard to find, but a local pastor, Monsignor Charles Pope from Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, gifted the school at just the right time. 

“I received word from [Msgr. Pope] that he had a wonderful statue that just needed his hand fixed,” Thomasian remembered. “Needless [to say], we found the money to fix the hand and transport St. Anthony to his new home. The children and I planted flowers and our pastor, Fr. Fred, blessed our patron.”

“An army” of support 

While the attacks on the St. Anthony statue and rest of the school property have been a big blow on the school, Thomasian says that “there’s been an army” of support and love from the surrounding community. 

Raquel Terry, a teacher and a parent of two students, started a Go Fund Me page to help raise funds for repairs and replacements following the vandalism. So far, supporters have donated more than $32,000, exceeding the goal. 

Thomasian says that the attacks have helped the school, church, and neighborhood family come together. “We were reminded of our identity and our mission and we re-commit ourselves to the work,” Thomasian said, adding, “our theme is ‘looking back with gratitude, looking forward with joy!’”

Meanwhile, the school has been cleaning up the grounds and getting ready for the start of St. Anthony’s 100th school year, which starts Aug. 29. 

“We’re very excited. A lot of schools are closed in the city, but we’re still open. We’re full and we’re thriving,” Thomasian added.

Journalist who reported on massacre of Nigerian Christians to stand trial for “cyberstalking”

Catholic journalist Luka Binniyat will stand trial on charges of "cyberstalking" after reporting on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria. / Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A journalist who wrote an article accusing the Nigerian government of failing to protect Christians threatened by armed militants was arrested and will be tried on charges of “cyberstalking.” 

Luka Binniyat, a Catholic human rights reporter, is facing prison after writing an article in which the Nigerian government was criticized for its inaction in the face of an ongoing threat to Christian communities.

In the article, Binniyat reported on charges that Kaduna State’s Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, had mischaracterized the massacre of unarmed Christians as a “clash” between villagers and herdsmen.   

Binniyat is set to stand trial before a Nigerian magistrate on Sept. 6. on charges of cyberstalking, aiding, and abetting the offenses of cybercrime, charges which he denies. 

Arrested for reporting on massacre

Binniyat told CNA that his arrest was based on a complaint filed by Aruwan, over an article titled, “In Nigeria, Police Decry Massacres as ‘Wicked’ but Make No Arrest,” that was published Oct. 29, 2021, in the Epoch Times.

In the article, Binniyat reported on the mass killings of Christians in two Southern Kaduna villages. In the community of Madamai, 38 Christians were massacred Sept. 28, 2021, by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen. A day later, in the Christian village of Jankassa, about three miles south of Madamai, armed herdsmen killed four villagers, according to Binniyat’s report.

The Nigerian official, Aruwan, issued a press statement the following day saying that the violence was the result of “clashes” between local villagers and herdsmen. The statement stirred resentment among Christians both in Southern Kaduna and in other Christian areas in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

Binniyat quoted a Nigerian senator who disagreed with Aruwan’s assessment that the massacre was a “clash” between villagers and herdsmen.

“The government of Kaduna state is using Samuel Aruwan, a Christian, to cause confusion to cover up the genocide going on in Christian Southern Kaduna by describing the massacre as a ‘clash,’” Senator Danjuma Laah, who represents Southern Kaduna Senatorial Zone in the Nigerian Senate, told Binniyat.

Suppression of the press

The arrest and upcoming trial of Binniyat, are an attempt to silence journalists who speak out about attacks on Christians in Nigeria, says Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University and a former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor during the Trump administration.

“No politician likes criticism, but most understand that a reporter’s job is to find the facts and report them honestly,” Destro wrote in an email to Catholic News Agency. 

“The stakes go up exponentially when a government is determined to hide the truth about official corruption by crafting an official political narrative or story that refuses even to acknowledge that certain problems exist. Poking holes in such official narratives can get you arrested — or worse,” he said.

Challenging the official “narrative”

Reporters such as Binniyat are challenging the government’s dominant narrative, Destro said. 

“In Nigeria, the official ‘narrative’ is that the massacres of Christians in their homes and churches are the result of ‘clashes’ between peaceful cattle-herders who have been displaced from their traditional grazing lands by climate change, and farmers who object to their farms, villages, and towns being overrun by cattle,” Destro said. 

“The reality is that Christians and other religious groups are attacked, without provocation or warning, by armed militants who kidnap, rape, plunder and kill. By calling these attacks clashes caused by climate change, the government simultaneously blames the victims, absolves the attackers, and has an internationally recognized excuse for doing nothing,” Destro added. 

The Nigerian government, he said, rather than simply not protecting Christians, seems to be aiding and abetting the Muslim militant groups attacking them.

“Even a little digging into the facts on the ground shows that the government doesn’t simply turn a blind eye to the violence, it actively favors the attackers, many of whom are from favored religious (Muslim) and ethnic groups (Fulani),” Destro told CNA.

“When viewed from an ethnic and religious perspective, those murderous rampages through the countryside begin to look a lot like more like an organized land-grab which is designed to push local ethnic and religious groups off their land so that the invaders can control both the land itself and the resources it contains,” Destro added.

“Nigeria’s official narrative – which is parroted by gullible foreign governments like the United States, the UK, and the EU, is that there is nothing to see here but peaceful herders and farmers who are clashing because of climate change,” Destro wrote.   

Binniyat and other members of the press need to be able to ask “who is supporting, financing, and protecting these criminals?” he said.  

Journalist fears for his life

Speaking to the press in August after his trial was stayed until Sept. 6, Binniyat said he feared for his life.

 “I am clearly a marked man, by the implication of my trial and I want the Kaduna state government to be held responsible should any harm come to me,” Binniyat said.

Human rights lawyer and Hudson Institute scholar Nina Shea says Binniyat’s arrest reveals the dire state of affairs in Nigeria.

“Kaduna’s Governor [Nasir El Rufai] has abjectly failed in his primary responsibility to protect every citizen in his state, and consequently we are now seeing a complete breakdown in the rule of law there,” Shea told CNA. 

“Instead, he presides over a situation where journalists, like Luca, reporting on lethal violence, are themselves threatened and dragged into court under a cyberstalking law wielded as a weapon by a state official who claims to feel threatened by the news report. Meanwhile, President Buhari stands idly by as large regions of what should be Africa’s most important country are taken over by terrorists, jihadists, and criminals,” she said.

Back-to-school in Uvalde means Catholic school scholarships for hurting families

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. / Catholic Extension

Denver Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The school shooting that rocked Uvalde, Texas continues to affect young children and their families. As these families try to recover, a Catholic charity with a longtime link to the area has funded 30 scholarships so that students may attend the local Catholic school.

“The tuition assistance means everything to my son and our family,” said Oscar Orona, whose son survived the school shooting. “My son has gone through a lot, and still has a long road to recovery ahead. At the very least, he deserves to go to a school where he feels safe.”

Catholic Extension is supporting 30 students who were affected by the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a city of about 15,000 in south central Texas 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

On May 24, an 18-year-old gunman entered the school and killed 19 children and two teachers. Another 14 children and a teacher were wounded. Sacred Heart Church hosted funeral Masses for 11 of the victims.

The Mass for 46-year-old teacher Irma Garcia also remembered her 50-year-old husband, Joe Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days after his wife’s death.

Eleven of the new students at Sacred Heart were wounded in the shooting. Their former school is less than a mile and a half away.

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension
The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension

Joe Boland, vice president of missions at Catholic Extension, was at Sacred Heart School on Monday, the first day of school.

“For many of these children, literally the last memory of being in a school building was an experience of a mass shooting,” Boland told CNA on Tuesday.

“We’re very encouraged by the kind of loving, joyful, faithful environment that they are creating at Sacred Heart School in Uvalde and it really gives us hope that it will be a place where these children can begin the long process of healing after the atrocities that they witnessed,” Boland said.

For more than a century, Catholic Extension has worked to serve Catholic parishes and communities in remote areas. It has deep roots in Uvalde. In 1906 the charity sent aid to build Sacred Heart Church and in 1912 it began to fund the construction of the school, which adjoins the church.

“When this horrible crime occurred Catholic Extension remembered its unique connection to the faith community,” Boland said.

Principal Joseph Olan of Sacred Heart School told CNA he wants the school to be a place “where all children will understand that the love for Jesus is the center of (an) academic journey.”

“My hopes for the school year is that our school culture continues to reflect a place of grace, unity, and love,” he said Aug. 17.

“My overall hope is that the students, families, and community understand that school is more than just a place for teaching and learning. It is a beacon of hope for the community, one that can also educate the heart as much as the mind,” the principal said.

The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension
The first day of school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Uvalde, Texas, Aug. 15, 2022. Catholic Extension

Boland praised the local community’s response to the shooting. 

“We are in awe of how the church there rose to the occasion to really accompany these families, who had experienced unimaginable loss and accompanied the entire community, who have experienced just trauma that is going to take many, many years to get over,” he said.

The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District permanently closed Robb Elementary School and has worked to disperse students to other public schools, though in this small district only four other schools serve primary grade students.

Catholic Extension learned that many families wanted to transfer their children to the nearby Catholic school, but they faced economic barriers. About 80% of the families of Uvalde are low-income households. At least 80 families in total might seek to transfer their students to the Catholic school.

Catholic Extension is asking for donations to its scholarship fund to help meet demand.

“We’re calling upon people to consider giving to the fund,” Boland said. 

The Teresian Sisters, formally known as the Society of St. Theresa of Jesus, have worked at the school for over a century.

With the support of Catholic Extension, sisters from other religious communities will assist them this year. Six additional religious sisters were scheduled to be at Sacred Heart School the first week of class to help provide emotional assistance to both students and teachers. They aim to provide spiritual comfort, peace, and solidarity. Over the next 18 months, about 100 religious sisters will serve Uvalde and the Catholic community in various ways.

“It was very powerful to see a group of Catholic sisters from a number of different congregations just be in the classrooms yesterday with the children,” Boland said. 

Olan, the school principal, described the sisters as “phenomenal.”

“Our students and staff truly enjoy their company, guidance and wisdom,” he said. “I have noticed that students look to them as mentors, role models, and as friends of Jesus!”

Boland said Catholic Extension wants the scholarship fund to provide an “avenue of healing” so that children and their parents “are going to be able to heal, move forward, and do so through the lens of their own Catholic faith.”

“It's a difficult, painful moment for this for this local community, especially the Catholic faith community that has been so much a part of the lives of the people there,” he said. For Boland, the commitment to helping these children and their families is “a proud moment for the Church.”

The Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of San Antonio are “going to continue to walk with these families for the long haul,” said Boland, who noted the presence of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio at Sacred Heart School’s opening Mass.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller summarized to Good Morning America his message for the schoolchildren: "God wants to bring everyone joy and glory in heaven. but it is not our time yet. So we need to carry on, and to carry on with joy, because our life has meaning.”

Like the local public schools, Sacred Heart Catholic School has announced efforts to upgrade security. All school supplies, including backpacks, have been donated for pre-K through sixth-grade students at the Catholic school.

The Chicago-based Catholic Extension, formerly known as the Catholic Church Extension Society, was founded in 1905 to help provide the sacraments and other aid to Catholics in remote areas. Today, the organization helps more than 15 million American Catholics. Its work includes grants to build churches and repair facilities. Catholic Extension also provides scholarships for emerging leaders and works to empower various ministries.

Spanish bishops stand in solidarity with Church in Nicaragua, persecuted by Ortega government

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa walks with other pilgrims to the Shrine of the Divine Child in July 2022. / Credit: Manuel Obando and Diocese Media

Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2022 / 11:29 am (CNA).

At least two Spanish archdioceses have expressed their support for the Church in Nicaragua, which is being persecuted by dictator Daniel Ortega, with messages of solidarity on social media, especially for the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez.

Spain’s primatial archdiocese of Toledo, said on Twitter  “We entrust the entire Diocese of Matagalpa (to God) in these critical moments and ask the Lord for the gift of fortitude for their pastors and lay faithful."

The message was sent commenting on a previous tweet from Bishop Álvarez himself: "Love one another as I have loved you." (Jn 15:12-27)

The recently named coadjutor archbishop of Granada, Spain, and apostolic administrator of Ávila, José María Gil Tamayo, expressed his “solidarity for the Church in Nicaragua, its freedom under siege by the dictatorship that governs the country."

The persecution of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been increasing for years. The bishops accurately warned of the dictatorial drift of the Ortega government as early as 2014. The bishops have decried the indiscriminate use of force by the regime in cracking down on the opposition, beginning in 2018 when it brutally repressed protesters demanding change.

Because the Catholic Church supported the demonstrators’ cause, the government ramped up the pressure on bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

The clearest example is that the former auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, is living in exile in the United States after it became known that Ortega’s government had very probably ordered his assassination.

The apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, was also expelled from the country in March of this year, with the Vatican expressing its “surprise and pain.”

“It’s incomprehensible since, during his mission, His Excellency Archbishop Sommertag has worked tirelessly for the good of the Church and the Nicaraguan people, especially the most vulnerable, always seeking to promote good relations between the Apostolic See and the Nicaraguan authorities,” the Holy See said in a statement.

In July, 18 Missionaries of Charity, whose congregation was founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were also expelled.

The bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, has been held under house arrest at the chancery along with five priests, two seminarians and three lay people since Aug. 4 and neither food nor medicine is being allowed in. The chancery is surrounded by police and is under aerial surveillance by drones.

A few days earlier, the Sandinista regime forcibly shut down the radio stations run by the diocese of Matagalpa.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking authorities of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa — and Álvarez in particular — of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the “purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities,” the press release continued.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced it has already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that “the people under investigation shall remain in their homes.”

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicaraguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power. The stolen switch has been replaced, restoring electricity.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Vatican will not take Cardinal Ouellet to trial for sex abuse allegation

Cardinal Marc Ouellet. / Daniel Ibañez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 10:11 am (CNA).

The Vatican said Thursday it will not hold a trial against Cardinal Marc Ouellet over allegations he sexually assaulted a woman.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, was accused of sexual assault in a civil suit filed this week against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

A Vatican spokesman said Aug. 18 that the conclusion of a preliminary investigation by Father Jacques Servais, SJ, found “that there are no elements to initiate a trial against Cardinal Ouellet for sexual assault.”

AFP reported that a class action suit, filed Aug. 16, includes the testimony of 101 people who say they were sexually assaulted by clerics or Church staff from 1940 to the present. Eighty-eight clerics face accusations in the suit.

Ouellet is accused by a woman who says that he assaulted her multiple times while she worked as a pastoral intern for the Quebec archdiocese between 2008 and 2010, while he was Archbishop of Quebec. She described him kissing her and sliding his hand down her back to her buttock.

The Vatican statement included a quote in French from Servais, the Vatican investigator, who said that “there are no grounds to open an investigation into the sexual assault of F. by Card. M. Ouellet. Neither in his written report sent to the Holy Father nor in the testimony via Zoom that I subsequently took in the presence of a member of the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee, did this person make an accusation that would provide grounds for such an investigation.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni added that “following further pertinent consultations, Pope Francis declares that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against person F.”

Australian Anglicans split over same-sex marriage

null / SunKids/Shutterstock.

CNA Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 09:38 am (CNA).

The Anglican Church in Australia has split over the question of whether marriage is only between a man and a woman and accusations that bishops are out of touch with grassroots Anglicans. 

The Diocese of the Southern Cross was officially launched in Canberra on Sunday, and former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies was named its first bishop.

“I think you’ll see the Diocese of the Southern Cross will have a significant impact,” the 71-year-old told the Sydney Morning Herald, saying many Anglicans felt the Australian church had strayed from the teachings of the Bible.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Adelaide Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, labeled the move as “perplexing” in a statement published Thursday.

A meeting of the General Synod “held in May this year clearly affirmed the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, and declined to affirm same-sex marriage,” Smith said. 

“It is perplexing, therefore that the leaders of this breakaway movement cite the reason for this new denomination as the failure of General Synod to explicitly express an opinion against the blessing of same-sex marriages.”

However, an attempt by the Sydney archdiocese to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman was narrowly voted down at a synod in May, prompting warnings of the risk of a schism.

Notably, the statement upholding the traditional view of marriage was passed by the house of the laity by 63 votes to 47 and by the house of clergy by 70 votes to 39. But the bishops exercised their veto power by rejecting the statement by 12 to 10, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Two bishops abstained.

This led to accusations that bishops were out of touch with grassroots Anglicans. 

Tasmanian Anglican Bishop Richard Condie, who supports the new Diocese of the Southern Cross, told the Herald Sun on Aug. 17 that disaffected Anglican clergy and laypeople who “can no longer sit under the authority of their bishop” would be drawn to the new diocese.

Deep divisions over a statement on banning same-sex marriage emerged recently at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England. 

The worldwide Anglican Communion, including its American branch, the Episcopalian Church, has been in tension over same-sex marriage issues for years. 

In 2009, former members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, disaffected by those communities' liberalization on homosexuality, formed the Anglican Church in North America.

Like the breakaway group in Canada and the Church of Confessing Anglicans founded in 2019 in New Zealand, the new, nationwide diocese in Australia is aligned with the Global Anglican Future Conference.

According to the 2016 census, 3.1 million Australians identified as Anglicans, making it the second-largest Christian denomination in that country; the largest is the Roman Catholic Church.

Why the Vatican's Secretariat of State is set to face a trial in the UK over the London property deal

The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. / Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2022 / 07:31 am (CNA).

Can a department of the Vatican, a sovereign state, be forced to defend itself in a British court? Following a ruling by the British Court of Appeal, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State is set to face a trial about the purchase of the Sloane Avenue building in London — in a lawsuit brought by the businessman Raffaele Mincione.

The ruling also means there can now be a parallel case to the Vatican’s “trial of the century” — in which the same Mincione is defending allegations of financial crimes, including embezzlement and money laundering.

The London deal 

First of all, a quick recap: In 2014, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State entrusted Mincione with money which was then intended for a real estate investment in London: A former Harrod’s warehouse at 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea was to be turned into a luxury property.

After four years, the Secretariat of State decided to remove the management of the property from Mincione and entrust another businessman with the project, Gianluigi Torzi.

Subsequently, the Secretariat of State decided to take complete control of the property. This, however, is a different aspect of the saga, and one the Vatican trial is also dealing with. 

In July, the Vatican finally confirmed the sale of the property — incurring a loss of about 140 million euros, according to Reuters. 

What does the appeal sentence mean?

The British Appeal Court’s sentence states that Mincione can bring his claim against the Vatican.

A lower court had suspended any decision on the matter until the trial held in the Vatican was concluded. Mincione appealed. And the appellate court has determined that the case in the UK can go ahead. 

Furthermore, it appears that the Secretariat of State must also pay the legal costs of the appeal, which are said to amount to 200 thousand pounds. 

The ruling of the court opens up new scenarios. First, it should be remembered that the Secretariat of State is called into question, not the Holy See or the Vatican City State. Therefore, this is not a procedure that affects the sovereignty of the Holy See.

However, it is a procedure that involves a crucial process element: Mincione can resort to English law because, in the contract with which he sold the management of the London property, it was clearly stated that the contract exclusively fell under English jurisdiction.

According to English commercial law, in this specific case, the Secretariat of State is an entity, one of the parties of a contract, and therefore must comply with the commercial laws defined in the contract. 

In technical terms, we are dealing with iure gestionis (private law) and not iure imperi (law of the acts of the public power).

Was the Secretariat of State neutral? 

Mincione appealed the first sentence because he wanted the validity of the stipulated contracts to be recognized first, which was also important in the context of the appeal sentence.

The English judges found the decision of the Secretariat of State to appear as a civil party in the Vatican trial meant the Secretariat of State was not a neutral party.

Justice Peter Jackons wrote, in an opinion that found agreement with the other two justices, Males and Birss, the lower court’s judge's conclusion on what he described as the Secretariat's" central argument therefore "was mistaken.”

Waiting for an end to the Vatican trial would serve no useful purpose, therefore.

The appeal ruling also denies the Secretariat of State the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary, thus effectively closing the matter and giving the green light to another trial. 

What is more, within 28 days, the Secretariat of State will also have to pay a deposit for the costs of the appeal.

Some open questions to deal with

The English sentence does not enter into the merits of the charges and the trials. The criminal trial underway in the Vatican will eventually rule whether there have been illegal actions or not. 

The appeal sentence indicates that "a starting point may be (although this will be for the Commercial Court to decide) to consider what was the true value of the Property at the relevant time. The essence of the case against the defendants in the criminal proceedings, so far as they concern the Transaction, is that the Secretariat's interest in the Property was acquired for a price very substantially greater than the Property's true value ".

According to the English judges, "that should be a relatively straightforward issue to determine, with disclosure of documents relating to the Transaction and the benefit of expert valuation evidence which is readily available to both parties in this jurisdiction. If the Secretariat paid the market price or thereabouts, it obtained an asset that was worth what it paid and (at any rate so far as the Transaction is concerned) would not appear to have any valid grounds for complaint. On the other hand, if it paid substantially more than the market price, that would, in the absence of some convincing explanation, constitute strong evidence of corruption. "

However, the English Court of Appeal ruling leaves several questions open.

The first: If the contracts were valid, then what is the trial in the Vatican about? The question will have to be defined because if there are contracts, and everything has been done according to them, then it becomes difficult even to prove a possible deception against the Secretariat of State or extortion.

The second: We know from the testimony of the trial that the negotiation in which the management of the Sloane Avenue estate was transferred from Mincione to Torzi without a lawyer appointed by the Holy See. It had been a decision of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the administration of the Secretariat of State, who had emphasized how Torzi was serving the interests of the Holy See at that juncture. The contract, however, was signed by him, and the contracts were authorized at the highest level. Why, then, are neither Monsignor Perlasca nor the heads of the Secretariat of State involved in the process? 

These questions will probably be answered in the continuation of the Vatican trial, whose next hearing is set for Sep. 28.