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'Justice has been served' – Bishop Conley on why he invited Bishop Finn to Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb., Feb 5, 2016 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln defended his decision to allow Bishop Robert Finn, former bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to take a position as chaplain of a community of religious sisters in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. saying that justice for his past negligence “has been served.”

“The Church in Lincoln is committed to serving and protecting our people,” Bishop Conley said in a Feb. 4 column in the Lincoln Journal-Star. “We will do that without further punishing those who have already met the demands of justice.”

In September 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese did not disclose that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City, in December 2010.

Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse and he retired from his position as bishop in April 2015.

“Because of serious acts of negligence under his leadership, Bishop Finn faced serious penalties,” Bishop Conley said.

“He faced a criminal court, and served the sentence he was given. He resigned his leadership position in the Church. He also accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has expressed sincere regret to those whom his negligence may have harmed,” he added.

In December 2015, Bishop Conley announced that he was inviting Bishop Finn to serve as a chaplain for a community of religious sisters who are long-time friends of his and who reside in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Allowing Bishop Finn to serve as chaplain for a community of religious sisters will in no way place him in “a position of authority, administration, or oversight.”

“He has a purely religious role, in an appropriate adult setting, which he has undertaken in humility,” Bishop Conley said. “Bishop Finn has not ever been accused of sexual abuse of children. His ministry as chaplain does not represent an issue for anyone’s safety.”

Since he became Bishop of Lincoln in 2012, Bishop Conley says that the safe-environment and child-protection policies in the diocese have undergone a “systematic review” from an independent review board made up of experts in criminal justice, psychology and education “to recommend enhancements to our background checks and training programs.”

He reassured parents that the Diocese of Lincoln is “fully compliant with the child-protection laws of Nebraska and the child protection policies of the Catholic Church.”

Some critics are angered by Bishop Finn being invited to spend his retirement in the diocese, which Bishop Conley said is “understandable,” especially for those who are themselves victims of sexual abuse or have relatives who are.

“Their pain is real, and the Church has an on-going duty to help them heal,” he said.

However, he added, Bishop Finn has paid for his negligence and justice has been served. To further punish him by refusing to allow him to spend retirement serving a community of religious sisters is not justice, “it is malice.”

“... those who have acknowledged and paid the penalty for past actions, who seek to serve in humility, and who pose no on- going danger to anyone, have a right not be harassed and disparaged once justice is served,” he said. “To do otherwise is not justice; it is malice. And it   is not worthy of our community.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has extended an invitation to meet with these critics, which has been turned down.

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com.

Pope Francis announces second soccer 'Match for Peace'

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2016 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Sitting alongside soccer stars such as Ronaldinho and Bryan Ruiz on Wednesday, Pope Francis announced that a second edition of his 2014 interreligious match for peace will take place in May.

“I invite you all to the Match for Peace. It will be here in Rome May 29,” the Pope said Feb. 3 at an event organized by the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes.

The soccer match is aimed at demonstrating “that we are capable of making peace with a game, with art,” he said, adding that he’s doing it “as a service.”

“One of the definitions of the Pope is to be the servant of the servants of God. That is why I am here, that is why I agreed to come,” Francis said, explaining that the intent of the game isn’t proselytization, but the good of the human person.

“I want to be very clear: what matters here is the human person. Man and woman have to be the center,” he said.

The first match for peace took place Sept. 1, 2014, at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, and was organized by retired Catholic soccer star Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, who was captain of the Argentine national team and of Inter Milan in Italy.



Zanetti, who had formed a close relationship with the Pope while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, pitched Francis the idea of organizing a sports event that brought together members of different religions.

Francis backed the idea, and charged Zanetti with organizing the match alongside the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. Scholas Occurrentes and Italy's PUPI Foundation were two other key organizers who helped put the match together.

Past soccer players who represent different cultures and religions, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Shintoists all participated in the event.

In addition to Zanetti, other well-known players who participated in the match were Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Simeone, Gabriel Heinze, Mauro Icardi; Colombian Ivan Cordoba, Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama; Chilean Ivan Zamorano; Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Toldo and Buffon Italian Gianluiggi and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o.

Pope Francis made his announcement for the second match at the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV for the World Congress of Scholas Occurrentes.

Scholas was founded by Pope Francis while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts, and sports.

In the course of the meeting, the organization presented three of its current programs: Scholas Arts, Scholas Sports and Social, and Scholas Citizenship, all of which promote the formation of youth.

The Pope was flanked by major soccer players such as Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, more commonly known as “Ronaldinho,” José María del Corral, Enrique Palmeyro, the president of the Spanish Soccer League Javier Tebas, and the new president of CONMEBOL.

Before heading out, Pope Francis offered brief reflections on the world of education to conclude the event.

'First in history' – Pope Francis to meet Russian Patriarch in Cuba

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2016 / 04:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- (This article was updated at 2:30p.m. Rome time with comments from Fr. Federico Lombardi)

On Friday the Vatican announced that while on his way to Mexico, Pope Francis will stop in Cuba to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in the first-ever meeting between a Pope and a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.
 
“The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow are pleased to announce that, by the grace of God, His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet on February 12 next,” a joint Feb. 5 press release from the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church read.


Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, will arrive to Havana Feb. 11 for an official visit to South America. His Feb. 11-22 visit includes stops in Cuba, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.
 
Pope Francis himself will arrive to Havana’s José Martí International Airport the next day while on his way to Mexico, where he will be on an official visit until Feb. 17.
 
The Pope will be greeted by both the Patriarch and Cuban president Raul Castro at the airport. From there, they will head to the presidential room of the airport, where Francis and Kirill will have a lengthy private conversation and sign a joint declaration.
 
In the press release, it was noted that the encounter is the fruit of “a long preparation,” and will be “the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches.”

Eastern Churches split with Rome during the Great Schism of 1054.
 
While Roman Pontiffs have met with other Orthodox Church leaders since, this marks the first time a Pope has met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch since the patriarchate was founded 400 years ago.
 
Both the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate expressed their hope that the meeting “will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will,” and invited all Christians “to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits.”
 
In a Feb. 5 press briefing on the encounter, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. told journalists that when Pope Francis arrives to Havana, he will be greeted with the usual protocol.
 
Among those present to greet the Pope when he lands will be Cuban president Raul Castro, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as the president of the Cuban bishops conference, Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba.
 
The private meeting between the two is expected to last “a couple of hours,” Fr. Lombardi said, noting that the time allotted for the encounter lasts from around 2:15-4:25p.m. Afterward, they will head to a separate room to sign a joint-declaration and exchange gifts.
 
Two interpreters will assist in the conversation: one in Spanish, and one in Russian. The declaration, however, will be drafted in Russian and Italian.
 
Once the joint-declaration has been signed and the gifts exchanged, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will each give short speech. The Pope will give his speech in Spanish, and the patriarch in Russian.
 
According to the Vatican spokesman, the speeches will not be long and complicated, but more like a “spontaneous expression of their feelings for this beautiful occasion.”
 
Delegations from both the Pope and the patriarch, consisting of roughly 10-15 people each, will be presented before Francis boards the plane again around 5:30p.m., bound for Mexico. Both Patriarch Kirill and Cuban President Raul Castro will see him off.
 
Fr. Lombardi said that while the stop in Havana has been added, Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico has otherwise not been modified, and he should stay on schedule.
 
Also present for the encounter in Cuba will be Hilarion Alfeyev, who currently serves as Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, is the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and is a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
 
In an interview with Corriere della Sera in June 2015, Metropolitan Hilarion hinted that a possible meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill could be close. He told the agency that “such a meeting is getting closer every day, but it must be well prepared.”
 
Fr. Lombardi confirmed that meeting between the two was “not improvised,” but has in fact been in the works “for a long time...a couple of years.”

The astonishing secret history of the Pope who fought Hitler

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2016 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Pius XII's secret support for the attempted overthrow of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is the subject of a new book that draws on wartime documents and interviews with the American intelligence agent who wrote them.

“This book is the truth – as best I could establish it in a number of years of research – about the Pope’s secret operations in World War II,” historian Mark Riebling told CNA Feb. 2.

“Its main premise is that Pius opted to resist Hitler with covert action instead of overt protest. As a result, he became involved in three separate plots by German dissidents to remove Hitler.”  

“I thought this idea – that the Church engaged in secret operations during the bloodiest years in history, in the most controversial part of its recent history – was not just a footnote; it was something worth pursuing,” he said.

Riebling tells this story in his book “Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler,” published by Basic Books in September 2015. A Spanish-language version will be published by publisher Stella Maris in February 2016.

In the late 1990s, debate over whether Pius XII did enough to counter the Nazis reached a high point with the publication of the deeply controversial book, “Hitler's Pope,” by British journalist John Cornwell. The book was highly critical of Pius XII, charging that he was culpably silent – if not an accomplice – in the rise of Nazism.

“If you read the fiercest critics of the Nazi-era Church, the major ones all concede that Pius XII hated Hitler and worked secretly to overthrow him,” Riebling said. “Yet they say this in their books in just a clause, a sentence, or a paragraph. To me, this episode merited more curiosity.”

“If 'Hitler's Pope' wanted to help rid the world of Hitler, what's the story?”

Riebling said there were several sources of inspiration for the book. During his Catholic upbringing, he learned the long history of the Church: in its first centuries, Christianity was an underground organization. In post-Reformation England, the Jesuits were involved in clandestine work.

This history prompted him to ask how a historian would document it and find evidence.
 
He also drew inspiration from the story of James Jesus Angleton, a famous U.S. intelligence officer who during World War II ran an operation to penetrate the Vatican for the Office of Strategic Services, the Central Intelligence Agency’s predecessor.

During research on his previous book, “Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA,” Riebling discovered wartime documents from Angleton's Rome section of the Office of Strategic Services.

“There were at least ten documents implicating Pius XII and his closest advisers in not just one, but actually three plots to remove Hitler – stretching from 1939 to 1944. These were typed up by someone using a very distinct nickname.”

That nickname, “Rock,” belonged to Ray Rocca. Rocca served as Angleton's deputy in Rome and for most of his later career. His career included responsibility for the Central Intelligence Agency's records concerning the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“So, here's a guy who had been in the Vatican; who had been charged with penetrating the Vatican; and who knew a thing or two about assassination probes. I thought: here’s an interesting guy to get to know,” Riebling said. Rocca did not violate his oath of secrecy, but his interviews with Riebling are among the book's sources.

According to Riebling, his book does not charge that the Pope “tried to kill Hitler.” Rather, the Pope’s actions were more subtle.

“Pius becomes a key cog in conspiracies to remove a ruler who is a kind of Antichrist, because good people ask for his help, and he searches his conscience, and he agrees to become an intermediary for the plotters – their foreign agent, as it were – and thereby he becomes an accessory to their plots.”

The historian described these actions as “some of the most astonishing events in the history of the papacy.”

Pius XII had connections with three plots against Hitler. The first, from October 1939 to May 1940, involved German military conspirators. From late 1941 to spring of 1943 a series of plots involving the German Jesuits ended when a bomb planted on Hitler’s plane failed to explode.

The third plot again involved German Jesuits and also German military colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Although the colonel successfully planted a bomb near the Nazi dictator, it failed to kill Hitler. The priests had to flee after the failed attempt. Those unable to escape were executed.

During his research, Riebling discovered that Pius XII secretly recorded the conversations held in his office. Transcripts of the Pope's talks with German cardinals in March 1939 show that he was deeply concerned that German Catholics would choose Hitler instead of the Church.

“The cardinals asked Pius to appease Hitler, so that German Catholics won’t break away and form a state church, as happened in Tudor England,” Riebling said.

“Pius heeded the German episcopate's advice. Instead of protesting openly, he would resist Hitler behind the scenes.”

Pius XII's agents provided the Allies with useful intelligence about Hitler's war plans on three occasions, including Hitler’s planned invasion of Russia. In all three cases, the Allies did not act on the information.

For their part, the Nazis regarded Pius XII with suspicion since his election in 1939.

“He worked hard to allay those suspicions, to minimize persecutions of German Catholics. But the Nazis never dropped their guard,” Riebling said.

At one point Hitler planned to invade the Vatican, kidnap the Pope and bring him to Germany. Leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler “wanted to have the Holy Father publicly executed to celebrate the opening of a new soccer stadium,” Riebling said.

“Pius became aware of these plans, through his secret papal agents; and, in my view, that influenced the Holy Father’s decision to become involved with the anti-Nazi resistance.”

For Riebling, the assassination plots against Hitler were an admission of weakness, “because it’s saying that we can’t solve the problem by some other means.”

“Knowing what I do about Pius XII, and having researched him for many years, I believe he wanted to be a saint. He wanted people in Germany to be saints,” he added.

“When he heard that a priest was arrested for praying for the Jews and sent off to a concentration camp, he said: 'I wish everyone would do that.'”

“But he didn't say it publicly,” the writer acknowledged. The Pope's words were made in secret in a letter to a German bishop.

“So I think what really happened here is: Pius XII wanted to lead a Church of saints. But had to settle for a Church of spies.”

Journalist with microcephaly slams abortion push in Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 5, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of the Zika virus outbreak in the Americas, one woman born with microcephaly – which is suspected to be linked to Zika – has said that what’s needed for those with the condition is assistance, not abortion.

Ana Carolina Cáceres, a Brazilian journalist, told the BBC's Ricardo Senra that microcephaly “is a box of surprises. You may suffer from serious problems or you may not. So I believe that those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.”

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, has been linked to recent cases of microcephaly, a disorder characterized by an abnormally small heads, and often delayed brain development. Since October 2015 Brazil has seen more than 3,600 suspected cases, and 404 confirmed cases (compared with 150 cases throughout 2014).

While the increase in microcephaly is not certain to be linked to the Zika outbreak, it is “strongly suspected,” according to the World Health Organization.

Brazil's ministry of health has recommended that women in areas in the path of the Zika outbreak delay pregnancy for the time being, prompting several group to renew a push for access to contraception and abortion in Brazil. The nation' health minister said Brazil would have a “damaged generation” because of microcephaly.

Cáceres told the BBC she would respond saying, “What is damaged is your statement, sir.”

She called herself “a fulfilled, happy woman” even though doctors told her parents she would never walk or talk and would enter a vegetative state until she died.

The 24 year-old decided to tell her story to the BBC to spread awareness that a microcephaly diagnosis should not be a death sentence.

“I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist.”

While acknowledging the problems of microcephaly – hospital bills were steep, operations were frequent, and she suffered seizures, which were managed with medication –  Cáceres emphasized that people with the condition can lead full lives.

Today she is a college graduate, a journalist, a blogger, and the author of a book about living with microcephaly. She decided to become a writer to “be a spokesperson for microcephaly.”

She added, however, that “I certainly know that microcephaly can have more serious consequences than the ones I experienced and I am aware that not everyone with microcephaly will be lucky enough to have a life like mine.”

But when she heard that activists pushing to legalize abortion in Brazil because of the Zika virus outbreak, she said she “felt offended and attacked.”

“I believe that abortion is a short-sighted attempt to tackle the problem. The most important thing is access to treatment: counselling for parents and older sufferers, and physiotherapy and neurological treatment for those born with microcephaly,” Cáceres said.

She recommended that mothers and expectant mothers stay calm, and that they get to know mothers of children with microcephaly.

“With the spike of microcephaly cases in Brazil, the need for information is more important than ever. People need to put their prejudices aside and learn about this syndrome,” she said.