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Cardinal Pell, professing innocence, will face charges in Australia

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming his innocence after being charged with sexual abuse, Australian Cardinal George Pell said, "I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court."

"I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," he said June 29 during a brief news conference in the Vatican press office.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Pope Francis had granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence from his position as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy so that he can work on his defense.

Cardinal Pell, Burke added, will not participate in any public liturgies while his case is being considered.

"These matters have been under investigation now for two years," Cardinal Pell told the press. "There's been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination, and for more than a month claims that a decision on whether to lay charges was imminent."

Without giving specifics about the number of charges or the incidents, police in Australia's Victoria state announced June 29 that charges had been filed against the cardinal and that he has been called to appear in court July 18.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters June 29, "Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offenses and there are multiple complainants relating to those charges."

Patton also told reporters, "It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have obviously been tested in any court yet."

"Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process and so therefore it is important that the process is allowed to run its natural course," Patton added.

In his statement, Cardinal Pell said he had kept Pope Francis informed "during these long months" when police and the Australian media were talking about the possibility of charges being made.

"I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week, I think most recently a day or so ago," Cardinal Pell said of Pope Francis. "And we talked about my need to take leave to clear my name, so I'm very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia."

Cardinal Pell said he had spoken to his lawyers about the timing of his return to Australia and also had consulted his doctors about the trip.

In February 2016, Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse allowed Cardinal Pell to testify by video link from Rome because a heart condition prevented him from traveling to Australia.

A year ago, in July, allegations surfaced in a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. featuring several people who accused Cardinal Pell of sexual assault; at least one of the accusations had been found to be unsubstantiated by an Australian court in 2002. Some accusations dated to the late 1970s, when Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat, Australia.

Speaking to reporters at the Vatican June 29, the cardinal said, "All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations. News of these charges strengthens my resolve, strengthens my resolve. And court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work."

When the allegations surfaced last year, Cardinal Pell dismissed them as "nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign," and a statement issued by his office said that "claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong."

In October, Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding the accusations.

While Burke, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the Vatican respects the Australian justice system, he also said people should remember that Cardinal Pell "has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and, as a bishop, "introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, in a statement released shortly after the cardinal's news conference, said, "Many people will be shocked, as I have been, by the news that Victoria Police have issued charges against Cardinal George Pell in relation to sexual abuse allegations."

"Cardinal Pell has repeatedly and vehemently rejected these allegations and insisted that he is completely innocent," the archbishop said. "He will now have the opportunity to put his case in court and is determined to clear his name."

"The George Pell I know is a man of integrity in his dealings with others, a man of faith and high ideals, a thoroughly decent man," the archbishop added.

Archbishop Fisher said the Archdiocese of Sydney will "assist with the cardinal's accommodation and support, as it would for any of its bishops or priests" as the legal process unfolds, however, he said, "it is not responsible for the cardinal's legal bills arising from these matters."

"Where complaints of abuse are made, victims should be listened to with respect and compassion and their complaints investigated and dealt with according to law," Archbishop Fisher said. At the same time, "no one should be prejudged because of their high profile, religious convictions or positions on social issues."

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Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Cardinal Pell, professing innocence, will face charges in Australia

Fresh from consistory, new cardinals greet family, friends

Taking 'vital coverage' from those in need 'unacceptable,' says bishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuter

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Senate must reject any health care reform bill that will "fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people," said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation's health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a letter to U.S. senators released late June 27.

He urged senators to reject such changes "for the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system."

A day earlier, Bishop Dewane issued a statement saying that the loss of affordable health care under the Republicans' proposal was "simply unacceptable."

The Senate released its Better Care Reconciliation Act in "discussion draft" form June 22. In an analysis of the proposal aimed at replacing the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

In response to that report, Bishop Dewane said June 26 that "this moment cannot pass without comment. ... As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable. These are real families who need and deserve health care."

On the afternoon of June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced senators will not act on the bill until much later in July. News reports said McConnell and others determined they did not even have enough votes to begin debate on the measure. Senate leaders had hoped to vote on it before the July 4 recess.

In his letter to senators, Bishop Dewane reiterated initial concerns outlined by the USCCB when the draft was first released, namely that any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy "to improve real access" to health care for immigrants.

Loss of coverage "will be devastating" to the people who can least afford it at a time "when tax cuts would seem to benefit the wealthy" and when increases in defense spending are being contemplated, he said in the June 27 letter.

The U.S. bishops do "value the language" in the Senate bill that recognizes "abortion is not health care," he continued, and it at least partially succeeds on conscience rights. But he said it needs to be strengthened to fully apply "the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill."

Bishop Dewane said the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act "is a slight improvement in limited ways" over the House version passed in May, called the American Health Care Act. "Overall, however, those enhancements do not overcome the BCRA's failure to address the needs of the poor," he said.

One part of the bill cuts the federal government's share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The bill also would defund Planned Parenthood for one year under the bill.

In his earlier statement, Bishop Dewane criticized the "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, "would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported."

In other reaction to the Senate measure, 300 Sisters of Mercy voiced their strong opposition to the Senate proposal in a statement issued June 27 from Buffalo, New York, where they gathered for the religious congregation's chapter meeting.

"Health care for all, especially the most vulnerable is one of our enduring concerns," said Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. "The Sisters of Mercy have a legacy of advocacy for health care as a right, as well as providing care to generations of people. If the proposed legislation passes, health care ministries, social service agencies, and services for the elderly and family members will be impacted and suffer."

The Senate measure also drew opposition from the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. In a letter to senators June 26, Dominican Sister Donna Markham urged senators to reject the bill and "craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respect human life and dignity."

The bill in its current form "will have a devastating impact on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our country," Sister Markham wrote.

While welcoming provisions in the bill to protect human life and increase flexibility to states in paying for health care, "a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful," her letter said.

"It is deeply shameful that instead of improving our health care system, the bill provides tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year while at the same time demanding dramatic cuts or eliminating programs which help those most in need and most unlikely to afford health care," it added.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope tells new cardinals to serve people, tackle sins

Pope tells new cardinals to serve people, tackle sins

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinals are not called to be "princes" of the church, but to serve the people of God and tackle the sins of the world, Pope Francis told five new cardinals.

Jesus "calls you to serve like him and with him, to serve the father and your brothers and sisters," the pope said as he created five new cardinals from five nations June 28.

The new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica were: Cardinals Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, 67; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal -- in his new red robes -- went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal's ring, a red skullcap and a red three-cornered red hat. The crimson hue the cardinals wear is a reminder that they must be courageous and faithful to Christ, his church and the pope to the point of shedding blood, if necessary.

They also received a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing the name of their "titular church" in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope's diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals visited retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens.

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Mark's account of James' and John's pride and ambition to have a position of power and be honored, and how the other disciples reacted with angry jealousy (Mk 10:32-45).

Jesus corrects his disciples, explaining that pagan leaders are the ones who lord their authority over their people, and "it shall not be so among you." The pope said the cardinals, as leaders like Christ, are there to be slaves and serve others.

The Gospel reading, he said, shows how Jesus asked his disciples to "look at reality, not let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects."

The reality is always the cross, he said, and the sins the cardinals must face today include: "the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps, which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included."

Jesus "has not called you to become 'princes' of the church, to 'sit at his right or at his left,'" the pope told the new cardinals. "He calls you to serve like him and with him."

The evening before he was to enter the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Arborelius had just picked up his new red vestments, but had not had a chance to try them on. "I hope they will fit," he said.

The Swedish cardinal told Catholic News Service that about 450 people from Sweden had planned to travel to Rome for the consistory, including the leaders of the Lutheran, Syrian Orthodox and Baptist churches in Sweden. The Catholic contingent included a large group of Chaldean Catholics who emigrated from Iraq to Sweden. But, he said, there also was a big group of Salvadorans living in Sweden who were traveling to Rome to celebrate the red hat of Cardinal Rosa Chavez.

The Salvadoran auxiliary bishop was a friend of and mentored by Blessed Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980. The new cardinal's loyalty to the memory of the Blessed Romero and to the memory of his country's sufferings is reflected in his coat of arms, which features a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero" also means rosemary, a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, and a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor.

When Cardinal Omella was asked how his life would change as a cardinal, he told reporters, "I think the tree is already fully grown. I will hardly change, I will be the same person."

"I don't see the cardinalate as major upgrade, of importance or climbing up to some honorable position," he said. "What is asked of me now is a greater service to the church, but in the way taught by Pope Francis, who goes to wash the feet of prisoners."

Serving the people of God and society, Spain's new cardinal said, "demands dying to one's self; it is difficult to be available every day, but it must be done with generosity."

Cardinal Ling experienced persecution first hand. After Laos became a communist nation, he set off -- without government permission -- to preach the Gospel in small villages and in prisons, according to his Vatican biography. He was arrested in 1984 and accused of "making propaganda for Jesus."

The new cardinal was imprisoned for three years, "with chains on my arms and my legs," he said.

But being a prisoner was "an apostolate," he said. "My presence (in prison) was necessary for my conversion and purification and also for that of others."

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 225 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome, and Rhina Guidos in Washington.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope: Society needs labor unions and needs them to be inclusive

Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are called to detach themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as "persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest," he said June 28 during his weekly general audience.

In fact, "Christians find repugnant the idea that suicide attackers might be called 'martyrs' because there is nothing in their purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God," who are called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

High temperatures and scattered sprinkles prompted the pope to tell guests in the Vatican audience hall that he was about to head outside to a "Turkish bath."

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all "mirages of easy success," the pope said, and he warned his disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God would come at a high price as "you will be hated by all because of my name."

"Christians love, but they are not always loved," the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, it is "normal" that Christians are expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by "poverty," he said, noting how Jesus talks to his disciples more about "stripping" themselves than about "getting dressed."

"Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself, does not resemble Jesus," he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he added.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned his disciples that he was sending them "like sheep in the midst of wolves." They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent his people into the world like himself, as sheep -- without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons -- Pope Francis said. In fact, "true defeat" for a Christian is to succumb to the temptation of responding to the world's resistance and hatred with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst of times.

Persecution, then, doesn't contradict the Gospel, it is part of its very nature, because if the Lord was hated and persecuted, the pope said, "how can we ever hope that we should be spared this battle?"

Yet, "in the great midst of the maelstrom, Christians must not lose hope, believing they have been abandoned," he said.

Christians know that in their midst, there is always a divine power greater than all evil, "stronger than the Mafia, murky conspiracies, (stronger) than those who profit off the lives of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance," he said.

On the eve of the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and Paul and just a few hours before he was to create new cardinals whose red robes symbolize martyrdom, Pope Francis underlined the real meaning of martyrdom in his catechesis.

"Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of fidelity to the Gospel" and with love, which is the highest ideal in Christian life, he said.

This, the pope said, is the strength that animates and sustains people facing so much hardship: knowing that "nothing and no one can separate them from God's love given to us in Jesus Christ."

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

In Washington, Salvadoran diaspora in awe of first Salvadoran cardinal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Octavio Duran

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As El Salvador's first cardinal receives his red hat June 28 at the Vatican, he will have the eyes of his flock at home but also of the Washington area, home to approximately 260,000 Salvadorans -- one of the largest communities of Salvadorans outside of the Central American nation.

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez has been a pastor, not just inside El Salvador, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Moises Villalta.

For years, he has frequently visited Salvadorans abroad, including many who were forced to flee their native country during its civil conflict from the late 1970s until the early 1990s, said Father Villalta, a native of El Salvador and pastor at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington. He has tried to learn about the diaspora and even spent time teaching some expats and their children El Salvador's national popular spiritual hymn, which is an ode to Christ as "savior of the world."

"He has come (to the United States) to listen, to strengthen our faith ' to be a pastor and representative of the Salvadoran church for those of us who live abroad. ' He has known how to guide us," said Father Villalta, who, like many of his Salvadoran parishioners, fled El Salvador during the war..

The priest is serving as the cardinal-designate's personal secretary during the consistory at the Vatican, or formal meeting of the College of Cardinals meeting, that will yield El Salvador's first cardinal and four other new cardinals for the church.

Salvadorans in Washington's Catholic circles were happy and in awe when they heard in the early morning May 21 the news via social media that the man who has often visited them would be named a cardinal, said Father Villalta.

"You could feel the joy of the Salvadoran community in the exterior," he told Catholic News Service. "It was such a great honor. At Mass, you could tell in people's faces ' the pride."

And El Salvador needs good news. In 2016, it was named the world's most deadly country outside a war zone because of its homicide rate, with rampant gangs terrorizing the citizenry, driving many to seek refuge abroad. Even before gangs were a problem, the country's citizens suffered during a 12-year civil conflict that included the 1980 assassination of the country's Archbishop Oscar Romero, a friend and mentor of the cardinal-designate.

Trinitarian Father Juan J. Molina, director of the U.S. bishops' Office for the Church in Latin America, said in naming as a cardinal the man who for many years has served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, the church recognizes his fidelity to the Gospel but also singles out an example of justice and solidarity that Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez expressed in his loyalty to the memory of Blessed Oscar Romero.

"He did so in a time when that was not appreciated ' and did it at a personal cost. For the Salvadoran diaspora, that's very important," said Father Molina, who is originally from El Salvador. "We cannot leave behind the ideals of the Gospel wherever we are just because we want to be accepted and recognized."

Sonia Marlene Aquino, a Catholic Salvadoran living in Washington, said the cardinal-designate has set an example, not just for Salvadorans but for the rest of the church. However, there is a certain degree of pride that such a "testimony of love" comes from her native country, she said.

"His humility is like the fertile land in our beloved El Salvador," she said. "Good fruit has been obtained through his prayers, perseverance and love for the people. His works, especially toward those who are most in need and marginalized, are testimony to what Jesus asks of each of us."

During the country's sufferings, including the war, natural disasters, and now the gang problems, he has known how to stay calm and close to the suffering of his flock, said Aquino.

Some of that suffering is reflected in the new cardinal's coat of arms, which features a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor, and a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero," the last name of the slain archbishop, means rosemary.

His motto is "Christ is our peace," and peace is something the new cardinal stands for at a critical time in El Salvador, said Father Villalta.

"The Salvadoran society very much needs a conciliatory person who helps the different factions to reconcile and to forgive, " he said. "It's not just a slogan, but he really is a person who has peace and can bring forth peace. ... There is a lot of talk about peace in El Salvador, but in reality, we do not have it."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]