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Pope Francis appoints Spanish layman as secretary general of Vatican's economy office

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:28 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed a Spanish layman with a long career in finance economics to the number two position in the Secretariat for the Economy.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 60, is from Merida, Spain, but has lived in the United States since 2007, where he is vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company.

As secretary general, Caballero joins prefect Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, who has led the Vatican’s economy office since January.  

Guerrero and Caballero are childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News Aug. 4 they were close friends through university and have remained in contact.

Caballero will start as secretary general in mid-August, according to Vatican News. He has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

“When Father Guerrero called me and proposed this project to me, a long list of reasons why I could not accept passed through my head,” Caballero told Vatican News.

He said his two adult children will remain in the United States, where they are working, and his wife of 31 years will move to Rome with him.

“My wife, Immaculada, and I, knew from the first moment that God’s call comes in many different ways, and this was ours. Therefore, there was only one response: ‘fiat,’” he said.

Caballero said the laity “have a very important task to carry out within the Church. We are all members of the same body and we all have our mission.”

“My experience and my work are my ‘talents,’ and I hope that with them I can do my part to collaborate in the economic transparence of the Holy See,” he stated.

The Feast of Saint John Vianney – a model for priests

Ars, France, Aug 4, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- The patron saint of priests, St. John Vianney, died Aug. 4, 1859. A century later, Pope John XXIII reflected on the life of the saint, and what it means to be a holy priest.

In contemplating the life of St. John Vianney, one immediately thinks of a priest who lived out great penance, and whose “only motives were the love of God and the desire for the salvation of the souls of his neighbors,” John XXIII said.

The saintly pope reflected on the life of Vianney in an encyclical titled Sacerdotii nostri primordia. The encyclical was written in 1959 for the 100th anniversary of Vianney’s death.

After struggling with his studies, St Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Shortly afterward, he was assigned to Ars, France, near his hometown of Dardilly.

There, he spent a majority of his priesthood. He was noted for his dedication to the poor, his counseling to those in need, and for founding La Providence, an orphanage for girls.

The saint was well-known for his dedication to the Sacrament of Penance. He would make himself available for confession for up to 16 hours daily.

In his encyclical, Pope John XXIII called St. Vianney a model of priestly holiness.

“[The priest] is no longer supposed to live for himself…He must be aflame with charity toward everyone. Not even his thoughts, his will, his feelings belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life,” he wrote, quoting a sermon from Pope Pius XII.

“St. John Mary Vianney is a person who attracts and practically pushes all of us to these heights of the priestly life,” John XXIII further added.

The pope highlighted the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which he said Vianney exemplified.

“His example in the various works of priestly asceticism still points out the safest path to follow, and in the midst of this example, his poverty, chastity and obedience stand forth in a brilliant light,” the pope said of Vianney.

“What great benefits are conferred on human society by men like this who are free of the cares of the world and totally dedicated to the divine ministry so that they can employ their lives, thoughts, powers in the interest of their brethren!”

Pope John XXIII said St. Vianney, who was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, clearly lived a life of poverty. He noted the saint’s heavy mortifications – restraining himself from food, sleep, and other personal belongings. 

“This detachment from external goods enabled him to offer the most devoted and touching care to the poor,” said the pope.

“He passed a life that was almost completely detached from the changeable, perishable goods of this world, and his spirit was free and unencumbered by impediments of this kind, so that it could always lie open to those who suffered from any kind of misery.”

Similarly, Pope John XXIII wrote, the preservation of chastity breaks the restraints of self-interest and grants a person greater dedication to those in need.

“St. John Mary Vianney has this pertinent comment to make in this regard: ‘A soul adorned with the virtue of chastity cannot help loving others; for it has discovered the source and font of love –God.’”

The pope also pointed to Vianney’s dedication to the virtue of obedience. The saint, he said, had desired a contemplative life rather than the heavy burden of pastoral duties, but he still remained obedient to the bishops.

“All his life he longed to lead a quiet and retired life in the background, and he regarded pastoral duties as a very heavy burden laid on his shoulders and more than once he tried to free himself of it,” the pope said.

While God never allowed him to achieve this goal, it was certainly God’s way of forming the saint in the virtue of obedience, he said.

He also highlighted Vianney’s prayer life and devotion to the Eucharist, as well as his commitment to the Sacrament of Confession.

Pope John XXIII said Vianney “habitually restrained his own will” to further dedicate himself to the Church. He expressed hope that this fire for the Church which consumed Vianney may also consume all priests.  

“It is said that St. John M. Vianney lived in the Church in such a way that he worked for it alone, and burned himself up like a piece of straw being consumed on fiery coals. May that flame which comes from the Holy Spirit reach those of Us who have been raised to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and consume us too.”


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 3, 2018.


Ahead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing anniversary, USCCB prays for peace

CNA Staff, Aug 4, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).-  

Just days ahead of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the president of the U.S. bishop’s conference mourned the loss of innocent lives in the attacks, lamented the long-term suffering caused by the bombs, and prayed for peace among nations.

“My brother bishops and I mourn with the Japanese people for the innocent lives that were taken and the generations that have continued to suffer the public health and environmental consequences of these tragic attacks,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a July 30 statement.

The world's only wartime uses of nuclear weapons took place in 1945's Aug. 6 U.S. attack on Hiroshima and Aug. 9 U.S. attack on Nagasaki.

The Hiroshima attack killed around 80,000 people instantly and may have caused about 130,000 deaths, mostly civilians. The attack on Nagasaki instantly killed about 40,000, and destroyed a third of the city.

Pope Francis has spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons multiple times, including during a November 2019 visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?” Pope Francis asked Nov. 24, 2019 in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. “May the abyss of pain endured here remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed. A true peace can only be an unarmed peace,” he added.

Since St. John Paul II’s visit to Japan in 1981, the Catholic Church in Japan has annually observed Ten Days of Prayer for Peace beginning Aug. 6.

The U.S. bishops’ conference Committee for International Justice and Peace issued a statement on July 13, encouraging Catholics in the United States to join Japan in prayer by offering intentions of peace at Mass on Sunday, Aug. 9. The committee has also compiled resources for further reflection, study and prayer for the occasion on its website.

In his July 30 statement, Gomez noted that the bishops of the U.S. “join our voice with Pope Francis and call on our national and world leaders to persevere in their efforts to abolish these weapons of mass destruction, which threaten the existence of the human race and our planet.”

“We ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace, to pray for the human family, and for each one of us. Remembering the violence and injustice of the past, may we commit ourselves to being peacemakers as Jesus Christ calls us to be. Let us always seek the path of peace and seek alternatives to the use of war as a way to settle differences between nations and peoples.”

Obama alum running for Congress denies defrauding progressive Catholic group

Denver Newsroom, Aug 3, 2020 / 07:15 pm (CNA).-  

A former board member of a progressive Catholic political advocacy organization said Monday the group’s former executive director, who is now vying for a Congressional seat in Tennessee, defrauded the organization and eventually left it bankrupt.

“I’m speaking publicly now, with very little interest in scoring points. I’m simply here to speak on the record, to establish a fact pattern, to help explain to the public the disappointing experience I have had with Chris Hale,” said James Salt, a former board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, in a livestream announcement Aug. 3.

Hale told CNA Monday night that “the idea that I drove the organization into bankruptcy or defrauded it is just fundamentally not true. I kept the organization going.”

Hale is running in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District. His opponent in that race, Noelle Bivens, hosted a livestreamed event with Salt on Monday evening, after local media reported that Hale is accused of misusing email lists from his former employer to fundraise for his own benefit.

Salt said the political advocacy group, which aimed to advance Democratic candidates and policy initiatives by appealing to Catholics, was financially and legally harmed by Hale’s leadership of the organization.

“My job is simply to be on the record saying he did a great disservice to everyone who has worked with him.”

After Hale was hired as executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in 2013, Salt said, “we began to see a pattern of Chris obfuscating and avoiding any kind of accountability.”

Eventually, Salt said, Hale lied about filing financial records, and once told colleagues he was having surgery, which was apparently not true, in order to excuse missed work.

Hale was fired from the group in 2017, Salt said, and the group was dissolved. Hale disputed that he was fired, saying he left on good terms with the board, because he was ready to “move on and have different adventures in life.”

He is accused of leaving with the organization’s mailing and email donor lists, and using them after he was fired to fundraise for an initiative he started later that year, called The Francis Project.

According to documents obtained by the Murfreesboro Voice, Hale was asked repeatedly to stop using those lists for fundraising, but continued to do so as late as December 2019.

In a Jan. 24 letter to Washington, D.C’s attorney general, Lawyers for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and the related Catholics United organization, said that The Francis Project was not actually a non-profit, but was instead a trade name connected to a Washington, DC for-profit corporation incorporated by Hale, and registered as “Christopher Hale.”

Catholics United said in its letter it was concerned that Hale’s previous affiliation with the group, “which supported policy initiatives consistent with Catholic social teachings, could mislead email recipients to believe they are making tax-deductible contributions to the Organization directly or to a similar religious nonprofit group.”

The group asked the District of Columbia’s attorney general “to review this matter and take all steps necessary to investigate and stop Mr. Hale from continuing his deceitful and fraudulent fundraising tactics.”

“Mr. Hale’s dishonest actions undermine the values of integrity and trust that are crucial in the charitable fundraising process,” the group said.

Hale told CNA Monday night that he did not take any lists from the organization. Rather, he said, he came in with a mailing list obtained from work he'd done before he was hired at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and he'd been told when he was hired that he would retain ownership of that list.

He said that was the mailing list he used for his next project, The Francis Project, that he only added personal contacts after he began working at Catholics in the Alliance for the Common Good, and there were no addtions from his former employer's database.

Hale said he made that agreement with Fred Rotondaro, who as chairman of the board at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hired him. Rotondaro died in June 2017.

The Francis Project, Hale said, is “a small group of folks trying to build an advocacy group focused on young Catholics, millennial Catholics, in public life. It never really got feet under it because there was no one who wanted to do it full-time.”

Hale said the Francis Project sent out newsletters and spiritual reflections, and did “advocacy work, petition work especially, on particular issues of Catholic social teaching in the context of the Trump administration.”

“It was never intended to be a full-fledged group with wings beyond doing its humble work of putting out the newsletters, the daily reflections, some educational trainings and some targeted petition and advocacy work on particular issues that were of importance in Catholic social teaching.”

“We never filed as a non-profit because we never were a non-profit. We did advocacy work. None of our donations were ever considered tax deductible because they weren’t,” he added. Hale said that solicitations from the group did not suggest or imply that donations would be tax-deductible.

Hale said that he would consult with legal counsel, in response to a request from CNA to review the financial records of The Francis Project.

“It is a private organization, it is not a public non-profit.”

An archived version of the Francis Project website makes requests for donations, and opportunities to sign up for various mailing lists, including those mentioned by Hale.

Bivens, his primary opponent, said Monday night that she does not know if Hale will remain in the race. While she acknowledged that some in the district have voted already by mail, “going into a general with Chris Hale as the nominee would be a nightmare.”

Hale told CNA he has no plans to leave the race.

“With over 3,300 donors, 300 volunteers, 900 signs in voters’ yards, and top supporters in every precinct in this community, we are running the strongest grassroots campaign rural Tennessee has ever seen. We didn’t just out raise Congressman DesJarlais by a record-breaking 5:1 margin, we out organized him 100:1. The voters of Tennessee are hungry for a new Congressman who’ll bring hospitals, health care, good jobs, living wages, and generational change to Tennessee.”

“I’m going to win this this election on Thursday and then on November 3.”

Hale ran for Congress in the same Congressional district in 2018, but lost in the Democratic primary. He has been projected by some political observers to win the 2020 primary, but is generally not projected to unseat the district's incumbent Republican congressman. The district is heavily Republican, and has been represented by physician Scott DesJarlais since 2011. DesJarlais won nearly 64% of the vote in the district’s 2018 election.

Hale said that he believes Salt's motivations for making allegations against him are purely political.

“I have become a pinball in a battle. But also, James Salt is a Bernie Sanders supporter. He’s a good man, he is a far-out Bernie Sanders supporter. My opponent is also a Bernie Sanders supporter,” Hale said, noting that allegations against him came just days before his primary election against Bivens.

“We’re three days out from an election. If this was such a contentious and bombshell legal issue, why is James waiting until three days before the election and then doing so in the context of a press conference with my opponent?”

Hale also told CNA Salt's denunciation of him is ”intensely personal” and said that Salt was jealous of the work he had done with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He also said he had faced challenges with Salt because they differed on policy, and that there was division within the organization over worldview and strategy.

The candidate is cofounder of the Millennial Journal, and worked in 2012 as part of the Catholic outreach team in the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama.

Salt himself has been involved in controversy surrounding Catholics United.

Ahead of the 2012 election, Salt, then-executive director of Catholics United, said in a letter to pastors of Florida Catholic churches the group had recruited a network of volunteers to monitor election-related speech in churches for reputed illegal political activity. Local Catholic leaders said this appeared to be “an attempt to silence pastors on issues that are of concern to the Church this election season.”

Eventually Florida’s bishops urged pastors not to sign a pledge circulated by the group to “keep politics out of the pulpits.”

Salt previously served in faith outreach for the Kansas Democratic Party and did messaging work under then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a staunch pro-abortion rights advocate. Salt served on the 2012 Democratic Party Platform Committee.

Catholics in Alliance and Catholics United, which effectively merged in 2015, were both founded in the wake of then-Sen. John Kerry’s defeat in the 2004 presidential election campaigns. This loss was in part attributed to the failure of Democrats to sway religious voters.

In 2008 then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput charged that Catholics United had “confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”

Catholics in Alliance itself received at least $450,000 in funding from the Open Society Foundations, then known as the Open Society Institute, from 2006 to 2010. An internal foundations document from 2009 cited the group’s key role in influencing Barack Obama’s controversial 2009 Notre Dame speech, and praised its campaigns that “broadened the agenda” of Catholic voters to see abortion as just one of several election issues.

Catholics United also received funding from the Gill Foundation, founded by savvy LGBT strategist and millionaire Tim Gill. The group was listed as a partner on the website of the Arcus Foundation, which has funded dissenting Catholic groups and other religious organizations to advocate on LGBT issues as well as for stricter limits on religious freedom.

Ahead of the 2016 elections, Wikileaks posted 2012 emails apparently involving Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, at a time of significant Catholic controversy over mandatory health plan coverage of contraception.

Podesta’s email responded to Sandy Newman’s suggestion of a “Catholic Spring” revolution within the Church which, in Newman’s vivid words, “Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”

Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, replied: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”

According to Open Society Foundations internal documents from 2009, the departure of Catholics in Alliance co-founder Alexia Kelley to join the Obama White House left the group “without strong leadership.” Kelley eventually became president and CEO of the influential philanthropy consortium Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.


This report was edited at 8:55 Mountain Time to include comments from Christopher Hale.



Citing impact of COVID, Camden diocese suspends participation in abuse victim fund

CNA Staff, Aug 3, 2020 / 05:21 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey said July 31 it will suspend its participation in an independent compensation program for minor victims of clerical abuse, citing a “precipitous decline in revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“[The diocese] is fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program,” the diocese said in a July 31 statement.

The five dioceses of New Jersey announced in February 2019 the creation of the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) for victims of sexual abuse as minors by clerics in the state.

The Camden diocese began its participation in the program during June 2019. Although awards to victims already made by the program’s administrators will be paid, the diocese is instituting a moratorium on further determinations or awards, it said.

“These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs that the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves which, now more than ever, are so essential,” the statement continued.

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement through the IVCP, an abuse victim cannot then pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements are funded by the dioceses themselves.

“The program provides victims with an attractive alternative to litigation,” a statement from the IVCP read announcing its creation, adding that it would give abuse survivors a “speedy and transparent process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.”

The Camden diocese did not respond to CNA’s request for further details about the diocese’s financial situation.

Victims’ compensation experts Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros administer New Jersey’s IVCP program. Feinberg and Biros have also been involved in the creation of compensation programs for abuse survivors in New York and Pennsylvania.

Among these programs, the IVCP is unique in being a statewide program that involves every diocese agreeing to follow the same compensation protocol.

The program does not handle claims of sexual abuse involving adults, including seminarians.

In its July 31 statement, the Camden diocese said it has paid financial settlements of more than $10 million to abuse victims since 1990.

Elsewhere, the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania suspended payments to its independent compensation program in April, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus.

John Hume remembered as Northern Ireland's great peacemaker

CNA Staff, Aug 3, 2020 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Retired politician and Nobel laureate John Hume, a major leader in the effort to secure peace in Northern Ireland, died Monday at the age of 83. Many leaders in the region praised his success in responding to one of Europe’s longstanding conflicts.

“I was leader of a great team of people, all of whom have been totally committed to peace and stability on our streets, and all of whom have done everything in their power, as I’ve said repeatedly, have spilt their sweat, not their blood, to bring about peace and stability on our streets,” Hume said in his 2001 speech in which he resigned as leader of the heavily Catholic and nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.

He is the only person to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Ghandi Peace Prize, and the Martin Luther King Award. Some have compared to him Martin Luther King, Jr., including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the Irish broadcaster RTE News reports.

In 1998 Hume and David Trimble, leader of the strongly Protestant Ulster Unionist Party, were joinly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Northern Ireland, secured under the Good Friday Agreement.

“Too many lives have already been lost in Ireland in the pursuit of political goals. Bloodshed for political change prevents the only change that truly matter: in the human heart,” Hume said in his Nobel Lecture in Oslo in 1998. “We must now shape a future of change that will be truly radical and that will offer a focus for real unity of purpose: harnessing new forces of idealism and commitment for the benefit of Ireland and all its people.”

Trimble, a former first minister of Northern Ireland, credited the success of the Good Friday Agreement because of its architecture and process for making right decisions. He praised Hume’s trust in the effectiveness of a bottom-up approach.

He recounted that the laureates and their allies came together to celebrate after the Nobel Prize ceremonies.

“When the ceremony was over and we retired to the hotel, we found that hotel was assuming that the one party would be in one room and the other party would be another room,” Trimble told the PA news agency.

“We said no, we’re going to relax and celebrate the achievement together with all our companions that had come with each of the parties there.”

In prior decades, Hume’s outreach to paramilitary groups and to politicians could be deeply controversial, especially his outreach to the illegal Irish Republican Army’s political wing Sinn Fein in the 1980s. He also sought to gain allies among American politicians and Irish-American leaders to move towards peace in a conflict that had killed some 3,000 people.

Hume’s 1994 meeting with then-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein led to a key declaration committing to democratic, peaceful means to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Though a 1994 ceasefire broke down in 1997, a second ceasefire begun that same year led to multi-party talks at Stormont, the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The talks were chaired by U.S. Sen. George Mitchell (D-New Mexico) and led to the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998.

Conflict in Northern Ireland dates back centuries, but its 20th century framework was set in 1921-22 with a treaty that partitioned the island of Ireland into the six counties of Northern Ireland and the 26 counties of the Irish Free State. Irish nationalists were themselves riven by bitter civil war after the treaty and the partitioning, though the 26 counties later became fully independent in the late 1940s as the Republic of Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, differences between nationalists who backed a unified Ireland and unionists who supported the United Kingdom split strongly along religious lines, and Protestants tended occupy a place of social and economic privilege. In the 1960s, Catholics began to push strongly for civil rights, voting rights, police reform, and an end to discrimination. Tensions turned violent in 1968, after civil rights demonstrators faced violent opposition from their opponents, police inaction, and even violence from the violence.

The period known as The Troubles featured riots, violent attacks, bombings and retaliation from Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups, as well as involvement from the Royal Ulster Constabulary police, intervention from the British military, and mass internment of civilians.

Hume, taking inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr., sought a peaceful resolution.

He had entered the seminary at Maynooth but did not pursue the Catholic priesthood. He became a French teacher and married his wife Patricia in 1960. He founded Derry’s Credit Union and at the age of 26 became national president of the Irish Credit Union Movement, RTE News reports.

Hume became a civil rights leader to help Catholics secure equal rights and housing.

This led him to politics. He was elected to the Parliament of Northern Ireland as an independent in 1969, but became a founding member of the SDLP the next year. The parliament was suspended in 1972 because it could not maintain order in The Troubles. Hume would later be elected to the restored Northern Ireland Assembly, then serve in the European Parliament from 1979 to 2004, and the U.K. Parliament from 1983 to 2005.

Benedict XVI in 2012 named him a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great, recognizing “his outstanding services to Catholic social teaching in the area of peace.”

In his later years he suffered from dementia and memory problems. He died Aug. 3 after a brief illness at a nursing home in the Northern Ireland city of Derry, also known as Londonderry.

“It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: We shall overcome,” said his family in a statement about Hume’s death.

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said Hume was “one of the greatest peacemakers and champions of social justice of our time.”

“He dedicated his life to the welfare of this community, at no small cost to himself. His name became a byword for dedication to the cause of peace, whatever the obstacles or criticisms,” he continued. “His first- hand experience of injustice and violence and his broad European vision emboldened him to persevere in building bridges and friendships.”

Noting Hume’s seminary discernment, McKeown said Hume “always retained that strong Christian sense of being called to be a peacemaker.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, who comes from Derry, said he was “hugely influenced” by Hume.

“For me, like many other pupils of Saint Columb’s College, John Hume was considered one of our heroes and role models. When I went to study for the priesthood at Maynooth I was happy to know that he too had once been a seminarian for the Diocese of Derry,” the bishop said Aug. 3. “But John’s vocation was to serve God and his community as a layman, and he totally devoted his energies to that vocation – to relieving poverty, challenging injustice and providing decent living conditions for all.”

“Later, as a priest working in Derry, I came to know John as a man whose convictions were rooted in a deep faith, in prayer and practical Christianity,” he continued. “John put Catholic Social Teaching into practice – sometimes at great personal cost and risk – working ceaselessly for a process of reconciliation through which the dignity of every human person is recognised and upheld.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood praised Hume, saying: “His life’s work brought to an end the seemingly intractable historical arc of bitter conflict between the neighboring islands of Britain and Ireland.” In reflecting on Hume’s work, he said, “never has the beatitude rung truer - blessed be the peacemakers”.

The Republic of Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin said of Hume, “During the darkest days of paramilitary terrorism and sectarian strife, he kept hope alive. And with patience, resilience and unswerving commitment, he triumphed and delivered a victory for peace.”

Gerry Adams, former president of the nationalist party Sinn Fein, praised Hume’s “courage to take real risks for peace.”

“His decision to meet with me in September 1986, following an invitation from Fr. Alex Reid, was a breakthrough moment in Irish politics,” said Adams. “John’s agreement to examine the potential of building an alternative to conflict was the mark of a political leader genuinely prepared to look at the bigger picture and to put the wider interests of society above narrow party politics.”

Arlene Foster, the Northern Ireland’s first minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said Hume was a “giant in Irish nationalism.”

“John left his unique mark in the House of Commons, Brussels and Washington. In our darkest days he recognized that violence was the wrong path and worked steadfastly to promote democratic politics,” she said.

Former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair, who also worked on the Good Friday Agreement, said Hume was “a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past.”

"His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it. He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen,” said Blair. "Beyond that, he was a remarkable combination of an open mind to the world and practical politics.”

Hume’s funeral Mass is scheduled to take place at the Cathedral of Saint Eugene in Derry at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 5.

New York extends window for abuse lawsuits

CNA Staff, Aug 3, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- New York on Monday extended the window in the statute of limitations for people sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against the perpetrators.

On August 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation extending the one-year window for Child Victims Act lawsuits until August 14, 2021. The window, which began in August of 2019, allowed for lawsuits to be filed over allegations of sex abuse long after the statute of limitations had expired.

Previously, survivors of sex abuse in the state had until the age of 23 to file criminal charges or a civil claim. Under the Child Victims Act, survivors can now file charges until age 28, or file a civil claim if they are younger than age 55.

The law also created a one-year “lookback” window for new lawsuits where the statute of limitations had already expired.

In May, Gov. Cuomo ordered that the deadline for lawsuits be extended by five months until Jan. 14, 2021, due to coronavirus-related delays in the court system. Non-essential court filings in the state had been halted in March due to the onset of the pandemic.

Now the legislation— S7082/A9036—will extend the deadline for lawsuits until August 14, 2021.

The dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester have already filed for bankruptcy, after being named in hundreds of new lawsuits under the CVA. On May 4, the Buffalo diocese asked a federal court to halt outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation as it navigated bankruptcy proceedings.

One Democratic state senator who sponsored the Child Victims Act, Brad Hoylman, said that the pandemic had caused many victims to refrain from coming forward.

“The Child Victims Act has allowed more than 3,000 brave survivors to come forward to seek justice. Yet it's clear many New Yorkers who survived child sexual abuse haven't come forward — especially during the COVID-19 crisis which has upended our courts and economy,” he said. 

A federal bankruptcy judge on July 29, however, refused to grant a five-month extension for claims against the Rochester diocese, the Rochester Catholic Courier reported on Monday.

The beatification cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who once served as Rochester’s bishop, has even been indirectly affected by the new lawsuits under the CVA; Sheen’s beatification was postponed shortly before it was scheduled to take place last December.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the prefect of Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told Catholic News Service in July that the Rochester diocese had “expressed concern” over Sheen’s possible role in controversial assignments of priests accused of sexual abuse, although no complaints against Sheen had surfaced.

Becciu said that Sheen’s beatification had been postponed “out of respect for the U.S. civil authorities, who must express their views on cases of sexual abuse that indirectly affect the period.”

Police probe arson attack at Boston-area church

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 3, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Police are investigating two fires at Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth, Massachusetts, as arson. Both fires began overnight Sunday.

The fire damage was discovered on the morning of Monday, August 3, and the fires were set near the entrances of the church. It is unclear the extent of the damage. The fires were described by local media as being “small.” 

The fires are believed to have been set sometime between 11 p.m. on Sunday evening and 8 a.m. on Monday.

The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services told the Boston Herald in a statement that “State Troopers assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office are assisting Weymouth PD and Weymouth FD with an investigation” at the church. The Department of Fire Services declined to give further information. 

Terrence Donilon, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, told CNA that the archdiocese was working with local law enforcement, and that the archdiocese would not be commenting further until after a full investigation has been conducted. 

“Any repairs required will take place with assistance from the Archdiocese,” said Donilon. “We are confident law enforcement will get to the bottom of who was responsible and that the individual(s) will be held accountable.”

Donilon added that the archdiocese would be praying for the person who set the fires, as well as “give thanks that no one was injured.”

Sacred Heart Church was completely destroyed by a fire on June 9, 2005. That fire was believed to have started in a boiler room. The church was rebuilt, updated to modern standards, and was reopened in November 2007. 

The fires set at Sacred Heart are the second fire-related damage at a Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Boston in the last month. On July 12, a statue of the Virgin Mary outside of St. Peter’s Church in Dorchester was set ablaze. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. 

The fire also follows a string of fires and attacks on church buildings across the country and the world in recent weeks.

An unidentified man threw a firebomb into a chapel of Managua’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, severely damaging the chapel and a devotional image of Christ more than three centuries old.

The Catholic community at Queen of Peace Parish in Ocala, Florida is rebuilding after the church was set on fire last month and a Florida man was charged with arson.

A man on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia attempted last week to set fire to a crucifix outside a Catholic church, while parishioners worshiped inside the building.

A church volunteer has admitted to starting a fire at Nantes Cathedral in France on July 18, and has been charged with arson.

Another possible arson occurred in California, where a fire ravaged the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel church in Los Angeles in the predawn hours of Saturday, July 11. That fire is now being investigated for foul play.

Protestors burn Bible during Portland protests 

Denver Newsroom, Aug 3, 2020 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- Protestors in Portland, Oregon burned a Bible in the street during a protest outside a federal courthouse in the early morning hours of August 1, according to a local media report.

Around 12:30 am on Aug. 1, people started a fire in the street in front of the federal courthouse which began with the burning of a Bible, then an American flag, with “more and more items” added to keep the fire going, KOIN, Portland’s CBS affiliate, reported.

Yellow-clad members of the group Moms United for Black Lives Matter went over to the fire and put it out with bottles of water and stamped it out around 1 am, according to the KOIN6 report.

Protestors later built a new fire; the reporter did not specify whether the second fire consumed more Bibles.

A video reposted online Aug. 1 by journalists covering the protests appears to show groups of masked people burning American flags and several pieces of paper and books, including one with the words “Holy Bible” visible on the cover.

That video appears to have originated from the Russia-controlled Ruptly video agency, and has not been verified. But Portland CBS reporter Danny Peterson also reported that a Bible was being burned, and his tweeted photos seem to capture such an event.


Elsewhere on the street, a bible is being burned

— Danny Peterson (@DannyJPeterson) August 1, 2020 According to Portland Police’s official report, people started a bonfire in the middle of Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of the federal courthouse in the early morning hours of August 1. People brought “plywood and other flammable material to keep it going,” police said.

Portland has seen more than 60 straight days of protests and unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The protests often have taken the form of crowds of hundreds of masked people protesting, ostensibly, against racism, police brutality, and fascim.

The protests have garnered national and international headlines, with federal agents garnering some criticism for occasionally using tear gas and other forceful methods against protesters.

Some of the protests have been accompanied by riots and looting. In addition to extensive property damage in the city’s downtown, there have been occasional incidents of violence within or adjacent to the protests, including shootings and stabbings.

Protesters in Portland have at various times fired commercial-grade fireworks at the federal courthouse— the epicenter of the violence— and have thrown rocks, cans, water bottles, and potatoes at federal agents, the AP reported. On July 26, the protestors attempted to burn the courthouse down, police reported.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland has spoken out several times against the violence in his city, while encouraging Catholics to renew their faith and hope in God.

He said in a July 31 video message that although he worries about the state of the Church and the world, “it’s a great time to be a Catholic. I really think the Lord is going to ask some great things of us.”

“A lot of the unrest is legitimate, and civilized, and peaceful, and needs to be expressed, and I applaud that and absolutely support that. But we know...some of it has also become very violent and destructive and divisive,” Sample said.

Sample said in a Friday interview with EWTN News Nightly that "with the violence that has erupted here in Portland, the focus has been taken off the central issue that we all need to be looking at and addressing, and that is the issue of the remnants of racism that are still very much present in our society."

Catholics— and anyone, for that matter— should be outraged at the sin of racism, Sample said, but Catholics must be careful, rational and calm, and should avoid “virtue signaling,” instead putting in the work actually to grow in virtue and to turn to Catholic social teaching in response to racism.

The Church teaches that every person has a dignity that we, as humans, do not bestow on other humans, but rather comes from God, the archbishop said.

Sample has encouraged Catholics to read the U.S. bishops’ 2018 letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” and instructed Portland’s parishes to organize groups to read, study, and discuss the letter.

The archbishop did not respond to a request for comment Aug. 3 regarding the specific incident of the Bible burning.


Pro-life protestors arrested for sidewalk chalk

Washington D.C., Aug 3, 2020 / 01:40 pm (CNA).- Protesters were arrested Saturday for writing a pro-life message on the sidewalk outside a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic, but say police told them before the event they would not be stopped from writing there.

On Saturday, Students for Life of America (SFLA) published a video showing two members of the group—strategic partnerships advisor Warner DePriest along with a student member—being arrested by police outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington’s NoMa neighborhood.

The protestors were attending a planned demonstration, co-hosted by SFLA and the Frederick Douglass Foundation, to draw attention to the abortion rate in the African-American community.

As the two protesters were writing “Pre-born Black Lives Matter” in chalk on the sidewalk, a police officer can be seen telling them “if you continue chalking, you’re going to be placed under arrest.” They continued writing, after which two other officers approached the two and placed them in handcuffs.

According to SFLA, the arrests came after assurances were given by Metropolitan Police that sidewalk painting would not be stopped during a permitted protest.

SFLA president Kristen Hawkins told CNA Aug. 3 that the group had applied for and received from police a permit to hold an assembly outside the clinic, and said the group was told directly that protestors “would not be prevented from painting” by police.

Days before the demonstration, police officials told Tina Whittington, executive vice president of SFLA, that “a ‘pandora’s box’ had been opened regarding painting,” and that the group would not be stopped from painting during their demonstration, but should use a paint that would wash away quickly, Hawkins said.

Despite those assurances, when members of the group arrived outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Aug. 1, they were told by police they could use neither paint nor chalk to write a message, Hawkins said.

One of the two members arrested, DePriest, has written other messages in chalk at that location “20 times or more without arrest or threat of arrest,” Hawkins said.

A spokesperson for the District Metropolitan Police Department told CNA on Monday that the two protesters were given a citation and then released. The spokesperson noted that “to our knowledge” the Students for Life activists had not obtained permits to write messages on the streets and sidewalks outside the clinic.

In reference to the arrests, Metro police cited a city statute that makes it  “unlawful” to “write, mark, draw, or paint” on public property without explicit permission from city authorities. 

According to the website of the District transportation department (DDOT), sidewalks are considered public space. A spokesperson for the DDOT did not answer CNA’s inquiry by press time, as to whether a permit was needed to write a chalk message on the sidewalk, and if one had been requested and obtained by Students for Life of America.

Earlier this summer, District Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered part of 16th Street, near the White House, painted with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” during mass anti-racism protests in the city. Protesters also painted “Defund the Police” on the same street as an addition to Bowser’s message. 

In a July 20 letter to Bowser, Hawkins asked for permission to paint “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” on the street outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Aug. 1.

Hawkins argued in her letter to the mayor that it would be unlawful “viewpoint discrimination” if the District government painted a street with a message, and allowed protesters to paint another message, while prohibiting pro-lifers from painting their own street message.

“If you open the door to free speech on the city streets to one group, you can’t shut it to others,” Hawkins wrote to Bowser.

According to its website, the D.C. police department has arrested 455 people in connection with mass protests this summer. Most (330) of the charges filed were curfew violations, while 57 involved “felony rioting” where “tumultuous and violent conduct” poses “grave danger” or commits “serious injury to persons or serious property damage.”