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Pope Francis: ‘The world has a profound thirst for peace’

Rome, Italy, Oct 20, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis affirmed the signal importance of peace at an interreligious gathering Tuesday on Rome’s Capitoline Hill.

“We need peace. More peace. We cannot remain indifferent. Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which, though often forgotten, are always the cause of suffering and poverty,” Pope Francis said Oct. 20.

“To put an end to war is a solemn duty before God incumbent on all those holding political responsibilities. Peace is the priority of all politics. God will ask an accounting of those who failed to seek peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts. He will call them to account for all the days, months and years of war endured by the world’s peoples,” the pope said.

Pope Francis was joined by representatives of the world’s major religions in his appeal for peace in the Campidoglio Square, designed by Michelangelo. The Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Buddhist representatives each gave speeches, lit a candle in a candelabrum, and signed a scroll containing an “Appeal for Peace.”

Immediately before this interreligious meeting, the pope prayed with other Christian leaders in the neighboring Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill. 

“From the cross forgiveness poured forth and fraternal love was reborn: the cross makes us brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his message at the ecumenical prayer service.

“Let us ask the crucified God to grant us the grace to be more united and more fraternal. When we are tempted to follow the way of this world, may we be reminded of Jesus’ words: ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it,’” he said.

Candles were lit in the basilica as the Christians prayed together for peace in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and the Holy Land. 

Prayer candles were also lit for an end to violence throughout Central America, the persecution of Christians in Burkina Faso, attacks in northern Mozambique, violence in Venezuela, the conflict in Mali, the violence perpetrated by the drug gangs in Mexico, and instability in Lebanon.

The Christian leaders also prayed for an end to tensions in Belarus, on the Korean peninsula, in the Caucasus region, and between India and Pakistan, as well as for the peace agreements signed in Colombia and South Sudan.

Concurrent gatherings to pray for peace were held by Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists, before everyone came together for the interreligious event on the Capitoline Hill.

The theme of the event, organized by the Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community, was “No one is saved alone,” a phrase that comes from Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti. Pope Francis expanded upon this line in his message at an ecumenical prayer in the basilica before the ceremony:

“The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and ‘universal,’ since we will feel responsible for others. And others will become the means of our own salvation: all others, every human person, whatever his or  her history and beliefs. Beginning with the poor, who are those most like Jesus,” the pope said.

“The great archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom, once wrote: ‘If there were no poor, the greater part of our salvation would be overthrown,’” Pope Francis added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Haim Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France, Mohamed Abdelsalam of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, and Zen Buddhist Shoten Minegishi all spoke at the interreligious event. 

In his speech, Abdelsalam, the Muslim General Secretary of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, condemned the recent beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other Italian government authorities were also present at the event.

“Rome and Italy are proud to be once again a crossroads in the dialogue of peace,” Mattarella said.

The Community of Sant’Egidio said that the event was inspired by the first World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by St. John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi with 160 other religious leaders.

“The Assisi Meeting and its vision of peace contained a prophetic seed that by God’s grace has gradually matured through unprecedented encounters, acts of peacemaking, and fresh initiatives of  fraternity,” Pope Francis told the religious and civil leaders.

“Although the intervening years have witnessed painful events, including conflicts, terrorism and radicalism, at times in the name of religion, we must also acknowledge the fruitful steps undertaken in the dialogue between the religions,” the pope said.

The “Appeal for Peace” signed by each of the religious leaders at the event said: “On this Capitoline Hill, in the wake of the greatest conflict in history, the nations that had been at war made a pact based on a dream of unity that later came true: the dream of a united Europe. Today, in these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!”

“Wars and peace, pandemics and health care, hunger and access to food, global warming and sustainable development, the displacement of populations, the elimination of nuclear threats and the reduction of inequalities: these are not matters that concern individual nations alone …

Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be ‘others,’ but rather, a great ‘we,’ rich in diversity. The time has come to boldly dream  anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian. This is why we want to say once more: ‘No more war.’”

Catholic diocese worked with HHS to get priests to COVID patients

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Arlington helped intervene on behalf of a dying COVID patient when he needed a priest to offer him the sacraments, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Roger Severino—director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS—announced that the office had resolved two religious discrimination complaints concerning lack of access to Catholic priests at hospitals during the pandemic.

One of the two cases was at Mary Washington Healthcare hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the Arlington diocese. Family of a COVID-positive patient who was dying requested a Catholic priest to visit and administer the Last Rights, which usually include the sacraments of anointing and confession, and receiving the viaticum, but the hospital allegedly denied the request due to its coronavirus visitation policies.

In August, the Arlington diocese notified the OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), which in turn contacted the hospital.

A priest was allowed inside the hospital to visit the patient before their death, the diocese confirmed to CNA on Tuesday.

“Understanding the many competing interests a hospital must balance, particularly during a pandemic, the ability of a patient to exercise his/her religious freedom at such an important time must remain central, as long as reasonable precautions are taken by the cleric,” a spokesperson for the diocese told CNA in a statement.

“We are pleased the situation ultimately worked out well and now serves as a model to the country.”

Shortly after that, HHS says that the diocese again reached out about another case at the hospital where a Catholic patient in the intensive care unit had just received surgery but was denied access to a priest due to the hospital’s policy of treating the ICU ward as a COVID-positive area, barring outside visitors except in end-of-life cases.  

Severino said on Tuesday that, after his office reached out to the hospital, the hospital updated their policy to allow for clergy visits to COVID-positive patients in end-of-life situations, so long as clergy wear proper equipment and undergo infection control training.

If the urgency of a situation precludes the training, then clergy can still visit the patient but must self-quarantine for 14 days afterward. Clergy can visit non-COVID units upon request “at any reasonable time,” HHS said.

“As we work as hard as we can to save as many lives as possible, we must not forget what many people live for,” Severino said of faith and religious practice. “You can safely treat the patient without neglecting the whole patient—that’s mind, body, and soul.”

The resolution was a “reasonable balancing” of the “urgency of the situation” with the advice of infectious disease specialists, Severino said.

In another case in Maryland, a mother who gave birth at Southern Maryland Hospital tested positive for coronavirus and was separated from her newborn baby, per the hospital’s policy. She asked for a Catholic priest to baptize the child, but the hospital denied her request due to its visitor policy during the pandemic.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the mother and doctor should decide the question of her separation from her child if she tests positive for the coronavirus or is suspected of having it.

HHS also intervened in that case, and the MedStar Health System produced a new policy for its ten hospitals. Under the new policy, patients in both COVID-positive and non-COVID units can request a clerical visit so long as it “does not disrupt care.”

In a second case in Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical System adjusted its clergy-visitation policies this summer after the OCR reached out; a Catholic woman had requested a priest to give the sacraments to her critically-injured husband at Prince George’s Hospital Center, but was denied because he was not at the point of death.

The resolution announced Tuesday “balances the safety of patients with the right of patients to have clergy visitation, even during a pandemic,” Severino said.

Due to the contagious and deadly nature of the virus, some hospitals have set up strict visitor policies during the pandemic that have included even family members not being able to visit their loved ones in intensive care units or wards where COVID-positive patients were being cared for.

The HHS OCR helped resolve another case in Connecticut of a woman with aphasia being able to have her advocate inside the hospital while she was being treated.  

“We’ve heard too many heart-wrenching stories of people literally dying alone during this crisis,” Severino said in June.

In an HHS March bulletin, OCR instructed hospitals and other health care providers to respect “requests for religious accommodations in treatment and access to clergy or faith practices as practicable.”

Pope Francis appoints bishop in US as administrator of Canadian eparchy

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed a New Jersey-based bishop as the administrator of a Canadian eparchy Tuesday.

The Holy See press office announced Oct. 20 that the pope had named Bishop Kurt Burnette as the apostolic administrator of the Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Ss. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto. 

The pope made the appointment after accepting the resignation of Bishop Marián Andrej Pacák, who had overseen the eparchy since 2018.

Pacák, 47, was the third bishop of the eparchy for Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholics of Slovak origin in Canada since it was founded in 1980.

The Vatican did not give a reason for the resignation of the bishop, who was born in present-day Slovakia in 1973 and is a member of the Redemptorist order.

Burnette, 64, will administer the eparchy while continuing to serve as the bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, located in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

He was enthroned in 2013 as the fifth bishop of the eparchy which was established in 1963 and serves an estimated 14,000 Ruthenian Catholics along the Atlantic coast of the U.S.

He was born in Fakenham, a market town in Norfolk, England, in 1955. He was ordained a priest for the Ruthenian Eparchy of Van Nuys in 1989.

Burnette received a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome in 2007, and holds doctorates in civil law and mathematics, according to a biography on the website of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

He has served on the tribunals of the dioceses of Phoenix, Las Vegas, Gallup, and Santa Fe. He was appointed rector of the Byzantine Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh in 2012, a post he held until his appointment as bishop.

The Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Ss. Cyril and Methodius of Toronto is part of the Slovak Greek Catholic Church, one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. But it is immediately subject to the Holy See, rather than being a suffragan see.

The eparchy remained a vacant see between 2016 and 2018 after Pope Francis named Bishop John Stephen Pažak as the eparch of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary, based in Phoenix, Arizona. Pažak remained apostolic administrator of the Canadian eparchy until Pacák was appointed on July 5, 2018.

Supreme Court takes case against 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which some asylum applicants have to wait outside the United States while their applications are considered. The policy is opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

On Monday, the court agreed to hear the case of Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, a challenge to the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, implemented in January of 2019. The policy requires non-Mexican immigrants seeking asylum at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while their cases were processed by an immigration judge.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy has since been expanded to include entries across the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Asylum seekers receive a notice to appear in immigration court and may re-enter the U.S. for that court date; to stay in the U.S., they must prove a fear of persecution or torture in Mexico.

The policy does not apply to all asylum-seekers: unaccompanied minors and those with known physical or mental health problems are exempt, among others.

The chair of the U.S. bishops’ immigration committee has opposed the policy, along with the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS); in a joint statement in May of 2019, Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and Sean Callahan of CRS said the policy “needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.”

Both a federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the federal government in the case, with the Ninth Circuit noting that the Department of Homeland Security drafted the rule “without notice-and-comment rulemaking.”

The court also ruled that the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit had a “likelihood of success” in their claim that the policy is “inconsistent” with immigration law.

Bishop Vasquez and Callahan stated in 2019 that the “recent efforts to curtail and deter the right” to seek asylum were “deeply troubling.”

“We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” they stated.

The court on Monday also agreed to take up a border wall case brought by the Sierra Club; the Ninth Circuit court ruled against the Trump administration’s diversion of Department of Defense funds to go for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In February of 2019, Congress reached a compromise on a spending bill that appropriated more than $1 billion for the border wall but included a clause prohibiting any construction on certain sites near the border—a protection that included the historic La Lomita Chapel owned by the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

However, President Trump then declared a national emergency to divert more Defense funds toward the construction of a wall, funds that were technically not subject to the clause enacted by Congress protecting certain properties. In February of 2020, he extended the emergency declaration for another year.

Catholics in the diocese and at the USCCB have been concerned that the chapel could be demolished or cut off if its property was used for the border wall construction.

The USCCB also opposed that executive action by President Trump in February of 2019, saying that it “circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall.”

“The wall first and foremost is a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries,” they stated. “We remain steadfast and resolute in the vision articulated by Pope Francis that at this time we need to be building bridges and not walls.”

Alleged Vatican money transfers during Pell trial referred to police by Australian intelligence agency

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 09:46 am (CNA).- The Australian financial intelligence agency has handed information to federal police concerning allegations that international money transfers, amounting to hundreds of thousands of euros in Vatican funds, were sent to Australia during the trial of Cardinal George Pell.

During a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Nicole Rose, the chief executive of AUSTRAC, the Australian government’s financial intelligence service, was asked about allegations, first published in Italian media on Oct. 2, that approximately 700,000 euros in Church funds had been sent to Australia at the behest of Cardinal Angelo Becciu for the purposes of influencing Cardinal Pell’s trial on charges of sexual abuse.

Sen. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells asked Rose about media reports of the transfers "allegedly from Vatican funds to a person or persons in Australia."

"Yes, I can confirm AUSTRAC has looked into the matter and we've provided information to the AFP [Australian Federal Police] and to Victoria Police,” Rose told the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on Oct. 20.

The exchange during the parliamentary committee session confirmed that AUSTRAC, which is charged with monitoring financial transactions to prevent money laundering, organized crime, tax evasion, fraud and terrorism financing, is aware of the allegations and has apparently identified information meriting police attention or investigation.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera first reported Oct. 2 that the alleged transfer is part of a dossier of evidence being compiled by Vatican investigators and prosecutors against Cardinal Becciu, who was forced to resign by Pope Francis on Sept. 24, in apparent connection to multiple financial scandals dating back to his time as sostituto at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. 

According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the allegations regarding a transfer to Australia were made by Msgr. Albert Perlasca, Becciu’s former chief deputy at the secretariat.

Perlasca and Becciu worked together for several years overseeing aspects of curial governance, including the investment Vatican finances. Perlasca is believed to be cooperating with Vatican prosecutors as part of an ongoing investigation into financial misconduct at the Secretariat of State over a period of years.

CNA has not confirmed the substance of the accusation. Cardinal Becciu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing or attempt to influence the trial of Cardinal Pell. 

Pell himself has not publicly addressed the allegations, although the former head of his legal defense team in Australia, Robert Richter QC, has called for a public inquiry into the allegations.

After initial reports of the allegations, some media outlets speculated that funds could have been sent from Vatican accounts to or through the Holy See’s nunciature in Australia. 

On Oct. 6 in Rome, Pope Francis met with Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio to Australia, reportedly to discuss the allegations. However, AUSTRAC’s confirmation that information had been forwarded to both national police and state police in Victoria suggests that any transfer or transfers under investigation could fall outside diplomatic or sovereign channels.

In 2017, Pell took a leave of absence from his role as head of curial finances in the Vatican to return to Australia, where he stood trial on accusations of sexual abuse, attested to at trial by a single alleged victim. After spending more than a year in prison, Pell’s conviction was overturned by the Australian High Court earlier this year.

While AUSTAC has forwarded information to police at both the state and federal level, local police in Victoria have been criticized for their handling of the Pell case.

In 2013, Victoria Police opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes by Cardinal Pell. At the time the operation began, no alleged victims had come forward against the cardinal and there had been no criminal complaints made against him. Although they had found no victims or criminal accusations, in 2015 the program was expanded and put on a more formal footing.

In 2017, Pell was charged with sexually abusing two minors. He was convicted in 2018 on the evidence of a single victim-accuser, the second alleged victim died before the trial. The second alleged victim had denied on several occasions that he had ever been sexually abused.

In December, CNA reported that, as early as 2014, senior police officials in Victoria discussed that the investigation into Cardinal Pell could be used to deflect public scrutiny from a corruption scandal in the force, llinked to organized crime, which had become a media firestorm in Victoria.

Cardinal Pell served as the first prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy in the Vatican, a department created by Pope Francis in 2014 to bring coherence and transparency to the administration of curial finances.

From 2011-2018, Cardinal Becciu served as sostituto at the Secretariate of State. While there, he was known to have a strained relationship with Cardinal Pell.

CNA has reported that the two cardinals clashed repeatedly over Pell’s attempts to reform Vatican finances and to institute reforms ordered by Pope Francis.

Following the allegations that Becciu used Vatican funds in an attempt to interfere in Pell’s trial in Australia, on Oct. 17 Becciu’s lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said, “regarding the everlasting attention of some journalists to Cardinal Pell’s trial,” Becciu “is compelled to reiterate vigorously that he has never interfered with it in any way whatsoever.”

The lawyer also said “to protect and defend his honor, so gravely damaged,” Becciu may seek legal recourse against some news organizations for their continued reporting of “an alleged, albeit non-existent activity to taint the evidence of Cardinal Pell’s trial.”

Shrine of patroness of impossible causes launches Lebanon prayer campaign

Rome Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The Basilica of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, is launching a seven-month prayer initiative for Lebanon as the country faces an unprecedented economic and political crisis.

“In prayer with St. Rita for Lebanon” will begin in the Italian town of Cascia with Mass at the tomb of St. Rita Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. local time (6 p.m. in Beirut) and will be broadcast via livestream

“We want to bring the consolation, closeness and, above all, the hope of St. Rita into the homes of every devotee in Lebanon, reaching even those who cannot move and are experiencing difficulties,” Fr. Luciano De Michieli, rector of the Basilica of St. Rita, said as he announced the initiative.

Masses according to the liturgy of Lebanon’s Maronite Church will be offered once a month at the shrine until the feast of St. Rita on May 22, 2021. At the end of each Mass, a prayer of entrustment of Lebanon to St. Rita will be said before her tomb.

Lebanese Catholics have a great devotion to St. Rita, the 14th-century Italian stigmatist saint who embraced suffering with charity. The nuns in the Monastery of St. Rita in Cascia have offered a rosary for the Lebanese people every day for the past 20 years, according to the rector of the basilica.

Oct. 16 marked a year since mass protests began in Lebanon demanding an end to government corruption and financial mismanagement. The country’s economic collapse has only accelerated since then, with the spread of the pandemic, high unemployment, and the devastating explosion in Beirut Aug. 4 that killed more than 200 people and left thousands homeless.

Lebanon’s politicians have so far failed to form new a government while facing this emergency. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, called on Lebanese leaders to stop delaying talks on forming a government in a homily on Oct. 17.

“The responsibility and accountability is collective. Who among you, officials and politicians, has the leisure of time to delay consultations to form a government?” he asked.

“Take your hands off the government and release it. You are responsible for the crime of throwing the country into a state of complete paralysis, in addition to what the coronavirus pandemic has done.”

Catholic charities in Lebanon are continuing to help rebuild Beirut and provide emergency support to homeless families. Aid to the Church in Need announced Oct. 15 that it had committed five million euros to repairing churches damaged in the explosion, including the Maronite Cathedral of St George and St. Saviour’s Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

After the explosion in August, Mother Maria Rosa Bernardinis, prioress of the Monastery of St. Rita in Cascia, said: “Cascia holds a piece of Lebanon’s heart.”

“It is therefore to St. Rita that we turn now,” she said. “St. Rita, protect Beirut and all the Lebanese people, alleviating their sufferings, giving them new strength and bringing them hope, the hope that you instill in hearts.”

Beatification cause of ‘mother of lepers’ opens in Poland

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The beatification cause of a Polish missionary doctor known as the “mother of lepers” was opened Sunday. 

Bishop Damian Bryl inaugurated the diocesan phase of the cause of Wanda Błeńska at Poznań Cathedral, western Poland, Oct. 18, the feast of St. Luke, patron of doctors. 

Błeńska spent more than 40 years in Uganda caring for sufferers from Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, training local doctors, and turning St. Francis Hospital in Buluba into an internationally respected treatment center.

Following the opening of her cause, Bryl preached at a Mass in the cathedral, describing Błeńska as a woman of faith whose actions were rooted in prayer.

“From the very beginning of choosing her life path, she began to cooperate with God’s grace. As a student, she was involved in various missionary works and was grateful to the Lord for the grace of faith,” he said, according to the website of Poznań archdiocese.

The archdiocese reported that there was “thunderous applause” when it was announced that Błeńska could now to be referred to by the title “Servant of God.”

Bryl, an auxiliary bishop, was standing in for Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki of Poznań, who had been due to celebrate the Mass but tested positive for the coronavirus Oct. 17. The archdiocese said that Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, was self-isolating at home following the positive test.

Błeńska was born in Poznań on Oct. 30, 1911. After qualifying as a doctor, she practiced medicine in Poland until her work was disrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. 

During the war, she served in the Polish resistance movement, known as the Home Army. Afterwards, she pursued advanced studies in tropical medicine in Germany and Britain.

In 1951, she moved to Uganda, serving as chief physician at a leprosy treatment center in Buluba, a village in eastern Uganda. Under her care, the facility expanded into a 100-bed hospital. She was named an honorary of citizen of Uganda in recognition of her work.

She passed the leadership of the center to a successor in 1983, but continued to work there for the next 11 years before retiring to Poland. She died in 2014 at the age of 103.

In his homily, Bryl recalled that Błeńska often said that doctors must love their patients and not be afraid of them. She insisted that “The doctor must be a friend of the patient. The most effective cure is love.” 

“Today we remember the beautiful life of Dr. Wanda. We give thanks for it and ask that the experience of meeting with her moves our hearts. May the beautiful desires with which she lived be awakened in us too,” the bishop said.

Blessed Carlo Acutis: 41,000 people visited Italian teen’s tomb amid beatification

Rome Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- More than 41,000 people visited Bl. Carlo Acutis’ tomb during the 19-day celebration of the Italian teen’s beatification, according to the Diocese of Assisi.

A daily average of 2,170 people visited Bl. Carlo’s tomb, in the Sanctuary of the Spoliation in Assisi’s Church of St. Mary Major, from Oct. 1 to Oct. 19, despite tight restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic. There they saw a young person on the path to sainthood, lying in repose in jeans and a pair of Nike tennis shoes.

During these 19 days, a glass allowed Acutis’ intact body to be viewed for veneration. On the evening of Oct. 19, a Mass was celebrated and the glass covered by a piece of marble, marking the end of the official beatification celebrations.

During the covering of the tomb, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, indicated that the glass may be uncovered again in the future, and the body displayed.

“In the meantime, the sanctuary remains open for the ordinary attendance of the faithful,” he said. At the sanctuary, visitors will still be able to pray before Acutis’ closed tomb.

Bishop Semeraro gave thanks to the Lord for the previous weeks filled with “wonderful days that are truly unimaginable, incredible, truly beautiful.”

“What we have lived is truly a time of grace which will bring flowers and fruits in the future,” he added. “The large participation of the faithful is the sign that Carlo is the saint among us.”

In his homily at the Oct. 19 Mass, Semeraro, said “today we have before our eyes the image of a young man who risked his life by focusing on Christ. There are many aspects that make his figure fascinating.”

Photos released after the opening of Acutis’ tomb on Oct. 1 caused some confusion online as to whether the teen might have been incorrupt, which led the bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, to clarify that the boy’s body, though intact, “was found in the normal state of transformation typical of the cadaveric condition.” 

In a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Acutis became the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church.

Growing up in Milan in the 1990s and early 2000s, he played video games and taught himself C++ and other computer programming languages. But many have testified that the center of the teen’s life was his strong devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

From a young age, Acutis expressed a special love for God, even though his parents weren’t especially devout. As he grew older, he started attending daily Mass, often making Holy Hours before or after Mass, and went to confession weekly.

He built websites to inform others about Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions around the world. On his site, he told people, “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”

Acutis died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. He offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying: “I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the pope, and the Church.”

Exiled Catholic archbishop meets with senior Vatican officials

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 03:30 am (CNA).- Exiled Belarusian Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz met with senior Vatican officials Monday.

The website of the Catholic Church in Belarus reported Oct. 19 that Kondrusiewicz held talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. said that the trio discussed plans to enable Kondrusiewicz to return to his homeland after he was blocked from reentering Belarus amid turmoil following a disputed presidential election.

The website said that the Vatican was “concerned” that the president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference remained barred from the country.

“The Holy See is making every effort to rectify the situation as soon as possible and hopes that the problem will be resolved positively,” it said.

Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, was turned back at the border Aug. 31 when he attempted to return home following a trip to Poland. The authorities later claimed that his passport was “invalid,” but invited him to appeal the decision

Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, traveled to Belarus Sept. 11 to discuss the situation with Belarusian officials, but the talks did not result in an immediate breakthrough.

Kondrusiewicz had spoken out in defense of protesters after they were targeted by police following an election in August in which the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory with 80% of the vote. 

The election result prompted mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. 

Kondrusiewicz demanded an investigation into reports that riot police blocked the doors of a Catholic church in the capital, Minsk, while clearing away protesters from a nearby square. Earlier he had prayed outside of a prison where detained protesters were reportedly tortured.

Protests are continuing more than two months after the election. On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Minsk, according to the Associated Press.

The authorities in Belarus have faced international condemnation over their treatment of the archbishop. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Oct. 13 that Kondrusiewicz’s exile was an “injustice” and “an affront to religious freedom.” 

“Faith is not merely a private endeavor,” he said. “I urge the Belarusian government to right this wrong and allow the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus back into his country.”

On Monday evening, Kondrusiewicz joined children praying the rosary in Belarus via video link from Rome. said that the children were taking part in the “One Million Children Praying the Rosary” campaign, organized by Aid to the Church in Need.

The prayer, led by Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, an auxiliary bishop of Minsk-Mohilev archdiocese, took place in the capital. The children prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and for Kondrusiewicz’s swift return to Belarus, reported the website.

San Francisco archbishop performs exorcism at site of destroyed St. Junipero Serra statue

CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 02:42 am (CNA).- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Saturday performed an exorcism at the site of a destroyed statue of St. Junipero Serra, calling the statue’s destruction by rioters an “act of blasphemy.”

“We pray that God might purify this place of evil spirits, that he might purify the hearts of those who perpetrated this blasphemy, that he might envelop them in his love, that their hearts might be softened and turn toward Him,” Cordileone said Oct. 17 before a crowd of about 150 people.

Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.

A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Archangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced the statue of the saint with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes.

Cordileone offered exorcism prayers in Latin before sprinkling the site with holy water. The prayers Cordileone offered at the statue site are not the same as exorcism prayers offered by the Church if a person is believed to be the subject of demonic possession.

This marks the second time that Cordileone has performed an exorcism in connection with a destroyed statue of Serra. A crowd of about 100 people tore down a Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19, and Cordileone offered exorcism prayers after that incident.

Archbishop Cordileone last week decried the “mob rule” that led to the statue of the saint being “mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob.”

“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the United States. But Fr. Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance,” Cordileone contended.

During the eighteenth century, Serra founded nine Catholic missions in the area that would later become California, and many of those missions would go on to become the centers of major California cities. Though Serra himself did not found Mission San Rafael, it owes its existence to Serra’s legacy.

Critics have lambasted Serra as a symbol of European colonialism and the erasure of Native culture, and have in recent years sought to remove monuments to him and change the names of streets or landmarks named for him.

San Francisco school district officials this month announced that 44 schools with “inappropriate” names will likely be renamed soon, with Junipero Serra Elementary School near the top of the list of names likely to be changed.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

Pope Francis canonized Serra in 2015 during a visit to the United States.

Catholics had rallied in a peaceful demonstration the evening of Oct. 13 at the former statue site, at which a priest encouraged forgiveness of those who destroyed the statue.

Father Kyle Faller, parochial vicar at the mission, led a rosary and a Litany of Reparation for the statue’s destruction, as well as the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

San Rafael police have arrested five women in connection with the statue’s destruction and charged them with felony vandalism; all five have been issued citations and released. The cases have been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution, police said last week.

The Oct. 12 protest was organized by members of the Coast Miwok tribe, though it is not clear whether those arrested for the vandalism are members of the tribe.

CNA attempted to contact Dean Hoaglin, chair of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and one of the organizers of the Oct. 12 protest, for further information on the tribe and their reasons for opposing Serra, but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Coast Miwok people were the original inhabitants of what is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties of California. The tribe gained federal recognition as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in December 2000.

In 2008, the former bishop of Sacramento, Francis Quinn, apologized to the Coast Miwok tribe that the Spanish “tried to impose a European Catholicism on the natives.”

The vandalism in San Rafael is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Catholic statues across the country this year. On July 11, a fire under investigation for arson gutted the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles, a mission church founded by St. Serra.

Eighty-three percent of Catholic likely voters are concerned about attacks on churches in recent months, according to a poll conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News.