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Former nuncio dies in Vatican residence while awaiting sex abuse trial

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican official has ordered an autopsy on the body of former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was found dead Aug. 28 in the Vatican residence where he was awaiting trial on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski  (CNS photo/Luis Gomez, Diario Libre via Reuters)

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski (CNS photo/Luis Gomez, Diario Libre via Reuters)

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, Vatican spokesman, said Wesolowski’s body was found at 5 a.m. by a priest who also lives in the building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica and offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a television, which was on, the spokesman said.

Officials from the Vatican police, medical service and court arrived quickly, he said, for an “initial verification, which indicated the death was from natural causes.”

“The promoter of justice ordered an autopsy, which will be carried out today,” the spokesman said. “The results will be communicated as soon as possible.”

In the statement, issued less than four hours after Wesolowski’s body was found, Father Benedettini said Pope Francis had been informed.

The spokesman told reporters Wesolowski had been in ill health and was under medical supervision at the time of his death.

Wesolowski was to be the first person to be tried by a Vatican criminal court on sex abuse charges. The first session of the trial had been scheduled for July 11, but was postponed when he was taken to the hospital the day before after suffering “a collapse,” Father Benedettini said. He remained in the hospital until July 17.

The Vatican court had not announced a date for the continuation of the trial of the former Polish archbishop and nuncio, Vatican ambassador, to the Dominican Republic.

In its official statement about his death, the Vatican referred to him as “His Excellency Monsignor Josef Wesolowski,” even though he was dismissed from the clerical state in June 2014 after an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

His appeal of the dismissal was denied, Father Benedettini said, “but was not officially communicated so as not to aggravate the situation” while he was awaiting the separate criminal trial. He was still listed as an archbishop in the 2015 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican yearbook.

Before his criminal trial was postponed July 11, the Vatican prosecution read out the five charges against Wesolowski, which included having “corrupted, by means of lewd acts, adolescents presumably between the ages of 13 and 16,” in the Dominican Republic, where Wesolowski had served as a Vatican nuncio from 2008 to 2013, when he was accused of abusing adolescent boys.

According to Vatican prosecutors, Wesolowsk’s crimes continued once he was brought back to the Vatican. While being investigated, the court said, he procured and possessed on Vatican City State property and elsewhere, a “large amount” of “material from Internet sites” depicting minors under the age of 18 in sexually explicit acts or poses.

He also was charged with causing “serious injury to adolescent victims of sexual abuse, consisting of mental distress” and of “conduct that offends religious principles or Christian morality” by repeatedly logging on to pornographic sites while in the Dominican Republic, Rome, Vatican City State and elsewhere.

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Walking to Mass: Maryland priest, editor to pace pilgrimage to Philadelphia papal Mass

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PHILADELPHIA — As the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Review Media finalized preparations in early summer to transport hundreds of pilgrims to the only public Mass Pope Francis will celebrate on his first trip to the U.S., the wheels turned.

Planners thought about the possibility embarking on the ancient concept of pilgrimage, and walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia in September. Read more »

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Washington Letter: Who gets to vote 50 years after Voting Rights Act

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Even after a half-century of election law that was intended to settle the question of who is eligible to vote in the United States, contentious issues remain on who gets that right. Read more »

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Pope suggests parents start a family prayer time with small, simple gestures

August 27th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents who juggle packed work and family schedules deserve a Nobel Prize in mathematics for doing something not even the most brilliant scientists can do: They pack 48 hours of activity into 24, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA) S

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA) S

“I don’t know how they do it, but they do,” the pope told thousands of people gathered Aug. 26 for his weekly general audience. “There are moms and dads who could win the Nobel for this!”

Focusing his audience talk on the family and prayer, Pope Francis said he knows modern life can be frenetic and that family schedules are “complicated and packed.”

The most frequent complaint of any Christian, he said, is that he or she does not have enough time to pray.

“The regret is sincere,” the pope said, “because the human heart seeks prayer, even if one is not aware of it.”

The way to begin, he said, is to recognize how much God loves you and to love him in return. “A heart filled with affection for God can turn even a thought without words into a prayer.”

“It is good to believe in God with all your heart and it’s good to hope that he will help you when you are in difficulty or to feel obliged to thank him,” the pope said. “That’s all good. But do we love the Lord? Does thinking about God move us, fill us with awe and make us more tender?”

Bowing one’s head or “blowing a kiss” when one passes a church or a crucifix or an image of Mary are small signs of that love, he said. They are prayers.

“It is beautiful when moms teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or Mary,” the pope said. “There’s so much tenderness in that. And, at that moment, the heart of the child is transformed into a place of prayer.”

“Isn’t it amazing that God caresses us with a father’s love?” he asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. “It’s beautiful, so beautiful. He could have simply made himself known as the Supreme Being, given his commandments and awaited the results. Instead, God did and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the path of life, protects us and loves us.”

If you learn as a child to turn to God “with the same spontaneity as you learn to say ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy,’ you’ve learned it forever,” he said.

By teaching children how to make the sign of the cross, to say a simple grace before meals and to remember always that God is there and loves them, he said, family life will be enveloped in God’s love and family members will spontaneously find times for prayer.

“You, mom, and you, dad, teach your child to pray, to make the sign of the cross,” Pope Francis said.

The simple little prayers, he said, will increase family members’ sense of God’s love and presence and their certainty that God has entrusted the family members to one another.

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Viewpoint — Child labor around the world keeps children at work, out of school

August 27th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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It’s that time again when adults take off to celebrate Labor Day, and kids head back to the adventures a new school year.

But for millions of children worldwide the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Read more »

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Stephen Colbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Henry Newman, and the providence of God

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Recently, Stephen Colbert gave an interview in which the depth of his Catholic faith was on pretty clear display. Discussing the trauma that he experienced as a young man – the deaths of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash – he told the interviewer how, through the ministrations of his mother, he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it: “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was ten; that was quite an explosion…It’s that I love the thing that I wish most had not happened.” Flummoxed, his interlocutor asked him to elaborate on the paradox. Without missing a beat, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien: “What punishments of God are not gifts?” What a wonderful sermon on the salvific quality of suffering! And it was delivered, not by a priest or bishop or evangelist, but by a comedian about to take over one of the most popular television programs on late night. Read more »

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Commentary: How low can society go?

August 20th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized

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When one considers the many ways countless human beings are treated like cheap disposable products – from children exploited by pornographers, to young sweatshop workers exploited by wealthy corporations – it’s hard to imagine how much worse it can get for the poor and vulnerable.

But dismembering and vacuuming babies out of their mother’s wombs, and then selling their body parts, is as low as it gets. Read more »

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Pieces of the whole: Yearbook recounts life inside Vatican walls

August 13th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY — In one thick volume, Vatican offices and departments tell their own stories.

The 2014 edition of the “Activity of the Holy See,” released in July, runs more than 1,600 pages. Some offices submitted exhaustive reports, including every guest they hosted and every meeting their staff attended. Others provided more of a generic overview of their main tasks.

Some indications of life inside the mini-state, which is also the headquarters of the worldwide Catholic Church, include facts such as: Read more »

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Pope Francis to speak from lectern Lincoln used for Gettysburg Address

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Catholic News Service

 

PHILADELPHIA — As lecterns go, it is strictly utilitarian, a simple walnut stand with none of the ornamentation commonly found in mid-19th-century furnishings.

Yet it has a distinguished past and is about to have a distinguished future.

At a news conference Aug. 7 at the Union League of Philadelphia, Robert Ciaruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families, announced that Pope Francis, during his Sept. 26 speech at Independence Hall while in Philadelphia for the families’ meeting, will use the lectern that was most famously used by President Abraham Lincoln when he gave his Gettysburg Address. Read more »

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Villanova, 76ers coaches promote peace through basketball in Holy Land

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JERUSALEM — Jerusalem is hot, especially in the gym of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School for Jewish Arab Education. Jerusalem is tense, too, with jolting violence this summer over dismantled settlement homes, gay rights and a brutal attack on a Palestinian family.

But those events did not keep Villanova University basketball Coach Jay Wright and Philadelphia 76ers Coach Brett Brown from heading to Israel to engage in peacemaking efforts with youth from PeacePlayers International, an organization that uses basketball to foster team play and tolerance in areas of conflict. Wright also brought his basketball-playing family with him.

The coaches found their way to Israel via Arn Tellem, president of the Detroit Pistons, who is on the board of PeacePlayers International. Read more »

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