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Vatican accepts resignation of free-spending German bishop

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a German bishop who was at the center of controversy over expenditures for his residence and a diocesan center.

Following a diocesan investigation, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops studied the audit’s findings and accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg. Auxiliary Bishop Manfred Grothe of Paderborn was appointed to serve as apostolic administrator of Limburg in the meantime, the Vatican announced March 26.

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst would be assigned, “at a suitable moment,” another unspecified assignment, the Vatican statement said.

Pope Francis called on the German clergy and faithful in the diocese to accept the Vatican’s decision “with meekness and to try to dedicate themselves to rebuilding a climate of charity and reconciliation,” the statement said.

The pope had authorized a leave of absence for the bishop in October after allegations of overspending and leading a lavish lifestyle.

“A situation has been created in which Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst currently cannot exercise his episcopal ministry,” the Vatican said last year in a written statement.

The bishop has been at the center of controversy over the remodeling and building project in Limburg, which was estimated to have cost about $40 million. Media dubbed Bishop Tebartz-van Elst the “luxury bishop” and “Bishop Bling.”

In early September, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, sent retired Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo to visit the diocese to promote peace between the bishop and some of the diocese’s priests concerned about the diocesan center project.

After the cardinal’s visit, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst agreed to publish figures about the construction project and cooperate with a commission established by the bishops’ conference to audit the project and examine how decisions were made. In most cases, church law requires consultation with a diocesan finance council before large sums of diocesan money can be spent.

In a separate controversy, the bishop agreed in November to pay a court-ordered fine of 20,000 euros rather than contest charges that he perjured himself before the Hamburg District Court. Hamburg prosecutors had charged him with lying to the court in a case involving the magazine Der Spiegel.

The bishop had sued over an article alleging that he had flown first class on a trip to India for charity work when he told a Der Spiegel reporter that he flew business class. Although the bishop denied that he said he flew business class, the reporter had a recording of his words.

 

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Abuse survivor says new Vatican panel must achieve real change

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Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — The lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the commission needs to achieve concrete change in order to “show other survivors that the church is going to get it right.”

Marie Collins, who was abused by a chaplain as a sick 13-year-old at Crumlin hospital in Dublin in the 1960s, told Catholic News Service that many survivors will be watching the new Vatican commission “with interest, but many will have written it off as merely a PR exercise.”

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland, attends a 2012 vigil in Rome. Collins is the lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

“Survivors will not be satisfied with more words or promises, they need to see real change,” she said.

Collins, who campaigns on behalf of abuse victims, said her priority is “a strong worldwide child protection policy which would include sanctions for any member of the church in a position of authority who ignored these rules.”

She added that too many bishops who have protected abusive priests have been allowed to remain in place undisciplined.

“I would like to see the way survivors and their families have been treated change. The concentration on often-abusive legalistic responses instead of caring for those hurt needs to end,” she said.

The cultural attitude within the church and laws that “categorized child abuse as a moral lapse rather than a criminal offense also have to be tackled,” she told CNS.

The Dubliner is seeking greater transparency because “the secrecy of the past led to enormous failures.”

The initial eight members of the commission will be free to decide what issues they are going to deal with, how they are going to work and who else will join the commission, Collins told CNS.

Though it is in its early stages, she said her understanding is that the commission will make its recommendations directly to Pope Francis and will not communicate through any Vatican departments.

Asked who else she would like to see on the new commission, she told CNS she would like to see Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin because he “is the template for how child protection should be handled at ground level,” and also Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who really “got it” when it came to addressing clerical sexual abuse.

Collins told CNS that she met another commission member, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, in 2011 as he led the Vatican investigation of the Archdiocese of Dublin and was “very impressed with his openness and his ability to listen.”

She also worked with another member of the commission, Baroness Sheila Hollins, during the Toward Healing Symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2012.

“I feel we worked very well together. She is very devoted to the cause of the vulnerable adult and has great expertise in this field. I am looking forward to working with Cardinal Sean and Baroness Hollins.”

However, Collins said she was “disappointed” listening to Pope Francis’ recent comments when he said no one has done more on the issue of child sexual abuse than the church, and yet the church is the only one to be attacked.

[“He seemed to miss the point that the huge anger directed at the Catholic Church has not been caused by the fact it had abusers in its ranks but by the unique situation whereby those in authority were willing to protect these men. This has been shown in inquiry after inquiry around the world,” she told CNS.

She said it was up to the new Vatican commission to change the pope’s mind on this.

Asked what it means to have a survivor on the commission, Collins said in the past there had been a fear of survivors and “an inability to handle their justified anger.”

At other times, survivors were seen as people who could be placated by words of apology but this “underestimated the damage done to lives and the hurt and anger and thirst for justice that so many survivors feel.”

“In this context it is a big step for the church to include a survivor on the commission, but a very necessary one,” she commented.

She has already been contacted by many survivors and survivor groups from various parts of the world. The majority responded positively, wanting her to take their particular concerns to the commission. She said some have suggested that she is a “token survivor” appointed just to give the church good public relations.

“I have remained a Catholic but not without much difficulty and struggle,” she told CNS. “There have been periods when practicing my faith has been impossible. I have tried to separate the institution of the church from the faith. My belief in God has never wavered. Being appointed to the commission has not changed anything in this regard.”

 

 

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Aid agencies, artists work to help 2.5 million Syrian refugees, including children

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Catholic News Service

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan — As Syria’s civil war hurtles into its fourth year, hopes of returning home soon seem far off for the 2.5 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries, like Jordan. Syrians are soon expected to overtake Afghans as the largest refugee population in the world, according to the United Nations.

A boy cries as he stands amid rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in Aleppo March 6. (CNS photo/Hosam Katan, Reuters)

Top U.N. officials warn that the grinding conflict will leave a generation of 5.5 million children in and outside Syria physically and emotionally scarred. But American street artist Samantha Robison is working hard to change that.

A Washington, D.C. native, Robison and her team of international artists paint alongside the refugee children, encouraging them to remain strong and positive in Jordan’s Zaatari camp.

Covered in splashes of paint in every color of the rainbow, Robison encourages a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Zeinab to express her future dreams through painting on a recycled tent tarp.

“I am drawing a bird flying in the air. To me, it represents the freedom we want,” the enthusiastic child said as she drew.

Peaceful demonstrations protesting the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted three years ago and were soon met by sniper fire from government troops before bursting into all-out civil war.

Robison said the young Syrian refugees at Zaatari remember the start of the conflict, but now look to the future.

“Yes, commemorate the three years, but also remember where they’ve come from and how much they’ve accomplished,” she said.

“Honor the human dignity and the next generation and the future of Syria. I think is where a lot of the energy needs to be focused,” she added, speaking of the children.

Zaatari is now the second-largest refugee camp in the world and Jordan’s fifth-largest city. Just more than half the 120,000 refugees there are under the age of 18.

Robison encourages the children to use their imaginations as they draw and paint and not to use well-known cartoon characters in their illustrations.

“What does your dream village look like? Draw yourself saying hello to children in other countries,” she urges them.

In the process, they magically transform dull canvas tents, metal trailers, schools and other facilities into colorful and creative works of art. Healing and hope come to the children and their families.

She encourages them to explore their creativity and have the space to just be children, something the civil war back home — full of bombings, the death of family members, and assaults — has robbed them of.

“Painting for these kids is fun and gives them a way to express themselves while putting them back in touch with themselves as children. It’s not about working or making ends meet,” said Leah O’Bryant, a Washington state artist working with Robison’s AptART organization in the camp.

“That’s something that kids take for granted in other places, but isn’t always possible here. They are expressing some intense emotions, but they are also just having fun. That’s one of the most important things that we do,” she said.

Syrian children along with women are among the most vulnerable of those fleeing the conflict, international aid workers say.

“The images on TV often show Syrian men fighting, but among the refugees, the heart of the story is women and children, who make up nearly 75 percent of the refugee population,” Caroline Brennan, Catholic Relief Services’ senior communications officer, told Catholic News Service March 17.

Brennan regularly visits CRS field work in Jordan and Lebanon. CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, aids 250,000 Syrian refugees across the Middle East region.

“Because they make up such a large percentage of the population, our services are predominantly supporting women and children, especially those in towns where the vast majority live as urban refugees, by providing for their basic needs for survival and health care,” Brennan said.

“Given the enormity of needs for women and children, we focus on education for children and counseling for mothers and children. Issues of trauma are so significant,” Brennan said.

She said CRS medical workers have observed that 45 percent of Syrian refugee children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 60 percent from depression.

“Going to school helps children stay at their school level, have a place to go during the day and enables them to claim some semblance of childhood. Counseling is a big component of that, not only for those children, but their mothers. The mothers are caring not only for their children who are traumatized, but also making major decisions for their families in a way they were not necessarily making back home,” Brennan said.

A Syrian refugee mother who identified herself only as Reem said she struggles with her new role as the female head of her household.

“My husband divorced me recently, and my father died shortly afterward. I have to be strong and protect myself and my children. This is contrary to Middle Eastern culture,” the young woman emphasized.

Other Syrian female refugees say their husbands are also absent. They are either fighting back home or have been killed or abducted in the conflict.

“A glass might drop. It doesn’t even break, and the children are crying and shaking. Older children are wetting the mattress. The issues are severe,” Brennan said.

“The mothers are desperate to know how to care for children suffering from trauma when they have their own issues they are wrestling with. Our counselors are there to help,” she said.

 

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Chinese bishop, who was imprisoned 20 years, dies at 96

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HONG KONG — Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, a prominent leader of China’s underground Catholic Community, died after a brief illness March 16 at his home. He was 96.

Bishop Fan, like many other Catholic leaders, served in prison after he and other priests were arrested in 1955 during a government crackdown. From 1958 to 1978, Bishop Fan was imprisoned in Qinghai province, where his job was to carry corpses in a cemetery, reported the Asian church news portal ucanews.com.

China’s estimated 10 million-12 million Catholics are divided between two communities: one that, for decades, remained underground because it did not accept compromises and political control after the Chinese communist takeover in the 1950s, and one that the Vatican has acknowledged accepted some compromises and political control in order to continue its existence. Both are faithful to the pope, and both have faced persecution from Chinese authorities.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, said young priests, even those from the so-called open church community, often met with Bishop Fan before they were ordained. Shanghai has lost a “steadfast and persevering” leader in Bishop Fan, he said.

A Jesuit, Bishop Fan was ordained a priest in 1951. He refused to recognize the Chinese government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association when it was established.

The Connecticut-based Kung Foundation said Bishop Fan was secretly ordained as coadjutor bishop of Shanghai in 1985 when Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-mei remained incarcerated in a government jail. Bishop Kung died in 2000, and the foundation said Blessed John Paul named Bishop Fan his successor.

However, the late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai, another Jesuit who spent 18 years in prison during the communist repression, was recognized by the government as bishop of Shanghai in 1989. He did not reconcile his status with the Vatican until early in the 21st century, according to information on the diocesan website.

Born Jan. 13, 1918, Bishop Fan was baptized a Catholic in 1932. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1938.

After his release from prison, Bishop Fan became a teacher. Later he was allowed to return to Shanghai.

Funeral arrangements were not finalized as of March 16 but will be limited to two days as outlined under Chinese law.

Lam told ucanews.com that bishops of the underground church likely will meet to suggest a successor to Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, the future of Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who was ordained in 2012 with the approval of both Pope Benedict XVI and the Chinese government, remains uncertain. Bishop Ma said during his ordination Mass that he would no longer hold any position in the Catholic Patriot Association so that he could focus on pastoral work and evangelization. He was immediately placed under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary. The government also rescinded his appointment.

 

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Ukrainian Catholic leader meets with pope after vote in Crimea

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church March 17, the day after pro-Russian voters on the Crimean peninsula voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the United States and European Union called illegal.

A man waves a Russian flag as he celebrates the announcement of preliminary results of the Crimean referendum in Lenin Square in Simferopol, Ukraine, March 16. Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church March 17, the day after pro-Russian voters on the Crimean peninsula voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the United States and European Union called illegal. (CNS photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Reuters)

While Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Eastern-rite church in Ukraine, declined requests for interviews, it was assumed his talk with the pope would include a discussion about the fate of the Ukrainian Catholic priests ministering in Crimea.

Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris, head of the Ukrainian church’s external relations department, issued a statement March 15 saying Father Mykola Kvych, pastor of the Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Sevastopol, was taken from his church that morning, “seized by two men in uniform and four men in civilian clothing.”

Earlier in the week, Bishop Gudziak said, the church’s leadership had urged Father Kvych and the other priests in Crimea to evacuate their wives and children to mainland Ukraine.

“The priests themselves returned to their parishes to be with their faithful in a time of crisis and moral and physical danger,” he said.

Several hours after Father Kvych was taken from the church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s information service reported he had been freed after questioning, which apparently focused on accusations that he had been organizing anti-Russian riots.

The next day, however, parishioners helped him leave Crimea. He told the church information service that “several unknown individuals” continually rang the doorbell of his apartment, then tried to break in. When they left, he took the chalice and paten he uses for Divine Liturgies and some important documents and left the city.

Father Kvych also said that he spoke to the priests in Yalta and Yevpatoria, who were “now in a safe place. He didn’t mention where exactly,” the information service said.

Ukrainian Catholics make up about 10 percent of Crimea’s 2 million inhabitants; the majority of the people on the peninsula are ethnic Russians and speak Russian. Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in late February and, in early March, Russian forces entered Crimea.

Crimean politicians said more than 96 percent of voters participating in the referendum March 16 voted to secede from Ukraine. Members of the Crimean Parliament March 17 formally asked to join the Russian Federation.

 

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Russia’s occupation of Crimea ‘is only the beginning,’ says Ukrainian bishop

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Catholic News Service

A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Crimea said church members are alarmed and frightened by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities might be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent.

Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine, described the atmosphere as tense because many residents of the town located in the eastern part of Crimea were unsure of their future.

Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation near a Ukrainian military base in Crimea March 7. A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Ukraine’s Crimea region said church members are “alarmed and frightened” by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities could be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent. (CNS photo/Vasily Fedosenko, Reuters)

“No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine,” Father Milchakovskyi told Catholic News Service March 12.

“Our church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it’s uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed. We fear our churches will be confiscated and our clergy arrested,” the priest said amid tensions over a planned March 16 referendum on whether the autonomous territory should join Russia or remain in Ukraine.

Father Milchakovskyi said the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s leader, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, had pledged prayers and support if fellow-Catholics found themselves in danger.

However, he added that his church feared Russian rule would inflict a “new oppression” on Ukrainian Catholics, whose five communities traditionally make up about 10 percent of Crimean peninsula’s 2 million inhabitants.

“Many have already stopped coming to church, after being branded nationalists and fascists by local provocateurs,” Father Milchakovskyi said.

“The Orthodox have always insisted they’re dominant here and done everything to make life unpleasant for us. If they’re now given a free hand, we don’t know whether they’ll behave like Christians or follow the same unfriendly policy,” he said.

Under Soviet rule, from 1946 to 1989, the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed. The strongest members lived their faith clandestinely, while others attended an Orthodox church or no church at all. The government confiscated all church property, giving some buildings to the Orthodox and putting other buildings to secular uses.

In January, Archbishop Shevchuk said Ukraine’s now-ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, had threatened to ban the Ukrainian Catholic Church because of its support for pro-Western opposition protests. However, Leonid Novokhatko, Ukraine’s former culture minister, denied that Yanukovych planned to ban the church.

Father Milchakovskyi said he had been allowed, as a military chaplain, to visit Catholics serving with the Ukrainian naval infantry in Kerch, after their base in the eastern port was blockaded by Russian-backed forces.

He reported that Russian troops were “controlling who and what gets through,” and said young recruits now lacked food and medicines.

“Everyone says the results of the referendum are already known, although many would vote to remain in Ukraine, or to retain Crimea’s autonomous status,” the priest said.

“The referendum will have no legal status, and we don’t even know who’ll conduct it and count the votes. But we’re deeply anxious it will be used as a pretext to act against us,” he added.

Two days earlier, in a separate CNS interview, Father Milchakovskyi said Catholics would likely not vote in the referendum.

“They say that It’s not legal. They will not take part in it and that it is just illegal,” he said using his wife, Alexandra, as an interpreter. Eastern clergy may be married prior to priestly ordination.

Ethnic Russians make up 58 percent of the Crimean population, with Ukrainians 24 percent and mostly Muslim Tartars about 12 percent.

In a March 12 statement on his diocesan website, Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol criticized the international community for not taking action against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The world talks, criticizes Russia and does exactly what Putin expects, nothing,” said Bishop Bernacki.

He predicted the Crimea referendum, which has been rejected as illegal by most foreign governments, would “prove 80 percent support” for the region’s annexation by Russia and reflected a “wider policy by Putin,” as revealed in a 2008 military campaign against Georgia.

“Cutting off Crimea is only the beginning, it will then be time for Ukraine’s eastern and southern counties, and then perhaps the whole country,” the bishop said.

The president of Ukraine’s Latin-rite bishops’ conference, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, told Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, March 12 the bishops would hold their March 19-21 plenary in the eastern city of Kharkhov, “to be closer to those in greatest danger.”

News reports March 12 said unarmed groups of volunteers, with support from local authorities, were attempting to protect churches, mosques and cemeteries from looting and vandalism.

A day earlier, a bishop with Crimea’s Orthodox Church associated with the Kiev Patriarchate, which backs the new Ukrainian government, said several prominent pro-Western activists had disappeared. The statement said there was a “real danger to the lives of Ukrainians” in the territory.

Meanwhile, prices for fuel and food were rising fast, Father Milchakovskyi said.

“Our parishioners aren’t wealthy, and our clergy live in the same conditions, but we can’t request money or material help because we’ve no way of receiving them,” the priest said.

“We’re counting on the prayers of Christians abroad and also their moral support in protesting and making our problems known as widely as possible.”

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Czech priest wins $1.8 million Templeton Prize for interfaith dialogue

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Msgr. Tomas Halik, a Czech priest, has been named the 2014 Templeton Prize winner for his work in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding throughout the world.

The John Templeton Foundation made the announcement March 13 at a news conference in London.

John M. Templeton Jr., foundation president and chairman, said in a statement that this year’s winner “inspires us all to break free of repression, whether it comes from a totalitarian government or our own blinkered world view.”

Msgr. Tomas Halik gestures during a news conference after being awarded the 2014 Templeton Prize in London March 13. Msgr. Halik, a Czech priest, was honored for his work in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding throughout the world. (CNS photo/Oliva Harris, Reuters)

In an interview from London a day earlier, Msgr. Halik, 65, told Catholic News Service that the honor belongs in no small part to his teachers, many of whom were imprisoned for years under communism.

“They inspired me intellectually and morally,” Msgr. Halik said.

He was born in 1948 in Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia. Influenced by authors such as Graham Greene and G.K. Chesterton, he entered the Catholic Church as a teenager in 1966. In 1978, after years of training in secret for the priesthood, he was clandestinely ordained. Even his mother was not told of his new status.

Before the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that toppled communism in his country, Msgr. Halik helped organize an underground university and church community that advanced the ideals of faith and freedom.

“Whether risking prison to liberate the minds of his nation or daring to engage views that many keepers of the faith would find heretical, Tomas Halik has continually opened vistas that advance humankind,” said Templeton.

The revolution that brought down Czechoslovakia’s one-party government came about through massive, nonviolent street demonstrations organized by students and other dissidents. In June 1990, Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections since 1946.

Msgr. Halik initiated an ecumenical project called the “Decade of National Spiritual Renewal” to create “a moral and spiritual biosphere” to prepare Czech society for a democratic transition.

In 1993, the country split into two independent nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

After the fall of communism, Msgr. Halik returned to public life. In addition to serving as pastor of his parish in Prague, he was appointed as an adviser to the Pontifical Council for Non-Believers by Blessed John Paul II. In 1993, the council was incorporated into the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Msgr. Halik also began lecturing on sociology and religion in universities across Europe and the Americas.

Since 1995, Msgr. Halik has traveled all over the world to promote understanding between religions and cultures. He has taken part in talks among Jewish thinkers in Israel, Hindus in India and Great Britain, Buddhists in Nepal, Japan and Thailand, and Muslims in Egypt, Jordan and Great Britain.

Msgr. Halik believes that Catholics play an instrumental role in interfaith dialogue today.

“The Catholic tradition may be the only one which has something in common with both of these very different worlds, the world of Islam and the world of secular culture,” Msgr. Halik said. “We can understand both sides and promote dialogue between them.”

Each year, a nine-member panel chooses a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension to receive the Templeton Prize.

The prize includes a monetary award of about $1.8 million. Msgr. Halik told CNS that he had no immediate plans for the money, but would use it to further encourage dialogue among faiths and with nonbelievers.

“I see my mission as being a communicator with seekers,” the priest said. “It is important for the church not to be concerned only with dwellers, but also with seekers.”

 

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Shroud of Turin to be displayed for two months in 2015

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Archdiocese of Turin, custodian of the Shroud of Turin, has announced that the shroud, venerated by many as the burial cloth of Christ, will be on public display April 19-June 24, 2015.

The Shroud of Turin is seen on display in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, in this 2010 file photo. The Archdiocese of Turin, custodian of the shroud, has announced that the shroud, venerated by many as the burial cloth of Christ, will be on public display April 19-June 24, 2015. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Haring)

The archdiocese said the 67-day display will be the longest period of time that the 14-foot-by-4-foot linen cloth has ever been available for public viewing; providing a window of more than two months not only will allow more faithful to see it, but also will make it easier for Pope Francis to schedule the visit he has said he wants to make.

At the same time, the Turin announcement said, the public display will coincide with several events in Turin for young Catholics arriving to mark the 200th anniversary in 2015 of the birth of St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians.

In early March, the archdiocese also announced that it had chosen a theme for the 2015 display: “The greatest love.”

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin said, “The greatest love is God’s for men and women,” a love reflected in Jesus, “the son of God made man, who accepted death on the cross for the salvation of all, in every time and every situation.”

The image on the shroud, he said, testifies to the “suffering and death of a crucified man” and is “a sign of that love which does not end with death.”

Visitors will be able to make reservations to see the shroud, although as of March 6, the reservation system had not opened. Eventually, the information will be posted on www.sindone.org.

 

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Pope asks prayers for Ukraine; archbishop says Ukraine in danger

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As uncertainty reigned in Ukraine and Russian troops appeared to have control of the Crimean peninsula, Pope Francis again asked the world’s Christians to pray for Ukraine and urged the parties involved in the conflict to engage in dialogue.

An Orthodox clergyman prays next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in Ukraine’s Crimean region March 1. The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said Ukrainians must be prepared “to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state.” (CNS photo/Baz Ratner, Reuters)

“I ask you again to pray for Ukraine, which is in a very delicate situation,” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus March 2.

“While I hope that all sectors of the country will endeavor to overcome misunderstandings and build the future of the nation together,” the pope said, “I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to support every initiative in favor of dialogue and harmony.”

After Russian troops entered Crimea, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, issued a statement March 1 saying, “Ukraine, unfortunately, has been pulled into a military conflict. So far no one is shooting, so far people are not dying, but it is obvious that military intervention has already begun.”

“Our people and our country are currently in danger,” the archbishop said. “We must stand up for our country, to be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state,” he said in the statement distributed by the Catholic magazine Credo.

In Ukraine, March 2 was “Forgiveness Sunday” for Eastern Catholics and members of the Orthodox churches; Lent began March 3 for Catholics and Orthodox who follow the Byzantine tradition.

Addressing members of the church in a pastoral letter for Lent, Archbishop Shevchuk and members of the church’s permanent synod said Ukrainians “enter into the great fast this year with feelings of pain, fear, suffering and trembling hope.”

Months of protests sparked by a government decision to reverse a process of closer cooperation with Europe erupted in bloodshed in late February and led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. After an interim leader was appointed in Ukraine, the Russian government began what it called military exercises along the countries’ shared border and sent troops into Crimea.

In their Lenten letter, Archbishop Shevchuk and members of his synod called on Catholics to use the 40 days of Lent as a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to grow closer to God and to one’s neighbors. Lent, they said, is a time to convert from sin, suspicion and hatred and take responsibility together for the future of the country.

 

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Pope calls for peace and dialogue in Venezuela

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called for an immediate end to violence in Venezuela, urging the government and citizens to begin talks and work for the common good.

“I have been following with particular concern what is happening in Venezuela of late,” he said at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 26.

Demonstrators confront police during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 22. The country’s Catholic leaders urged dialogue and respect for the demonstrators’ human rights. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters) (

“It is my fervent hope that the violence and hostilities end as soon as possible and that all Venezuelans, starting with political and government leaders, work to promote national reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and dialogue that is sincere and respectful of the truth and justice, capable of confronting concrete issues for the common good.”

The pope assured people of his prayers, especially for those who lost their lives and their families.

He also invited everyone to pray to Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela, for “peace and harmony” in this South American nation.

As protests in Venezuela continued, with flare-ups of violence, the country’s Catholic leaders urged dialogue and respect for the demonstrators’ human rights.

“We have called for the social and political leaders to engage in deep, sincere dialogue” to address the country’s serious problems, including high rates of violent crime and economic difficulties that have caused a scarcity of some basic consumer goods, Caracas Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate, secretary-general of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

In a statement issued Feb. 24, the bishops’ justice and peace commission and other organizations called for “urgent action to help guarantee human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela.”

Nearly two weeks of demonstrations by opponents and supporters of the government of President Nicolas Maduro left at least six people confirmed dead, according to the commission, although government officials put the toll at 13.

More than 530 people were arrested, according to the statement provided to CNS by Janeth Marquez, who heads the church’s social ministry office in Caracas, Venezuela. Government officials said most of those arrested had been released.

One of the detainees was Leopoldo Lopez, one of the more radical opposition leaders, who turned himself in Feb. 18 after government officials accused him of inciting violence and ordered him arrested.

Eighteen cases of torture and one rape also have been reported, according to the human rights groups’ statement.

The groups expressed concern about paramilitary groups allegedly aligned with the government, which have clashed with protesters, as well as about threats against and attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.

The justice and peace commission and other groups called for “the national and international community to question the human rights violations, demand action for an independent investigation, ask for an end to the crackdown and promote genuine dialogue.”

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost the 2013 presidential election to Maduro, had said he would talk with Maduro at a meeting of government officials Feb. 24, but later decided to skip the meeting.

He has suggested that the church serve as mediator in talks between the government and the opposition. Bishop Gonzalez de Zarate said church leaders were open to the idea and that they had met Feb. 13 and 14 with student leaders from both sides.

Nevertheless, the bishop said, both sides would have to have an “authentic willingness to dialogue” and agree on an agenda of issues to be addressed.

Crucial concerns for Venezuelans, which underlie the protests, include the lack of public security, health care, quality education and “a social and political vision of the country,” he said.

The demonstrations began in San Cristobal, capital of the western state of Tachira, in early February, when an attempted rape prompted students to protest the lack of public security. They spread to other parts of the country, including Caracas, and turned violent on Feb. 12, Venezuela’s Youth Day.

San Cristobal, near the Colombian border, remained the scene of some of the fiercest demonstrations and crackdowns on protesters, and a large number of military troops have been sent to the town, Bishop Gonzalez de Zarate said.

On Feb. 14, Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodriguez of San Cristobal urged dialogue and an end to the violence.

“In the name of the Lord Jesus, we call for an end to violence of all kinds, verbal, aggression, crackdowns, and we seek to show that we are ‘people of peace,’” he wrote in a message. “We deplore the deaths that have occurred during protests in various places in the country, as well as the fact that many people have been injured. We ask that those who have caused these deaths and personal harm accept responsibility and be punished according to the law.”

The bishop also called for “political, social, economic and student leaders to meet and share ideas and opinions in a quest for consensus and a path of peace for all.”

— By Carol Glatz and Barbara J. Fraser

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