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Jerusalem’s Christian leaders concerned with increased tension in Old City

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Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — The heads of Jerusalem’s Christian churches expressed “serious concern” over an escalation in tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City as hostilities remained high following the mid-July shooting deaths of two Israeli policemen and three gunmen on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Palestinian worshipers protest in Jerusalem July 20 because they refuse to pass through new security measures imposed at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound. (CNS photo/Abir Sultan, EPA)

Palestinian worshipers protest in Jerusalem July 20 because they refuse to pass through new security measures imposed at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound. (CNS photo/Abir Sultan, EPA)

The church leaders said they were worried that any change to the status quo of the site could “easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences.”

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, were among the signatories of the July 19 statement.

Police believe the gunmen, three cousins, Arab citizens of Israel who were killed by Israel police, stashed their weapons inside the compound of the holy site for use in the July 14 attack.

“We express … our grief for the loss of human life and strongly condemn any act of violence,” the Christian leaders said. “We are worried about any change to the historical situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram ash-Sharif) and its courtyard, and in the holy city of Jerusalem. … We value the continued custody of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on Al-Aqsa mosque and the holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which guarantees the right for all Muslims to free access and worship to Al-Aqsa according to the prevailing status quo.”

Israel, which maintains control to access the site and has set up metal detectors at the entrance of the compound, repeatedly has said it has no intentions of changing the status quo in the area. The Jordanian Waqf Islamic trust administers the inside of the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the site but cannot pray there.

The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is also considered a Jewish holy site as the historical location of the two Jewish biblical temples.

Today, Jews pray at the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the platform, below the compound. Visitors to the Western Wall plaza must go through metal detectors to enter the site.

Jerusalem Muslim leaders have called on worshippers not to go through the metal detectors, and Muslims have been converging outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate for prayers instead.

“We renew our call that the historical status quo governing these sites be fully respected, for the sake of peace and reconciliation to the whole community, and we pray for a just and lasting peace in the whole region and all its people,” the Jerusalem church leaders said.

On July 14, the same day as the attack, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the incident as a “desecration.” The bishops said they mourned for those killed and deplored “the heightened tensions that such an attack can span.” They noted that the “path to peace, for which both Israelis and Palestinians yearn, cannot be paved with violence.”

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Investigation into German choir finds more than 500 boys were abused — Updated

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator.

Peter Schmitt and Alexander Probst, representing victims who claimed abuse while members of the boys choir at the cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, are seen Oct. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA)

Peter Schmitt and Alexander Probst, representing victims who claimed abuse while members of the boys choir at the cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, are seen Oct. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA)

Former students of the Domspatzen choir reported that the physical, emotional and even sexual abuse at the school made life there like “a prison, hell and a concentration camp,” said Ulrich Weber, the lawyer leading the investigation of claims of abuse at the choir and two associated boarding schools.

A “culture of silence” among church leaders and members allowed such abuse to continue for decades, Weber said as he presented the final report on his findings during a press conference in Regensburg July 18.

The investigation, commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg, found that at least 547 former members of the Regensburg Domspatzen boys choir in Germany were subjected to some form of abuse, according to Vatican Radio. Of those victims, 67 students were victims of sexual violence, the radio said.

The 440-page report, which spanned the years between 1945 and the early 1990s, found highly plausible accusations against 49 members of the church of inflicting the abuse, with nine of them accused of being sexual abusive. The Diocese of Regensburg and the Domspatzen choir supplied links to the report and related news stories or resources on their respective web sites: www.bistum-regensburg.de and www.domspatzen.de.

In the report, Weber sharply criticized Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who was bishop of Regensburg from 2002 until 2012, when Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Then-Bishop Muller had “a clear responsibility” in the “strategic, organizational and communication weaknesses” that marked the process he launched of reviewing allegations. Cardinal Muller had ordered the creation of a commission to investigate and search through diocesan archives in the wake of the 2010 abuse crisis.

But in an interview with TV2000, the satellite television station owned by the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Muller denied he had not done enough as bishop of Regensburg.

“I launched the process of investigation” when abuse claims increasingly emerged in 2010, he said in the interview, which aired July 20.

Time, resources and assistance were dedicated to “offering justice to victims,” he said, and he personally set up a team of experts and appealed to victims to come forward.

“Those responsible for abuse are relatively few and a number of them are dead,” he said, adding that “unfortunately we can’t put dead people on trial, but whatever could be done, juridically and pastorally, the diocese did, just as it does today.”

He said the elementary school where the choir boys studied was “institutionally independent from the diocese” and that, at the time, it was also very reserved, “very closed, nobody could go in.”

“Perhaps there were rumors, but they never reached the diocese,” the cardinal said.

One of the first Domspatzen student-victims to come forward in 2010 with allegations of sexual abuse, Alexander Probst, told Deutsche Welle July 18 that he had been very frustrated and angry with the way then-Bishop Muller reacted to his claims. He said the bishop accused him of denouncing the church.

In the interview, whose link could be found on the Regensburg boys’ choir website, Probst said he felt the bishop actively protected abusers, and that “it got even worse when he was appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it was like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.”

“It was only after the new bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, realized that there was much more to all this than met the eye when things began to get better. Starting in 2015, he personally wanted to cooperate with us,” Probst said.

Widespread news of the suspected abuse first emerged in 2010 as religious orders and bishops’ conferences in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were faced with a flood new allegations of the sexual abuse of children, mainly at Catholic schools.

The boys’ choir had been led between 1964 and 1994 by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of retired Pope Benedict XVI.

In an interview with the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse in 2010, Msgr. Ratzinger apologized to victims at his former school, even though he said he had been unaware of the alleged incidents.

“There was never any talk of sexual abuse problems, and I had no idea that molestation was taking place,” the priest said, as he recalled his 30 years as the school’s choirmaster.

Msgr. Ratzinger had said when he served at the school, “there was a climate of discipline and rigor … but also of human understanding, almost like a family.” He knew that the priest who headed the school from 1953 until his death in 1992 had slapped boys in the face, but said he had not considered such punishments “particularly brutal.”

“If I’d known the exaggerated vehemence with which the director acted, I would have reacted,” he said in the 2010 interview.

In his report, Weber said Msgr. Ratzinger should have known about at least some cases of physical violence, but that his role “was still not at all clear.”

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Vatican Radio the new report shows how Bishop Voderholzer “has taken seriously all the allegations” and is “very courageous in taking on an issue that has been looming for many years.”

It is only now that the facts have become “plain, in the light of day” because of establishing and cooperating with a professional, independent investigation, he said.

This latest report should inspire church leaders around the world, Father Zollner said, “so that they do the same today because this will help, first of all, those who have been harmed in the past.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

 

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Korean archbishop backs South Korea’s peace initiative

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SEOUL, South Korea — The president of the Korean bishops’ conference has welcomed President Moon Jae-in’s peace initiative, saying it matches the church’s views on how peace can be achieved on the peninsula.

A Chinese tourist looks over a barbed-wire fence near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Kim Hong-Ji, Reuters)

A Chinese tourist looks over a barbed-wire fence near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Kim Hong-Ji, Reuters)

“I deeply agree with President Moon’s direction for the future relations of the two Koreas,” said Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, conference president. His remarks were reported by ucanews.com.

Since taking office, Moon has said South Korea will take the lead in the peaceful coexistence with the North and presented principles aimed toward such a goal.

Moon said his administration is planning for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through guaranteeing North Korea’s safety and the construction of a permanent peace system. There also will be economic and expanded civil exchanges, he said.

Such measures have been given full support by the Korean bishops, ucanews.com reported.

“First, we need a peace accord with support from surrounding countries, and we should resume inter-Korean exchanges such as civil exchanges, the operation of Kaesong industrial complex and tourism to Mt. Keumkang,” both of which are in North Korea, said Archbishop Kim.

The North and the South have been divided since Korea’s liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II. The 1950-53 Korean War made the governments bitter enemies.

In recent months, tensions have been high over North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile development.

In June, the Korean bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People held a symposium and stressed that a peace accord would help usher in better relations with the North.

“The local church has actively participated in the exchanges between (the two nations), such as sending medicines and supporting farming development in North Korea, and it will keep doing it,” said Archbishop Kim.

Father Timothy Lee Eun-hyeong, secretary of the bishops’ committee, said, “President Moon’s direction is the same as ours.”

However, Father Lee said it would not be easy.

“The way to a peaceful Korea will not be smooth with the North’s missile development and ever-changing international affairs,” Father Lee said.

“Just as the church in Germany took an important role in the reunification of East and West Germany, the Korean church will raise our voice for the peaceful co-existence of two Koreas,” Father Lee added.

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Jesuit journal decries fundamentalist tones emerging in U.S. politics

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — U.S. politics have become increasingly colored by an apocalyptic world view, promoted by certain fundamentalist Christians, that fosters hatred, fear and intolerance, said an influential Jesuit magazine.

In fact, this world view shares some similarities with Islamic fundamentalism since “at heart, the narrative of terror shapes the world views of jihadists and the new crusaders” and is drawn from wellsprings “that are not too far apart,” said La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal reviewed by the Vatican before publication. Read more »

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Have you heard? A U.N. treaty, backed by Vatican and U.S. bishops, has banned nuclear weapons

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Catholic News Service

The passage of a United Nations treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons comes at a time when the majority of world’s nations are frustrated with the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

Even with such a pact, years in the making, there is no timeline for total disarmament, arms control experts told Catholic News Service. Read more »

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Economic solutions need broader vision, pope tells G-20 leaders

July 8th, 2017 Posted in Featured, International News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — World leaders attending the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, must reflect on the repercussions their decisions may have on the entire global community and not just their own countries, Pope Francis said.

While it is reasonable that the G-20 is limited to a “small number of countries that represent 90 percent of the production of wealth and services worldwide,” a multilateral approach in solving economic problems must be made “for the benefit of all,” the pope said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the plenary session of the the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July, 7. In a message sent to world leaders attending the meeting, Pope Francis said they must reflect on the repercussions their decisions may have on the entire global community, not just their own countries.(CNS photo/Felipe Tueba, EPA)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the plenary session of the the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July, 7. In a message sent to world leaders attending the meeting, Pope Francis said they must reflect on the repercussions their decisions may have on the entire global community, not just their own countries.(CNS photo/Felipe Tueba, EPA)

The pope’s message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the July 7-8 leaders’ summit, was dated June 29 and released July 7 at the Vatican.

“Those states and individuals whose voice is weakest on the world political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of economic crises for which they bear little or no responsibility,” the papal message said.

“This great majority, which in economic terms counts for only 10 percent of the whole, is the portion of humanity that has the greatest potential to contribute to the progress of everyone,” he said.

The members of the G-20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Citing his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis proposed four principles “for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies.”

Reflecting on the principle that “time is greater than space,” the pope said the migration crisis, which is “inseparable from the issue of poverty and exacerbated by armed conflict,” requires an effective solution spread over time with a clear “final objective.”

“In the minds and hearts of government leaders, and at every phase of the enactment of political measures, there is a need to give absolute priority to the poor, refugees, the suffering, evacuees and the excluded, without distinction of nation, race, religion or culture, and to reject armed conflicts,” he said.

He also urged world leaders to promote economic policies where “unity prevails over conflict.” Economic differences, he said, cannot be resolved if leaders are not committed to “substantially reducing levels of conflict, halting the present arms race and renouncing direct or indirect involvement in conflicts.”

“There is a tragic contradiction and inconsistency in the apparent unity expressed in common forums on economic or social issues, and the acceptance, active or passive, of armed conflicts,” the pope said.

G-20 leaders, he continued, must follow the example of past world leaders who were guided by “the primacy of the human being” and turn away from “new ideologies of absolute market autonomy and financial speculation.”

“In their tragic wake, these bring exclusion, waste and even death,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said to resolve today’s economic problems and challenges, the G-20 leaders must first “consider the eventual repercussions on all countries and their citizens, while respecting the views and opinions of the latter.”

He also expressed his hope that the meeting would be led by “the spirit of responsible solidarity that guides all those taking part.”

“I ask God’s blessings upon the Hamburg meeting and on every effort of the international community to shape a new era of development that is innovative, interconnected, sustainable, environmentally respectful and inclusive of all peoples and all individuals,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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U.S., European bishops call for elimination of nuclear weapons

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Agencies of the U.S. and European Catholic bishops have called for all nations to develop a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from their military arsenals.

A joint declaration released July 6 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions called upon the U.S. and European nations to work with other nations to “map out a credible, verifiable and enforceable strategy for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

A group marching for nuclear disarmament carries a banner during a protest in mid-April in Berlin. Agencies of the U.S. and European Catholic bishops have called for all nations to develop a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from their military arsenals. (CNS photo/Clemens Bilan, EPA)

A group marching for nuclear disarmament carries a banner during a protest in mid-April in Berlin. Agencies of the U.S. and European Catholic bishops have called for all nations to develop a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from their military arsenals. (CNS photo/Clemens Bilan, EPA)

“The indiscriminate and disproportionate nature of nuclear weapons compel the world to move beyond nuclear deterrence,” the declaration said.

Titled “Nuclear Disarmament: Seeking Human Security,” the declaration was released a day ahead of the July 7 conclusion of a second U.N. conference discussing a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons altogether.

The declaration was signed by Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions.

“The teaching of our church, from the catechism to St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, about the urgent need for nuclear disarmament is clear,” Bishop Cantu said in a statement accompanying the declaration’s release. “It is time for us to heed this moral imperative and promote human security both within the United States and Europe and globally.”

The U.S. and most European nations have sat on the sidelines during the U.N. meetings discussing a weapons ban, preferring to focus on the need for broader security measures to allow for strategic stability on the road to verifiable reductions in nuclear arsenals. In all, about 40 nations are boycotting the negotiations to ban such weapons. Most nations continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

Bishop Cantu told Catholic News Service his committee and the European bishops wanted to highlight the “glaring absence” of nuclear weapons states, including the U.S., from the U.N. conference.

“The silence gives us some clarity to raise a moral voice, to say, ‘Let’s look from a moral perspective what our priorities are as a nation when we’re looking to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into the update and renewal of the nuclear arsenal,” he said.

The declaration, he explained, serves to encourage the countries possessing nuclear weapons to join the U.N. meetings and exercise leadership in reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons stockpiles.

“There are some really serious moral issues, economic issues, priority issues, policy issues that we want to lift up to society and our own electorate,” the bishop said.

“We can lend a voice as well to the Vatican statement that was issued in 2014 that was really critical that clarified for the Catholic world at least and others … that the ethic of deterrence was supposed to be one step on the road toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. It’s (stockpiling weapons) not the pathway itself,” Bishop Cantu added.

The declaration acknowledged that nuclear weapon states have been spending billions of dollars to modernize their nuclear arsenals. “These costly programs will divert enormous resources from other pressing needs that build security,” it said.

“The fact that most of the world’s nations are participating in this effort testifies to the urgency of their concern, an urgency intensified by the prospect of nuclear terrorism and proliferation, and to the inequality and dissatisfaction of non-nuclear states about the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament,” the statement said.

The declaration cited Pope Francis, who during his papacy has repeatedly called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, most recently in a message to the United Nations’ opening conference on a treaty to ban such weapons in March.

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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U.N. must help limit weapons of mass destruction, Vatican diplomat says

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UNITED NATIONS — Citing the words of Pope Francis, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations said it is necessary to boost cooperation among nations to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially among terrorist organizations.

An aide carries a case containing launch codes for nuclear weapons in Washington while following President Donald Trump before his departure to Camp David June 17. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

An aide carries a case containing launch codes for nuclear weapons in Washington while following President Donald Trump before his departure to Camp David June 17. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

Archbishop Bernardito Auza told an open debate during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council June 28 that efforts to increase coordination nationally, regionally and internationally must be strengthened so that the number of such weapons declines.

“The proliferation of weapons, both conventional and of mass destruction, aggravates situations of conflict and result in huge human and material costs that profoundly undermine development and the search for lasting peace,” Archbishop Auza told the council.

He quoted Pope Francis’ statements on the contradiction between efforts to seek peace and “at the same time, promote or permit the arms trade.” The diplomat said nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament are key to global security and to achieving the world body’s sustainable development goals.

The statement to the U.N. said that nations must overcome differences and find political solutions to prevent the involvement of nonstate actors in wars and regional conflicts.

“Without this, the human cost of wars and conflicts will continue to grow and the proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, along with their delivery systems and the risk of their use by states or terrorist groups will remain very clear and present dangers,” Archbishop Auza said.

Bolivia introduced the topic for the Security Council debate. It came in response to unanimous adoption Dec. 15 of a council resolution calling for a framework to keep terrorists and their organizations, which the U.N. terms nonstate actors,” from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

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Cardinal Pell, professing innocence, will face sexual abuse charges in Australia

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Proclaiming his innocence after being charged with sexual abuse, Australian Cardinal George Pell said, “I’m looking forward finally to having my day in court.”

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

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Global rosary relay prompted by words from Mary, says organizer

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON — The eighth annual global rosary relay June 23 involves 125 shrines in 63 countries throughout the world.

 With 25 new sites, there’s an expectation that 10 million people will be saying the rosary in support of priestly vocations and the sanctification of priests. Read more »

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