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Pope apologizes for Catholics’ participation in Rwanda genocide

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Pope Francis asked God’s forgiveness for the failures of the Catholic Church during the 1994 Rwanda genocide and for the hatred and violence perpetrated by some priests and religious.

Pope Francis poses with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his wife, Jeannette, during a private March 20 private meeting at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, pool via EPA)

Pope Francis poses with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his wife, Jeannette, during a private March 20 private meeting at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, pool via EPA)

“He implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the church and its members, among whom priests and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission,” said a Vatican statement released March 20 after the meeting of the pope and president.

Some 800,000, and perhaps as many as 1 million people, most of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group, died in the ferocious bloodshed carried out from April to July 1994.

“In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the statement published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion” in November, the Vatican said, “the pope also expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a ‘purification of memory’ and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the center.”

Pope Francis “conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the church, for the genocide against the Tutsi,” the Vatican said. “He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.”

In President Kagame’s 25-minute private meeting with the pope, as well as during his meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, note was made of “the collaboration between the state and the local church in the work of national reconciliation and in the consolidation of peace for the benefit of the whole nation,” the Vatican said.

In a statement read in churches throughout Rwanda Nov. 20, the country’s bishops apologized for “all the wrongs the church committed” during the genocide. “We regret that church members violated their oath of allegiance to God’s commandments” and that some Catholics were involved in planning, aiding and carrying out the massacres.

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Paralyzed NYPD officer who spoke of forgiveness dies at 59

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NEW YORK — Detective Steven McDonald, the New York City police officer who was paralyzed after being shot in the line of duty 30 years ago and famously forgave his teenage assailant and went on to became a prophetic voice for forgiveness and reconciliation, died Jan. 10. He was 59.

A New York police spokesman confirmed that McDonald, who was Catholic, had died at a Long Island hospital four days after suffering a heart attack.

Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department, who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty in 1986, smiles as he is greeted by then Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2013. McDonald died Jan. 10 at a Long Island hospital at age 59. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department, who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty in 1986, smiles as he is greeted by then Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2013. McDonald died Jan. 10 at a Long Island hospital at age 59. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York called McDonald “a prophet, without speaking, of the pro-life cause.”

“He showed us,” the cardinal said, “that the value of life doesn’t depend on physical ability, but on one’s heart and soul, both of which he had in abundance.”

The cardinal told Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York archdiocese, that he had visited McDonald in the hospita’s intensive care unit and said that the many rosaries and religious statues there represented outward signs of a Catholic faith the detective dearly practiced.

“You could see that he was such a fervent Catholic,” Cardinal Dolan said.

McDonald often discussed his Catholic faith and the reason he forgave the teenage shooter, explaining that he believed what happened to him was God’s will and that he was meant to become a messenger for God’s message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in the world.

While on patrol July 12, 1986, McDonald came upon three teenagers in Central Park and stopped to frisk them because he thought one of them had a weapon in his sock. One of the youths, then-15-year-old Shavod Jones, pulled out a weapon of his own and shot McDonald, leaving him for dead as the trio fled.

Three bullets struck McDonald, including one that pierced his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.

Doctors initially told McDonald’s wife, Patti, who was three months pregnant with the couple’s son, that the officer would not survive. However, McDonald pulled through. At the baptism of the son, Conor, March 1, 1987, McDonald asked his wife to read a statement about his feeling toward the shooter, saying “I forgive him and hope he can find a purpose in his life.”

McDonald remained on the police department payroll after being shot and later was named a detective.

McDonald long hoped that he and Jones could team up to speak about reconciliation. They corresponded while Jones served a 10-year sentence for attempted murder, but the correspondence ended when McDonald declined a request from Jones’ family for help in seeking parole, saying he was not knowledgeable enough or capable to intervene. Jones died in a 1995 motorcycle accident shortly after being released from prison on parole.

For years after the shooting, McDonald drew widespread attention and media coverage. He met with St. John Paul II in 1995 and with South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Although he was able to breathe only with the help of a respirator, McDonald crossed the country speaking at schools and other venues about the importance of forgiveness and peace. He also became an advocate for peace in troubled lands, visiting Northern Ireland, Israel and Bosnia to take his message to communities in conflict.

Conor McDonald eventually joined the NYPD and became a sergeant in 2016. He is the fourth generation of the family to serve in the department.

McDonald was born March 1, 1957, in Queens Village, New York, and grew up in Rockville Centre on Long Island. He was one of eight children of David and Anita McDonald.

      A funeral Mass was scheduled for Jan. 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with Cardinal Dolan presiding.

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      Contributing to this report was Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.

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Marlins’ fans remember Jose Fernandez with prayers at Cuban shrine

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Catholic News Service

MIAMI — South Florida’s Cuban-American Catholic community and other Miami Marlins baseball fans honored Jose Fernandez with prayers at the Cuban shrine and a public parade Sept. 28, a day before his private funeral.

A moment of silence is observed for Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez prior to the New York Yankees taking on the Boston Red Sox Sept. 27 at Yankee Stadium. The 24-year-old pitcher, who defected from Cuba at 15 and went on to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed Sept. 25 in a boating accident in Miami Beach, along with two other men. (CNS photo/Adam Hunger, USA TODAY)

A moment of silence is observed for Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez prior to the New York Yankees taking on the Boston Red Sox Sept. 27 at Yankee Stadium. The 24-year-old pitcher, who defected from Cuba at 15 and went on to become one of baseball’s brightest stars, was killed Sept. 25 in a boating accident in Miami Beach, along with two other men. (CNS photo/Adam Hunger, USA TODAY)

Fernandez, a pitcher and popular Cuban-American member of the Marlins team, died Sept. 25 following a tragic boating accident that also took the lives of two of his companions. They were on a late-night outing when their craft struck a jetty near Miami Beach.

With fans gathered at the West Plaza at Marlins Park, and then processed to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity near Miami’s Biscayne Bay and not far from the accident.

The procession then to proceeded to St. Brendan Catholic Church in Miami where a public visitation was scheduled. A private funeral for Fernandez was to be held Sept. 29.

Father Juan Rumin Dominguez, rector of Our Lady of Charity shrine, described Fernandez as “the young face of the Cuban diaspora.’

“This is a young man who is a source of pride for us Cubans, an example for our community and especially for Cuban young people,” said Father Dominguez.

“He was able to reach the highest goals. That’s why he’s an example to our Cuban young people,” the priest said. “He demonstrated that with dedication and effort, you can achieve the highest goals in this country.”

Other clergy throughout the region reportedly referred to the tragedy in their homilies and offered prayers for Fernandez Sept. 25.

Fernandez, 24, and two other men were killed early that Sunday when his 32-foot SeaVee boat slammed into a rock jetty that extends off the southern tip of Miami Beach.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues to investigate the crash. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results.

Fans established a makeshift memorial on the plaza outside the ballpark entrance, leaving dozens of flower arrangements — daisies, carnations, roses and lilies — the result as colorful as Fernandez’s personality. There also were candles, and messages scrawled on balls, balloons, photos and jerseys.

A spokeswoman for American Social Bar & Restaurant in Miami reportedly confirmed Sept. 27 to news media that Fernandez was a patron at the establishment before the crash. The bar is along the Miami River and allows boats to dock alongside.

Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, also died in the accident.

Since the tragedy, the Marlins have been grieving while also returning to playing games. In evening game Sept. 26, they defeated the Mets in an emotional and tearful game.

“I think the routine of the game is really good for you,” manager Don Mattingly said in a news release posted on the Marlins website. “You’ve been doing this almost the whole season. Yeah, we feel it’s almost like autopilot, fielding ground balls, take at-bats. It’s almost mindless. So it does good to be on the field. It feels good to prepare for a game.”

 

Contributing to this story was Ana Rodriguez-Soto.

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Father Berrigan recalled as an anti-war visionary ruled by faith at funeral Mass

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan, whose protests against government policies earned him multiple jail and prison sentences, was remembered as a “fierce, mischievous visionary,” a “Beatnik Jesuit friend,” a priest who “taught the sacrament of resistance,” and a loving uncle ruled by faith, not fear, during his funeral Mass.

More than 800 people packed the Church of St. Francis Xavier to cheer the life of the Jesuit at a festive service May 6.

A mourner carries signs as she participates in a peace march May 6 prior to the funeral Mass of Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Father Berrigan, a peace and social justice activist, died April 30 at age 94. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A mourner carries signs as she participates in a peace march May 6 prior to the funeral Mass of Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Father Berrigan, a peace and social justice activist, died April 30 at age 94. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Father Berrigan, a poet, author and longtime peace activist, died April 30 at age 94.

The Mass was concelebrated by more than two dozen priests, including retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit. Jesuit Father Stephen M. Kelly prefaced his homily with a tongue-in-cheek welcome to members of the FBI, which was met with laughter and applause. During his life, Father Berrigan’s anti-war demonstrations and meetings were routinely monitored by the FBI.

Father Kelly recalled Father Berrigan and his late brother and fellow activist Philip as men who lived the Resurrection and challenged religious leaders to know “bomb-blessing has no place in Jesus’ self-giving.” He suggested their lives of radical witness made them candidates to be doctors of the church.

At the Offertory, as the choir sang “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” a procession of children and relatives presented gifts described as important to Father Berrigan’s life: copies of his books, framed photos, a Salvadoran cross, a hammer, a green shirt he was fond of wearing, and a large banner with Isaiah’s admonition to beat swords into plowshares.

Elizabeth McAlister, widow of Philip Berrigan, got a standing ovation when she opened her eulogy with a rousing statement Father Berrigan used to rally the so-called Catonsville Nine and their supporters in 1968. The group entered a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, outside Baltimore, removed files, pour their blood on them and burned them using homemade napalm in an adjacent parking lot. Father Berrigan and others were found guilty of conspiracy and destruction of government property and served jail sentences.

McAlister said Father Berrigan invited his students into the streets to witness against the atrocities of war and they returned to their classrooms changed. “Dan shared ways to dig into resources and live deeply even with so much wrong in the world,” she said.

“The gift I walk with most is his practice of talking deeply but briefly at the end of an evening about something in the world and then posing the question, ‘What gives you hope?’ He experienced getting insights from others, he built and rebuilt the base, remembered the reasons for hope and returned to faith, hope and love,” McAlister said.

“Sisters and brothers, it is of no service to Dan or to his memory for us to simply hold him up as an icon especially in ways that exempt us from responsibility,” McAlister said to applause. “How much better would it be if we asked for a double portion of Dan’s spirit, and better yet, if we acted on it?”

In other eulogies, three nieces and a nephew recalled Father Berrigan as a wonderful storyteller, an uncle who introduced them to a gritty, cheeky New York, and a man whose mind was unleashed through his pen. “It was almost like he lived right in the heart of God and reported back to us,” Jerry Berrigan said.

Before the Mass, Jesuit Father James Keenan recalled with a smile that although their assignments never overlapped, he was grateful to Father Berrigan because, “He made a good decision on my part. He was one of my four interviewers coming into the Society (of Jesus) from Brooklyn Prep.”

Ken Curtin recalled Father Berrigan as a frequent visitor to his Bronx office in the early 1970s when he worked with the Defense Committee, an independent group established to publicize and support people who participated in draft board raids. He laughed as he said Father Berrigan’s example cost him a lot of money through the years.

“The night before the last time I was arrested in Washington in 1974, Father Berrigan bought me dinner, saying, ‘If you’re not working, you don’t pay’ and I’ve had to follow that practice ever since,” Curtin said.

About 300 gathered before the funeral and marched through Greenwich Village to the church on West 16th Street, following a serpentine path that passed buildings and locations significant to Father Berrigan’s life. The mourners assembled in the rain at Mary House, a Catholic Worker house in the East Village. Led by a brass band named the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and a woman on stilts carrying a parasol, they carried photos, banners and new and worn anti-war placards. Without comment, but with occasional song, they passed the St. Joseph Catholic Worker house, a Jesuit residence on Thompson Street, Washington Square Park and Union Square.

Organizer Matt Daloisio said, “Somehow it was fitting to walk through the rain to come sing Dan home.”

The marchers came from near and far. Art Laffin, a 39-year friend of the Jesuit from Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, said 50 Catholic Worker communities were represented. “Dan never wavered in calling for the abolition of war. He spoke out clearly. He knew the cost of discipleship and he paid the price. He gave his life to make the Word flesh,” he said.

Retired teacher Trudy Silver from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, said, “I’ve just been so appreciative of the Berrigans and the role they’ve played in the movement over the years. Their inspiration guides my thoughts, actions and teaching. I put them up there with Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who make life better.”

Despite the pelting rain, the march and funeral had the air of a reunion. As she surveyed the marchers, Silver said, “I’ve seen people here I’ve been arrested with over the years. People pulled together to honor Dan.”

There were mourners of all ages at the church, but the baby boomers were the best-represented group and there was an impressive display of gray beards and ponytails.

Joseph Finneral, a white-bearded self-described profligate from the Catholic Worker community in Worcester, Massachusetts, leaned on his sumac walking stick to offer an assessment of Father Berrigan.

“There’s little to cherish in this world and he’s the one who pointed to it,” Finneral said. “He was a great teacher and I loved the man. To tell the truth, and although the Berrigans would laugh about it, I’m a bit in awe of them,” he said.

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