Francis is enacting new rules for investigating bishops over sexual abuse or
its coverup, responding to mounting public pressure on the Catholic Church to
improve accountability after a string of abuse scandals involving senior
church law, laid out on Thursday, requires all dioceses in the world to set up
a “public, stable and easily accessible” process for reporting allegations of
abuse, including by bishops and cardinals, that protects victims and
whistleblowers. It says dioceses have to report allegations about bishops
without delay to the Vatican, which must decide within a month whether to
launch an investigation, take immediate disciplinary action or close the case.
rules seek to address complaints that the church lacked standard procedures for
pursuing bishops and heads of religious orders accused of committing or
covering up sex abuse. They don’t address the long-running divisions in the
church over how strictly to punish wrongdoers in abuse cases. Bishops in most
countries have rejected the U.S. church’s call for all abusers to be
permanently removed from ministry.
church’s troubles over sex abuse were reignited in 2018 by scandals involving
cardinals and bishops in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Australia. Growing
disillusionment among Catholics threatens to overshadow the pontificate of Pope
Francis, who after taking office in 2013 inspired popular hopes of a church
more in tune with modern society.
pope’s credibility has suffered from criticism that he didn’t take seriously
allegations of abuse, misconduct or coverup by bishops including former U.S.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, Australian Cardinal
George Pell and French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.
November, the Vatican frustrated U.S. bishops by blocking them from voting on
new measures aimed at holding bishops more accountable for abuse or failing to
act against it.
Thursday the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of
Galveston-Houston, welcomed the new law, saying in a statement that it “leaves
latitude for national bishops’ conferences…to specify still more to account for
their local circumstances.”
U.S. bishops’ leading lay adviser on child protection, Francesco Cesareo, said
the new legislation could stifle one element of the U.S. bishops’ proposals:
the establishment of a national commission of laypersons to oversee the
investigation of bishops. The pope’s new law instead gives responsibility for
investigations to local bishops acting under Vatican direction.
February, Pope Francis presided over a four-day global summit of bishops at the
Vatican to address the problem of clerical sex abuse. The pope called for an
“all-out battle” against abuse, but the meeting produced few specific measures.
rules outlined on Thursday aim to address criticism of a lack of concrete
reforms. They stipulate that reporting systems for abuse allegations, whether
run by church officials or outsiders on behalf of the church, must ensure the
privacy and protection of accusers and victims. Such systems are common in the
U.S. and other wealthy countries but less so in the developing world, church
enforced, there’s no doubt the new law will improve the church’s internal
processing of allegations,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of
BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based group that tracks abuse cases. “But it
has three obvious weaknesses: it stipulates no penalties for ignoring the law,
it mandates no transparency, and it doesn’t require that abusers be removed
permanently from the priesthood.”
Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, stressed that
the new law covers not only sexual abuse of minors but “abuse of authority”
that forces adults to perform sexual acts. He told the Vatican newspaper the
new law thus applies to the “abuse of nuns by clerics or the abuse of
seminarians or novices by their superiors.”
sends a signal that leadership is subject not only to civil law but canon law,”
Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at the Vatican on Thursday. He
said he would explain the law to congregants in Malta like this: “If I break
the rules, you must tell the pope, ‘look, our bishop is a bad person.’”
complaints are made against bishops, they must be referred to the Vatican right
away, unless determined to be patently unfounded. The Vatican is required to
decide within 30 days whether to order an investigation and, if so, which
bishop or other church official will lead the probe.
metropolitan, or senior bishop in the region, would be the presumptive
investigator, but the Vatican may choose another if the metropolitan is under
investigation himself or is judged incapable for some other reason. He may draw
on the expertise of laypersons in conducting the probe. The investigation must
ordinarily be completed within 90 days.
legislation, which takes effect June 1, also states that all clergy and nuns
are required to report any evidence of child sex abuse, possession of child
pornography, sexual assault of adults or coverup to their superiors or to the
Vatican’s local representative. This requirement doesn’t apply to information
transmitted during the sacrament of confession, which priests are forbidden to
divulge under pain of excommunication.
The law doesn’t expressly require the church to
report abuse allegations to secular authorities, but says priests and nuns
should comply with local laws.
Pope Francis on Friday meets with
the Catholic Biblical Federation on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary,
telling them the Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred books to study,
it is the Word of life to be proclaimed through the streets of the world.
to highlight the fruits of its 50 years of activity, the Catholic Biblical
Federation has been holding an International Biblical-Pastoral Congress this
week under the theme “Word and Life, Biblical Animation of the life and
pastoral activity of the Church”.
was on this theme of “Word and life” that the Pope dwelt on in his remarks on
Friday to those gathered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
The word of God is alive
them that, “The word of God is alive”; it does not die or even age;
it remains forever, adding that it was “the Holy Spirit, the life-giver, who
loves to work through Scripture.”
brings God’s breath into the world”, underlined Pope Francis, “it infuses the
heart with the warmth of the Lord. All the academic contributions and volumes
that are published are and cannot but be at the service of this”, he said.
The Word of life to be sown
Pope also pointed out that, “the Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred
books to study, it is the Word of life to be sown…”
Pontiff emphasized that in the Church, “the Word is an irreplaceable injection
of life. That is why homilies are fundamental”, he said. Preaching, he
continued, “is not an exercise in rhetoric, nor is it a set of wise human
notions. Instead, it is a sharing of the Spirit, of the divine Word that
touches the heart of the preacher, who communicates that warmth, that
Francis expressed the hope that there would be “a new season of greater
love for Sacred Scripture flourishing on the part of all the members of the
People of God”, so that it would deepen our relationship with Jesus.
explained that the Word “gives life to each believer by teaching them to
renounce themselves in order to proclaim Him.” He went on to say that, “in this
sense it acts like a sharp sword which, entering into the depths, discerning
thoughts and feelings, brings to light the truth, wounds to heal.”
The Word and the Church
that lives by listening to the Word, said Pope Francis, “is never satisfied
with its own security. She is docile to the unpredictable novelty of the
painted a picture of a Church that feeds on the Word, and lives to proclaim it.
The Word of God, said Pope Francis is the “best vaccine against closure and
In conclusion, the Pope said, the Word of God
and life should embrace each other and should not be without one another. He
also prayed the Bible would not remain in a library but would be proclaimed
through the streets of the world where people await it.www.vaticannews.va
Francis told the young people that their pilgrimage to Rome gave them the
opportunity to “revive within themselves the gift of faith”, as they remembered
the Apostles St Peter and St Paul, and the many witnesses —“including young
people” — “who suffered martyrdom for choosing to remain faithful to Jesus
Christ”. Some people, the Pope said, think that it is more difficult to be
Christian and live the faith than it was in the past. But Pope Francis insisted
that being Christian now is different from previous eras, but not more
Father encouraged the French youth to take advantage of their pilgrimage “to
rediscover the Church” to which they belong; a Church which, for two thousand
years “has advanced along her pilgrim way, sharing ‘the joys and the hopes, the
grief and anguish’ of all humanity’.”
fact”, he continued, “seeing you I recognize the work of the Lord Jesus who
does not abandon His Church, and that allows her, thanks to your youth, your
enthusiasm, and the talents He has entrusted to you, to renew herself and to be
rejuvenated in the various phases of her long history”.
Francis encouraged them “to remain united to the Lord Jesus by means of
listening to the Word, the practice of the sacraments, the fraternal life, and
through service to others”. In the Church, he said, “you can recognize the
message of Jesus that God wants to offer to the world through what is unique in
on them to always be “builders of bridges between people, seeking to advance a
‘culture of encounter and of dialogue, in order to contribute to the coming of
an authentic human fraternity’.” By caring for the smallest and poorest amongst
us, the Pope told them, “you can light stars in the night of the many who are
tried in various ways”.
counting on you!” Pope Francis said. “The Church needs your spirit, your
intuitions, your faith, your courage!”www.vaticannews.va
An Egyptian court on Wednesday confirmed death
sentences for two monks for killing the head of a monastery in the country’s
Officials revealed that two ex-Coptic
Christian monks, Isaiah El-Maqary and Faltaous El-Makary, who killed the head
of their desert monastery last year were sentenced to death.
In July 2018, Bishop Epiphanius, head of
Anba Makar Monastery (Saint Macarius the Great) near Wadi el-Natroun, was found
dead “in a pool of blood in his room, with fractures to his skull, as if he had
been struck with an instrument, and injuries to his back.”
In February, Damanhour Criminal Court
issued preliminary death sentences to two monks before the ruling was passed
over to the country’s grand mufti for his non-binding opinion as required by
“The defendants were led by the devil to
the path of evil and vice,” Judge Gamal Toson of the Damanhour court said in
his ruling in February.
The accused monk, Isaiah al-Makari, was
defrocked by the church days later and arrested by Egyptian authorities.
The church released a statement that the
monk was investigated even before the murder and that he was committing
“inappropriate actions which violate monastic behavior and way of life.”
The issue escalated as a second monk,
Faltaous al-Makary, attempted to kill himself by cutting his arteries and
throwing himself from the roof a monastery building before Isaiah al-Makar
confessed that both were involved in the murder of the bishop.
The murder led to new reforms in Egypt’s
Coptic Church, as Pope Tawadros II put a ban on monks leaving monastery grounds
without permission and restrictions on monks’ use of social networks and media
Kochi, India — On a hot Sunday morning as high Mass let out at St.
Thomas Kottakavu Church, Niya Francis, 24, found her shoes among a sea of
sandals left outside the church doorway and joined her fellow catechism
teachers as they headed to class in a small building next door.
her faith has been something Francis has wanted to do as soon as she was old
enough to command a classroom.
U.S. and other Western countries, where Catholic youth are increasingly leaving
the church, Francis would be the rare teacher below the age of 30. But the
church’s numbers in India have stayed relatively stable. “It’s a model
that we have learned growing up, and we need to teach the children that Jesus
loves them,” she said of her class.
is a Syro-Malabar Catholic, the largest group of St. Thomas Christians, a
pocket of faithful living in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala who are
divided between the Latin and Orthodox rites. Her gleaming white church houses
a congregation believed to have been founded by St. Thomas, the apostle, after
he arrived here in A.D. 52.
Syro-Malabar Catholics number just 5.1 million out of 1.2 billion Roman
Catholics worldwide, in Kerala, Syro-Malabar Catholics make up the majority of
Christians. In a country that’s predominantly Hindu, Kochi stands out with a
near 40 percent Christian population.
last year, however, the Syro-Malabar Catholics have been tested as their
archbishop, George Alencherry of Ernakulam, was accused of illegally selling
church property. News of a questionable land deal led to a protest
by a group of bishops who wanted to remove Alencherry.
months later, a Syro-Malabar Catholic nun under the Latin church accused a
bishop of brutally raping her 13 times. Five sisters and several Christian
organizations, united under the Save Our Sisters banner, rallied
to support the nun and demand the arrest of the bishop. Bishop Franco
Mulakkal was arrested this
response of the young has been closely watched in the wake of the scandals.
low credibility of religious leaders, people continue going to church,”
said Michael Tharakan, a researcher at the Kerala Council for Historical
Research specializing in St. Thomas Christians.
St. Thomas Kottakavu Church in Kochi, India, has
a statue display of St. Thomas, center, proselytizing. The congregation
believes it was founded by St. Thomas when he arrived in the area in A.D. 52.
thinks this may in part be because of the church’s crucial role in Kerala as
educators. Christian missionaries started the first school in Kochi and built
numerous hospitals and universities. Kerala’s almost 100 percent literacy rate,
it is believed, can be attributed to the success of the Christian school
are reasons for concern. The Rev. Joseph Alencherry, a leader of the Syro-Malabar Youth
Movement, said he’s seen a 25 percent decline in attendance at his church.
“I would say 70 percent of that is most likely youth,” he said.
question about our religion at this age. So when these clergy do things like
that, we are exhausted of hearing about it,” Renu Dominic, 18, said.
Dominic is a first-year student at St. Teresa’s College.
about the recent incidents has put Catholic youth under pressure from their
constantly ridiculed by non-Christians who might say, ‘Look at the situation at
the church!’ ” Bivin Varghese, 31, said.
is global deputy director of the Syro-Malabar Youth Movement, a group officially
sanctioned by the Vatican to strengthen youth participation in the church. He
notes that many of the youth in his organization have raised questions about
their faith to him.
had a difficult time answering their colleagues, their friends in college,
their peers, and they’re really seeking a convincing answer from us,”
there are those whose faith hasn’t been staggered by the incidents. Francis,
for one, is not deterred. She finds meaning in the church and her role in it.
faith is not Bishop Franco or the nuns. It’s Jesus Christ,” Francis said.
[Brooke Thames contributed to this report.]
attackers set off at least seven explosives on Easter Sunday morning at three
churches and four hotels.
the churches targeted were Catholic and one was an evangelical church.
blast hit St. Anthony’s Catholic Shrine in Kochchikade, a district north of the
capital Colombo, causing heavy casualties.
people died at St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo, another district
north of Colombo.
targeted evangelical church was in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, where more
than two dozen people were killed.
explosions struck within a short period of time, all targeting the faithful as
Easter services were beginning.
Four hotels bombed
the same time on Sunday morning, blasts struck four hotels in Colombo,
including the Shangri-La Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand.
nine foreigners were killed in Sunday’s attacks.
Archbishop of Colombo
Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, said it is “a very, very sad day
for all of us.”
therefore, to express my deepest sorrow and sympathy to all those innocent
families that have lost someone, and also to those who have been injured and
rendered destitute,” he continued.
Ranjith said, “I condemn – to the utmost of my capacity – this act that has
caused so much death and suffering to the people.”
He also called on Sri Lanka’s government to hold
“a very impartial, strong inquiry and find out who is responsible behind these