Pope Francis has
declared his ambition to visit South Sudan two years after a planned 2017 trip
was cancelled because of the civil war in the world’s youngest country.
News gathered the Pope during a meeting with South Sudanese President
SalvaKiir on Saturday, expressed his desire to visit the country.
the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a
Vatican statement said.
that he wanted to make the trip as “a sign of closeness to the population and
of encouragement for the peace process”.
South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in
December 2013 when a dispute between Kiir and his sacked deputy RiekMachar
sparked fighting, often along ethnic lines.
400,000 people have been killed, and more than a third of the country’s 12
million people uprooted by the civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple
rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.
September, Kiir, who is Catholic, and Machar, a Presbyterian, signed a peace
deal calling on the two main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their
respective forces and unify them into a national army before the formation of a
unity government in May.
days ago, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report that
the six-month-old peace deal risked collapse because none of these steps has
occurred, just two months before the deadline.
half of the population of South Sudan is Christian, while Sudan is
Catholic Church leaders in the country said they had expected the pope would
visit the capital, Juba, in the autumn of that year. The tentative plans were
scrapped because of security concerns.
trip was to have lasted only one day for security reasons and the pope was to
have flown in after spending a night in another African country.
French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who
received a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to report sex abuse by
a priest under his authority, will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday,
officials in his southeastern Lyon diocese said.
Barbarin, the most senior French cleric
caught up in the global paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic
Church, had said after his conviction last week that he would travel to Rome to
tender his resignation.
The pontiff will grant the 68-year-old
archbishop of Lyon a private audience at 10am (0900GMT), French church
On March 7 a court in Lyon found Barbarin
guilty of failing to report allegations that a priest, Bernard Preynat, had
abused boy scouts in the Lyon area in the 1980s and 1990s.
The priest, who was charged in 2016, is
expected to be tried this year.
Barbarin’s lawyer immediately announced
plans to fight the landmark ruling, which was hailed by abuse victims as
ushering in a new period of accountability in the French church.
His trial came as Pope Francis battles to
restore faith in the church following a slew of abuse scandals that have
spanned the globe, from Australia to Chile and the United States.
Less than a week after Barbarin’s
conviction the Vatican’s former number three, Australian Cardinal George Pell,
was sentenced to six years in prison by a Melbourne court for the “brazen”
sexual abuse of two choirboys.
Barbarin, an arch-conservative who took
over as archbishop in Lyon in 2002, was an outspoken opponent of gay marriage.
He had long been accused by victims’ groups
in Lyon of turning a blind eye to child abuse in his diocese which blighted
dozens of lives.
“I cannot see what I am guilty of,”
Barbarin told the court at the start of the trial in January. “I never tried to
hide, let alone cover up, these horrible facts.”
But the court found otherwise, saying the
archbishop, “in all conscience”, chose not to tell authorities of the abuse
allegations “in order to preserve the institution to which he belongs”.
Two other senior French religious figures have
been convicted of failing to report child abuse in the past: Pierre Rican, the
archbishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, in 2001, and the former bishop of Orleans, Andre
Fort, last year.
Christians protest against the killings of people during clashes in Cairo
between Christian protesters and military police, and what the demonstrators
say is persecution of Christians, in Los Angeles, California October 16, 2011.
(Credit: Reuters/David McNew.)
During the month of March, Pope Francis has asked believers to pray for
Christians around the world who may face death for making the sign of the
cross, reading the Bible, going to Mass on Sunday, or generally expressing
their faith in public.
be hard for us to believe, but there are more martyrs today than in the first
centuries,” Francis says in this month’s edition of “The Pope Video.”
are being killed he says, because “they speak the truth and proclaim Jesus Christ,”
risking oppression and physical harm even “in countries where, in theory and on
paper, they protect freedom and human rights.”
to the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need, the fundamental human right
of religious freedom is gravely threatened in 38 countries.
places around the world, religious freedom isn’t an idea; it’s a question of
survival,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN. “It’s not
about whether you feel more or less comfortable with the ideological foundations
underlying religious freedom; it’s about how to avoid a bloodbath!”
statement released by The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network accompanying the
video, released on Tuesday, details some of the most recent attacks against
Christians, including a bombing during Mass at the Cathedral of Jolo in the
Philippines, where 23 people were killed. It also notes that 40 missionaries
were murdered in 2018, 35 of whom were priests.
cases have gotten more media coverage, such as that of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani
mother accused of blasphemy, condemned to death and then freed after 9 years of
prison,” the statement reads. “There’s also the case of the 21 Egyptians who
were decapitated in 2015, and the massacre at Pershawar in December of 2014,
when more than 130 students were massacred.”
cases go unnoticed, the group said, as they’re too many to track down. Hence
Francis’s decision to make the papal prayer intention for the month of March
the Christian communities, “especially those who are persecuted,” so they “feel
that they are close to Christ and have their rights respected.”
to a 2018 report by Open Doors USA, there are more than 215 million Christians
persecuted worldwide, and one in 12 live in countries where Christianity is
“illegal, forbidden, or punished.”
countries where Christians face constant danger are found on every continent:
from North Korea and China in Asia, to Nigeria and Somalia in Africa, with
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria in the Middle East and also countries
such as Colombia and Mexico in the Americas.
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, founded in 1844 as the Apostleship of Prayer,
is a Jesuit-run initiative to encourage prayer on a specific papal intention
afternoon Pope Francis crossed the city to visit the Parish of St. Crispin from
Viterbo in the northern periphery of Rome.
Francis spent time on Sunday afternoon with the parishioners of the Church of
St. Crispin from Viterbo on the outskirts of Rome.
welcomed by the Cardinal Vicar, Angelo De Donatis, and by other Church
authorities as wells as by the parish priest, fr Luciano Cacciamani.
his visit to the parish, the Pope spent some time with children and young people
involved in catechism classes as well as with a group of poor and
homeless people who are assisted by the Community of St. Egidio, and with a
group of sick and disabled people.
wrapped up with the celebration of Holy Mass. During the homily he reflected on
the Gospel reading of the day and offered two recommendations: the first to
engage in prayer, and the second to avoid gossiping and speaking badly of
The Vatican’s economy minister was convicted of molesting two choirboys in 1996
MELBOURNE, Australia — The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, dealing a new blow to the Catholic hierarchy’s credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and cover-up.
Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation.
The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.
Pell faces a potential maximum 50-year prison term.
On Wednesday, a judge revoked the cardinal’s bail and said he would announce the disgraced cleric’s sentence March 13.
The bail revocation means Pell mjust remain jailed until then.
Victorian state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell was guilty of a breach of trust with an element of brutality and had had a sense of impunity. He said, “I see this as callus, brazen offending — blatant.”
The 77-year-old former Vatican economy minister showed no expression as he walked from the dock with a cane escorted by three court security officers and a prison guard.
Details of the trial had been suppressed because until Tuesday, Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two boys aged 9 or 10 and 11 or 12 as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat.
Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the court on Tuesday that the Ballarat charges had been dropped and asked for the suppression order to be lifted.
The victim who testified at Pell’s trial said after the conviction was revealed that he has experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle.” In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.
Lawyer Lisa Flynn said the father of the second victim, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once the appeal is resolved.
Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, initially wanted details of the trial suppressed until his appeal was heard, but later withdraw the application.
Pell was surrounded by a crush of cameras and members of the public as he was ushered from the courthouse to a waiting car. “You’re a monster!” one man shouted. “You’re going to burn in hell, you freak!”
“Are you sorry?” one woman shouted. Pell did not respond.
Another of Pell’s lawyers, Paul Galbally, said Pell continued to maintain his innocence.
The revelations came in the same month that the Vatican announced Francis approved the expulsion from the priesthood of a former high-ranking American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for sexual abuse of minors and adults.
The convictions were also confirmed days after Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.
The jury convicted Pell of abusing two boys whom he had caught swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996, as hundreds of worshippers were streaming out of Sunday services.
Pell, now 77 but 55 at the time, had just been named the most senior Catholic in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne.
The boys were both 13 years old. The jury also found Pell guilty of indecently assaulting one of the boys in a corridor more than a month later.
Pell had maintained his innocence throughout, describing the accusations as “vile and disgusting conduct” that went against everything he believed in.
Richter, his lawyer, had told the jury that only a “mad man” would take the risk of abusing boys in such a public place. He said it was “laughable” that Pell would have been able to expose his penis and force the victim to take it in his mouth, given the cumbersome robes he was wearing.
Both he and Chief Judge Peter Kidd urged the jury of eight men and four women not to punish Pell for all the failings of the Catholic Church, which in Australia have been staggering.
“You must not scapegoat Cardinal Pell,” Kidd told the jury.
Along with Ireland and the U.S., Australia has been devastated by the impact of the clerical abuse scandal, with a Royal Commission inquiry finding that 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia between 1980 and 2015.
Pell’s downfall will invariably tarnish the pope, since Francis appointed Pell economy minister in 2014 even though some of the allegations against him were known at the time.
In October, Francis finally cut Pell loose, removing him as a member of his informal cabinet. Pell technically remains prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry, but his five-year term expires this year and is not expected to be renewed.
By Europe correspondent Bridget Brennan at the Vatican.
Abuse victims have hit out at comments made by Pope Francis after he labelled the church’s critics “friends of the devil”.
- Pope Francis said those who spend their lives accusing the church are related to the devil
- Victims said the comments resembled a “Trumpian tantrum”
- The Pope has called for “concrete” steps to combat child sexual abuse in the church
During a speech to pilgrims from southern Italy on Wednesday, Pope Francis said “defects” from the church had to be denounced so they could be corrected, and those who criticise “without love” were linked to the devil.
“One cannot live a whole life of accusing, accusing, accusing, the church,” Pope Francis said.
“Who is the accuser? Who in the Bible is called the Great Accuser? The devil.
“Those who spend their lives accusing, accusing, accusing are not the devil’s children because the devil has none.
“[They are] friends, cousins and relatives of the devil, and this is wrong.”
The comments were made on the eve of the Vatican’s landmark summit into the protection of minors, with 190 bishops and heads of Catholic religious orders travelling to the Holy See to ensure church leaders are held accountable to victims.
British victims’ advocate Pete Saunders said the Pope’s comments proved he was “not really interested in bringing real change”.
Mr Saunders was previously a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors but was put on leave when he openly chastised the Pope’s response to revelations of clerical abuse in Chile.
“To attack us and to say that we are friends, relatives and cousins of the devil, I put it down to a kind of Trumpian tantrum,” Mr Saunders said.
“I think whatever credibility the Pope had, I think has now been completely extinguished.”
Mr Saunders said the Pope’s comments could even endanger people in some parts of the world where his words are followed very closely.
“It may endanger the lives, actually endanger the lives of survivors who speak out,” he said.
“And of course, it may even endanger the lives of priests and others around the world.”
During the opening address of the summit at the Vatican, Pope Francis told church leaders to “hear the cries of the little ones”, and urged bishops to consider “concrete” measures to deal with the abuse crisis.
“The holy people of God look to us and expect from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but concrete and effective measures,” he said.
The summit heard harrowing testimonials from victims of abuse, including a woman who said she was raped by her parish priest over the course of 13 years.
The survivor said she fell pregnant three times but the priest forced her to have multiple abortions.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said the Pope had given strong indications of the types of changes he would like bishops to consider.
He said the abuse crisis could prompt a “renegotiation of the relationship between church and state”.
But he said he would not budge on his view of upholding church secrecy rules for confession, meaning clergy do not have to report priests who disclose abuse in confession.