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New Buffalo apostolic administrator pledges 'openness' with victims

Buffalo, N.Y., Dec 4, 2019 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany spoke to the press Wednesday following his appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo, and emphasized that although he is not yet sure how exactly he will divide his time between the two dioceses he is now tasked with shepherding, he trusts Pope Francis’ decision to appoint him.

“I’m not here as a knight in shining armor. I’m not here as the fix-it man. I’m just here as a spiritual father,” Scharfenberger told the press Dec. 4.

“Fear is useless, it’s faith that counts, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ— I believe that He loves me and that He loves every person,” Scharfenberger said.

He stressed his desire for “openness” in moving forward with the diocese, and pledged to work toward healing for those who have been hurt.

Bishop Richard Malone, who has for over a year faced heavy criticism for his handling of cases of clerical sexual abuse in the diocese, asked Pope Francis for an “early retirement” during last month's ad limina visit in Rome, and on Wednesday Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. announced in October that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn had been asked to lead an apostolic visitation and canonical inspection of the Buffalo diocese on behalf of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

That review concluded at the end of October, with DiMarzio having made three trips to Buffalo, and interviewing more than 80 people before submitting his report to Rome. The details of DiMarzio’s apostolic visitation have not been released, and the Vatican has not suggested that Malone has been formally accused of any particular canonical crime.

Malone said he had been made aware of the “general conclusions” of the report and the conclusions had factored into his discernment to resign, but that he had done so “freely and voluntarily.”

When asked if he had read DiMarzio’s report, Scharfenberger said that he had not. Reporters pressed Scharfenberger on whether he had met with or spoken with Malone about the situation in the diocese, and Scharfenberger said he and Malone had met on a bus in Rome, and that Malone had “spoken from the heart” about the difficulties he was facing in the diocese.

Scharfenberger said he thinks Malone made a prudent decision to withdraw as bishop when he did, and that he does not have any immediate plans to meet with Malone. Meeting with him “is not my job,” he said, adding that the only communications about the situation he has had are with the nuncio.

Scharfenberger emphasized that his position as apostolic administrator is by definition temporary, and the decision of who will ultimately lead the diocese is entirely up to the Holy See.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the mission of the Church,” he said.

“I try to open my heart, but ultimately my confidence is in the Lord...I say, ‘Lord Jesus I trust in you.’”

When asked by a reporter whether he thinks there is a need for a complete house cleaning of all of Malone’s advisors in the diocesan chancery, including Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz and Attorney Terry Connors, Scharfenberger said he thinks “a clean sweep” of Malone’s advisors is “too broad a stroke,” but that he would look into it.

In his statement, Malone announced his intention to continue to reside in the diocese as Bishop Emeritus, “and to be available to serve in whatever ways that our Apostolic Administrator and new bishop determines is best.”

The bishop emeritus becomes a member of the clergy, Scharfenberger said, and added that it would be within the scope of his office to “limit” Bishop Malone if necessary.

Scharfenberger said his commitment is to be physically present in the diocese at least one day a week. Options for connecting digitally, such as live streaming, will also be considered, he said.

“The time that I give is not limited to me being physically present,” he said.

“In my heart is a desire to be a parish priest,” he said, adding that he wants to hear how he can help the people of the Buffalo diocese.

Scharfenberger, who has previously served on a diocesan review board, said it is his goal to encourage parishes in the diocese to be places where people feel welcome and comfortable talking about abuse they may have faced.

Scharfenberger said when he speaks to a congregation, he tends to think that 20-25% have suffered some form of abuse, such as sexual abuse or domestic violence. He said a priest once estimated to him it could be as high as 50%.

“We’re all hurting,” he said, adding that his number one priority is “openness in conversation, particularly with those who have been hurt the most.”

Scharfenberger said although there’s no question that trust in the hierarchy in Buffalo has been broken and compromised, he urged the faithful not to “judge [all priests] as a class.” When asked if he would release the personnel files of all priests in the diocese accused of abuse, he pledged that “anything I can do within the scope of canon law, I will do.”

In November 2018, a former Buffalo chancery employee leaked confidential diocesan documents related to the handling of claims of clerical sexual abuse. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered-up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

Six months later, in April 2019, Malone apologized for his handling of some cases in the diocese, and said he would work to restore trust. The bishop particularly apologized for his 2015 support of Fr. Art Smith, a priest who had faced repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

In August 2019, a RICO lawsuit was filed against the diocese and the bishop, alleging that the response of the diocese was comparable to an organized crime syndicate.

Recordings of private conversations released in early September appeared to show that Malone believed sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the bishop removed the priest from ministry. In one recording, the bishop is heard to say that if the media were to report on the situation, “it could force me to resign.”

“I have acknowledged on many occasions the mistakes I have made [in not] addressing more swiftly personnel issues that, in my view, required time to sort out complex details pertaining to behavior between adults,” Malone said in his Dec. 4 statement.

“In extensive listening sessions across our Diocese, I have heard your dismay and rightful concerns. I have been personally affected by the hurt and disappointment you have expressed, all of which have informed our actions. I have sought your understanding, your advice, your patience and your forgiveness.”

Scharfenberger urged any victims of abuse to immediately contact law enforcement before contacting the diocese.

Foes of Louisiana abortion regulation file briefs with Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2019 / 12:30 am (CNA).- A Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals has drawn opposition from medical groups and national Democratic politicians, who have filed briefs against it.

Backers of the law say it is a commonsense measure that protects women’s health and supports the dignity of life. Opponents argue that it places an undue obstacle on women seeking an abortion.

In October the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. When then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed the bill into law in 2014, it was promptly challenged in court.

The requirement could shut down at least two of Louisiana’s three abortion clinics, the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights has said.

Louisiana state officials are defending the bill.

“Women deserve better than incompetent providers that put profits over people,” Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill told National Public Radio.

However, foes of the law have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiff, the Shreveport-based abortion clinic June Medical Services.

Among the groups signing on to one amicus brief were the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The medical groups’ brief said the Louisiana law is similar to the Texas law struck down in the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

In the Hellerstedt case, the court ruled that the Texas law created an “undue burden” on abortion access in the state, as it had decided in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that state abortion laws could not pose such an obstacle.

The Supreme Court faulted the Texas law, which required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges. A “working arrangement” was already in place between hospitals and abortion clinics in the state, the court found. The provision could have meant the closure of around half the clinics in Texas.

While a district court permanently barred the Louisiana law from taking effect, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court overturned that decision in January. It ruled the law was sufficiently different from that of Texas. Unlike Texas, few Louisiana hospitals require doctors to see a minimum number of patients. While most abortion clinics in Texas would have closed because of the law, only one doctor at one Louisiana abortion clinic is unable to obtain privileges.

In February, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked Louisiana’s law from taking effect.

In response, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, said that the law simply required “basic health standards” of abortion clinics. He said that the court’s stay, together with the abortion industry fighting the law, are “further evidence of how abortion extremism actively works against the welfare of women.”

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe who sponsored the Louisiana legislation, in October said the case concerns whether a state is able “to enforce its duly enacted laws aimed at protecting the health and safety of its citizens.”

“Together with my colleagues, our legislature passed the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act by a wide bipartisan margin to protect the health and safety of women,” she said, according to the Baton Rouge-based newspaper The Advocate. “Abortion has known medical risks, and the women of this state who are often coerced into abortion deserve to have the same standard of care required for other surgical procedures.”

Though the legislation sponsor is a Democrat, national Democratic leaders have weighed in against the bill. Nearly 200 Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have submitted a brief opposing the Louisiana law, National Public Radio reports.

The American Bar Association has also filed an amicus brief against the Louisiana law. It objected that the law is contrary to existing pro-abortion precedent and the case “raises significant concerns about adherence to basic rule of law principles.”

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, M.D., a Florida-based radiologist who is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association, in October told CNA the law did nothing more than provide commonsense protections for women’s health.

The law “ensures that women suffering from dangerous complications do not show up at emergency rooms where doctors who don’t know them can only guess at the surgical intervention that was done at the abortion facility,” she said.

Louisiana law currently bars abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy and requires a 24-hour waiting period between the first consultation and the abortion procedure.

Two other Louisiana laws restricting abortion could take effect, pending judicial decisions regarding similar Mississippi laws: a restriction on abortion to 15 weeks into pregnancy; or when a fetal heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks into pregnancy.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed both laws and cited his pro-life positions in his recent successful re-election campaign.

Quebec considers expanding eligibility for euthanasia

Quebec City, Canada, Dec 3, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Quebec's health minister announced Friday that the province will open a consultation on allowing euthanasia for people who can no longer give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future.

Presently, Quebec permits euthanasia for terminally ill adult residents with an incurable disease who are undergoing great suffering, face imminent death, and give informed consent.

The Quebec law was passed in 2014, and took effect in December 2015.

Between Dec. 10, 2015 and March 31, 2018, in the province 1,664 people were euthanized.

Danielle McCann, Quebec's health minister, announced Nov. 29 that there will be a consultation on expanding existing criteria. The proposed expansion would allow euthanization of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative conditions.

Véronique Hivon, a member of the Quebec legislature of the Pari Quebecois, took part in the Nov. 29 press conference.

Hivon introduced the province's existing euthanasia law, and said that the criteria adopted then were necessary for its passage: “We didn’t want to lose the consensus. We had to listen to what people had to say.”

iPolitics wrote that Hivon “added that it should be possible to expand the option of medical assistance to die, for those not apt to make that decision, because a third person would be charged with following through on the wishes of the dying patient.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. The carrying out of the practices have led to questions over the imprecision of the country's requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability. While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet a criterion variously expressed as they “can expect to die in the near future”, that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” in the “not too distant” future, or that they are “declining towards death”.

According to Health Canada, among the eligibility criteria for euthanasia or assisted suicide are that you “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” and “give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying”.

The Canadian health ministry also says that “you must be mentally competent and capable of making decisions” both “at the time of your request” and “immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided.”

The national health ministry says there are safeguards to insure that those requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide “are able to make health care decisions for themselves” and “request the service of their own free will”.

Spanish cardinal: Prospect of left-wing coalition government a 'serious emergency'

Valencia, Spain, Dec 3, 2019 / 05:49 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Valencia wrote Saturday that in the wake of an inconclusive general election, a pre-agreement between Spain's prominent socialist and left-wing populist parties could have grievious cultural repercussions.

Spain held a general election Nov. 10, the second of the year. Prime minister Pedro Sanchez' Spanish Socialist Worker's Party won 120 seats, while 176 is required for a majority in the Congress of Deputies.

Behind PSOE, the right-wing People's Party and Vox won 88 and 52 seats, respectively. Podemos, an anti-capitalist and populist party, took 35 seats.

PSOE and Podemos recently announced a pre-agreement for a coalition government, though they would still be 21 seats short of a majority.

“The effective economic repercussions have been immediate, the reactions and commentaries in Europe and Spain, besides being negative, leaves us in great fear,” Cañizares wrote Nov. 30 of the pre-agreement.

The cardinal also warned that the ten points of this pre-agreement have “some cultural, anthropological connotations and a vision of reality that go beyond economics and leave or create great concern.”

With the pre-agreement, he said, “a cultural change is established or engendered, one way of thinking is imposed, with a vision of man intended to be spread to everyone, the approval of euthanasia, the extension of new rights, gender ideology, radical feminism, bringing up historical memories that foment hatred and aversion.”

Cañizares said that the issues present in the pre-agreement “suggest and foresee a deepening and immersion into a very deep crisis above all cultural, but also a political and institutional, a democratic, social, religious crisis about what constitutes Spain in its reality and its very own identity.”

He also explained that there is renewed talk of the possibility of a new worldwide economic crisis, “but even more serious will be the cultural and identity crisis, suffered by Spain in the context of the West, with its own connotations, which, if this coalition takes over the national government given what is seen in the 'pre-agreement,' will deepen.”

The archbishop of Valencia recalled that we are “immersed in a human crisis that is deep and getting bigger”, which is in his view “the most serious of all because it's a crisis of the truth about man and about society,” and which is “the crisis of the meaning of life, a human, anthropological, moral crisis and of universal values, a spiritual and social crisis, a crisis in marriages and families.”

And so he said that “we find ourselves facing a serious emergency, Spain's emergency,” since “a new culture is being or has been imposed, a project of humanity that entails a  radical anthropological vision which changes the vision that gives us identity and configures us as a people, and even as a continent, I dare to say: the identity received from our ancestors in our common history.”

This would lead to “the serious loss of or almost totally obscure the meaning of the person and his dignity” and ultimately to “abandoning and forgetting God which is to forget and negate man.”

He also said that Spanish society is suffering from “a real sickness, manifested on different fronts, in our society, whose great challenge, or rather, great and new challenges, are summed up in its urgent healing.”

And so the cardinal stressed that “the human person and his dignity, the basis of the common good founded on the real effective recognition of universal human rights, are the foundation that we must contemplate and put in all its consistency, if we want to find the healing and constructive path to follow”.

The cardinal described as “fundamental and urgent” the common commitment to put “the human person and his inviolable dignity and the common good, its essential truth in itself which makes us free for the world of culture, religion and science, of politics and human relationships.”

This would be an “broad basis” to “follow and build upon” with the goal of “reaching and enjoying and new and hopeful future, a new culture and a new civilization which all of us have to shape through dialogue, encounter, without impositions.”

The PSOE-Podemos coalition is seeking the support of the Republican Left of Catalonia, a social-democratic party that focuses on Catalan independence.

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo and Appoints the Bishop of Albany as Apostolic Administrator

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard J. Malone from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Buffalo and has appointed Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany as the Apostolic Administrator of Buffalo to serve until the installation of a new bishop.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on December 4, 2019, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The Diocese of Buffalo is comprised of 6,357 square miles in the state of New York and has a total population of 1,529,576 of which 571,000 are Catholic.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Diocese of Albany.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
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UK push for at-home abortion pills denounced as unsafe

London, England, Dec 3, 2019 / 12:22 am (CNA).- A pro-life group in the UK has decried a report from a London-based medical association calling for women to be able to access abortion pills without meeting in-person with a doctor.

On Dec. 2, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) released a report entitled “Better For Women.” The report said that 60% of women cannot get an abortion locally. It recommended a nationwide expansion of abortion drug accessibility through the use of telemedicine.

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children (SPUC) lamented the recommendation, arguing that it underestimates the potential risks of abortion drugs.

“The RCOG is playing fast and loose with women’s health. Their approach is propaganda to deceive women into thinking that abortion pills are safe and simple. They are neither,” said Antonia Tully, SPUC Campaigns Director.

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug, mifepristone, effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later and induces labor.

Current protocol requires women in the UK to meet a doctor face-to-face before a medical abortion. Mifepristone must be administered at the physician’s office, while misoprostol can be taken later at home.

Under the RCOG’s recommendation, however, women would be able to have a video chat or phone call with a doctor and then pick up both drugs from their local pharmacy to be taken at home, without seeing a doctor in person at any point in the process.

The report also called for further decriminalization of abortion throughout the UK, up to 24 weeks.

“In 2019 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended greater use of online and telephone consultations to streamline the provision of abortion care,” said RCOG president Lesley Regan.

“To support this new best practice guidance, the Department of Health and Social Care should also consider allowing women, after their assessment, to take mifepristone in the comfort and convenience of their own home,” she said, according to the Daily Mail.

Tully, however, disagreed. She said abortion pills carry risks, and should not be taken without a medical professional present.

“Studies show the harmful physical consequences of abortion pills. Our concern is that these will be increased when women are given these pills to take away from a medical setting,” she said.

She pointed to a report last year from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which found that 24 women in the U.S. had died as a result of abortion drugs. The report also found an average of nearly complications have occurred annually for women using the abortion pill.

“One study found that taking the second abortion pill at home can lead to an increase in adverse effects on women, including incomplete abortion, bleeding requiring medical attention and infection,” Tully said.

Abortion pills are “powerful drugs,” she warned, adding that “without face to face contact with medical staff, this policy will drive vulnerable women, often coerced into abortion by abusive men, even further under the radar.”

English bishops urge voting to uphold human dignity ahead of general election

Leeds, England, Dec 2, 2019 / 02:26 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are urging voters to consider issues of human rights and the dignity of human life as the country’s general election approaches, with Britain’s exit from the European Union a central issue.

“The question of the United Kingdom’s place in Europe continues to dominate political discourse,” the bishops wrote Nov. 29 following their plenary meeting in Leeds.

“In whatever way our future relationship with our closest neighbours develops, Britain must be committed to a positive engagement as a key international partner in promoting peace, security and responsible stewardship of the planet...The test of any policy should be its impact upon human dignity, particularly for the most disadvantaged in our society.”

The general election, slated to take place Dec. 12, will be the country’s third since 2015, though normally they would be held every five years, the BBC reports.

The election will determine who will fill a total of 650 parliamentary seats in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes the early election will increase the number of Members of Parliament for his Conservative Party, making his plans for Brexit easier to achieve.

The bishops laid out several criteria for voters to consider when choosing their new MPs, foremost of which is respect for human life, including in the womb, and including care for those who are terminally ill and dying “while resisting the false compassion of assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

The Conservative Party currently holds a majority of the seats in Parliament and has not mentioned abortion in its most recent party platform.

Two opposition parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have made the decriminalisation of abortion part of their party platforms. Recently, the Lib Dems deselected a former MP as a candidate because of his Catholic faith and views on same-sex marriage and abortion. 

The bishops also urged voters to remember the marginalized in society, including the homeless, migrants, and refugees, those in extreme poverty, and those threatened by a changing climate.

They encouraged voters to consider whether the officials they are electing are upholding the dignity of marriage, the rights of parents to educate their children, and the right of freedom of religion and conscience.

“We should all approach this election as an opportunity to promote life, dignity and human flourishing for all,” the bishops concluded, urging all Catholics to pray for the wellbeing of British society.

Hungary's incentives mean more marriages but not more babies

Budapest, Hungary, Dec 2, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Hungary has seen a surge in marriages in 2019 following the introduction of government incentives for couples to marry and have children, but the reforms have yet to deliver a boost to the country’s plummeting birth rates.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his administration have offered several financial incentives for couples in the country to marry and have children, including subsidized loans to those who marry before the bride’s 41st birthday.

Incentives to have children are built into the loan. One-third of it can be forgiven if the married couple has two children, and the entire loan can be forgiven if they have three children.

Hungary claims the policy is working—its central statistics office recently reported a 20% increase in marriages in the first nine months of 2019, compared to the same nine-month period of 2018, according to Reuters.

The country’s birth rate remains well below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, and the rate has not yet registered an increase in 2019. The number of births in the first three quarters of 2019—January through September—fell by 1.6% from 2018, the office also reported, with an estimated total fertility rate of 1.48 births per woman.

Katalin Novak, the country’s state secretary for family and youth affairs, tweeted on Monday that “marriage is seeing a renaissance in Hungary” due to the administration’s “pro-family policies.” These policies include high rate of government expenditures per family, and housing and automobile assistance for families, she said.

Prime Minister Orban openly addressed the country’s decades-long birth decline in a recent address, and outlined the long-term goal of reversing the trend and reaching the replacement level.

In his Nov. 14 speech at the 9th meeting of the Hungarian Diaspora Council, Orban noted that “we won’t achieve it in the short term, and perhaps only in ten years at the soonest,” referring to the replacement rate.

Orban emphasized the need to stay the course, and continue the government’s “family action plan”—of which there will be an expansion next year, he said.

In many other Western countries birth rates sit below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week reported that the number of recorded births in the U.S. fell by 2% from 2017 to 2018, and birth rates declined across age ranges from 15 to 44.

Provisional CDC numbers released in May showed the U.S. fertility rate in 2018 at its lowest level recorded, having fallen every year save one since 2007.

The causes behind the decline in births in the Western world, however, are not so clear.

Earlier this year, CNA spoke with two experts who have studied demographic trends, the causes, and possible solutions to demographic declines. Both highlighted the complex causes of low fertility rates and warned against placing too much hope in financial incentives from the state.

Johnathan V. Last, author of the book “What to Expect When No One Is Expecting,” told CNA that state financial incentives to have children have been tried in countries throughout the world without much success. He cited the example of Singapore “where the government basically offered $20,000 for people to have a kid.” According to Singapore’s Department of Statistics, the total fertility rate in 2018 was just 1.14 births per woman in child-bearing age.

“The bottom line is that having a child is a heavy lift, and no policy is going to make up someone’s mind to do it,” Last told CNA.

The causes of low birth rates for young women tend to be more cultural than a product of rational economic thinking, Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, said.

“My read is that if you talk to women in their early 20s, you will get a response that sound very conscious and deliberate. But the choices that ‘make sense’ to people seem to be highly informed by something in the [cultural] water,” Pakaluk told CNA.

Vatican to welcome asylum seekers to Italy

Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2019 / 10:19 am (CNA).- On Thursday, the Holy See will welcome 33 refugees to Italy as they arrive from the Greek island of Lesbos with papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. Another 10 refugees will come later in December.

The asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, Togo, and Cameroon.

The humanitarian corridor was organized at the request of Pope Francis, who in May asked the papal almoner to show the Holy See’s solidarity with refugees by supporting some young people and families fleeing conflict in their countries, helping them to seek asylum in Italy.   

After months of negotiation between the Office of Papal Charities and the Italian Ministry of the Interior, permission was granted to bring the group of migrants to Italy to apply for asylum, according to a statement from the Holy See charity office.

Support of the refugees will be undertaken by the Holy See through the Office of Papal Charities and by the Sant’Egidio Community, a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor.

From Dec. 2 to 4, Krajewski, the head of the papal charities’ office, is in Lesbos with some leaders of Sant’Egidio.

The cardinal’s trip to Lesbos follows more than three and a half years after Pope Francis visited the island in April 2016, bringing with him on the return journey to Rome three asylum-seeking Syrian families. At the pope’s invitation, a second group of Syrian refugees came two months later.

Lesbos has been a point of entry into Europe for many people fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. Thousands of migrants are living in over-crowded camps on the island as they wait to enter continental Europe.

Since bringing refugee families to Rome, Pope Francis has hosted them and others for meals at his residence at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

The first group of refugees, accompanied to Rome by Pope Francis in April 2016, was made up of three Muslim families and numbered 12 people in total, including six children. Two of the families are from Damascus, and one is from Deir ez-Zor. Their homes were bombed.

The second group, which arrived in Rome in June 2016 and included two Christians, was made up of six adults and three children. They are all Syrian citizens who had been living in the Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos after making the boat ride from Turkey to the small Greek island.

The Sant’Egidio Community has supported the Syrian families’ integration into Italian society and will do the same for the refugees arriving with Krajewski this month.

AMENDED RELEASE: Pope Francis Appoints Most Rev. Alberto Rojas as Coadjutor Bishop of San Bernardino

The following press release has been amended to include biographical information for Bishop Rojas that the Holy See provided upon the announcement.

WASHINGTON— Pope Francis has appointed the Most Reverend Alberto Rojas as Coadjutor Bishop of San Bernardino. Bishop Rojas was up until now Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The appointment was publicized today in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Rojas was born on January 5, 1965 in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He carried out his ecclesiastical studies at the Santa Maria de Guadalupe Seminary in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 24, 1997.

Assignments after ordination include: associate pastor of the Saint George the Great Church, Chicago (1997-1999) and Saint Ita Church, Chicago (1999-2002); a faculty member at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein (2002-2010), and pastor of Good Shepherd Church, Chicago (2010-2011). On June 13, 2011 he was appointed as Titular Bishop of Marazane and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.

Bishop Rojas has also served as Episcopal Vicar for the Vicariate I and Regional Liaison for the V Encuentro. Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he currently serves as a member of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs and has also served as a member to the Subcommittee for Catholic Home Missions (2012-2016).

The Diocese of San Bernardino is in the state of California and has a total population of 4,527,837, of which 1,718,397 are Catholic.
 
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Keywords: Bishops appointment, Pope Francis, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Diocese of San Bernardino, Bishop Alberto Rojas, Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200