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Friend of Jean Vanier ‘heartbroken’ for abuse victims, but hopeful for the future of L’Arche

Denver, Colo., Feb 27, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- On the news that Jean Vanier, Catholic founder of L’Arche International, has been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing women, Professor Stanley Hauerwas said he is “devastated.”

“That is the way anyone must feel on hearing the news of Jean Vanier’s sexual misconduct,” Hauerwas said in comments to CNA. “Vanier was supposed to be different and in many ways he was. But the difference makes his behavior all the more devastating. He should have known better,” he added.

Hauerwas, a world renowned theologian with joint appointments at Duke Divinity School and Duke Law School, was a personal friend of Vanier, who died at the age of 90 on May 7, 2019.

Vanier was the once-revered founder of L’Arche, an international community of people with intellectual disabilities and their supporters, and of Faith and Light, an ecumenical Christian association of prayer and friendship for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Last April, L’Arche commissioned GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy specializing in the reporting of exploitation and abuse to investigate allegations related to Fr. Thomas Philippe, an abusive Dominican priest sanctioned by Church authorities in 1956, whom Vanier described as his “spiritual mentor.”

On Feb. 22, 2020, L’Arche International published the results of the investigation, detailing “credible and consistent” accounts of sexual misconduct by Vanier against six adult women without disabilities in the context of spiritual direction.

Hauerwas said he considered Vanier a friend and mentor, and is “heartbroken by this revelation of his terrible misconduct and utterly condemn it as an abuse of power.”

Hauerwas noted that Vanier seems to have convinced himself the abuse was consensual, which he said was “some desperate attempt to justify his actions. Which is but a reminder that self-deception often is the result of trying to make sense of our lives and why we all need accountability, especially those held in high esteem.” 

“One suspects his gentleness allowed him to get away with anything but his actions involving the women were anything but gentle,” he said.

Still, Hauerwas said he is “indebted” to Vanier for what he taught him about how to love and care for disabled people, and he hopes that the good of L’Arche’s work will not be lost along with the revelations of abuse.

“So much of (Vanier’s) life was morally exemplary. That is one of the problems. How can we continue to learn from his witness with his intellectually disabled friends without excusing his predatory sexual behavior? At this time when we are trying to receive this devastating news the only advice I have is not to be in a hurry to answer that question,” he said.

Rather than rush to decisions, Hauerwas urged those effected by the report to pray.

“We must pray first for the women he betrayed,” he said. “We must pray for the members of the L’Arche movement. We must pray for ourselves that God will help us to carry on the work of L’Arche because that work is, in and of itself, independent of the actions of its founder.”

He added that the international L'Arche community “are proving to be quite extraordinary in terms of how they're responding and how they have responded.”

L’Arche International has set up an additional centralized reporting procedure for any further information that people may wish to report. Any such information will be received by a task force composed of people outside of L’Arche.

“I continue to believe that in those homes the glory of God is manifest for all to see.”

Vatican City implements health measures over coronavirus

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has implemented special health measures and canceled some events as more than 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy.

Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in Vatican City offices, and there is a nurse and a doctor on call at a Vatican clinic to give immediate assistance, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told Vatican News. 

While there have been no diagnosed cases of the coronavirus in Vatican City, Bruni said Feb. 24 that Vatican health staff have worked with the Italian Ministry of Health on procedures which can be brought into action, and are in close contact with the regional authorities in Lazio.

“In compliance with the provisions of the Italian authorities, some events scheduled for the next few days in indoor places and with an important influx of public have been postponed," Bruni said.

With Pope Francis’ Lenten retreat scheduled for March 1-6, there are no papal audiences scheduled for next week, but conferences in Rome and other indoor events have been canceled. 

A conference schedule to take place March 5-6 at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the opening of Vatican archives of Pope Pius XII has been canceled, as has a March 2-7 communications workshop at the Pontifical Urbaniana University for global representatives of the Pontifical Missions Societies.

An event for a book on Cardinal Celso Costantini Feb. 25, at which Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Luis Antonio Tagle, and Fernando Filoni were expected to speak, was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

As of Feb. 27, Pope Francis is still scheduled to give his Sunday Angelus address on March 1 before leaving for his Lenten retreat. 

Pope Francis did not cancel his Wednesday general audience Feb. 26, but he was later seen coughing during his Ash Wednesday Mass. 

The pope chose not to attend a scheduled liturgy with priests in Rome Feb. 27 “due to a slight indisposition,” according to the Holy See press office. However, the pope’s other appointments, such as Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, took place as usual.

Italian authorities reported 528 cases of the coronavirus Feb. 27 with 14 deaths. Nearly all of the reported cases are in northern Italy. In response to the outbreak, Italian officials have also imposed quarantine restrictions on several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions, where most of the infections have occurred.

The Archdiocese of Milan suspended Masses beginning on the evening Feb. 23 until further notice. The Patriarch of Venice, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, suspended Masses and other liturgical celebrations, including baptisms and Stations of the Cross, until Sunday March 1.

In Rome’s region of Lazio there have been just three reported cases: an Italian, who has recovered, and two Chinese tourists, who are being treated in a hospital.

“I wish to express again my closeness to the coronavirus patients and the health workers who treat them, as well as to the civil authorities and all those who are working to assist the patients and stop the infection,” Pope Francis said Feb. 26.

US Religious Freedom Commission calls India riots 'brutal and unchecked violence'

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on the Indian government to halt ongoing anti-Muslim violence in Delhi, home of India's capital. 

Approximately 27 people have been killed and more than 200 were injured in a series of riots in northeastern Delhi that began on Sunday. The riots started over a new citizenship law which forbids Muslim immigrants from obtaining Indian citizenship. The BBC reported that Hindu mobs targeted unarmed people, and both Hindus and Muslims have been killed in the ensuing violence. 

“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue. The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all its citizens,” said USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava in a statement released Wednesday. 

Bhargava cited reports that police in Delhi have allowed riots to continue and said that the Indian government “is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.” 

“These incidents are even more concerning in the context of efforts within India to target and potentially disenfranchise Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards.” 

About 14% of India’s population is Muslim. The country is approximately 80% Hindu. 

Tony Perkins, chairman of the USCIRF, echoed Bhargava’s concerns, and said that the “reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and ships, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing.” 

Perkins said the Indian government was facing a test of the basic functions of responsible leadership. 

“One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith. We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” he said Wednesday. 

President Donald Trump visited India this week. While in the country, he hosted a rally and met with the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi, the leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said in December, 2019, that the new citizenship bill was not anti-Muslim. 

In the USCIRF’s 2019 Annual Report, India was listed as a “Tier 2” country, designating it as a country with at least some “systemic, ongoing, egregious standard” of religious-based discrimination that would merit a country being labeled a “country of particular concern.” 

The commission’s report said India's “history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives—including, at times, the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities—that have facilitated an egregious and ongoing campaign of violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities. Both public and private actors have engaged in this campaign.”

‘Worship of initiatives’ is replacing faith, Pope Francis warns priests

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In a message Thursday, Pope Francis criticized placing so much importance on Church programs that the essential teachings of the faith are lost. The pope also said a priest’s agreement with such initiatives should not be the measure of his ministry.  

“The worship of initiatives is replacing the essential: one faith, one baptism, one God the Father of all. Adherence to initiatives risks becoming the yardstick of communion,” the pope said, in a message read aloud to the priests of the Diocese of Rome Feb. 27.

Pope Francis was scheduled to deliver the speech in person at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, but decided to remain close to the Vatican after feeling unwell, the Holy See spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said Thursday.

Instead, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, read the speech on the pope’s behalf.

In his speech, Francis outlined the different reasons why priests may become “embittered” in their ministry, noting that his observations came from many conversations with priests and are not only his opinion.

Today, he said, there seems to be a “general atmosphere” of “widespread mediocrity” – and not only in the priesthood.

“The fact remains that much bitterness in the life of a priest” is rooted in the omissions of his bishop, Francis said in a footnote of the speech.

Priests risk losing their ministry as pastors, their role as teachers of the faith, he said, as they become “suffocated” by management problems and personnel emergencies.

But, he added, “who is the catechist of that permanent disciple who is the priest? The bishop of course!”

Francis said it could be argued that priests do not usually want to be educated by bishops, but even if this is true, “it is not a good reason” for bishops to give up the “munus docendi.”

“The holy people of God have the right to have priests who teach them to believe; and deacons and priests have the right to have a bishop who teaches them in turn to believe and hope in the One Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life, who inflames their faith,” he said.

The pope also said that, as a priest, he would want his bishop to help him believe, not just make him happy, and lamented that often bishops end up only attending to their priests in times of crisis, and not making the time to listen to them outside of emergencies.

In his speech, Pope Francis also argued that another cause of bitterness in the priesthood is problems between priests.

He pointed to the financial and sexual scandals of recent years as having caused suspicion among priests and hindered meaningful bonds. “There is more ‘community,’ but less communion,” the pope said.

Francis also said that with these scandals, the devil tempts people to have a Donatist vision of the Church. Donatism is a heresy from the 4th to 6th centuries which argued that Catholic priests had to be without sin or fault for the sacraments they administer to be valid.

“We have false conceptions of the militant Church, in a sort of ecclesiological puritanism,” he said.

“The question we ask ourselves when we meet a new brother priest emerges silently: ‘Who do I really have before me? Can I trust him?’”

Prayer is important to combat this, he said.

The pope also warned priests against an “individualized conscience” – a feeling of being “more special, powerful, gifted” and therefore needing to start every new parish assignment with a “clean slate,” instead of building on the good already there from the previous pastor.

Cautioning against the risk of isolation, Francis advised priests to find an old and astute priest to be a spiritual father.

Religious sisters back pro-abortion primary challenger to Lipinski

Chicago, Ill., Feb 27, 2020 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- Two Catholic religious sisters on Wednesday expressed their support for a pro-abortion primary challenger to one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress. 

The campaign of Marie Newman, a Democratic candidate running in a primary against Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois’ third congressional district, posted a video on Twitter Wednesday featuring two religious sisters—Sisters Patricia Murphy and JoAnn Persch of the Sisters of Mercy—endorsing Newman’s bid for Congress. 

In the video, Sister Patricia Murphy cited Newman’s “incredible power to listen to people” as a reason for her support.

JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy are Sisters of Mercy, and have fought for social justice and human rights for decades. They are two more voices for Marie, a real Democrat with real solutions for #IL03. #NewDayInIL03 pic.twitter.com/iE5nEzqzVG

— Marie Newman (@Marie4Congress) February 26, 2020

In the video, Sister JoAnn Persch said that she first met Newman “in front of Congressman Lipinski’s office” and saw her again at a local “march against hate,” but had “never met Congressman Dan Lipinski personally” in her time working in the district.

“I will respond by voting for Marie Newman,” Persch said. Murphy said in the video that Newman “will make a great congresswoman and she has my vote.”

Newman is mounting her second consecutive primary challenge to Rep. Lipinski, opposing his views on life and marriage issues while boasting of her support from pro-abortion groups. 

Lipinski, a Catholic is an eight-term member of Congress and widely known as one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats in a federal office. He is supported by pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life. 

Lipinski has worked across the aisle to support pro-life measures, including signing a petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would require medical care for infants who survive a botched abortion attempt. He cosponsored a “pain-capable” 20-week abortion ban in 2017, has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and has voted against taxpayer funding of abortion. 

Newman, his challenger, has the support of several pro-abortion groups, including EMILYs List, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Planned Parenthood. She supports taxpayer-funded abortion.

In a video during her 2018 campaign, Newman said she was “so proud, and pleased” to accept NARAL’s endorsement and thanked the group “for all the amazing work you do at the local level and at the national level.”

“For too long, my opponent, Mr. Lipinski, has thrown reproductive freedom and women’s rights under the bus,” Newman said, adding that she would work to promote “women’s rights, worker’s rights, working family’s rights, health care for all, immigrants and LGBTQ folks, and Americans.”

Newman narrowly lost to Lipinski in the 2018 Democratic primary for the third congressional district, which is a safely-Democratic district.

In May 2019, NARAL announced that it was once again endorsing Newman, along with Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List. Lipinski, the group said, was known for “siding with anti-choice activists and supporting a bigoted agenda.” Newman said in a statement that she was “honored” to receive their support.

On Monday, a coalition of pro-abortion groups including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List, announced they would devote $1.4 million to advertising to target Lipinski’s pro-life record.

The coalition’s “independent expenditures” project would involve direct mail, television ad buys and digital ads, and would “highlight” Lipinski’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive mandate, support for defunding Planned Parenthood, and support for overturning Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, among other matters.

The sisters endorsing Newman are members of the Sisters of Mercy, which has a West/Midwest community with a “central administrative center” based in Omaha, Nebraska, and a satellite location in Chicago. According to the order’s website, Sister Patricia Murphy entered the order in 1947 and is a 70-year jubilarian. She has worked in education in Illinois and Wisconsin, and in Peru.

Persch and Murphy have been advocates for immigrants’ rights, starting the Su Casa Catholic Worker house for survivors of torture from Central America and holding regular prayer vigils outside the Chicago office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2007.

Their immigration advocacy took them to Washington, D.C. in 2019 when Sister Pat Murphy was among a group of demonstrators arrested at the Russell Senate Office Building. The group was protesting the treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and the practice of child immigrant detention.

In a statement to CNA on Thursday, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said it “does not endorse any political candidates.”

“Political endorsements made by any individual sisters represent their own personal views,” the statement read.

The religious sisters’ endorsement of Newman is not the first prominent 2020 political endorsement by a priest or religious. Fr. Frank Pavone, a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, is the co-chair of President Trump’s 2020 pro-life campaign outreach.

Newman has drawn distinctions between herself and Lipinski on other issues apart from abortion. 

She has supported Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, and opposed a 2017 tax law which Lipinski also voted against. She had attacked Lipinski for not supporting the Equality Act in 2019, a bill that would create protected classes in federal law for sexual orientation and gender identity and which forbade sex discrimination—a prohibition that pro-life groups warned would be interpreted by the courts to overturn abortion regulations.

Lipinski initially opposed the Equality Act but ultimately voted for it, saying that “all Americans deserve equal treatment under the law and should have these rights protected, including individuals in the LGBT community.”

The congressman has also said he still has religious freedom concerns about the bill, and that it could override the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Lipinski has said that “before [the Equality Act] becomes law, we must do more to ensure religious liberty.”

Head of Ethiopian Catholic Church barred from entering Eritrea

Asmara, Eritrea, Feb 27, 2020 / 11:14 am (CNA).- Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, was prohibited from leaving the Asmara airport Saturday. The move comes after tensions between the Church and government in Eritrea.

The BBC reported that Cardinal Berhaneyesus, Ethiopian Archbishop of Addis Abeba, had been issued a visa, but officials at the airport of the Eritrean capital said Feb. 22 they had been ordered by those “higher up” not to allow him into the country.

The cardinal intended to attend an event marking the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Kidane Mehret cathedral in Asmara.

Last year the Eritrean government seized and closed a number of Catholic healthcare sites. It is believed the seizures are retaliatory, after the Church in April 2019 called for reforms to reduce emigration. The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.

In June and July 2019 the government shuttered as many as 29 Catholic hospitals, health centers, and clinics.

Eritrea's bishops framed the problem as one of religious liberty, saying: “It is our firm belief that, with the recent requisition of our clinics, a specific right of our religion has been violated, which prescribes, ‘to love others and to do good to them.’ Any measure that prevents us from fulfilling … the obligations that come to us from the supreme commandment of brotherly love is and remains a violation of the fundamental right of religious freedom.”

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored, and government seizure of Church property is not new.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

The Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic Churches are closely linked. Both use the Alexandrian rite, and the Eritrean Catholic Church was separated from the Ethiopian Catholic Church only in 2015.

Canadian bishops condemn new medical suicide measures

Ottawa, Canada, Feb 27, 2020 / 09:35 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Canada issued a statement on Wednesday, condemning parliament’s efforts to further expand medically assisted suicide to those who do not have terminal illnesses. 

The legislation, known as Bill C-7, was introduced in parliament on February 23. In addition to permitting people without terminal illnesses to end their lives, the bill also creates the possibility for patients to issue advance directives, authorizing their own death in advance. 

According to the language of the bill, it would “remove the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medical assistance in dying,” and would “introduce a two-track approach to procedural safeguards” depending on if a person’s natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” 

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada wish to express the greatest concern and dismay in regards to the (introduction) of Bill C-7 which seeks to expand the eligibility criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide,” said the bishops Feb. 26. 

The bishops condemned “the lamentable legislative aim” of broadening access to assisted dying, and insisted “that every opportunity for due diligence be taken during the parliamentary process.” 

“Every effort [must] be made to understand more fully the grave implications of what is being contemplated by way of Bill C-7, including the unavoidable, negative and detrimental dangers facing those who are most vulnerable in society,” they added. 

The bishops called for the Canadian House of Commons to refer the legislation to a committee for further debate and examination prior to the bill’s second reading in parliament. If the bill were to be moved to committee, witnesses would be permitted to testify “in a manner which is fully public, transparent, and open to a wide range of voices,” they said.

The bishops expressed their hope that a committee hearing would result in “full and prudent consideration of inviolable moral and ethical principles, the common good, and concern for future generations.”

The bishops also expressed concerns about the loosening of existing safeguards for “medically assisted deaths,” drawing attention to the bill’s provision for “advance directives.” 

“This means that those who change their minds at a later date, but whose ability to communicate has since been impaired, would be left to express their refusal in potentially vague ‘words, sounds, and gestures,’” said the bishops. 

This would make it “immensely difficult and highly subjective for medical practitioners and lawyers to decipher whether or not the patient still wishes to consent to the lethal procedure,” they said. 

The bishops also noted that the government ignored an open letter signed by more than 65 Canadian disability advocacy organizations, as well as the advice of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-7 is the Canadian governments attempt to accommodate a ruling by the Quebec Superior Court, which found in September 2019 that the previous requirement that euthanasia be reserved for the terminally ill was a “human rights” violation. 

“The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada regrettably chose not to appeal the Quebec Superior Court decision,” said the bishops.

Additionally, the bishops took issue with a two-week online opinion survey on assisted dying in January. The results of that survey helped to shape the text of Bill C-7.

“The questions in this survey were framed in a manner which presupposed agreement with euthanasia and assisted suicide, including its broadening, without giving Canadians who are opposed an equal voice,” they said. 

The bishops were further concerned that although less than 1% of the Canadian population responded to the survey, “it regrettably did not ask for detailed and essential demographic data from participants,” including questions about age, gender, or disability status. The bishops noted that the online-only nature of the survey could exclude low-income, elderly, cognitively disabled, or rural Canadians, who may lack internet access.

“The online survey cannot purport to represent a ‘wide spectrum’ of the Canadian population, as has been claimed,” they said. 

“Such a flawed survey cannot be used realistically to justify Bill C-7,” said the bishops.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns euthanasia, and Pope Francis recently reiterated the Church’s rejection of the practice. 

The bishops are now calling on Canadians to “make their voices heard,” and they “strongly urge members of Parliament to acknowledge the giftedness of life as an inalienable right not to be taken away by others.”

Pope Francis names 4 new bishops for US dioceses

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has appointed four new bishops to serve in American dioceses. The appointments, announced Thursday, include three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, and one new auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of San Diego, California.

The appointments include a Benedictine monk who currently leads the American-Cassinese Congregation.

The Vatican announced Feb. 27 that Fr. Ramon Bejarano will be consecrated as auxiliary bishop for San Diego. The three new auxiliary bishops for the Newark archdiocese are Msgr. Gregory Studerus, Fr. Michael Saporito, and Abbot Elias Lorenzo.

Abbot Lorenzo, 59 is a monk of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey, who was previously prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. Lorenzo has served as abbott president of the American-Cassinese Congregation, an association of 25 Benedictine monasteries, since 2016.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Lorenzo entered the Benedictine monastery in 1983 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Don Bosco College Seminary. He went on to earn a license in canon law from Catholic University of America, and master’s degrees in counseling psychology and in liturgical theology. After his ordination in 1989, Lorenzo served as a director of liturgy for the abbey, vice president of Delbarton School, and president of the International Commission for Benedictine Education.

Msgr. Gregory Studerus, a priest of the Newark archdiocese, has served as episcopal vicar of Hudson County since 2015. Before entering seminary, Studerus worked as an elementary school art teacher and served in the National Guard. He holds a Master of Divinity from Immaculate Conception Seminary.

Msgr. Studerus, 71, has been pastor of St. Joseph of the Palisades Church, the largest Hispanic parish in the Newark archdiocese, for 15 years. 

The other auxiliary bishop-elect for the Archdiocese of Newark is Fr. Michael Saporito, who currently serves as pastor of St. Helen Parish in Westfield, NJ.

A native of Newark, Saporito, 57, has served six parishes in the archdiocese since his ordination in 1992, including St. Joseph in Maplewood and St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff. Saporito studied accounting at Rutgers University before entering Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, welcomed the appointments, and said that the pope had shown a “special concern for the life and the mission of Archdiocese of Newark.” 

“In selecting Msgr. Studerus, Abbot Lorenzo, and Father Saporito for service as bishops, the Holy Father gives new impetus to this local Church as we continue to walk forward in faith.”

“I am delighted to share my responsibilities with these three dedicated missionary disciples,” Tobin said.

Pope Francis also appointed a new auxiliary bishop of San Diego Feb. 27, Fr. Ramon Bejarano, who currently serves as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Modesto, CA.

Born in Laredo, TX, Bejarano, 50, spent much of his childhood in Chihuahua, Mexico, before moving with his family to California, where he was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Stockton in 1998. The bilingual priest earned a master’s degree in philosophy from the Diocesan Seminary of Tijuana, and a Master of Divinity from Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He previously served as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Turlock, CA and as founding pastor of Holy Family Parish in Modesto. 

The four new auxiliary bishop appointments come one week after all of the current U.S. bishops completed their ad limina visits to Rome to meet Pope Francis and pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.

'Slight' sickness keeps Pope Francis close to home, Vatican says

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 07:36 am (CNA).- Pope Francis did not attend a scheduled meeting with Rome priests Thursday morning due to a “slight indisposition,” a Vatican spokesman said.

The pope’s other appointments took place as usual Thursday; he offered his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse and later met with members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

“Due to a slight indisposition,” Pope Francis “preferred to remain in the rooms close to Santa Marta,” Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director told journalists Feb. 27. Santa Marta is where Francis lives at the Vatican.

Bruni added that the pope’s “other commitments proceed regularly.”

The encounter with Rome’s priests was to take place as part of a penitential Lenten liturgy at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran across Rome.  

In his absence at the liturgy, the pope’s prepared remarks were read to clergy by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome.

Pope Francis, who is 83 years old, is generally healthy, though he suffers from sciatica and had eye surgery for cataracts last year. When he was young he had a portion of one lung removed because of an infection.

The pope had a full schedule Feb. 26 with a procession and the celebration of Mass for Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, as well as his weekly general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis’ illness comes at the same time as the novel coronavirus afflicts several hundred people in Italy, mostly in the north.

During the audience, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to those who are sick with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, and with the healthcare workers tasked with treating them and with stopping the contagion.

As of noon, on Feb. 27, cases of coronavirus in Italy had reached more than 500, with 14 deaths. In Rome’s region of Lazio there have been just three cases: an Italian who has recovered and two Chinese tourists who are being treated in the hospital.

 

Relics of Ss. Louis, Zelie Martin find home in parish named for daughter Therese

Lansing, Mich., Feb 27, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Fr. John Fain is getting the 19th-century family of St. Therese back together.

Well, sort of.

First-class relics of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the recently canonized parents of St. Therese, have found a new home in a parish named for their daughter in Lansing, Michigan.

Fr. John Fain of St. Therese parish told CNA that the relics will be encased in a display case along with a relic of St. Therese, and a print of the whole family. All five of the children who survived childhood became religious sisters.

Fain said he hopes the relics inspire greater devotion to St. Therese herself, along with devotion to her family.

“What St. Therese is known for is The Little Way, and it's doing small things with great love,” Fain said. “Her parents, I think, taught her that.”

“They were people who went to daily Mass, they practiced fasting, they regularly checked out for the neighbors, people in the neighborhood that were struggling. They would take them food and other things. They comforted the sick of their neighborhood and just lived a very joyful family life,” he added.

Fain said he was inspired to ask for relics of Louis and Zelie after ordering a print of an icon of the Martin family.

“I happened to buy a picture of the family of St. Therese of Lisieux and her parents and the entire family, including the children who had died. It just sort of occurred to me, 'Wow, this would be really neat to have the relics here too.'”

But obtaining relics is no easy process. Fain petitioned Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing to see if he could get relics of Louis and Zelie for the parish, thinking it would take several years.

Boyea put the chancellor of the diocese, Michael Andrews, on the task of obtaining the relics, Fain said. Andrews, who speaks several languages, contacted the head of Carmelite order in Rome to ask about obtaining relics of Louis and Zelie.

“That's the only place you could get the relics from. It's actually very hard to get relics anymore. It used to be somewhat easy, but there's been so many abuses and trafficking in relics that basically you can only get one,” Fain said.

Fain said he believes his parish is one of the only places in the world to have first-class relics of Louis and Zelie, as they are recently canonized saints, and relics are a rarity.

First-class relics are fragments of the body of the saint, such as bone, flesh, or hair. Fain said he thinks the relics of Zelie and Louis are pieces of bone.

Anything touched to a first-class relic of a saint, like a rosary or a holy card, becomes a third-class relic. Fain added, “I think that's pretty exciting in itself.”

Before they were married, both Louis and Zelie desired religious vocations. But both were turned away - Louis was rejected from seminary because he didn’t know Latin, and Zelie from a religious community because she had poor health. Louis then became a watchmaker, and Zelie a lacemaker. They had nine children, only five of whom survived childhood.

Zelie died from cancer at the age of 46, leaving Louis to care for the children alone, including Therese, who was four at the time. Louis died in 1894, after suffering two strokes in 1889.

The couple’s desire for holiness despite being turned down from religious vocations can be observed in the way they lived their family life, Fain said, and in a way, their home became “like a small convent in a lot of ways.”

“It's just obvious that that's what God's intention was for their vocation was to be a married couple who shared their family life with their children,” Fain said.

Sts. Louis and Zelie were canonized Oct. 18, 2015 by Pope Francis - the first-ever married couple to be canonized together. Another married couple, Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were beatified together in October 2001.

Fain said he hopes the relics and life of the Martin family can show his parishioners that “spirituality doesn't have to be a complicated thing. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the great saints and sometimes have a hard time relating to them, but St. Therese is one that I think everyone can relate to.”

He said he also hoped that couples were inspired to see their marriages as holy vocations as well.

“I think a lot of times married couples don't see themselves as living a vocation. When they think of vocations, they think of priests or deacons or religious men and women, but they don't really consider being married a religious vocation,” Fain said.

“The state of marriage is definitely in crisis. It's in crisis in our country, but it's also in crisis in the Church itself. I think by looking at a couple such as Louis and Zélie and by learning from their merits and example...again that it doesn't have to be an extraordinary thing. It can just be living a good saintly life in a simple way. That's ultimately how they made it to heaven. I think that can be a great hope for married couples,” he said.

Fain added that Bishop Boyea plans to visit the parish on Corpus Christi to bless people individually with the relic. The relics can also be removed from their display case by request for those hoping to touch rosaries, holy cards, or other objects to the relics.