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Mid-air marriage was to avoid further delay, Pope Francis explains

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Addressing concerns Monday about the pastoral implications of his witnessing a marriage aboard a plane while in flight, the Pope said that he judged the couple to be prepared for the sacrament, and didn't wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

“All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow? Tomorrow would possibly have been eight or 10 years from now,” Pope Francis said Jan. 22 while en route from Lima to Rome.

Aura Miguel of Radio Renascenca had asked him about his Jan. 18 witnessing of the marriage of two flight attendents, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, while en route from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The Pope's decision had raised questions among commentators and various priests concerning the liceity and even the validity of the marriage. Miguel asked, “From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops, whom fiances are going to ask to marry them I don’t know where – on the beach, on boats, on airplanes?”

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane that “One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things,” but responded that “the thing was simple: The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him; then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life: of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. It was a nice chat.”

“Then the day afterwards both of them were there, and when we took a photograph, they told me this: 'we were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before' – you could tell it was a small city – 'the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding'. This was 10 years ago; maybe eight – the earthquake was in 2010, so it was eight years ago. And then 'tomorrow we'll do it', and 'the day after tomorrow' – and that's the way life goes. And then the daughter, and another daughter.”

“I interrogated them a bit,” Pope Francis explained. “And the answers were clear.” They had taken marriage preparatory classes. “They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared,” he said.

“They asked me. And sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow?”

“This is the answer,” he said. “I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance … that’s how the situation went.”

“But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well,” he said. “And that they had done the pre-marriage course.”

Pope Francis: Final verdict on Sodalitium founder likely 'unfavorable'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On board the papal flight from Lima to Rome, Pope Francis said a final Vatican verdict on the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, accused of serial sexual and psychological abuse, will soon be available, and likely won't be in the founder’s favor.

Speaking to the 70-some journalists on board his Jan. 21 LATAM flight, the Pope said the case of the founder, Luis Fernando Figari, is currently before the court of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”

“I am not very informed, but the thing is very unfavorable for the founder,” he said.

Francis spoke during an inflight press conference on his return flight to Rome following a Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru.

Although the crisis in the Sodalitium did not come up in any of the Pope's public speeches or audiences in Peru, it has had an enormous impact on the Church in the country since scandals involving Figari became publicly known in 2015.

When asked by a journalist about corruption in the Church, Pope Francis admitted that there are cases, saying “this has always been so. Men and women of the Church have engaged in the game of corruption.”

Regarding the Sodalitium in particular, the Pope noted that the group, a Catholic society of apostolic life, first began to experience scandals when it was discovered that German Doig, a prominent member of the community who died and whose cause for canonization had been opened, had been leading a double life.

“This is the first chaos of the Sodalitium that I know of,” Francis said, explaining that scandals involving the founder came later with allegations “not only sexual, but of manipulation of the conscience.”

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was established by Figari in 1971 in Peru, and was granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

In addition to founding the SCV, a community of men, Figari also founded the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God, a community of women and an order of women religious, respectively. In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru. The current superior general is Alessandro Moroni Llabres.

The community gained attention after the publication of a 2015 book by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV.

In May 2016 the Pope named Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Newark as the pontifical delegate charged with overseeing the community's handling of the investigation and their process of reform.

In February of 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

However, Figari has maintained his innocence, and following the decision of the Vatican's congregation for religious institutes in 2017, made an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which is the Vatican's supreme court.

In his comments, Francis said the initial trial and investigation were “the trigger for other victims of this person to make civil and ecclesial claims.”

“If the Apostolic Signature decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

Francis said that in addition to sexual and psychological abuse, Cardinal Tobin also found financial irregularities during his investigation that were linked to Figari, prompting him to name an official commissioner to oversee the order alongside Cardinal Tobin as they work to carry out reform.

Shortly before traveling to Peru, on Jan. 10, Francis named Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the Sodalitium.

In his role, Londoño, Bishop of Jericó, will oversee the community as they continue a process of reform. He will carry out his work alongside Cardinal Tobin, who will continue to be the group’s liaison with the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and will focus primarily on reforming economic matters.

Pope Francis said the steps he is taking in the Sodalitium case are similar “to that of the Legionaries, which were carried out by Benedict XVI. And in this he was very strong. He didn't tolerate these things, and I understood from him not to tolerate them.”

“The legal status is [that they are] under a custodian and the apostolic visit continues,” he said.

The case of the Legionaries to which Pope Francis referred involved a charismatic founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, who was revealed to have lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006, with the approval of the Pope Benedict, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith imposed upon Maciel “a retired life of prayer and penance, renouncing any form of public ministry.” Due to his advanced age, Maciel was not the subject of a formal canonical trial.

From that point on, Benedict XVI carried out a process of reform for the Legionaries, and in 2010 named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as papal delegate to serve in a role similar to what Londoño will have for the SVC.

After his appointment, De Paolis formed a commission charged with drafting new constitutions for the Legionaries. He completed his mandate in 2014 when the new constitutions were approved by Pope Francis. The cardinal died in September 2017.

 

Francis says comments on sexual abuse in Chile were 'not the best'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 08:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Aboard the papal plane from Lima to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis said that comments made to Chilean journalists Jan. 18 were not intended to cause pain for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Francis said that he had meant to explain to Chileans that because he has not seen evidence that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros helped to cover up acts of sexual abuse, it would be unjust to condemn him.

The pontiff said that his use of “the word 'proof' was not the best in order to draw near to a suffering heart.”

The Pope asked for forgiveness from victims he may have wounded, stating that unintentionally causing them harm “horrified” him, especially after he met with victims in Chile, as he has done on other trips, such as to Philadelphia in 2015.

“I know how much they suffer, to feel that the Pope says in their face 'bring me a letter, proof,' it's a slap,” he said.

He also explained that he is aware that victims may not have brought forward evidence because it is unavailable, or because they are otherwise ashamed or afraid.

“Barros’ case was studied, it was re-studied, and there is no evidence,” Francis told journalists Jan. 21. “That is what I wanted to say. I have no evidence to condemn him. And if I condemn him without evidence or without moral certainty, I would commit the crime of a bad judge.”

“If a person comes and gives me evidence,” he continued, “I am the first to listen to him. We should be just.”

Barros is accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding to cover up the crimes of his longtime friend, Fr. Fernando Karadima. Francis has long defended Barros, who claims to be innocent. Barros has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

Karadima, who once led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque, was convicted of sexually abusing minors in a 2011 Vatican trial, and at the age of 84, he was sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

During his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, Pope Francis met with abuse survivors, but when questioned about Barros by journalists on his last day in the country, he said, “the day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

The Pope's comment was met with fierce opposition, as critics said he was insensitive to abuse victims.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and one of nine members of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals, issued a statement Jan. 20 voicing criticism of the Pope’s remarks.

“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” O’Malley said.

“Words that convey the message 'if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” he said.

Since he was not personally involved in the Chilean cases, O'Malley said he couldn't speak as to why the Pope chose to use the specific words he did when responding to reporters.

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

“Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime,” O'Malley said, adding that Francis' many statements insisting on a “zero-tolerance” policy for abuse in the Church “are genuine and they are his commitment.”

During the press conference, the Pope said that he had seen O’Malley’s statement and that he has appreciation for the cardinal: “I thank him for his statement because it was very just.”

“[O'Malley] said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of victims” in general, Francis said. “Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.”

Aboard the flight, the Pope also explained the background of letter he wrote to Barros two years ago, and which has recently surfaced.

The letter illustrates a dialogue of 10-12 months between him and Barros, he said, beginning at the time the scandal concerning Karadima was revealed.

Francis said that at that time, someone from the Chilean bishops' conference suggested that the four bishops who had been close to Karadima should resign or take a sabbatical year until the scandal had passed over, “because they are good bishops.”

At this time, Barros, who had been a bishop since 1995, followed this advice and submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Pope Francis said that he did not allow the bishop's resignation, because to do so would be “to admit culpability in advance,” in his opinion. And in this case, as in any, “if there are culpable parties, it will be investigated.”

In 2015, when Francis appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, there were protests, and again, Barros submitted his resignation, Francis said.

“I spoke with him for a long time, others spoke at length with him...” We all told him to continue as bishop, the Pope noted.

“They have continued to investigate Barros, but there is no evidence and this is what I wanted to say: I cannot condemn him because I don't have the evidence... But I am also convinced that he is innocent.”

O'Malley is the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which just concluded a 3-year mandate in December. The Vatican has not issued any statements on the the commission since its expiration, causing some to speculate on the future of its existence.

In the most recent meetings of the Council of Cardinals, O'Malley spoke on the commission's continued work, explaining that it is in the Pope's hands to decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

In the presser, Francis said that before the start of his trip, he had received a list of recommendations for new members, which he is now studying. The Pope did not say whether O'Malley would be reappointed.

Pope in Peru: 'Be the saints of the 21st century'

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On his last day in Peru, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to imitate Jesus, who embraces the poor and suffering, and brings hope.

The Pope urged Peru’s youth to look to their grandparents and elders in order to discover “the DNA that guided their great saints,” telling them “do not lose your roots! And you, grandparents and elders, keep passing on to the new generations the traditions of your people and the wisdom that charts the path to heaven.”

“I urge all of you not to be afraid to be the saints of the 21st century,” he said, telling Peruvians that there is no better way to protect their hope “than to remain united, so that these reasons for hope may grow day by day in your hearts.”

Pope Francis offered Mass at Lima's Las Palmas Airbase on Jan. 21, his last day in Peru, bringing an end to his Jan. 15-21 tour of South America, which also included a three-day visit to Chile.

In his homily, he acknowledged the difficulties Catholics in Peru face. “Sometimes what happened to Jonah can happen to us. Our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice, can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away,” the Pope said.

Jonah is an Old Testament prophet depicted in a scriptural book of the same name, who attempted to “flee the presence of the Lord” rather than follow a call from God.

Looking around, “Jonah, and we, have plenty of excuses to [flee],” Pope Francis said, noting that while Lima has many people who are well-off, it is also populated by the homeless: “'non-citizens,' 'the half-citizens' or 'urban remnants'” found on the streets, many of whom are children.

Faced with the desperation of people in extreme poverty, Francis said some Catholics can contract “Jonah syndrome” – which causes them to be indifferent, “deaf” and “cold of heart” to others.

Quoting his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis said “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer.”

A society that is unable to accept the suffering of others and which is “incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion,’” he said, “is a cruel and inhuman society.”

The Pope noted that in the day's Gospel reading, Jesus did the opposite of Jonah: rather than fleeing, he entered a city to encounter those who were desperate and suffering, and to bring them hope.

Francis encouraged Peruvians to respond with the attitude of Jesus, who entered Galilee “to sow the seeds of a great hope.”

A seed of hope, he said, had been passed down through the apostles and the great saints of Peru, and is present now “in order to act once more as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference.”

“In the face of [Jesus’] love, one cannot remain indifferent,” he said.
 
“He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope,” and calls new disciples, inviting them to walk at a different pace which allows them to notice “what they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing needs.”

Jesus is involved in the lives of his people and is not afraid to get others involved too, Francis said, adding that he calls us and wants to anoint us so that “we too can go out to anoint others with the oil capable of healing wounded hopes and renewing our way of seeing things.”

The Pope said Jesus also wants to awaken in Catholics a hope which “frees us from empty associations and impersonal analyses,” and encourages faith to enter “like leaven” into every aspect of our daily lives.

God will never tire of going out to meet his children, he said, asking “how will we enkindle hope if prophets are lacking? How will we face the future if unity is lacking? How will Jesus reach all those corners if daring and courageous witnesses are lacking?”

“Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city,” he said. “He invites you to become his missionary disciple, so that you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!”

After Mass, Pope Francis thanked all those who helped organize his visit, including Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the country's civil authorities and the many volunteers who dedicated their time.

Francis noted that he began his trip by speaking of Peru as a land of hope, which he said comes from the country's rich biodiversity, its various cultures and traditions, and because of its youth, “who are not the future but the present of Peru.”

Don't 'photoshop' your heart – be who you are, Pope tells young Peruvians

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis told Peruvian youth that Jesus doesn't want disciples who have been “photoshopped” to perfection, but like the great saints of the past, God calls people to follow him with trust and enthusiasm, despite their weaknesses.

“When Jesus looks at us, he does not think about how perfect we are, but about all the love we have in our hearts to give in serving others,” the Pope said Jan. 21.

With technology it's easy to digitally enhance photos to make them look the way we want, but this only works for pictures, he said. “We cannot 'photoshop' others, the world, or ourselves. Color filtering and high definition only function well in video; we can never apply them to our friends.”

These pictures might turn out nice, but they are “completely fake,” the Pope said, and assured the youth that their hearts “can’t be 'photoshopped,' because that’s where authentic love and genuine happiness have to be found.”

“Jesus does not want you to have a cosmetic heart,” he said. “He loves you as you are, and he has a dream for every one of you. Do not forget, he does not get discouraged with us.”

“Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him,” and the list could go on, he said. “So what excuse can we offer?”

Jesus, Francis explained, wants youth who are “on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions.”

This is a difficult path that can't be walked alone, but must be one “as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self,” he said, adding that “Jesus is counting on you” just as he counted on the many Peruvian saints who influenced society, including St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius, St. Juan Macías and St. Francisco Solano, among others.

“Today (Jesus) asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him,” the Pope said, asking the youths “are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?”

Pope Francis spoke to youth in Lima's Plaza de Armas before reciting the Angelus on the last day of his Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru. Earlier in the day he prayed Terce, also called the prayer of the “Third Hour” in the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, with contemplative sisters.

He also met with the country's bishops, and after lunch will celebrate Mass at Lima's “Las Palmas” airbase before returning to Rome.

In his speech to youth, Francis directed them to the example of one of his favorite Peruvian saints, Martin de Porres, who was a the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman. The saint had wanted to enter the Dominican order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.

“Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first,” the Pope said.

Because he was a “mulato,” meaning a person of mixed race, St. Martin had to endure many hardships, but he knew how to do one thing that was the secret to his ultimate happiness: “he knew how to trust.”

“He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you,” the Pope said.

When we face similar difficulties in our lives, and are tempted to become negative or discouraged, “remember that Jesus is by your side,” Francis said. “Do not give up! Do not lose hope!”

The Pope told the young people to look to the saints for encouragement, but he also urged them ask for help from people they know can give them good advice, and to let these people accompany and guide them as they go forward in life.

“The Lord looks on you with hope,” he said, explaining that God is never discouraged with us, but it is we who get discouraged with ourselves.

Pope Francis closed his speech telling youth to turn to Mary, who will encourage and support them “lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.”

 

The Church needs you, Francis tells contemplative sisters in Peru

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 08:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to contemplative women religious Sunday, Pope Francis said that they aren’t second-class, but a necessary part of the Church, and asked them to continue to pray on behalf of the Church and sinners.

“Sisters, know something: The Church doesn’t tolerate you, it needs you!” the Pope said in off-the-cuff remarks Jan. 21.

“Be beacons of light. And pray for the Church, for the shepherds, for those who hurt others, and those who exploit their siblings. And going on with the list of sinners, don't forget to pray for me.”

Pope Francis spoke during a homily at the end of praying “Terce,” the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours sung or said at 9a.m., with contemplative women religious in Lima's Shrine of the Lord of Miracles.

The prayer took place on the last day of his Jan. 18-22 apostolic visit to Peru, which followed a three-day visit to Chile. He will return to Rome Jan. 22.

In his homily he quoted St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who once wrote in a letter: “I was certain that love subsumes in itself all vocations, that love is everything, encompassing all times and places, in a word, that love is eternal…in the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love.”

“To be love! This means being able to stand alongside the suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters,” Francis continued. “In this way, your cloistered life can attain a missionary and universal outreach and play ‘a fundamental role in the life of the Church.’”

“For this very reason, we can state that cloistered life neither closes nor shrinks our hearts, but rather widens them in our relationship with the Lord,” he explained. “May intercession for those in need be the hallmark of your prayer.”

The Pope also noted the words of St. Paul in his Letter to Romans, where he says that we have received a spirit of adoption, making us “children of God.”

“Those few words sum up the richness of every Christian vocation: the joy of knowing we are God’s children,” Francis said. This is the experience that nourishes our lives, that seeks always to be a pleasing response to God’s love. How important it is to renew this joy day by day!”

Following his meeting with women religious, Pope Francis made a stop at the Cathedral of Lima to pray in front of relics of five Peruvian saints.

During the stop he prayed in silence for a few minutes, before offering a prayer together with those present, stating his thanksgiving for the gifts the Lord has bestowed on the Church in Lima, especially the gift of holiness, “that has flourished in our land.”

“Our Archdiocesan Church has been made fruitful by the apostolic labors of Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo, enlarged by the prayer, penance and charity of Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres, adorned by the missionary zeal of Saint Francisco Solano and the humble service of Saint Juan Macías,” he prayed.

After the prayer and benediction, Francis met with the bishops of Peru in the chapel of Lima's chancery.

In his speech to bishops he focused on the 16th century saint from Spain, St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, who served as the archbishop of Lima for 25 years, and is known for having upheld the rights of Peru’s indigenous peoples.

He was canonized in 1726, making him one of the first canonized saints of the Americas. During his time as archbishop, Turibius made three different visitations to the land of his diocese, crossing rugged and dangerous terrain.

“He went out to encounter everyone, along paths that, in the words of his secretary, were meant more for goats than for people,” Francis said.

“He knew that this was the one way to be a pastor: to be close to his own, dispensing the sacraments, and he constantly exhorted his priests to do the same,” not just with words, but as a witness “in the front lines of evangelization.”

The Pope noted that when St. Turibius was visiting and living with his people he learned to speak their languages so that they could really understand the Gospel, and it could touch their hearts.

This is a good lesson for bishops of the 21st century too, he pointed out, who not only sometimes need to learn new languages in the traditional sense, but also to learn the language of the digital age, in order to communicate well with young people, families and children.

St. Turibius also believed that “there could be no evangelization without charity,” Francis said. “He knew that the supreme form of evangelization is to model in our own lives the self-giving of Jesus Christ, out of love for every man and woman.”

“Dear brothers, work for unity,” Francis concluded. “Do not remain prisoners of divisions that create cliques and hamper our vocation to be a sacrament of communion.”

“Remember: what was attractive about the early church was how they loved one another. That was – and is and always will be – the best way to evangelize.”

At the end of the meeting, the Pope also held a lengthy question-and-answer session with the bishops.

Why this man says abortion isn't just a woman's issue

Denver, Colo., Jan 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A man who lost his own child to abortion believes men have important things to say on the issue, and their voices need to be heard.

“We are told that men shouldn’t talk about abortion,” but it's an issue that affects them too, Jason Jones told CNA in a recent interview. “It’s a man’s issue and it’s a woman’s issue.”  

“As a man, I have something in me that wants to protect the vulnerable from violence. That is what men do,” he said.

Jones, a national pro-life advocate, said when he speaks frankly in those terms, men respond to him, because “we need to say the truth.”

“When men speak about abortion, it is very effective,” he added.

It might seem natural to think that women are better pro-life “spokespersons,” or that men should have a diminished role, Jones said. But “men have their place” in the discussion.

“Men share their stories, and their stories are sorrowful. Men who are scared, and manipulated or coerced someone into having an abortion. Men who can be humble and say 'I coerced my daughter or my girlfriend or my wife into getting an abortion.' We need to hear those stories.”

When men tell the truth about their own experience with abortion, “it changes people,” he said. “No one has a happy abortion story. When people tell the truth, it influences people.”

Jones, who often shares the story of his own child’s abortion, told CNA he was 17 when he and his girlfriend Katie found out they were pregnant. Still in high school, they planned to hide the pregnancy while he dropped out and joined the army so he could take care of the baby. He was excited to be a father, he said.

However, while still in basic training and during their third trimester, Jones got a call from his girlfriend's father saying their “secret” had been discovered and “taken care of.” He was devastated.

An atheist who didn't fully understand what abortion was, Jones said he realized his daughter, whom they had already named Jessica, had been murdered.

“That was it for me. It horrified me. It was unbelievable,” he said. “I had never been to church a day in my life, I knew nothing about politics. I was just a kid who was last in his class in high school, who to me, school was just something I had to do to play football.”

However, since the moment he found out that his daughter had been aborted, he says he has committed his life “to protecting women and children from the violence of abortion.”

Jones, 46, is now a film producer, author, and human rights worker known for his pro-life activism. He remained an atheist for years, though his contact with Christian organizations and study of political philosophy eventually led him, in 2003, to the Catholic Church. 

In his comments to CNA, Jones, who is now married with seven children, said that it can be hard to discuss abortion because the friends and loved ones of someone who has had an abortion often become defensive, saying that to condemn abortion is to condemn a person they care about.

“The irony is that you know your sister had an abortion because she called you crying about it, with a broken heart. And then when that person stumbles upon a pro-life activist, they get angry because they think you are calling their sister a bad person.”

“We need to help people understand that when a woman gets an abortion it’s...an act of desperation,” he said. “She’s a victim just like the child.”

Jones said the pro-life movement needs an “apologetic” that is able to get the truth about abortion across in a simple way, and which teaches men to defend women and children.

“You do not need sophisticated arguments to tell a man: you don’t pay a stranger to kill your baby. As a man, you defend your child from violence ... you defend the woman carrying your child from violence...it’s just very simple.”

He said that much of the language used in the pro-life movement is designed for women and to talk to women who are in a crisis situation, but men interact differently and need to be approached in a different way.

“When I talk to men about abortion, I talk to them as a man. I talk to them plainly,” he said. “I talk to them as a man that has lost his child.”

Many people can be cavalier and insensitive about abortion, he said, explaining that he can become passionate and wants to remind people that “we are victims in this too.”

When speaking about abortion, he says men should just be themselves: “Don’t talk about abortion differently that you talk about everything else, don’t put it off to the side. You are allowed, as a man, to talk about an issue like a man.”

Jones said his message to people who might be in a state of fear or crisis because of an unexpected pregnancy, said his message to them would be “what are you afraid of?”

“I had that experience, I became a teen parent,” but looking back, “what was I afraid of? … Being a father is such a beautiful gift ... there is no more beautiful thing in the world than being a father.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley: Pope’s words 'a source of great pain' for abuse survivors

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2018 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse has said that recent comments from Pope Francis were painful and alienating to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

"It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in a Jan. 20 statement.  

The statement refers to a comment made by Pope Francis to a Chilean reporter Jan. 18. The Pope was asked about Bishop Juan Barros, a Chilean accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak," Pope Francis told the reporter. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The Pope has long been a defender of Barros.  

On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno “is praying and suffering for you.”

“Osorno suffers, yes,” Pope Francis said, “for silliness.” According to a video of the conversation released by Chile’s Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that “the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope added.

O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it was established by the Pope in 2014. He is widely lauded for his leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, amid widespread reports of clerical sexual abuse under Law’s leadership.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

"My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain,” he added.

"In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again."

Fight 'scourge' of violence against women, Pope says at Marian celebration

Lima, Peru, Jan 20, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If we’re confused, facing difficulties, or struggling with sin, we can look to Mary to help guide us to the arms of her Son, Pope Francis said Saturday during a Marian celebration in Trujillo, Peru.

Quoting a homily by St. Bernard, the Pope said: “You who feel far away from terra firma, dragged down by the waves of this world, in the midst of storms and tempests: look to the Star and call upon Mary.”

“She shows us the way home. She brings us to Jesus, who is the Gate of Mercy,” he said Jan. 20.

The Pope also drew attention to a “scourge” of violence against women, decrying “many situations of violence that are kept quiet behind so many walls.”

“I ask you to fight against this source of suffering by calling for legislation and a culture that repudiates every form of violence.”

Speaking of the Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, a popular Marian devotion in Peru, Pope Francis declared her, “Our Lady of the Gate, ‘Mother of Mercy and Hope.’”

“Our Lady, who in centuries past showed her love for the children of this land when, placed above a gateway, she defended and protected them from the threats that afflicted them,” awakened the love of all Peruvians, the Pope said.

“Mary continues to defend us and point out the gate that opens for us the way to authentic life, to the Life that does not pass away. She walks beside every one of her children, in order to lead them home. She accompanies us all the way to the Gate that gives Life, for Jesus does not want anyone to remain outside, in the cold.”

The Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, also called the Virgin of La Puerta, is a popular Marian devotion of the Church in Peru. A shrine dedicated to the image is built on the location where a gate to Otuzco, an area outside Trujillo, used to stand.  

It is believed that in the 17th century, when her image was placed at the entrance to the city of Trujillo, she miraculously protected it from pirate attack. Her feast day is celebrated on Dec. 15.

Francis met with people gathered in Trujillo’s “Plaza de Armas” for a Marian celebration, part of his Jan. 18-22 trip to Peru. In addition to delivering a short message, the Pope prayed before the image of the Virgin of La Puerta. The encounter also included prayer and a reading from the first chapter of Luke.

Today, the square had “become an open-air shrine,” the Pope said, “where all of us want to let our Mother look upon us with her maternal and tender gaze.”

“If we consider that wherever there is a community, wherever there is life and hearts longing to find reasons to hope, to sing and to dance, to long for a decent life… there is the Lord, there we find his Mother, and there too the example of all those saints who help us to remain joyful in hope.”

He said that the many images and titles for Mary, of which there are many in Peru, are a sign that “in her heart all races find a place.” He also stressed that Mary is a mother “who knows the heart of her Peruvian children from the north and from so many other places.”

“How much I desire that this land, which clings to the Mother of Mercy and Hope, can abound in God’s goodness and tender love and bring it everywhere,” he stated.

“For there is no better medicine, dear brothers and sisters, to cure many wounds than a heart that has known mercy, than a heart that is compassionate before sorrow and misfortune.”

During the message, Francis also asked those present to think of their earthly mothers and grandmothers, explaining that love for Mary should lead us to feel appreciation and gratitude for all women.

Do not become 'professionals of the sacred,' Pope tells Peruvian priests, religious

Lima, Peru, Jan 20, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Peruvian priests and religious Saturday, telling them that a sense of humor is a good remedy for the temptation to clerical self-importance.

“John [the Baptist] embodies the awareness of a disciple conscious that he is not, and never will be, the Messiah, but only one called to point out the Lord’s presence in the life of his people,” the Pope said Jan. 20.

Pointing to the passage in John's Gospel in which John the Baptist tells his disciples to “behold the Lamb of God” as he sees Jesus passing by, Francis noted that while John was a good and faithful disciple, he “was waiting for someone greater than himself.”

Those who are consecrated are not called to replace the Lord by their missions and activities, but rather, “to work with the Lord, side by side, never forgetting that we do not replace him.” Knowing they are not the Messiah, he said, frees clerics and religious “from thinking that we are overly important or too busy.”

While this temptation is real and is often present in in communities, Francis offered a remedy: laughter.

“Learning to laugh at ourselves gives us the spiritual ability to stand before the Lord with our limitations, our mistakes and our sins, but also our successes, and the joy of knowing that he is at our side,” he said.

“Laughter saves us from the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others,” he said, and urged those present to conduct a “spiritual test” to see whether or not they are able to laugh at themselves.  

He told them to laugh in their community, but never “at the community or at others,” and to be “on guard against people so important that they have forgotten to smile in their lives.”

Pope Francis spoke to some 1,000 priests, seminarians and religious during a Jan. 20 trip to the Peruvian beach town of Huanchaco, where he traveled as part of his Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru, following a three-day visit to Chile.

He was greeted by Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi S.C.V., who oversees the dioceses of Piura and Tumbes.  Anselmi is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, which earlier this month received a “Commissioner” from the Pope tasked with governing the community as they carry out reform following revelations of serial abuse by their founder, Luis Fernando Figari, in 2015.

The encounter with priests, religious and seminarians from all over Peru took place at the seminary college of Trujillo. According to statistics provided by the Holy See Press Office, there are currently some 3,361 priests in Peru, including diocesan and religious; 65 permanent deacons; 422 professed male religious and 5,568 professed women religious.

In his speech, Pope Francis told attendees that their vocation is one of “remembrance,” because it points to the fact that neither life, nor faith, nor the Church began with any one of them.

Rather, he said “remembrance looks to the past in order to discover the sap that nourished the hearts of disciples for centuries, and thus comes to recognize God’s presence in the life of his people.”

One of the virtues of this remembrance, he said, is a “joyful self-awareness” which recognizes, like John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Messiah and we are simply his servants, called to both follow Jesus' example and continue his work of service to others, which is “the source of our joy.”

Another aspect of this remembrance is what Francis referred to as “the time of the call,” meaning the first moment in which God's call to their vocation was felt.

In his Gospel, John remembers the exact hour in which his life changed by meeting Jesus, saying “it was about the tenth hour,” the Pope said, adding that a single encounter with Jesus “changes our lives, it establishes a 'before' and an 'after'.

He urged attendees to remember the day when they first realized that “the Lord expected something more of us.”

If this moment is forgotten, “we forget our origins, our roots,” he said, “and by losing these basic coordinates, we lose sight of the most precious part of our lives as consecrated persons: the Lord’s gaze.”

“We do well to remember that our vocations are a loving call to love in return, and to serve,” he said, and quoting the Book of Deuteronomy, said that “if the Lord fell in love with you and chose you, it was not because you were more numerous than the others, for you are the least of peoples, but out of pure love!”

Pope Francis also pointed to the influence of popular piety on the vocational call, noting that in Peru, where colorful processions and large Masses marking special feast days are common, expressions of this piety “have taken on the most exquisite forms and have deep roots in God’s simple and faithful people.”

Because of this, he told those present “not to forget, much less look down on, the solid and simple faith of your people. Welcome, accompany and stimulate their encounter with the Lord.”

“Do not become 'professionals of the sacred' by forgetting your people, from whose midst the Lord took you. Do not lose your remembrance and respect for those who taught you how to pray,” he said, explaining that to remember the moment of one's call is to celebrate Christ's entry into their lives.

Remembrance, joy and gratitude, are the three “weapons” that best defend against “all vocational pretense,” he said, because “grateful awareness enlarges the heart and inspires us to service.”

Francis then reflected on the “contagious joy” of one's vocation, which he said is another virtue of the “remembrance” he spoke of.

Pointing to the day's Gospel, he noted that Andrew, who was one of the disciples of John the Baptist that followed Jesus on that first day, returned home after spending time with Jesus and told his brother Simon Peter what he experienced, saying “we have found the Messiah.”

“Faith in Jesus is contagious; it cannot be restrained or kept within,” he said, explaining that Andrew begins his mission with those closest to him by “radiating joy,” prompting those around him to also follow Jesus.

Joy, he said, “is the surest sign that we have discovered the Messiah” and is constantly present in the hearts of the apostles.

This joy is meant to be shared and so opens us to others, he said, adding that in the “the fragmented world in which we live, a world that can make us withdrawn, we are challenged to become builders and prophets of community.”

No one is saved alone, he said, stressing that isolation and fragmentation are not things that happen only “out there” in the world, but “divisions, wars and isolation are found within our communities, and what harm they bring us!”

Jesus sends his disciples to build communion and unity, however, often times the opposite happens, and “we go about this by displaying our disunity and, worse yet, trying to trip each other up,” Francis said, explaining that to build unity “does not mean thinking everyone is the same, or doing things always the same way.”

“It means discerning what everyone has to offer, respecting their differences, and acknowledging the gift of charisms within the Church, knowing that while each of us contributes what he or she has, we also need one another,” he said.

The Pope then cautioned against the temptation of the “only child,” who wants everything for themselves since there is no one to share with.

“Only the Lord has the fullness of the gifts; only he is the Messiah,” he said, and urged those in positions of authority to “please not...become self-referential.”

“Try to care for your brothers and sisters; try to keep them happy, because happiness is contagious,” he said. “Do not fall into the trap of an authority that turns into authoritarianism by forgetting that its mission is primarily one of service.”

Francis closed his speech thanking attendees for their presence, and prayed that “this 'deuteronomic' remembrance make us more joyful and grateful to be servants of unity in the midst of our people.”