Pope Francis to hold first meeting with sex abuse victims, says abuse is ‘like a satanic Mass’

Pope Francis says Mass in Jerusalem

Pope Francis says he will have his first meeting with a group of sex abuse victims at the Vatican early next month, and that he would show zero tolerance for anyone in the Catholic Church who abused children.

Francis said he would meet with eight victims and Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston, who is head of a commission set up to study ways of dealing with the crisis.

“Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime … because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass,” the Pope said in some of the toughest language he has used on a crisis that has rocked the Church for more than a decade.

Acknowledging three bishops were under investigation for abuse, the pontiff said: “We must go ahead with zero tolerance.”

It was not clear, however, if the Pope also meant zero tolerance for bishops who are not accused of being abusers themselves but are accused of having turned a blind eye to abuse by priests in their dioceses or who may have covered up abuse scandals.

Speaking to reporters on the plane taking him back from a visit to the Middle East, the 77-year-old pontiff fielded questions on a range of topics including Vatican finances, priestly celibacy, his concern for the environment, and whether he would one day retire like his predecessor Benedict XVI instead of serving for life.

Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime … because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass.

Pope Francis

 

The concept of a “pope emeritus” could someday become normal in the Church, he said.

During his Middle East trip Francis invited Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican next month.

He said the meeting would not be a mediation but a prayer meeting that he hoped could encourage the stalled peace process.

The Pope also said he believed Roman Catholic priests should be celibate but that the rule was not an unchangeable dogma and “the door is always open” to change.

It was something he had said before his election, but it was the first time he made the remark as pope.

Pope urged to hold bishops who shielded clergy to account

Francis said the sex abuse victims, several from Europe, would attend his morning Mass and then he would meet with them.

It will be the first time for Francis to meet sexual abuse victims since becoming pope in March 2013.

Cardinal O’Malley said last month in Rome that the commission he heads would recommend that negligent clerics be held accountable regardless of their rank in the Church.

In many cases of abuse, most of which took place decades ago but surfaced in the past 15 years or so, bishops seeking to protect the Church’s reputation moved priests from parish to parish instead of defrocking them or handing them over to police.

Victims’ groups have pressed the Vatican to hold bishops who either shielded abusers or were negligent in protecting children to account along with abusers themselves.

In February, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of abuse and attempting to cover up sex crimes.

The Vatican called the report unfair and ideologically slanted.

Pope to U.N. Heads: Unborn Children are “Our Brothers and Sisters”

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

NEW YORK, May 15 (C-FAM) The highest-ranking U.N. human rights official, Navi Pillay, looked down and fidgeted as Pope Francis delivered an unambiguous pro-life message to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and top U.N. officials.

Unborn children are “our brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis told Pillay and her colleagues gathered in Rome for a coordination meeting. Pillay’s office facilitates the work of the U.N. committees that recently told the Vatican to change Church teaching on abortion.

“Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands,” the Pope exhorted.

The message comes at a critical time, when the United Nations is discussing a new development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2015 and contribute to the eradication of poverty, improvements in health, and economic development. The U.N. General Assembly is conducting consultations to garner consensus on a scheme known as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The pope applauded the U.N.’s efforts so far, but cautioned that many are still excluded from the benefits of social and economic progress, unborn children among them.

He denounced the injustice of the “culture of death” and the “throwaway culture” of our times. Abortion is part of that culture, according to the pontiff, alongside an “economy of exclusion.” He urged U.N. officials to challenge these injustices with a “worldwide ethical mobilization.”

Equitable progress is only achievable through a “solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level,” he told them.

Pope Francis also asked the officials to “provide appropriate protection for the family” as an “essential element in sustainable human and social development.”

The Pope’s intercession for unborn children and the family conjures John Paul II’s interventions ahead of an ambitious U.N. conference on population and development in 1994 where efforts of the Clinton administration and U.N. officials to have abortion recognized as a human right were stymied by Francis’ predecessor.

The negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda are the new battleground where a similar clash is unfolding.

Pope Francis’ message is aimed at preventing the U.N. from endorsing abortion even indirectly under the pretext of providing maternal health or sexual and reproductive health.

Donor countries that support abortion and U.N. officials accountable to them include abortion as an indispensable component of maternal health and sexual and reproductive health. Groups that provide and promote abortion exploit ambiguities with regards to abortion in U.N. policies in order to obtain funds.

The Millennium Development Goals successfully channeled resources to tackle specific problems. But many difficulties and uncertainties remain in forming a new set of goals.

The agenda has ballooned to well over a dozen broadly defined goals, targets and indicators. There is no agreement on details so far.

Critics worry that the post-2015 development agenda will focus away from helping poor countries grapple with poverty and diseases to unattainable universal goals on a vast spectrum of environmental and social issues dear to wealthy countries.

….

Taken from: http://c-fam.org/en/issues/un-organizations/7842-pope-to-u-n-heads-unborn-children-are-our-brothers-and-sisters

 

Fatima Consecration – Chronology

 

History of the Consecration and Related Events

July 13, 1917 Our Lady promises to “come and ask the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart”1
June 13, 1929 Our Lady fulfills her promise, asking “for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, promising its conversion through this means and the hindering of the propagation of its errors.”2
date unknown Pius XI (1922-1939) informed of this request3
1938 Portuguese Bishops ask Pius XI for the Consecration of the World to the Immaculate Heart. It is said they were influenced to do this by the spiritual director of Bl. Alexandrina da Costa (1904-1955).
June 1940 Request made to Pius XII through the Bishop of Macau, and a little later through Father Gonzaga de Fonseca. Mention is made of Our Lady asking the Consecrating of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
December 1940 Sr. Lucia writes letter to Pius XII, saying that Our Lord Himself requests the Pope to “consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a special mention for Russia, and order that all the Bishops of the world do the same in union with Your Holiness.”4
October 31, 1942 Pope Pius XII consecrates the world to the Immaculate Heart.
July 7, 1952 Pope Pius XII consecrates the Russian people to the Immaculate Heart
November 21, 1964 Pope Paul VI renews, in the presence of the Fathers of the Vatican Council but without their participation, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
May 13, 1982 Pope John Paul II invites the bishops of the world to join him in consecrating the world and with it Russia to the Immaculate Heart. Many do not receive the invitation in time for the Pope’s trip to Fatima, where he accomplishes the consecration. Sr. Lucia later says it did not fulfill the conditions.
October 1983 Pope John Paul II, at the Synod of Bishops, renews the 1982 Consecration
March 25, 1984 Pope John Paul II, “united with all the pastors of the Church in a particular bond whereby we constitute a body and a college,” consecrates “the whole world, especially the peoples for which by reason of their situation you have particular love and solicitude.” Both the Pope and Sr. Lucia initially seemed uncertain that the consecration has been fulfilled, but shortly thereafter Sr. Lucia tells the papal nuncio to Portugal that the Consecration is fulfilled.
May 13, 1984 One of the largest crowds in Fatima history gathers at the shrine to pray the Rosary for peace.
May 13, 1984 An explosion at the Soviets’ Severomorsk Naval Base destroys two-thirds of all the missiles stockpiled for the Soviets’ Northern Fleet. The blast also destroys workshops needed to maintain the missiles as well as hundreds of scientists and technicians. Western military experts called it the worst naval disaster the Soviet Navy has suffered since WWII.
December 1984 Soviet Defense Minister, mastermind of the invasion plans for Western Europe, suddenly and mysteriously dies.
March 10, 1985 Soviet Chairman Konstantin Chernenko dies
March 11, 1985 Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev elected
April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident
May 12, 1988 An explosion wrecked the only factory that made the rocket motors for the Soviets’ deadly SS 24 long-range missiles, which carry ten nuclear bombs each.
August 29, 1989 Sr. Lucia affirms in correspondence that the consecration “has been accomplished” and that “God will keep His word.”
November 9, 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall
Nov-Dec 1989 Peaceful revolutions in Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania
1990 East and West Germany are unified
December 25, 1991 Dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Letter of Sr. Lucia to Pope Pius XII requesting the Consecration of the World and Russia to the Immaculate Heart

Most Holy Father,

Humbly prostrated at your feet, I come as the last sheep of the fold entrusted to you to open my heart, by order of my spiritual director.

I am the only survivor of the children to whom our Lady appeared in Fátima (Portugal) from the 13th of May to the 13th of October 1917. The Blessed Virgin has granted me many graces, the greatest of all being my admission to the Institute of Saint Dorothy. (To here this is copy of the sketch the Bishop sent me.)

I come, Most Holy Father, to renew a request that has already been brought to you several times. The request, Most Holy Father, is from our Lord and our good Mother in Heaven.

In 1917, in the portion of the apparitions that we have designated “the secret,” the Blessed Virgin revealed the end of the war that was then afflicting Europe, and predicted another forthcoming, saying that to prevent it She would come and ask the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as well as the Communion of reparation on the first Saturday. She promised peace and the conversion of that nation if Her request was attended to. She announced that otherwise this nation would spread her errors throughout the world, and there would be wars, persecutions of the Holy Church, martyrdom of many Christians, several persecutions and sufferings reserved for Your Holiness, and the annihilation of several nations.

Most Holy Father, this remained a secret until 1926 according to the express will of our Lady. Then, in a revelation She asked that the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be propagated throughout the world, with its conditions of doing the following with the same purpose; going to confession, meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary and saying the Rosary with the aim of making reparation for the insults, sacrileges and indifferences committed against Her Immaculate Heart. Our good Heavenly Mother promises to assist the persons who practise this devotion, in the hour of their death, with all the necessary graces for their salvation. I exposed the request of our Lady to my confessor, who tried to have it fulfilled, but only on the 13th of September 1939 did His Excellency the Bishop of Leiria make public in Fatima this request of our Lady.

I take this opportunity, Most Holy Father, to ask you to bless and extend this devotion to the whole world. In 1929, through another apparition, our Lady asked for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, promising its conversion through this means and the hindering of the propagation of its errors.

Sometime afterwards I told my confessor of the request of our Lady. He tried to fulfill it by making it known to Pius XI.

In several intimate communications our Lord has not stopped insisting on this request, promising lately, to shorten the days of tribulation which He has determined to punish the nations for their crimes, through war, famine and several persecutions of the Holy Church and Your Holiness, if you will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a special mention for Russia, and order that all the Bishops of the world do the same in union with Your Holiness. I truly feel your sufferings, Most Holy Father! And, at much as I can through my humble prayers and sacrifices, I try to lessen them, close to our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Most Holy Father, if in the union of my soul with God I have not been deceived, our Lord promises a special protection to our country in this war, due to the consecration of the nation by the Portuguese Prelates, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; as proof of the graces that would have been granted to other nations, had they also consecrated themselves to Her.

Now, Most Holy Father, allow me to make one more request, which is but an ardent wish of my humble heart; that the feast in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary be extended throughout the whole world as one of the main feasts of the Holy Church.

With the deepest respect and reverence I ask for the Apostolic Blessing. May God protect Your Holiness.

Tuy, Spain, 2nd of December of 1940.

Maria Lucia de Jesus

From Novos Documentos de Fátima, Fr. Anthony Mario Martins, SJ (Oporto: 1984). English edition: Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sr. Lucia. (Alexandria, SD: Fatima Family Apostolate, 1992).

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
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….Taken from: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/FatimaConsecration.htm

Pope Francis: Don’t be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world.

 

A modern pope gets old school on the Devil

By Anthony Faiola, Published: May 11E-mail the writer

VATICAN CITY — A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone.

Yet, in his words and deeds, the new pope is locked in an epic battle with the oldest enemy of God and creation:

The Devil.

After his little more than a year atop the Throne of St. Peter, Francis’s teachings on Satan are already regarded as the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI, whose papacy in the 1960s and 1970s fully embraced the notion of hellish forces plotting to deliver mankind unto damnation.

Largely under the radar, theologians and Vatican insiders say, Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces­ of evil at his beck and call.

Last year, for instance, Francis laid hands on a man in a wheelchair who claimed to be possessed by demons, in what many saw as an impromptu act of cleansing. A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”

Gallery

 

Video

Pope Francis ordained 13 new priests from around the world, urging them to remain merciful to the faithful.

Pope Francis ordained 13 new priests from around the world, urging them to remain merciful to the faithful.

“ ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.

Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will. Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a lofty German theologian, often painted evil with a broad brush.

Enter the plain-talking first pope from Latin America, where mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region. During his time as cardinal of Buenos Aires before rising to the papacy, Francis was known for stark warnings against “the tempter” and “the father of lies.” Now, his focus on the Devil is raising eyebrows even within the normally unquestioning walls of Vatican City.

“Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant,” said one senior bishop in Vatican City who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. “Had Pope Benedict done this, the media would have clobbered him.”

Yet, as with so many of his actions, Francis may simply be correctly reading the winds of the Catholic Church.

 

Rising demand for exorcists

 

Although it is difficult to measure, Vatican officials talk about a resurgence of mystical rites in the church, including exorcism — or the alleged act of evicting demons from a living host. Cardinals in Milan; Turin, Italy; and Madrid, for instance, recently moved to expand the number of exorcists in their dioceses to cope with what they have categorized as surging demand.

But by focusing on old-school interpretations of the Devil, some progressive theologians complain, the pope is undermining his reputation as a leader who in so many other ways appears to be more in step with modern society than his predecessor.

“He is opening the door to superstition,” said Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian and writer.

Among the things lurking behind that door is the alleged gateway to hell guarded by the small cluster of officially anointed exorcists of the Roman Catholic Church.

By most accounts, the ranks of official exorcists number between 500 and 600 in a global church of more than 1 billion Catholics, with the vast majority operating in Latin America and Eastern Europe. This week, at the ninth and largest Vatican-sanctioned convention on exorcism, attendees gushed about the fresh recognition being afforded the field.

Almost 200 delegates — most of them priests and nuns — from more than two dozen nations talked about how Satanic cults are spreading like wildfire in the age of the Internet.

The new pope, exorcists say, has become their champion in the face of modern skeptics, many of them within the Catholic faith. Officially, those claiming to be possessed must first undergo psychiatric evaluations. But exorcists say that liberal Catholic bishops have often rejected their services even after such due diligence.

“The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests in our church who do not really believe in the Devil,” said the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the 89-year-old priest who is perhaps the closest thing the church has to a Hollywood-style exorcist. “I believe Pope Francis is speaking to them. Because when you don’t believe, the Devil wins.”

During the conference, the Rev. Cesar Truqui, an exorcist based in Switzerland, recounted one experience he had aboard a Swissair flight. “Two lesbians,” he said, had sat behind him on the plane. Soon afterward, he said, he felt Satan’s presence. As he silently sought to repel the evil spirit through prayer, one of the women, he said, began growling demonically and threw chocolates at his head.

Asked how he knew the woman was possessed, he said that “once you hear a Satanic growl, you never forget it. It’s like smelling Margherita pizza for the first time. It’s something you never forget.”

From his small room in a south Rome rectory fitted with a hospital bed, Amorth praised Francis for so fully embracing the biblical notion of the Devil as the personified overlord of hell.

 

….

 

 

Unlike in the movies, he said, the process of driving demons out typically takes multiple sessions over many years.

An exorcist in action
In a rare glimpse of an official exorcism last week, in a white-tiled room outfitted with images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Amorth wrapped his purple sash around a Neapolitan housewife in her 40s who said she was afflicted by multiple demons. He then began chanting in Latin, commanding the devils inside her to reveal themselves.
“Tell me your name!” he demanded.
“No, no,” hissed the woman, shaking her head and speaking in an altered voice as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. “I will not!”
“Tell me your name!” he kept repeating, until finally she spat out, “Asmodeus,” the name of an ancient demon and hellish spokesman.
“How many are you?” he yelled, repeating the question as she grunted and shook her head violently.
Finally, she defiantly said, “We are five!”
After his bout with the demons, the diminutive Amorth simply shrugged.
“That,” he said, “was a light one.”
Following the session, the woman and her husband, who gave their names only as Antonella and Michele, said they had been going through a living hell for years. They had begged bishops to authorize an exorcism when Antonella began having uncontrollable fits after receiving Holy Communion and became violent around religious prayers. But they were repeatedly denied.
It was only after they were referred to Amorth and began sessions four years ago, Antonella said, that her condition finally began to improve.
“The Devil exists, and thanks to this treatment, I have gotten back my faith,” she said. “I think Pope Francis is telling us it’s okay to believe.”Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.

….

 

Pope Francis’ first portrait painted by former Chinese communist red guard living in Sydney

Shen’s portrait of the Pope that takes its cue from St Francis of Assisi.

        Shen’s portrait of the Pope that takes its cue from St Francis of Assisi.

Heath Gilmore

Reporter

….

Jiawei Shen, a Red Guard during the madness of the Chinese cultural revolution, remembers a Catholic worshipper in tears as his team vandalised her church. Now, four decades later, the Sydney-based artist is being feted in the Vatican after completing the first officially sanctioned portrait of Pope Francis.

“I thought about that woman [in the church] today,” Shen said after the presentation. “I don’t have any real religion, but I believe in the power of love and forgiveness.”

The artist, who now lives in Bundeena – the artists’ community on the fringe of the Royal National Park – said his painting drew inspiration from Saint Francis of Assisi, hence the doves, and a series of images taken of worshippers who had met the pontiff around the world.

Inspired by forgiveness: Bundeena artist Jiawei Shen, centre, with Pope Francis and Australian Senate president John Hogg.

Inspired by forgiveness: Bundeena artist Jiawei Shen, centre, with Pope Francis and Australian Senate president John Hogg.

Fairfax media art critic John Macdonald has described Shen as leading a double life as an artist. “On one hand he has become a successful, much sought-after portraitist. He has now painted Princess Mary of Denmark, former prime minister John Howard, and a host of other well-known figures,” he said.

“The portraits have brought him an income, and a measure of local fame, but they represent a sideline to his central ambition: to make large-scale history paintings that capture the absurdities, the horror and grandeur of the modern era.”

The portrait of the Pope arose from a chance afternoon tea meeting last year between Hazelhurst Gallery chairman Byron Hurst and John McCarthy, the Australian ambassador to the Holy See. Mr Hurst said he observed a print of Shen’s award-winning portrait of Mary MacKillop on Mr McCarthy’s wall. The idea was born to commission a portrait by Shen of the newly elected Pope. The occasion to be celebrated was the 40th anniversary of the Australian diplomatic mission to the Vatican

Pope Francis gave his permission for the portrait to be made on his flight back from World Youth Day.

The elevation of Cardinal George Pell in the Vatican power structure also played a part. Cardinal Pell is now a key member of a panel of eight cardinals, dubbed the “Group of Eight” or “G8”, tasked with assisting the Pope in the governance of the universal church. The council’s field of potential concern extends far beyond Vatican reform, and Pope Francis has said its deliberations will include the question of the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Last week during a break in the G8 meeting, Cardinal Pell escorted the Pope to meet the artist and an Australian government delegation.

“The Pope greeted the delegation warmly and then was struck by the painting,” Mr Hurst said. “He did a slight double take, followed by a very close inspection only centimetres away, which was followed by warm papal approval. Asked for his blessing of the painting, the Pope agreed but asked all present – and Australians generally – to pray for him too.”

All this is a change of fortune for Shen, who came to Australia as a refugee before the Tiananmen Square protests. For three years, he made a living at Darling Harbour knocking out tourist portraits.

“The recognition is great, but I just love being able to paint,” he said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/pope-francis-first-portrait-painted-by-former-chinese-communist-red-guard-living-in-sydney-20140506-zr1nm.html#ixzz31NFUtfV4

Fears for China’s churches as Christianity rises

Demolition of state-sanctioned church in eastern China stokes fears Communist Party will unleash nationwide campaign against fast-growing Christian community

By Tom Phillips, Wenzhou

 

It is impossible to visit Wenzhou, a bustling port city known as the Jerusalem of the East, without noticing the crosses.

Bright red and in some cases taller than houses, they thrust into the sky from roof tops, domes and spires – a constant reminder of Christianity’s rapid spread in this officially atheist nation.

Recently, however, the crosses appear to have become too visible for Beijing’s liking.

On Monday night excavators laid waste to one of the city’s largest places of worship, the state-sanctioned Sanjiang church, amid accusations that the Communist Party was preparing to launch a nationwide assault against Christianity.

At least 10 churches here in Zhejiang province have been ordered to remove their eye-catching red crosses or are facing partial or total demolition, activists claim. Already this month two churches, one Catholic, one Protestant, have been razed.

 

On Monday night excavators laid waste to one of the city’s largest places of worship, the state-sanctioned Sanjiang church

On Monday night excavators laid waste to one of the city’s largest places of worship, the state-sanctioned Sanjiang church

 

 

Communist Party officials insist the demolitions are a matter of planning permission not religious persecution.

Yet whatever the truth, the highly symbolic destruction of Sanjiang, a state-approved congregation, has underlined escalating tensions between an increasing large and assertive Church and a Communist Party that appears less and less tolerant of those groups it sees as a threat to its power.

Exactly 25 years ago, hawks and doves within the Party leadership debated how to deal with mass protests that had broken out in Tiananmen Square and hundreds of other Chinese cities.

Some, like Zhao Ziyang, China’s reform-minded General Secretary, advocated a conciliatory approach, noting that the students’ calls for an end to corruption were in line with the party’s own pledges. Others pushed for an iron-fisted response, claiming the protests had been whipped up by hostile foreign forces intent on toppling the Party.

“This clearly is a planned, organised conspiracy,” said Li Ximing, Beijing’s conservative mayor, according to leaked documents published in the Tiananmen papers.

A quarter of a century on from those debates – eventually and fatefully won by the hardliners – the Party appears similarly split over religion and Christianity in particular.

Some leaders are said to share Prime Minister David Cameron’s newfound enthusiasm for the faith as a weapon against spiritual and moral collapse. But as with the 1989 protests, many others view Christianity as a “hostile” and “foreign” danger that needs to be stamped out.

 

Church members told The Telegraph authorities had attempted to silence the congregation

 

Foreign missionaries were forced from China following the Communist takeover in 1949 and the Party’s deep suspicion of proselytising outsiders appears to have changed little since then.

A high-level government directive, leaked in late 2012, ordered universities chiefs to guard against a gang of “US-led Western countries” which were “infiltrating” Chinese campuses and “using religion to carry out their political plot to westernise and divide China”.

China’s Protestant and Catholic communities – now thought to number anywhere between 25 and 100 million people – enjoy incomparably more freedom than during the three decades that followed Chairman Mao’s 1949 Revolution.

Church members accused Communist leaders in Zhejiang province of ordering an anti-church crackdown

 

But the bar was set very low by years of destruction and persecution in which pastors and priests were routinely beaten, thrown into jail and even tortured as their places of worship were closed or ransacked.

Even today, the only legal way to worship legally is inside state-controlled churches run by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM) or the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). Chinese citizens are forbidden from attending foreign-run churches where overseas priests might preach inconvenient sections of the Bible.

Thaddeus Ma Daqin, a Catholic bishop in Shanghai, has effectively been under house arrest since he spoke out against the Party’s stranglehold on religion in 2012. Earlier this month a government official accused the bishop of acting “under the influence of foreigners”.

The significance of this week’s church demolition remains unclear, with observers divided on whether it was the result of a regional grudge against Christianity or a direct order from Beijing.

However, some within the Christian community fear Beijing is gearing up for a nationwide anti-church campaign designed to halt the advance of what they view as troublesome “foreign” movement.

Young Chinese often saw Christianity as “very fresh, modern and attractive” but many senior Communists regarded it as “a sickness” that posed a potentially fatal threat to the Party’s health, said one underground “house church” leader.

As congregations swell – a leading expert recently predicted China would become the world’s biggest Christian congregation by 2030 – and the profile and influence of churchgoers changes with the conversion of younger, more educated urban believers, so too do these fears.

Fenggang Yang, the head of Purdue University’s Centre on Religion and Chinese Society, said Chinese Christians would face growing pressure from Beijing in the coming decade, likening the situation to the Roman Empire’s Great Persecution of Christians in the 10 years leading up to the AD313 Edict of Milan.

That may be putting it too strongly, but the destruction of Sanjiang church has done nothing to improve the Communist Party’s long-strained relations with the Church.

There was now an urgent need for greater dialogue between churches and the government, the underground leader argued. “We have to build up trust. The mistrust is a very, very big issue.”

At Wenzhou’s Sanjiang church any trust was obliterated this week as government demolition teams took just hours to level a place of worship that had taken years of work and millions of pounds to build.

After being spied on and harassed by local officials and police who had sought to hide the demolition from the public eye, congregants woke up on Tuesday morning to find their church reduced to a heap of rubble.

“They should respect our faith,” said one congregant. “Politics is so complicated, especially in China. We can saying nothing more.”

 

….

 

Taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10798007/Fears-for-Chinas-churches-as-Christianity-rises.html

Pope Francis and Vatican continue crackdown on the U.S. nuns for ‘radical feminist’ themes

Pope Benedict XVI issued the reform order in 2012 after an investigation concluded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious were undermining traditional Catholic teachings on priesthood, homosexuality and promoting ‘radical feminist themes.’

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 6:28 PM
….
Mario Tama/Getty Images/Getty ImagesThe Leadership Conference of Women Religious represents about 80% of U.S. nuns.

NEW YORK — The Vatican official overseeing the crackdown on the largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns is pressing forward with the overhaul under Pope Francis.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, reprimanded officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for planning to honor a theologian who had been criticized by U.S. bishops and said the sisters must show more willingness to cooperate.

Mueller made the remarks in a meeting last Wednesday with the group’s leaders in Rome. He apologized repeatedly for speaking so bluntly, while reminding the sisters their organization held its status within the church only through Vatican approval.

“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life,” Mueller said, according to a copy of his speech posted Monday on the Vatican website. “We are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.”

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican May 7, 2014.TONY GENTILE/ReutersPope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 7, 2014.

The nuns’ group said in a brief statement Monday that the meeting with Mueller and his staff was “respectful and engaging,” but the sisters would not comment further. The cardinal’s remarks were first reported by The National Catholic Reporter.

The reform order was issued in 2012 under now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, after an investigation concluded the nuns’ group had taken positions that undermined Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Investigators praised the nuns’ humanitarian work, but accused them of focusing too much on social justice and ignoring critical issues, such as fighting abortion.

The nuns’ group rejected the Vatican findings as “flawed” and based on “unsubstantiated accusations.” Some sisters had hoped for a new approach under Pope Francis, a Jesuit who has stressed mercy over morals and has made social justice issues his top priority.

An investigation under Pope Benedict XVI concluded that the nuns were teaching ‘radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.’Andrew Burton/Getty Images/Getty ImagesAn investigation under Pope Benedict XVI concluded that the nuns were teaching ‘radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.’

In last week’s meeting, Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he supported the conclusions of the Vatican review.

“The issues raised in the assessment are so central and so foundational, there is no other way of discussing them except as constituting a movement away from the ecclesial center of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord,” Mueller said.

The Leadership Conference, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. nuns, plans to give its outstanding leadership award to Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a Fordham University theologian and author of “Quest for the Living God.” U.S. bishops said the book contained “misrepresentations” and doctrinal errors, but Johnson has defended her work. Mueller didn’t mention Johnson by name, but said the choice of honoree will be “seen as a rather open provocation.”

The award will be conferred at the August assembly of the Leadership Conference in Nashville. Mueller said that after the event, the nuns must be sure to submit their plans for awards and major meetings ahead of time to Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, whom the Vatican has appointed to oversee the reform. Mueller said Sartain was informed of the choice only after the decision had been made.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/pope-francis-vatican-continue-crackdown-u-s-nuns-article-1.1783576#ixzz3151PepkX

Pope Francis hits out at ‘people who follow Jesus for money’

 

Pontiff criticises ‘profiteers and climbers’ within Catholic church as he begins overhaul of scandal-hit Vatican bureaucracy
Pope Francis has condemned “profiteers” and “climbers” who use the Catholic church for financial gain as he embarks on Vatican reforms aimed at promoting greater transparency and doing more to help the needy.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leaves of a mass for the Polish community in Rome on Sunday. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Pope Francis has condemned “profiteers” and “climbers” who use the Catholic church for financial gain as he embarks on Vatican reforms aimed at promoting greater transparency and doing more to help the needy.

“There are climbers in the church. There are a lot of them!” the pope said during a morning mass in the Vatican residence where he has lived since being elected last year.

“People who follow Jesus for money, try to profit from the parish, the diocese, the Christian community, the hospital, the college,” he said.

“We have known a lot of good Catholics, good Christians … And then we discover that they have been carrying out somewhat shady dealings. They were real profiteers and they made a lot of money.” he said.

“They presented themselves as benefactors but they took a lot of money and not always clean money,” he said.

Francis has said he wants a “poor church for the poor” and has begun an overhaul of the scandal-hit Vatican bureaucracy and bank, the Institute for Religious Works.

Two former directors of the Vatican bank are facing trial in Italy for money-laundering, while a former leading Vatican accountant is a defendant in a separate trial for trying to smuggle money illegally through the bank

….

Taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/05/pope-francis-jesus-money-vatican-bank-bureaucracy

 

 

Resurrection pours ‘fresh hope’ on the world, Pope reflects

 

.- During his general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the certainty of Christ’s presence in the world today, noting how his resurrection invites us to reject sin and open ourselves to joy and hope. “In these days we celebrate with joy the great mystery of the Resurrection of Christ,” he told the crowds packed into St. Peter’s Square April 23. “With the resurrection, all has been made new and fresh hope has been poured out upon our world.” Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his Wednesday audience on Oct. 2, 2013. Credit: Marianne Medlin/CNA.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his Wednesday audience on Oct. 2, 2013. Credit: Marianne Medlin/CNA.

During his remarks, the Pope commented on the Gospel reading from Luke chapter 24, where the angel appears to the women at Jesus’ tomb and says to them: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” “It’s not easy to accept the presence of the resurrected in the midst of us,” the Pope reflected. “The question that the angel directed to the women, that Easter morning, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ we must also ask ourselves.” Pope Francis outlined the relevance of the angel’s words today, explaining that we seek the living among the dead “every time we enclose ourselves in selfishness or complacency.” “When we are seduced by power and the things of this world, forgetting God and neighbor, when we put our hope in worldly vanities, in money or in success,” he added. “Each time we lose hope or do not have the strength to pray, each time that we feel alone of abandoned by friends, and even God, each time we feel like prisoners of our sins.” The pontiff said that the angel’s warning “helps us to go outside of our sadnesses and to open ourselves to joy and to hope,” which remove “the stones from the grave and push us to announce the Good News to others.” Pope Francis also noted how the Gospel account shows three examples “of a life-changing encounter with the Risen Lord,” – Thomas, Mary Magdalene and the travelers on the road to Emmaus – which all invite us to the same experience. “Like Thomas, we need to grasp the reality of Christ’s rising to new life,” he said. “Like Mary Magdalene, we need to hear Jesus’ voice calling our name.” “And like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, we need to find renewed joy and hope by recognizing that the Lord is ever at our side.” The Pope observed that although these disciples “sought the living among the dead,” Jesus “led them, by different paths, to faith in him and the power of his resurrection.” “Today he challenges each of us to seek him, the Living One, and to leave behind everything that holds us back from encountering him and sharing in the rebirth, the freedom and the hope which he alone can give.” …. Taken from: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/resurrection-pours-fresh-hope-on-the-world-pope-reflects/