FaithWorld

Vatican official visits Cuba amid local Catholic Church calls for change

cuban prisonerVatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominque Mamberti visits Cuba this week at a time when the Catholic Church is flexing its political muscle and calling for change on the communist-led island.  His five-day visit, starting on Tuesday, follows the release of one of Cuba’s estimated 190 political prisoners and the transfer of 12 others to jails closer to their homes in moves requested by church leaders.

The concessions by the Cuban government have raised hopes that more prisoners will be freed in a gesture to Mamberti, who is the third Vatican official to come to Cuba since Raul Castro succeeded older brother Fidel Castro as president in 2008. (Photo: Released prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya carried out of an ambulance at his residence east of Havana on June 12, 2010/Enrique De La Osa)

The church has moved cautiously over the years, but in recent months Cuban church leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega has become more outspoken.  In a unusually blunt interview with church publication Palabra Nueva (PDF here in Spanish) in April, Ortega said Cubans were fed up with the country’s ongoing economic difficulties and called for the government to “make the necessary changes quickly.”

Read the full story by Jeff Franks here.

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“Sin within the Church” is greatest threat to Catholicism: pope

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Pope Benedict on the plane to Portugal, with spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at right, 11 May 2010/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Benedict said on Tuesday that the greatest threat to Catholicism came from “sin within the Church,” one if his most forthright comments so far on a sexual abuse scandal that has created turmoil in the church. The Church has “a very deep need” to recognize that it must do penitence for its sins and “accept purification,” he said.

“Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church,” Benedict told reporters on the plane to Portugal, replying to a question about the scandal.

With new Catholic leader in Hanoi, a breakthrough in sight?

Protesters wave banners in support of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi outside the city's cathedral, 7 May 2010/Nguyen Huy Kham

Hanoi Catholics held a ceremony last Friday to welcome the man who is expected to become their new archbishop, but for many on hand – priests and faithful alike – it was a moment of sadness. There were no flowers at the altar of Hanoi’s 124-year-old cathedral welcoming Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, 72, to the role of coadjutor bishop. Outside on the steps, several dozen people brandished banners in protest of what his papal appointment represented.

It’s not that they had anything personal against Nhon, who is head of Vietnam’s bishops conference and hails from the southern city of Dalat. But Nhon happens to be taking over for Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, an archbishop who stood up to local Communist authorities by backing church groups embroiled in land disputes with the government in recent years.

Vatican talks with SSPX splinter group proving difficult – cardinal

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Cardinal Walter Kasper on April 12, 2005/Max Rossi

Vatican talks with a controversial splinter group have been difficult and the ultra-traditionalist Catholics will have to make concessions if an accord is to be reached, a senior Vatican cardinal has said.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four bishops were readmitted to the Church last year after a ban of 21 years, cannot conduct the doctrinal discussions on their terms, but only on those of the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a news conference during a visit to Paris.

“Dialogue with them is not easy,” said Kasper, who heads the Vatican department for relations with other Christian churches and with Jews. “The main problem with them is not the Mass in Latin, but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”

Papal envoy to run scandal-plagued Legion of Christ Catholic order

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Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict will appoint a special envoy to run and reform an influential conservative Roman Catholic priestly order whose late founder was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child.

A Vatican statement on Saturday (here in Italian original and English translation) said the pope would also name a commission to review the constitution, or founding principles, of The Legionaries of Christ, whose founder Father Marcial Maciel, led a double life for decades.

Catholic sex abuse scandal fallout spreads in Europe

vatican st peter's

Fallout from the Catholic child sex abuse scandal spread across Europe on Thursday as the Vatican retired an Irish bishop, a German offered to step down and prelates in England and Wales apologised for the “terrible crimes” of priests. 

The Vatican said Pope Benedict, under criticism from victims for not doing enough about past cases of abuse by priests now being revealed, had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to leave over the scandal. Pope Benedict meets ith Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010. A top Vatican official on Monday told Irish bishops in Rome for talks with Pope Benedict on the Irish church's vast paedophilia scandal that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts". The message came in the sermon of a mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly before the bishops began two days of crisis talks with the pope to formulate a response to the revelations of abuse by clergy that have shaken devoutly Catholic Ireland. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict meets Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010 to discuss the sexual abuse scandal/Osservatore Romano

Uncertain leadership in Vatican as abuse crisis rages

Rain clouds over St. Peter's Basilica, 12 Dec 2008/Chris Helgren

Rain clouds over St. Peter's Basilica, 12 Dec 2008/Chris Helgren

When countries are threatened or institutions are in trouble, they look to their leaders to show the way out of the crisis. 

The Vatican is in trouble, its moral authority sapped by mounting allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the past and cover ups by bishops supervising them.

But strong leadership from the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is hard to discern. Pope Benedict rarely mentions the crisis and some aides have made things worse with comments that are mostly defensive and sometimes offend.

Undaunted cardinal says John Paul backed his praise for hiding abuser

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Castrillon Hoyos letter congratulating Bishop Pierre Pican/Golias

A former Vatican cardinal who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest has said he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul, a Spanish newspaper reported on Saturday.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official in charge of priests around the world when he praised the French bishop in 2001, dragged the Polish pope into the controversy during a conference in the Spanish city of Murcia. His comment came after a Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter to the bishop posted on a French website on Thursday was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.

By invoking John Paul, Castrillon Hoyos appeared to up the ante in a subtle Vatican power struggle over who was to blame for past failures to deal effectively with the abuse cases whose revelations in recent months have shaken the Church. Vatican officials had no official reaction on Saturday.

Embarrassing Vatican letter hailing bishop who hid predator priest

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Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos

As a tide of previously confidential Catholic Church documents about child sexual abuse by priests has risen over recent weeks, the Vatican has been able to say that none of them was a “smoking gun” proving it had instructed bishops to cover up the scandals. This defense looks thinner than ever with the posting of a 2001 letter by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos congratulating (yes, congratulating!) a bishop for not only hiding a self-confessed serial abuser but earning himself a criminal sentence for doing so. For more on the 2001 case, click here.

This amazing letter, in which Castrillon Hoyos promises Bayeux Bishop Pierre Pican he will be presented as a hero to all Catholic bishops around the world, exudes the arrogant atmosphere of Church superiority that victims say they have had to battle against for years to have their grievances taken seriously. It puts forward the incredible argument that a bishop, because he has a kind of “spiritual paternity” for priests under him, is equivalent to a father who is not obliged to testify against his son. It even cites Saint Paul and the Second Vatican Council as supporting this view.

My news story on the letter translates the main (and quite explicit) quotes from the French original. The Golias story on it (in French) is here – and its PDF copy of the letter is here.

Vatican scoffs at Dawkins idea of arresting pope while in Britain

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Richard Dawkins on a bus at the launch of an atheist advertising campaign in London January 6, 2009/Andrew Winning

The Vatican said on Tuesday Pope Benedict was willing to meet more sexual abuse victims but not under media pressure and scoffed at calls that the pope should be arrested when he visits Britain in September.

A lawyer for British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins said in London at the weekend he would try to have Pope Benedict arrested to face questions over accusations the Church covered up cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.