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Pa. court indefinitely blocks release of clergy sex abuse report

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 22, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The release of a Grand Jury report detailing cases of clerical sex abuse in six of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania has been blocked by the state’s Supreme Court for unspecified reasons.

The court released the unsigned order June 20, but did not state which individuals or groups had applied for the stay or the reason behind the application. It also does not state for how long the stay applies or when the report could be published in the future.

“And now, this 20th day of June, 2018, the Applications for Stay are granted. The Honorable Norman A. Krumenacker, III, and the Office of the Attorney General are enjoined from releasing Report No. 1 of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury pending further order of this Court,” the order, issued by the state’s Supreme Court, reads. Krumenacker is a Cambria County judge who has overseen the Grand Jury proceedings.

The stay indefinitely delays the release of a report that has been more than two years in the making, during which time victims of past abuse have recounted incidents of sexual abuse to the jury. Legal experts have told local news sources that the depth and breadth of this investigation is almost unprecedented among clerical sex abuse investigations that have taken place in the United States.

The two non-participating dioceses in the report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, have already undergone similar investigations.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has headed the investigation, said in a May 21 statement that he believed dioceses and bishops were behind the push to block or delay the publication of the report.

However, the participating dioceses - Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Scranton - and their bishops have all said that they did not apply for the stay, and that they support the publication of the report.

“We anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter, and support the release of the report which will give victims a voice,” Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie said in a statement. “Until the report is released, we will continue our efforts to identify abusers and provide counseling and assistance to victims.”

“The contents of the report will be painful, but it is necessary for the report to be released in order for us to learn from it and to continue in our efforts to be responsive to victims and to create safe environments for our children,” the Diocese of Scranton said in its statement. “With regards to the stay, it's important that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court take all the steps it deems necessary.”

“The Diocese of Harrisburg has fully cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General. The Diocese and Bishop Gainer strongly support the release of the Grand Jury report and have not filed anything to cause the stay ordered (Wednesday),” spokesman Mike Barley said in a statement. “However, as we have stated before, it is critical that this report is accurate.”

Diocesan officials told CNA that they were unaware whether those who had applied for the stay had ties to the Church.

Ed Palattella, a reporter for the Erie Times, wrote that it is believed that those who filed for the stay petition were not diocesan officials, but others who were named in the report.

Because the majority of those named in the report would be priests, it is likely that a priest or group of priests named in the report filed for the stay.

According to an order from Krumenacker written earlier this month, anyone who is named in the Grand Jury report is given notice of their inclusion in the report and is allowed to file a rebuttal. However, once approved by a Grand Jury, written reports cannot be amended. All documents regarding the report remain sealed and so the identity of the party or parties who filed for the stay cannot be confirmed.

Victims said that the delay of the release of the report is causing further harm to those who have experienced clerical sex abuse.

State representative Mark Rozzi told The Inquirer that the stay order was a “travesty of justice and insult to all victims of childhood sex abuse.”

“It’s just like it’s been since Day One with me, kick us to the curb. Let the trash on the curb get old, maybe we’ll rot and die and go away. We’re not going away. I’m not going away, and I can promise that to all the victims across the commonwealth,” he said.

Last month, Krumenacker rejected an attempt by defense lawyers to stall the publication of the report. Defense lawyers said that the state’s interest in protecting their unidentified clients’ reputation and due process were enough to halt the publication of the report.

Krumenacker dismissed the request, arguing that “The commonwealth’s interest in protecting children from sexual predators and persons or institutions that enable them to continue their abuse is of the highest order.”

The request was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which ordered the stay June 20.

During trial, former Vatican diplomat admits viewing child pornography

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the start of his Vatican City trial Friday, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former diplomat for the Holy See, admitted to charges of the possession and distribution of child pornography while working in the U.S.

Capella, 51, a former Vatican diplomat, was recalled from the U.S. nunciature in Washington, D.C. last September after the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a diplomat.

The first hearing in the civil trial was held the afternoon of June 22. Present alongside Capella were his psychologist, Tommaso Parisi; the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, Roberto Zannotti; and judges Giuseppe Della Torre, Venerando Marano, and Carlo Bonzano.

In his testimony, Capella outlined the history of his diplomatic service to the Holy See and admitted his guilt, saying his crimes were the result of a “personal crisis” stemming from his transfer to Washington D.C.

Originally from Capri, Capella was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan and in 1993 was asked by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to enter the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 2004, after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he was sent to the apostolic nunciature in India, and three years later, in 2007, was transferred to the nunciature in Hong Kong.

Capella was then transferred back too the Vatican in 2011, and worked in the Secretariat of State's office for Relations with the States.

In his testimony, Capella said he was happy there and enjoyed his work, and that prior to his time in Washington D.C., he had never viewed pornography or expressed interest in that type of content. But when he received a call June 30, 2016, asking him to move to D.C., Capella said he was unhappy with the move, but did not say anything.

“Unfortunately out of respect to the hierarchy, out of the sense of duty, I did not create problems. Instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer,” he said during the trial.

After arriving to the U.S., Capella said he had no enthusiasm for his work. The first four months, he said, were “bland,” and he felt “empty” and “useless.”

Problems began to arise, Capella said, when he started looking for funny memes and pictures of animals online to relieve his boredom. Referring to the use of pornography, he said “this kind of morbidness was never part of my priestly life” before this time of desolation.

When questioned by the Vatican's prosecutor and lead judge about how this boredom led to the use of child pornography, Capella said he had started to use the micro-blogging site Tumblr July 23, 2016, to find the amusing images, which led to a slow slide into pornographic images.

This eventually turned into child porn, Capella said, explaining that he began using Tumblr's chat function to exchange images, and had “vulgar” conversations with other unmarried persons.

The U.S. State department flagged Capella's activity and informed the Vatican of a possible violation Aug. 21, 2017.

In September of that year, Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for the priest, who was then recalled to the Vatican. Police in Ontario said he had accessed, possessed, and distributed child pornography while visiting Windsor over the 2016 Christmas holiday.

Msgr. Capella has been held in a Vatican jail cell since April 9, 2018, and was indicted by the Holy See June 9.

In his own testimony during the hearing, Parisi said he met Capella after the priest had come back to the Vatican in October 2017, and that the priest had specifically asked for his services.

Capella had trouble sleeping when he first came back, Parisi said, explaining that he prescribed medication to help the priest sleep. The two have held counseling session twice a week since the priest came back to Rome.

According to Parisi, Capella is “aware of his role” in the crimes he committed, and has admitted his errors.

Gianluca Gauzzi, a computer engineer who works for the Vatican Gendarme, said that during the investigation he looked through three cell phones, two USB drives, and several hard drives.

In addition to the images he found on these, Gauzzi said he found additional images on a cloud storage which had been deleted from other devices, totaling in 40-55 images in all.

Gauzzi said he divided the images into two primary categories, one for images from Japanese comics, and the other for images of children aged 14-17. At least one video showed a child depicted in an explicit sex act with an adult.

The images, Gauzzi said, had been exchanged in chats.

Capella's trial will resume the morning of June 23.

Give space peace a chance, Holy See says

Vienna, Austria, Jun 22, 2018 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- After U.S. President Donald Trump called Monday for a new military branch referred to as the “space force,” the Holy See has encouraged a unified, peaceful approach to space exploration.

“The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.

“The potential for development through space technology is immense and that the best way to make use of this potential is through international cooperation,” he said, in a June 21 statement to United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Brother Guy is also the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and led the Holy See’s Delegation at UNISPACE+50, a conference which took place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from June 18-21.

UNOOSA described the purpose of the symposium as to “consider the future course of global space cooperation for the benefit of humankind.”

The conference occurred shortly after President Trump directed Pentagon officials to move toward establishing a “space force” in support of national security. He said the branch presence would create jobs and that the regulation of space traffic management should not fall to other countries.

"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he announced at a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

“There’s no place like space,” Trump added.

The sixth branch of military would have to be approved by U.S. Congress before it was established. President Trump also challenged rich Americans to pursue private, commercial space industry on U.S. soil.

Brother Consolmagno encouraged a different approach to space study and exploration. “The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” he said in remarks at the conference.

“It would be a most dangerous and alarming development, and one that could impact every single man and woman on Earth, if outer space were to become another theatre of armed conflict, just as the land, sea and air before it.”

“When the Earth is viewed from space, the atmosphere is the only border that matters, he said. “In seeing the Earth from space, we realize that our own borders are insignificant in comparison. The Earth’s atmosphere is a global environment that needs to be protected by a global vision of this limited, shared natural resource and must be utilized for the benefit of all humankind,” he added.

Consolmagno said the benefits of space exploration, and the data from space research, should be publicly available. Space travel, he continued, should be made more affordable, and viewed as a benefit to mankind and the planet.

“We need to reflect on how we can transform the space economy from one of very expensive space services and products available to a few, to one that harnesses the abundance of space-derived data and services for the good of all, creating opportunities to engage more actors and opening up new markets for space-derived data and services to meet the needs of the poor in a financially sustainable way.”

Murdered nuns' opposition to death penalty leads to life in prison for killer

Jackson, Miss., Jun 22, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A man convicted of the 2016 slayings of two religious sisters in Mississippi will not receive the death penalty and will instead spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 48, pled guilty on Thursday to murdering Sr. Margaret Held, SSSF, and Sr. Paula Merrill, SCN, as well as the theft of Held’s car. The two were found stabbed to death and sexually assaulted at their home in Durant, Mississippi, on August 25, 2016. They worked as nurse practitioners at a medical clinic near their home. Their bodies were discovered after they failed to arrive to work.

Sanders did not give a motive for his crimes. At the time of the murders, he was living in a shed across the street from the sisters’ home. He was arrested and charged the day after the crime. Police said he was a person of interest from the beginning of the investigation.

Held was a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, which is based in Milwaukee, and Merrill was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, from Kentucky.

While Sanders was indicted for the sexual assaults, those charges were not included in his guilty plea, according to the Associated Press. Sanders was eligible for the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison after the judge took into account the fact that Held and Merrill were opposed to the death penalty and would not want their killer executed.

In a statement at Sanders’ plea hearing, Sister Susan Gatz, president of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said that the two sisters were “two of the most gentle persons you could ever know,” who based their lives on “peace, justice, and the love of God.”

Gatz said the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were in favor of the plea agreement as it took away the possibility of the death penalty for Sanders.

“We have longed for justice with regard to our two beloved sisters,” she said. “And so, we support this plea agreement for life in prison without parole. It is justice that recognizes all life is valuable. It is justice that holds out hope, always, that love can break through the hardest barriers.”

Speaking directly to Sanders, Gatz said that her congregation would “never forget what you did to them,” and that many people had suffered as a result of his actions.

“But, because we believe in Christ and his gospel, we forgive you. We have learned over these couple of years that your life has had much turmoil and pain. We want you to know that we will pray that you can find peace.”

Held and Merrill were “examples of goodness, examples of Christ-like love,” said Gatz, “and nothing and no one can ever take that away.”

Des Moines diocese defends legality of school grants

Des Moines, Iowa, Jun 22, 2018 / 10:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After reviewing $844,000 worth of grants that were given by Polk County, Iowa to local Catholic schools a few years back, the Diocese of Des Moines said that it believes the grants complied with state law.

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines has concluded that there is nothing improper associated with the technology grant,” the diocese said in a June 21 statement.

It added that after reviewing the relevant facts and law involving the Polk County grant, “We agree completely with Polk County that the Community Development Grant was entirely legal and proper.”

Iowa state law says that government officials “shall not appropriate, give, or loan public funds to, or in favor of, an institution, school, association or object which is under ecclesiastical or sectarian management or control.”

In 2011, after the Polk County Board of Supervisors learned that it could not give grant money directly to church-affiliated schools, Catholic school supporters formed a separate corporation through which to route the grant money.

Called Education for the 21st Century, the corporation is now defunct. During its two years in operation, 100 percent of its reported revenue came from Polk County grants, according to the Des Moines Register.

The grant money was taken from gambling revenue accrued by the Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel.

The Polk County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 in 2012 to give $400,000 to the corporation. The year after, the board approved $444,000 to the corporation.

With the money, new technology equipment was bought for St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Augustin, St. Pius X, St. Theresa, Christ the King, Holy Trinity, Holy Family, and Sacred Heart schools. The money was used to purchase iPads, cameras, computers, projectors, and whiteboards.

“If Iowa taxpayer money was, in fact, intentionally funneled to religious schools, that is unacceptable and a misuse of the taxpayers' public dollars,” said Mark Stringer, executive director of ACLU Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register.

However, county supervisors have defended financial assistance to Catholic schools. They say that going forward, such assistance can be given directly to the schools, thanks to a 2017 Supreme Court ruling which held that states cannot discriminate against religious schools by making them ineligible for non-religious amenity funding programs.

The Diocese of Des Moines stressed that the Catholic Church “did not manage or control the foundation that received the grant,” and that grant money was not used for religious purposes, but “for purchasing learning technology that was provided to Christian and parochial schools.”

The diocese noted that Catholic schools already receive state funding for transportation and textbooks, “in recognition of the fact that families choosing a religious education are taxpayers.”

“Providing this form of support that does not directly advance religion is entirely consistent with the law,” the diocese said. “In fact, as the US Supreme Court has recognized, a law or policy that expressly discriminates against an otherwise eligible recipient and disqualifies them from a public benefit because of their religious character, is a clear violation of the United States Constitution.”

The former legal advisor for Polk County’s School Board, Michael O’Meara, told the Des Moines Register that he had told the board that they could only support Catholic schools if they did so via an entity that was not under ecclesiastical control.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman said she will not review the case. Her chief of staff and legal counsel noted that the county attorney appeared to have been consulted and approved the grants.
 
 
 

 

Pope Francis: Jerusalem must be protected from political disputes

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis stressed Friday the important role the Eastern Catholic Churches play in spreading the Gospel given that many of them are concentrated in the Holy Land, and said Jerusalem in particular should be protected from tensions and political disputes.

“The Oriental Catholic Churches, as living witnesses to their apostolic origins, are called in a special way to protect and pass on a spark of Pentecostal fire,” the pope said according to prepared remarks June 22. “They are called daily to discover anew their own prophetic presence in all those places where they dwell as pilgrims.”

This, he said, begins with Jerusalem, “whose identity and particular vocation needs to be safeguarded beyond different tensions and political disputes.”

Pope Francis spoke at the Vatican's Consistory Hall to members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, who are in Rome for their 91st plenary assembly, which this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of their founding.

The organization unites funding agencies from countries worldwide in order to provide services such as houses of worship and study, scholarships, and social and health care facilities to struggling areas.

Christians, though small in number in the area, are primarily called to this task, and must draw strength from the Holy Spirit “for their mission of witness,” he said, adding that in today's context, this mission “is more urgent than ever before.”

Francis then prayed that holy places such as Jerusalem, “where God’s plan was fulfilled in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” would be the birth place of “a renewed spirit of strength to inspire Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East to embrace their special vocation and to offer an account of their faith and their hope.”

He voiced hope that the Eastern Catholic Churches would not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel in settings “that are often even more secularized than in the West, where they come as immigrants or refugees.”

The pope also prayed that they would be welcomed on both a practical and ecclesial level, “as they seek to preserve and enrich the patrimony of their various traditions.”

Thanks to organizations such as ROACO, members of the Eastern Churches, he said, “can bear witness to us, whose hearts are often dulled, that it is still worth living and suffering for the Gospel, even as a minority, or the object of persecution, for the Gospel is the joy and the life of men and women of every age.”

The pope said the organization's landmark anniversary is a testament to the help they have given to Christians throughout the Middle East through the various initiatives they lead.

These projects, he said, allow Eastern Catholic Churches to thrive not only in their native lands, but also in the increasing diaspora, enabling them to continue bearing witness to the Gospel despite being “severely tested” by persecution.

This persecution, he said, has arisen “first by the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and then, more recently, by forms of allegedly religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, to say nothing of apparently interminable conflicts, especially in the Middle East.”

Solidarity shown by organizations such as ROACO, he said, have helped to ensure the continued existence of the Eastern Churches at risk of extinction, and have allowed these churches to continue spreading the Gospel.

Pope Francis said the work of ROACO has also helped him to continue his mission of “pursuing possible paths to the visible unity of all Christians,” and stressed that Christians who are members of Eastern Churches, though distant, “are no less loved, and certainly not forgotten.”

“With your help,” he said in closing, “they are always listened to and helped to continue their journey as the Church of the Risen Christ, amid every challenge, and every spiritual and material suffering, in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe.”

Francis' comments on Jerusalem come after the United States on May 14 opened an embassy in the city, making the U.S. the only country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since the state was established in 1948.

Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries but the US have embassies in Tel Aviv. Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, then, was met with fierce backlash not only from international interlocutors, but also by the Vatican.

After Trump announced the change last December, Pope Francis expressed his “deep concern” and issued an appeal to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

Pope Francis also urged the necessity of maintaining the status quo in his meeting with Theophilos III, patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, in October 2017, in which the two discussed the patriarch’s concern for the Christian community amid aggression by Jewish settlers.

“Any kind of violence, discrimination or displays of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshipers, or places of worship, must be firmly rejected,” the pope said, adding that “the Holy City, whose status quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all.”

Study finds mounting global restrictions on religion

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2018 / 12:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Government restrictions on religion continued to rise across the globe in 2016, according to a recently released Pew study, which linked the stifling of religion to nationalist parties and organizations.

“This marks the second year in a row of increases in the overall level of restrictions imposed either by governments or by private actors (groups and individuals) in the 198 countries examined in the study,” said the Pew report.

The research found that 42 percent of countries experienced high or very high levels of overall religious restriction, which included hostile acts by government or private individuals or groups. This number is up from 40 percent in 2015, and 29 percent in 2007.

“This marks the biggest number of countries to fall in this top category since Pew Research Center began analyzing restrictions on religion in 2007,” Pew said.

“The share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of government restrictions…rose from 25 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2016,” the study found. “Meanwhile, the share of countries with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of social hostilities involving religion…remained stable in 2016 at 27 percent.”

The Middle-East and North Africa experienced the highest median level of government restrictions on religion, while Europe and the Americas were the only areas to experience an increase in median levels of social religious hostility.

Additionally, the research pointed to nationalist groups’ role in the rise of religious restrictions, particularly through targeting specific ethnic and religious minorities.

“In many countries, restrictions on religion resulted from actions taken by government officials, social groups or individuals espousing nationalist positions,” the Pew study noted.

Around 11 percent of countries saw government actors who “at times used nationalist, and often anti-immigrant or anti-minority, rhetoric to target religious groups in their countries in 2016,” – a 5 percent increase from the previous year.

European countries experienced this attitude most strongly, with around 33 percent having nationalist parties making statements against religious minorities, while 12 percent of Asia-Pacific countries shared a similar experience.

“Typically, these nationalist groups or individuals were seeking to curtail immigration of religious and ethnic minorities, or were calling for efforts to suppress or even eliminate a particular religious group, in the name of defending a dominant ethnic or religious group they described as threatened or under attack.”

Additionally, there was a 5 percent increase in countries where organized groups aimed to overtake public life at the expense of a religion.

The most popular targets for religious restrictions were Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“Looking at religious groups, harassment of members of the world’s two largest groups – Christians and Muslims – by government and social groups continued to be widespread around the world, with both experiencing sharp increases in the number of countries in which they were harassed in 2016,” the study said.

This research, which included 198 countries making up 99.5 percent of the world, comes from Pew’s ninth annual study of global restrictions on religion, which analyzes the “extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.”

These levels were measured by government laws and policies, acts of individual or group hostility against religion, including armed conflict and terrorism. Harassment of religious groups was gathered by data relating to physical or verbal assaults, arrests, detentions, desecration of holy sites, and discrimination against religious groups via employment, education and housing.

The 2016 year was the most recent year in which data was available.

 

St. Paulinus of Nola

On June 22, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Paulinus of Nola, who gave up his life in politics to become a monk, a bishop, and a revered Christian poet of the 5th century. In a December 2007 general audience on St. Paulinus, Pope Benedict XVI remarked on the saint's artistic gifts, which inspired “songs of faith and love in which the daily history of small and great events is seen as a history of salvation, a history of God with us.�The poet-bishop's ministry, Pope Benedict said, was also “distinguished by special attention to the poor� – confirming his legacy as “a bishop with a great heart who knew how to make himself close to his people in the sorrowful trials of the barbarian invasions� during the 5th century. Born at Bordeaux in present-day France during 354, Paulinus came from an illustrious family in the Roman imperial province of Aquitania. He received his literary education from the renowned poet and professor Ausonius, and eventually rose to the rank of governor in the Italian province of Campania. Not yet baptized or a believer in Christ, Paulinus was nonetheless struck by the Campanians' devotion to the martyr Saint Felix at his local shrine. He took the initiative to build a road for pilgrims, as well as a hospice for the poor near the site of Felix's veneration. But Paulinus grew dissatisfied with his civil position, leaving Campania and returning to his native region from 380 to 390. He also married a Spanish Catholic woman named Therasia. She, along with Bishop Delphinus of Bordeaux, and St. Martin the Bishop of Tours, guided him toward conversion. Paulinus and his brother were baptized on the same day by Delphinus. But it was not long into his life as a Christian, that two shattering upheavals took place. Paulinus' infant son died shortly after birth; and when Paulinus' brother also died, he was accused in his murder. After these catastrophes, Paulinus and Therasia mutually agreed to embrace monasticism, living in poverty and chastity. Around 390, they both moved to Spain. Approximately five years after his change of residence and lifestyle, the residents of Barcelona arranged for Paulinus' ordination as a priest. During 395 he returned to the Italian city of Nola, where he and his wife both continued to live in chastity as monks. Paulinus made important contributions to the local church, particularly in the construction of basilicas. In 409, the monk was consecrated as the city's bishop. Paulinus served as the Bishop of Nola for two decades. His gifts as a poet and composer of hymns were matched by his knowledge of Scripture, generosity toward the poor, and devotion to the saints who had preceded him – especially St. Felix, whose intercession he regarded as central to his conversion. Praised by the likes of St. Augustine and St. Jerome for the depth of his conversion to Christ, the Bishop of Nola was regarded as a saint even before his death on the evening of June 22, 431.

On papal flight, Francis says intercommunion policy should be decided by diocesan bishops

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 05:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that the German bishops’ debate on the reception of the Eucharist by the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics, also referred to as intercommunion, should be decided by diocesan bishops, rather than bishops’ conferences.
 
Speaking aboard the papal flight from Geneva to Rome June 21, the pope told journalists that the Code of Canon Law leaves decisions about the criteria for intercommunion to diocesan bishops, in order that their decisions will apply only to their individual dioceses, rather than to the Church across an entire country.

The pope said that although the German bishops attempted to establish guidelines through their episcopal conference, “the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.”

“The particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal,” Francis elaborated.

“The conference can study and give direction and opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases,” the pope added.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law generally allows for episcopal conferences to establish norms regarding the circumstances in which non-Catholic Christians may be admitted to the Eucharist.

In the danger of death, or “if in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers may licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed,” the canon says.
 
The same canon notes that “the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.”

The pope’s remarks were in response to a question about a letter he approved, sent from Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria to the German bishops in May, asking them to study the topic more before publishing guidelines.
 
The pope added that communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics “in special cases” is not a “novelty,” mentioning again the Code of Canon Law.

The Vatican press office could not be reached for clarification by deadline.

During the press conference, Pope Francis also addressed his feelings on the outcome of the day trip to Switzerland, which he undertook for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, saying the day’s activities of prayer, speeches, meetings, and Mass had all made him happy.
 
“The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even,” he said.
 
Francis also addressed the topics of immigration and refugees, the responsibility of religions to promote peace, and ecumenism.
 
About immigration, he noted that mass-migration is a problem around the world, and that a country should welcome as many refugees as it can integrate and give work to, in light of the virtue of prudence.
 
The pope also lamented the conditions which many refugees may face if they return to their country of origin, including the increased risk of being trafficked.
 
Speaking particularly of the United States, the pope reiterated his comments in a recent interview with Reuters, that he backs the statements of the U.S. bishops on the issue.
 
Answering a question on the topic of so-called “pacifist Churches,” which hold that a Christian cannot use or condone violence, Francis refuted the idea that there are “religions of peace,” as if that implied the existence of “religions of war.”
 
He said that religious fundamentalism exists, with people who “seek wars,” which it is important to stay alert to, but that during this time, when there is a “crisis of human rights,” all churches should work together to bring about a spirit of peace in the world.

The press conference concluded with Pope Francis presenting a slice of cake to Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu, currently Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State.

Francis, offering the slice of Sardinian cake, noted that it was Becciu's last trip with the pope, because he will soon "change color, but not for embarrassment," referencing the archbishop's recent appointment as a cardinal.

 

Farm bill with SNAP restrictions passes narrowly in House

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2018 farm bill, H.R. 2, which included controversial changes to food assistance programs that Catholic leaders had voiced concern over.

The Farm Bill is the main agricultural and food policy guide for the country. It provides funding for a number of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries.

The party-line vote was 213-211. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted against it. The same bill failed in May, when 30 Republicans voted against the legislation.

The most controversial element of the bill was a provision to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously called food stamps.

The farm bill would tighten restrictions on eligibility for SNAP. It would require people between the ages of 18 and 59 who receive SNAP to either have a job or participate in a job training program for 20 hours per week. Adults with disabilities or young dependents are exempted from this requirement.

Penalties for not complying with work requirements increase under the bill, from one month ineligibility to one year for a first violation, and from three months to three years for a second violation.

When the farm bill was being discussed in April, representatives from the U.S. bishops conference, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Rural Life, and the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul wrote a letter to leaders of the Congressional Agriculture Committee.

“Efforts to improve state workforce training programs by providing case-management, streamlining workforce programs, providing increased training slots and setting minimum standards are welcomed,” they said.

"However, the new workforce training program appears to lack sufficient investment to meet the additional demand for meaningful job training and skill building that will be generated by the new requirements,” they said in the April letter. The letter noted that the majority of SNAP recipients currently work.

“Moreover, rural communities may find compliance especially challenging given that job training programs are often located far away, and there is insufficient access to transportation,” the letter said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the passage of the farm bill was a step “moving toward a poverty-fighting system,” where Americans will be able to move out of a cycle of poverty.

“This is a big deal,” said Ryan in a statement published on his website.

Ryan referred to the SNAP reforms as “critical,” saying they will “close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and encourage people to move from welfare to work.”

“These reforms will return agency to people, rather than keeping it in government, empowering individuals to reach their full potential and make the most of their lives.”

President Donald Trump, posting on Twitter, said that he was “so happy to see work requirements included” in the version of the bill that passed the House of Representatives.

“Big win for the farmers,” said Trump.

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan compromise bill is expected to be debated next week.