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Sunday Mass obligation to resume in Connecticut's dioceses

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Bridgeport

Hartford, Conn., May 12, 2021 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

The Latin rite bishops in Connecticut announced Monday that in each of their dioceses the general obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays and holy days will resume May 23.

The May 10 letter was signed by the ordinaries of the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich, as well as the auxiliary bishop of Hartford.

“With confidence in the Lord’s grace and protection, we have decided to end the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation in person in each of our respective dioceses effective Saturday, May 22, 2021,” the bishops wrote in their May 10 letter.

They said, “we believe the time has come to review the importance that full participation at Mass has for the spiritual life of all believers and offer a heartfelt appeal for all Catholics to return to the Sunday celebration of Mass.”

The bishops’ decision cited the increase in vaccinated people, decreased hospitalizations around the state, and the stripping of many indoor restrictions on public gatherings as reasons to end the dispensation.

The letter said that the original intent behind the dispensation was to protect human life, “especially the frailest and most vulnerable in our midst from becoming infected by a disease which many doctors were unsure how best to combat.”

The bishops thanked their communities for their cooperation in observing the safety protocols “that resulted in no significant viral spread of Covid-19 at any celebration of Mass in our dioceses.”

The encounters with Christ at Mass, they said, “offer us a deeply personal opportunity for spiritual nourishment. By receiving Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, the Lord’s grace strengthens the daily life we share with him through our personal prayer and works of charity. Holy Communion is the celestial food that enlightens our minds, gives comfort to our hearts, and strengthens our wills to live the Church’s mission in word, deeds and manner of life.”

“While Christian discipleship involves a deeply personal relationship with the Lord, it is never a wholly private one. At our baptism, each of us received the Spirit of adoption, transforming us into Temples of the Holy Spirit and members of the one Mystical Body of Christ. The pursuit of holiness in our personal lives requires that we come together as a community of faith so that the Lord can bless, unite, and strengthen our shared hopes, dreams, challenges, and sufferings in service to Him,” they said, explaining the need to assist at Mass.

The Sunday and holy day obligation to attend Mass “is the Church’s expression of the deep, personal desire that burns in our hearts to come into the presence of the Lord whom we love, who gave His life for our salvation so that we may receive Him as food for our life’s journey unto eternal glory. For who among us does not want to spend time with someone we deeply love,” they asked.

“It must be our deep love for Christ that invites us to seek Him in person and by attending Mass, to welcome Him intimately into our lives as food for the journey of life.”

Legitimate reasons for being prevented from returning to Mass include, they said, “suffering from serious pre-existing conditions that may make a person more susceptible to falling ill from COVID-19; being ill and homebound or being a caregiver in close contact with someone who is; having tested positive for any contagious disease, including COVID-19; or being in quarantine due to exposure to any contagion or residing with someone who is quarantined.”

“For anyone facing these circumstances, please remember that the Lord will never invite you to do something that poses a danger to oneself or others,” the bishops of Connecticut wrote.

The bishops called for prayer that Christ, “in his great mercy, will deepen our appreciation, love and participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Argentine parish where Eucharistic miracles occurred receives relic of Bl Carlo Acutis

Bl. Carlo Acutis /

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 12, 2021 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

On the 29th anniversary of the first Eucharistic miracle that took place in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires’ Santa María parish, the community received a first class relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis.

Three Eucharistic miracles have taken place in this parish, in May 1992, July 1994, and August 1996. The history and investigation of these events are included in the Eucharistic Miracles of the World exhibition designed and created by Bl. Carlo Acutis.

The relic was received at a May 8 Mass.

The pastor of Santa María, Fr. Alberto Sorace, said, "it’s no small thing that this Eucharistic sign happened on the feast day of the Virgin of Luján”.

“We are in a time of tremendous grace” because despite the pandemic and the difficulties “the faith remains firm,” individually and as a community.

And “not because of our merits, God entrusted us with this sign that becomes a task, a challenge,” Fr. Sorace said. 

“As confirmation of this journey travelled, the Lord gives us the presence of the blessed” as “a companion on the journey”, so he can “help in this transmission, in this narration of the events that occurred. A verbal narrative that is transmitted with fidelity,” but “that also has to be translated not only into a sign, but also into deeds.”

The pastor thanked the laity who arranged for the relic to come to the parish and gave each of them a third class relic of Blessed Acutis.

On the feast of the Assumption in 1996, a host fell to the ground during the distribution of Communion and was placed in a container with water to dissolve. Ten days later it had transformed into blood.

An analysis conducted by Professor Ricardo Castañón Gómez revealed the presence of human DNA and blood.

In 2000, tissue expert Dr. Robert Lawrence found that the samples had human skin and white blood cells. After further studies had been performed by additional experts, in 2003 Lawrence concluded that the tissue was that of an inflamed heart, which means that "the person to whom it belonged must have suffered a lot."

In 2005, Castañón Gómez asked another expert, Professor Frederick Zugibe of Colombia University, to investigate. The scientist identified the tissue as coming from the left ventricle, and determined it to be living tissue that came from a suffering person.

Castañón Gómez concluded that through this miracle “the Lord wanted to show us his myocardium, which is the muscle that gives life to the whole heart, just as the Eucharist does with the Church. And why the left ventricle? Because that's where the purified blood comes from and Jesus is the one who purifies his Church from her sins."

Vatican abuse trial: Witness testimony gives conflicting view of victim, pre-seminary

View of St. Peter`s Basilica from the roof of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on April 1, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 12, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As the trial for alleged abuse inside a Vatican youth seminary continues, witnesses have given different views on the characters of the victim and the accused, and of the institution’s culture.

In a hearing May 12, the Vatican City State’s criminal court heard testimony from five witnesses, four of whom were students at the pre-seminary at the time the alleged abuse took place.

Located inside Vatican City State, the Pius X pre-seminary is a residence for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.

The alleged victim, a 28-year-old identified only as L.G., has testified that beginning when he was 13 years old, while he was a student at the pre-seminary, he was sexually assaulted over a period of six years by a fellow student, the defendant Fr. Gabriele Martinelli.

Martinelli has defended his innocence of the charges, calling the accusations against him “unfounded” and intended to “strike” at the pre-seminary. Martinelli was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Como in 2017.

The pre-seminary’s former rector, 72-year-old Fr. Enrico Radice, is also on trial on charges of impeding investigations into the abuse allegations against Martinelli, which he denies.

In the latest hearing, which began last year, witnesses who knew both the victim and defendant at the time of the alleged abuse testified to not having directly witnessed any abuse, even though several had at times, for periods of up to two years, shared a room with L.G.

One witness, Andrea Garzola, claimed that Martinelli once strongly touched his genitals when a game they were playing devolved into a fight. But he said that he did not think it was a “sexual advance.”

The same witness described Martinelli as being commanding and very close to the rector. He also said that he heard rumors about sexual actions between students and that one student, Kamil Jarzembowski, told him the rumors were about Martinelli.

Jarzembowski, who is from Poland, was the first to go to the media about the accusations against Martinelli, which were initially reported by the Italian investigative news program “Le Iene” in 2017.

Jarzembowski testified to the Vatican court in a March hearing that when he was roommates with L.G., he had heard Martinelli come into the room and perform non-consensual sexual actions with L.G. “tens of times.”

In his pre-trial testimony, Garzola had declared to have been told by Jarzembowski specifically that Martinelli was abusing L.G. But at the trial, Garzola denied the statement, saying: “I do not recognize those words.”

Another witness, who asked to be identified only by his initials because he will soon be ordained a priest, said he was a friend of the alleged victim, who told him he was abused by Martinelli at night.

“I had a friendship with L.G., it seems hard to me to think that he lied to me,” M.B. said.

M.B. testified that L.G. did not seem afraid of Martinelli and that there was conversation between the two of them.

Thomas Compagnoni, who was several years younger than L.G., said that the alleged victim had strongly encouraged him to attend the pre-seminary and that during his time there, he had never heard of any kind of abuse.

Fr. Francesco Vicini, a former student at the pre-seminary and now its vice-rector, was the fifth witness at the hearing.

He said that he shared a room with L.G. and Martinelli for a year, and for two years in total with L.G.

Vicini claimed that L.G. and Martinelli “fought about everything, L.G. was absolutely not afraid of Martinelli, he was not one to remain silent if he did not agree about something he would make himself heard.”

“I take it for granted that Martinelli did nothing, it seems obvious to me that he never needed to ask for clarification on rumors that were circulating in the pre-seminary,” Vicini said.

In pre-trial testimony given in 2018, Vicini had also claimed that L.G. was calm when he started at the youth seminary but that his demeanor changed as the years progressed.

“He had shown great jealousy towards Martinelli, for the role that Gabriele [Martinelli] held,” he said.

“Martinelli has a dominant character, but I respect him,” Vicini added at the time.

At a hearing in February, three different former students of the Pius X pre-seminary had testified that there was an unhealthy culture of ridicule and abuse of power while they were there.

The witnesses also alleged that reports of sexual abuse were ignored or dismissed by authority figures, including the cardinal in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica at the time, Cardinal Angelo Comastri.

At the February hearing, the Pius X pre-seminary was described by the former students as an environment with “psychological pressures,” where it was common to hear “homosexual jokes” and other lewd comments. Martinelli was described as having a “dominant role, very strong,” and a “homosexual demeanor.”

L.G. was described by one witness as “extremely credible,” but a bit delicate because of a difficult family situation.

One witness testified that Martinelli and L.G. seemed to hate each other and never speak, but that Martinelli also gave L.G. and another student special favors, positing that Martinelli was motivated by fear of what they could reveal about him.

The pre-seminary is run by a religious group, the Opera Don Folci, which is overseen by the Diocese of Como in northern Italy.

The next hearing of the abuse trial, which will include testimony from five more witnesses, will take place on June 7.

Uyghur journalist: ‘The Chinese government sees any religion as a threat to its rule’

Gulchehra Hoja speaks at a U.S. Embassy to the Holy See virtual event on May 11, 2021. / Screenshot.

Rome, Italy, May 12, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

For Gulchehra Hoja, the Chinese government’s systematic repression of Uyghur Muslims is personal: her mother, father, brother, and more than 20 relatives are detained in “reeducation camps” in Xinjiang.

“Last week, I learned that one of my relatives … had died in Chinese prison. His body has not been returned to his family,” Hoja said May 11 at a virtual event hosted by the U.S. embassy to the Vatican.

He was a “59-year-old father of three children, taken to the camp in 2017, and later sentenced to 19 years in prison just for studying religion,” she said.

Hoja, originally from China’s northwest Xinjiang region, has been working as a journalist for Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service for nearly 20 years.

She shared what she has witnessed at the event, “Human Rights in China: Uyghurs and Religious Minorities,” hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

“The Chinese government has established a list of criteria by which the authorities would deem someone as extremist, just to name a few: growing a beard, wearing a headscarf or long dress, keeping religious books at home, naming your child with Islamic name, as Mohamed. Just having one of those criteria applied to you is enough to be sent to camps,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the Chinese government sees any religion as a threat to its rule,” she added.

The Chinese Communist Party government has detained more than a million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in internment camps in Xinjiang, where detainees have faced torture, forced labor, and death, according to the U.S. Department of State.

A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that more than 15,000 mosques have been damaged or demolished in the region since 2018, and an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the Chinese Communist Party of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

Rachel Harris, a professor at the University of London whose research has focused on Uyghur culture and religious practice, said at the event that she was worried that this “vibrant religious culture” is being “systematically destroyed.”

After she had conducted research in Xinjiang for more than a decade, Harris’ access to the region was cut off in 2012 when the Chinese government began refusing her visas. She said this was “presumably because of the sensitive nature of my research on Islam.”

“I have to assume that many of the women I know and their families have been incarcerated in these camps, and that likely they’ve been more recently drawn into the system of forced labor in the factories which now receive so-called ‘graduates’ from the camps,” she said.

“As well as my concerns for those women’s safety and wellbeing, I’m also concerned that their vibrant religious culture has been systematically destroyed, and that it will never revive in the form that I knew it.”

Harris explained that the Chinese government’s ongoing oppression of Uyghur ethnic minority has been “consistently masked by this rhetoric of terrorism.”

“But actually what we see is a much more widespread campaign against the daily practice of religion.”

“In May 2014, Xi Jinping himself instigated what he called a People’s War on Terror. Uyghur passports were confiscated, the ties with the outside world were cut off, a tight net of surveillance tracked people’s every movements, and construction began on the system of mass internment camps,” she said.

“And it is very important to know that this war did not target those who might be reasonably assumed prone to extremist violence. This was really about the wholesale criminalization of religious practice, and so we’ve seen numerous government documents talking, for example, about the 75 types of behavior that demonstrate religious extremism.”

No Vatican representatives spoke at the Rome-based virtual event hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

The Vatican Secretariat of State has not spoken publicly on the issue of the detention of Uyghurs in China. The Holy See signed in 2018 and then renewed in 2020 a two-year provisional agreement with the Chinese government, the contents of which have not been made public.

Pope Francis described the Uyghurs as a persecuted people in a book published last year. The Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying that the claim was groundless.

Patrick Connell, the U.S. embassy’s chargé d’affaires, said that “public acknowledgement of the egregious human rights abuses in China is an important step toward holding the Chinese government accountable.”

He noted in his opening remarks that Catholics in China have also faced severe restrictions in their right to worship.

“As part of the Chinese Communist Party’s expanding ‘Sinicization’ policy, which aims to bring religions even further under Communist Party control, China began enforcing new religious regulations May 1,” Connell said.

“The new law requires members of the clergy to prove that they ‘support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and support the socialist system.’”

The U.S. diplomat pointed out that under the current restrictions, anyone in China “under the age of 18 is prohibited from participating in religious activities, including attending Mass or praying in a mosque.”

“Members of Catholic communities in China face other severe restrictions and limitations on their right to worship freely, with reports of government officials forcibly closing hundreds of churches, arresting Catholic bishops, priests, and nuns, and even forbidding them from engaging in any religious activity in their capacity as clergy. There’s pressure on schools to check up on the religious beliefs of their students and staff,” he said.

“Some have called this the worst crackdown on religion since the Cultural Revolution.”

Harri Uyghur, a human rights activist from China, was unable to speak at the event out of concern for his family’s safety. He asked instead for a note to be read at the event.

“I stand up for the human rights of people in China, particularly in Xinjiang. I have been contributing to the belief that all human beings are created equal. And what the Chinese government is committing in Xinjiang is not something normal human beings, including Chinese people, can ignore, nor stand aside from. The Chinese Communist Party should stop it immediately,” he wrote.

“I want to contribute for the good of the human rights of people in Xinjiang, but not at the cost of my parents or my family’s life, or their safety and wellbeing. I have done as much as I can. And I believe I can do more, but I really need to take a break, at least for now until my parents’ and in-laws’ safety and wellbeing is guaranteed.”

Five bishops, 220 priests have died from Covid in Mexico

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven in Mexico City, Mexico / Eduardo Berdejo/CNA

Mexico City, Mexico, May 12, 2021 / 11:01 am (CNA).

According to a May 11 report from the Catholic Multimedia Center eight women religious, six men religious, and 12 deacons have also died from the coronavirus in the country.

A total of 24 bishops have come down with COVID-19, with 19 making favorable progress and recovering from the disease. Five bishops in the older age bracket have publicly shared they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The diocese hardest hit has been the Archdiocese of Guadalajara with 24 priests dying from the virus, followed by the Archdiocese of Mexico with 21 priests and one of its auxiliary bishops, Francisco Daniel Rivera Sánchez.

According to the latest CMC report, the increase in deaths compared to its previous report was four priests, one male religious and one deacon. There were no new deaths of bishops or women religious.

The CMC noted that the decrease in cases among Catholics and the figures recorded by the Mexican government have made it possible to allow Masses with limited attendance, with a gradual increase.

Although no bishop has announced the end of the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, the Archbishop of Guadalajara,Francisco  Cardinal Robles Ortega, has called on the faithful once again to participate in the Eucharist.

The Catholic Multimedia Catholic Center renewed its call for diocesan officials and parishioners who have solid information on COVID-19 cases in the Church to share this data with its Research Unit.

German foreign minister welcomes day of same-sex blessings ahead of papal audience

Pope Francis receives German foreign minister Heiko Mass in a private audience at the Vatican, May 12, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 12, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Ahead of an audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Germany’s foreign minister welcomed a day of same-sex blessings held in defiance of the Vatican.

Speaking before he met with the pope on May 12, Heiko Maas backed the blessing ceremonies held in around 80 German cities on Monday in protest at the Vatican’s “no” to same-sex blessings.

“At least I see that there is a great deal of openness in parts of the Catholic Church to social developments that one cannot ignore,” he said, according to the newspaper Die Welt.

“I very much welcome the fact that these discussions are being initiated again and conducted in more depth.”

Talking to reporters after his private audience with the pope, Maas said that the two men discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the future of Europe, violence in Jerusalem, Latin America, and the clerical abuse crisis.

The 54-year-old member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party is a baptized Catholic who was an altar server in his youth.

German media reported that he was the first German foreign minister in almost 20 years to secure a private papal audience.

The audience took place just two days after a nationwide protest against the Vatican’s declaration that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued its pronouncement on March 15 in a document known as a “Responsum ad dubium” (response to a question).

In reply to the query, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” the CDF answered, “Negative.” The congregation outlined its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

The exact scale of Monday’s day of protest remains unclear. According to the organizers, ceremonies known as “Segnungsgottesdienste für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers,” were held in around 100 churches, mainly in northern and western Germany.

CNA Deutsch reported that this would amount to less than 1% of the total number of churches in Germany.

Observers in Cologne, Munich, Würzburg, and other places told CNA’s German-language news partner that in many places a “modest number” of people attended the ceremonies, promoted using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”).

Some blessings took place after the public ceremonies. In the Augustinian Church in Würzburg, for example, all couples -- expressly including same-sex couples -- were invited to “come and get” the individual blessing in a backroom, after the service.

One participant reported from Cologne that a total of six couples were blessed in the chapel of the local Catholic university community and a total of 23 people were present.

The participant told CNA Deutsch that the ceremony resembled a “political event.” The ceremony was led by a female pastoral counselor in liturgical robes, who explained that she had already quit her service with the church.

After some political statements, the Gospel was read aloud, followed by a speech. Finally, the song “Imagine” by John Lennon was played.

Writing in the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagepost, Regina Einig criticized pastors who appeared in the media promoting the event.

“Some pastors were not even deterred by the meager demand for same-sex couples willing to be blessed in their parishes from verbose self-promotion in the media,” she wrote.

“In this sense, the initiative ‘Love Wins’ was a highly clericalistic action and at the same time an image of the self-referential Church against which Pope Francis urgently warns.”

The backlash against the Vatican prompted bishops in other countries to express fears that the German Church was heading for a breach with Rome. They included English Bishop Philip Egan, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, added his name to an appeal, launched in Portugal, asking Rome to take action to stop a “schism” in Germany.

George Weigel, the biographer of St. John Paul II, and Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian, also expressed concern about the direction of the German Church.

German Catholics were among those criticizing the day of blessings. The group “Maria 1.0” urged the country’s bishops to unite with Rome in face of the protests.

The Pontifex Initiative, a network of young German Catholics, called on the local Church not to pursue an exceptionalist path.

“With today’s actions, the ministers involved are hurting the people of God. Let us not forget that our faith is Roman Catholic. This attribute is not an ornamental accessory. It is the core of our identity,” it said in a May 10 statement.

Helmut Hoping, a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Freiburg, told CNA Deutsch that some of the priests conducting blessings “also openly advocate opening the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples in the medium term.”

Fr. Gero Weishaupt, a judicial vicar in Cologne archdiocese and a scholar of canon law, noted in an interview with CNA Deutsch that former Vatican doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and other theologians have spoken for some of a possible schism in Germany.

“And one can ask oneself whether it is not already latently realized,” Weishaupt commented.

Several German bishops have previously spoken in favor of blessings for homosexual unions, including German bishops’ conference chairman Georg Bätzing (Limburg), Franz-Josef Overbeck (Essen), Helmut Dieser (Aachen), Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück), Peter Kohlgraf (Mainz), and Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meissen).

But other German bishops have welcomed the CDF’s intervention. Among them are Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne), Stephan Burger (Freiburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg).

Bishop Bätzing, elected leader of the German bishops’ conference last year, said last month that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”

He added that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”

Former Michigan school teacher donates $1.1 million to local Catholic schools

Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

A former Catholic school teacher in Michigan donated $1.1 million to create an endowment for local Catholic schools, the Jackson Catholic Schools district announced on May 6. 

Donna Ambs, a 1958 graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea grade school in Jackson, Michigan and longtime teacher for Jackson Catholic Schools, made the donation, the district announced. The district is comprised of four Jackson-area Catholic schools: Lumen Christi Catholic School, St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary, St. John the Evangelist Elementary, and Queen of the Miraculous Medal Elementary.

“This is a very clear message to our students, teachers, parents and the Jackson Catholic community that Catholic education is important and here to stay in the Jackson community,” Tim Dewitt, executive director of Jackson Catholic Schools, told CNA.

Dewitt told CNA that Ambs’ donation will have a direct impact on the district’s teaching staff, supporting efforts to retain and recruit teachers.  

“The fund will be invested in the Catholic Foundation as an endowment.  Once a year there will be a determined amount of distribution that will then be allocated to all schools to help underwrite teacher salaries,” said Dewitt. 

Ambs was part of the the founding group of teachers at Lumen Christi High school in Summit Township, when it opened in 1968, the district said. She retired from teaching in 1997.

“As a former Jackson Catholic School teacher, Donna was happy to give back to the very place that helped enrich her life for so many years,” Lumen Christi Catholic School said in a May 6 press release.

“She believed the role of teacher was one of the noblest and most relevant professions in the world, and that it is vital that institutions like Jackson Catholic School be a welcome place for educators to build their careers and influence young lives,” the press release said. 

“This endowed gift will go on in perpetuity to ensure we have the very best Catholic teachers,” he said.

In March, the school district received another gift of $1 million as part of the school’s Illuminate the Future Capital fundraising Campaign. The campaign has a goal of raising $7 million for operational improvements.

The school system has secured $5.5 million in pledges, Dewitt told CNA.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Polish bishop after ‘Vos estis’ investigation

Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa. / Krzysztof Mizera via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Polish Bishop Jan Tyrawa, who was investigated for negligence in handling cases of sexual abuse by priests in his diocese.

According to a statement by the apostolic nunciature in Poland May 12, the 72-year-old bishop submitted his letter of resignation to the pope at the end of a Vatican-led investigation into accusations that he had failed to properly handle cases of sexual abuse against minors by priests in his diocese.

“Following formal reports, the Holy See -- acting in accordance with the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi -- conducted proceedings concerning the reported negligence of the Bishop of Bydgoszcz Jan Tyrawa,” the statement said.

“After completing this procedure, taking into account also other difficulties in managing the diocese, the bishop of Bydgoszcz resigned from his ministry, accepted today by the Holy Father,” it concluded.

Tyrawa, bishop of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, since 2004, was accused in February of last year of knowing about the abusive tendencies of one of his priests and yet of having transferred him from parish to parish, rather than removing him from situations with minors.

The complaint was made by a former altar boy who said he was sexually abused by a priest in the Diocese of Bydgoszcz. Bishop Tyrawa testified in court during a settlement hearing. The victim was awarded compensation of over $80,000 to be paid by the diocese together with the Archdiocese of Wrocław.

Poland’s apostolic nunciature also announced May 12 that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Wiesław Śmigiel of the Diocese of Toruń to oversee the Diocese of Bydgoszcz as apostolic administrator sede vacante, following Tyrawa’s resignation.

Tyrawa was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Wrocław in 1973. In 1988, he was named an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, where he served until his appointment to lead the Bydgoszcz diocese in 2004.

Tyrawa is the latest in a series of Polish bishops to have faced investigations under the Vos estis norms for handling sex abuse cases, issued by Pope Francis in 2019 for an experimental period of three years.

The apostolic nunciature in Poland announced in March that the Vatican had sanctioned two retired bishops after canonical inquiries into accusations that they were negligent in their handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, archbishop of Gdańsk from 2008 to 2020, and Bishop Edward Janiak, who led the Diocese of Kalisz from 2012 to 2020, were ordered by the Holy See to live outside their former dioceses and told they cannot participate in public liturgies or non-religious gatherings within the territory of the dioceses.

Another Polish bishop investigated under Vos estis for alleged negligence is Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy.

On Oct. 9, the archdiocese of Kraków said that the pope had authorized Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków to conduct an inquiry into negligence claims against Rakoczy, concerning abuse cases involving two priests in Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.

Rakoczy, 82, served as bishop of Bielsko–Żywiec from 1992 until his retirement in 2013.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

Maine Catholic schools to observe Fatima anniversary

Oct. 13, 2017: Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Via Conciliazione in Rome, Italy on the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition. / CNA

Washington D.C., May 12, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

Children at Maine’s Catholic schools will participate in a series of Marian devotions on Thursday, to honor the Blessed Mother on the anniversary of the Fatima apparition.

School children at six Maine Catholic elementary and middle schools will be praying the rosary and participating in a “May Crowning” ceremony, among other Marian devotions. The children will pray for Mary’s intercession and the protection of the world. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 

“The events fall on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, during which we celebrate Christ's bodily ascension into heaven in the presence of his apostles,” said a press release from the Diocese of Portland. 

“Because Christ ascended, we, as members of the Body of Christ, also look forward to ascending into heaven after our bodily resurrection. On the solemnity, we are also reminded of our evangelizing mission. Before Christ ascends, he gives his disciples final instructions, telling them to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit and then ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature’,” the diocese said. 

Although in some U.S. dioceses the solemnity has been transferred from its traditional date - 10 days before Pentecost - to the following Sunday, other provinces have maintained observance of Ascension Thursday. The Portland diocese, which includes the entire state of Maine, is part of the ecclesiastical province of Boston which observes Ascension Thursday.

In addition to the Solemnity of the Ascension, May 13 also marks the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, Mary appeared for the first time to a group of three Portuguese children in Fatima, Portugal. Over a series of six months, the Blessed Mother appeared to the children in the same location on the 13th of the month - except for when the children were briefly kidnapped by local authorities on August 13, after which Mary privately appeared to them several days later. 

The final visit, October 13, has come to be known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” or “the day the sun danced.” Around 70,000 people traveled to the location of Mary’s apparitions, and various accounts reported supernatural phenomena where the sun appeared to spin, twirl, and veer toward earth before returning to its place in the sky. 

The two youngest Fatima visionaries, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were canonized on May 13, 2017. The other visionary, their cousin Lucia dos Santos, died in 2005 and has since been declared a servant of God. 

Pope Francis at the general audience: ‘Prayer works miracles’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 12, 2021 / 05:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that persistent prayer can lead to miracles “because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God.”

Speaking at his first general audience with members of the public for six months, the pope recounted the story of a father of a nine-year-old Argentine girl who was told that his hospitalized daughter would not survive the night.

He said: “He left his wife there with the child in the hospital, he took the train and he traveled 70 kilometers [around 45 miles] towards the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, Patroness of Argentina. And there -- the basilica was already closed, it was almost 10 o’clock at night, in the evening -- he clung to the gates of the basilica and spent all night praying to Our Lady, fighting for his daughter’s health.”

“This is not a figment of the imagination: I saw him! I saw him myself. That man there, fighting.”

He continued: “At the end, at six o’clock in the morning, the church opened, he entered to salute Our Lady, and returned home. And he thought: ‘She has left us. No, Our Lady cannot do this to me.’”

“Then he went to see [his wife], and she was smiling, saying: ‘I don’t know what happened. The doctors said that something changed, and now she is cured.’”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope, who devoted his May 12 address to “spiritual combat,” offered the man as an example of the fruits of tenacious prayer.

He said: “That man, fighting with prayer, received the grace of Our Lady. Our Lady listened to him. And I saw this: prayer works miracles, because prayer goes directly to the heart of the tenderness of God, who cares for us like a father.”

“And when He does not grant us a grace, He will grant us another which in time we will see. But always, combat in prayer to ask for grace.”

“Yes, at times we ask for grace we are not in need of, but we ask for it without truly wanting it, without fighting… We do not ask for serious things in this way. Prayer is combat, and the Lord is always with us.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope was speaking in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in his first Wednesday audience with the public since Oct. 28, 2020. The elegant courtyard has a capacity of around 500 socially distanced and masked pilgrims.

The address was the 33rd reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

He began by expressing his delight at once again meeting pilgrims “face-to-face.” He explained that it was “not nice to speak in front of nothing, to a camera,” after the Vatican decided to move the audiences behind closed doors last fall as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

He told those taking their seats in the courtyard that “seeing each one of you pleases me as we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, and looking at each other helps us to pray for each other.”

He added: “Thank you for your presence and your visit. Take the pope’s message to everyone. The pope’s message is that I pray for everyone, and I ask you to pray for me, united in prayer.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope acknowledged that Christian prayer was not a “walk in the park.”

“None of the great people of prayer we meet in the Bible and in the history of the Church found prayer “comfortable”. Yes, one can pray like a parrot -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah -- but that is not prayer. Prayer certainly gives great peace, but through inner struggle, at times hard, which can accompany even long periods of life. Praying is not something easy, and this is why we flee from it.”

“Every time we want to pray, we are immediately reminded of many other activities, which at that moment seem more important and more urgent.”

“This happens to me too! It happens to me. I go to pray a little… and no, I must do this and that… We flee from prayer, I don’t know why, but that is how it is. Almost always, after putting off prayer, we realize that those things were not essential at all, and that we may have wasted time. This is how the Enemy deceives us.”

He acknowledged that throughout the ages saintly people have described prayer not only as joyful but also as tedious and tiring. Nevertheless, they persisted in prayer despite not finding satisfaction in it.

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

He said: “Silence, prayer, and concentration are difficult exercises, and sometimes human nature rebels. We would rather be anywhere else in the world, but not there, in that church pew, praying.”

“Those who want to pray must remember that faith is not easy, and sometimes it moves forward in almost total darkness, without points of reference.”

“There are moments in the life of faith that are dark, and therefore some saints call this ‘the dark night,’ because we hear nothing. But I continue to pray.”

/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
/ Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

The pope observed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the “enemies of prayer.” The worst enemies, he said, were “found within us.”

He advised people afflicted by these internal enemies to turn to “the masters of the soul” who personally discovered ways to overcome them.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, recommended reading the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola,” which he described as “a short book of great wisdom that teaches how to put one’s life in order.”

He explained: “It makes us understand that the Christian vocation is militancy, it is the decision to stand beneath the standard of Jesus Christ and not under that of the devil, trying to do good even when it becomes difficult.”

Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.
Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, May 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

Above all, he said, we should remember in times of trouble that we are not alone.

He told a story from the life of St. Anthony the Great, who helped to spread Christian monasticism in the fourth century.

He said: “His biographer, St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, recounts one of the worst episodes in the life of the hermit saint when he was about the age of 35, a time of middle age that for many people involves a crisis.”

“Anthony was disturbed by the ordeal, but resisted. When he finally became serene again, he turned to his Lord with an almost reproachful tone: ‘But Lord, where were you? Why did you not come immediately to put an end to my suffering?’ And Jesus answered: ‘Anthony, I was there. But I was waiting to see you fight.’”

Concluding his address, the pope said: “If in a moment of blindness we cannot see His presence, we will in the future. We will also end up repeating the same sentence that the patriarch Jacob said one day: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it’ (Genesis 28:16).”

“At the end of our lives, looking back, we too will be able to say: ‘I thought I was alone, but no, I was not: Jesus was with me.’ We will all be able to say this.”

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in several languages. After the summaries, he offered a greeting to members of the various language groups.

Addressing Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, he noted that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Tomorrow let us remember Our Lady of Fatima with great veneration! Let us place ourselves with confidence under her maternal protection, especially when we find difficulties in our prayer life,” he said.

To Polish-speaking pilgrims, he said: “Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima and the 40th anniversary of the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II.”

“He himself emphasized with conviction that he owed his life to the Lady of Fatima. This event makes us aware that our lives and the history of the world are in God’s hands.”

“To the Immaculate Heart of Mary we entrust the Church, ourselves, and the whole world. We ask in prayer for peace, an end to the pandemic, a spirit of penance, and our conversion.”

Speaking to Italian pilgrims, he said: ”During this month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, I invoke Our Lady’s heavenly protection on each one of you and on your respective families.”

He added: “Have frequent recourse to Mary, Mother of believers! The various forms of Marian devotion, and especially the recitation of the holy rosary, will help you to live out your journey of faith and Christian witness.”

The general audience ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.