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New child protection experts graduate from Rome's Jesuit university

IMAGE: CNS/Carol Glatz

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Before students were presented with their diplomas in safeguarding minors, they each received a logoed mug as a memento of their time in the Center for Child Protection's intensive program at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The cup might come in handy because their task of promoting child protection will be hard, and "you will be working late, so you will be drinking lots of tea," psychology professor Katharina Fuchs said good-heartedly at the start of the informal graduation ceremony. The graduates -- 24 men and women from 18 different countries -- would be going back to their dioceses, bishops' conferences or religious orders to kick-start or strengthen child protection policies and measures.

The ceremony, held June 14 at the Gregorian University, included a panel discussion with five post-doctoral students and a poster exhibition of all 24 students' final theses and research. Drew Dillingham of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Child and Youth Protection Office was one of those completing the program.

A Capuchin Sister of the Sacred Heart, who works in Slovakia, did her final project on how communism and, before that, centuries-long monarchical rule created a favorable environment for abuse and secrecy because the political systems thrived on and encouraged subordination, passivity and avoidance of responsibility.

Sister Agnieszka Jarkowska said communism also encouraged keeping up appearances and a suppression of public opinion and speech. All of these conditions fed known risk factors for abuse: a concentration of power and authority in one person, fear, mistrust and isolation, she said.

Still today, talking about anything that has to do with sexuality is taboo, families are closed isolated systems, and even the media doesn't talk about abuse. "It's as if it doesn't exist," she told Catholic News Service.

Father Bennette Tang Bacheyie of the Diocese of Wa, Ghana, looked at the common, accepted practice of physical and emotional abuse in his country's school system.

UNICEF reported in 2014 that 80 percent of children in Ghana experience violent discipline in school, Father Bacheyie said. Even minor transgressions like being late, making noise or forgetting homework are considered to be deserving of corporal punishment. Caning and bullying are common as well as other rituals, he said, pointing to a photograph on his poster presentation showing boys in school uniform kneeling on the hard ground holding a large rock high over their heads.

Father Bacheyie said he will return to Wa to help all 300 Catholic schools in the diocese create a safe school environment by training and educating teachers, caregivers and staff on more effective and humane ways to correct and motivate students, and to teach children "to expose abuse and not stay silent."

He said he plans to create a diocesan youth protection team made up of professionals with different expertise, such as law enforcement, health workers and social workers, so they can build the right kind of policy for schools, which in turn, will need to create their own child protection teams.

The hope is that if kids grow up in a safe environment where guidance and discipline can still protect and respect their rights and dignity, "they will have the right tools and know how to treat children" when they are adults, passing that culture down to each successive generation.

Father Dominic Nnoshiri, a member of the Spiritans southeast Nigeria province, looked at the importance of forming open, honest and mature men in seminaries.

Too often, he said, there is a lack of knowledge and meaningful discussion in seminaries about human sexuality; overcrowding; too much isolation from "the reality of their future ministry"; victimization of seminarians who are transparent about their sexuality; and a lack of trust between candidates and formators.

Candidates for the priesthood and religious life need psychosocial, emotional and relational support so they can talk about and prepare for a life of chastity, he said. There also must be healthy and open discussion about respecting boundaries and sexuality, "expressing it positively rather than denying or repressing it."

Professionals should be involved in screening candidates, he said, and women should be involved in formation.

Father Nnoshiri also said some practices in Nigeria's Igbo culture could be integrated in formation, such as wearing simple attire as a reminder of humility and service, taking an oath of fidelity to one's priestly ministry and understanding sacredness in terms of respecting the body of others.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of Center for Child Protection, praised the diversity of backgrounds, roles and expertise he saw in the new batch of graduates and expressed great hopes they will make important inroads in their nations where, for the majority of them, sex abuse is not even talked about or acknowledged.

While ensuring child protection is going to be "a long and demanding journey," the center's first graduates, who finished the course in 2016, already are making a difference, he said.

The graduates create networks and alliances, conduct workshops and give talks on child protection for the church and anyone who requests their help, like NGOs, sports associations and sometimes the government.

"They are considered experts," he said, because "about 75 percent of all countries have almost nothing in terms of expertise and competence" in the field of abuse prevention and child protection.

With such a need and demand for experts, Father Zollner said the Pontifical Gregorian University plans to offer a new master's degree in safeguarding, promoted by the Center for Child Protection.

The two-year degree will follow a multidisciplinary approach just like the current certificate program, and it will offer special electives tailored for professionals taking the course, like medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers and canon lawyers, he said. It will also include completing a semester-long internship.

Building this new army of experts in safeguarding "will have a snowball effect," he said. "Wherever these (students) have been asked to speak publicly, then suddenly people realize you are allowed to talk about it, you can talk about it" and make a difference.

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Italian police recover stolen relic of St. John Bosco

IMAGE: CNS photo courtesy of the Salesians and Andrea Cherchi


TURIN, Italy (CNS) -- Inside a copper teapot in a kitchen cupboard, Italian police found the relic of St. John Bosco that had been stolen two weeks earlier from the basilica erected at his birthplace.

The press office of the Salesians in nearby Turin announced June 15 that Italian military police obtained a search warrant and discovered the relic early that morning in the home of a 42-year-old Italian man identified only by the initials C.G.

From previous encounters with the law, the man's fingerprints were on file and they were found on the glass case protecting the relic and reliquary in the lower Basilica of St. John Bosco in the town of Castelnuovo Don Bosco.

Police said they watched and followed the man for several days before obtaining a warrant to search his home.

The relic, a piece of St. John Bosco's brain, was still in its small glass jar tied with red ribbon. The seal of authenticity was intact, the Salesians said.

"It appears the motive for the theft had nothing to do with a desire to demand a ransom nor was it stolen for a collector," the police said in a statement. Apparently, the thief "erroneously" believed the gold-painted reliquary over the glass jar was worth a lot of money.

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Convocation of Catholic leaders will be historic event, bishops told


INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- During their spring meeting in Indianapolis, U.S. bishops were reminded that the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders -- a gathering they began talking about years ago -- is right around the corner.

It will be a historic event, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, told the bishops June 15 about the July 1-4 "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando, Florida.

He also noted that it will be the largest gathering sponsored by U.S. bishops and will be a time to show the unity of the church.

The convocation, an invitation-only event, is meant to give the 3,000 participants expected to attend a better understanding of what it means to be missionary disciples in today's world through workshop presentations, keynote addresses and prayer.

The plan, from the outset, was to bring Catholic leaders from across the country to closely examine and figure out how to best live out Pope Francis' call for all Catholics to be missionary disciples in today's world as expressed in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

Dioceses are sending delegations chosen by their bishops, and other attendees will be key leaders of Catholic organizations, apostolates, missions, congregations, institutions and agencies identified by the USCCB.

Bishop Malone thanked the bishops for supporting the convocation dedicated to forming missionary disciples who can then go out and form others, following the call of Pope Francis.

He urged the bishops to make use of their time in conversations with diocesan delegates during the convocation to walk and pray with them. On a practical note, he also suggested that they wear comfortable shoes.

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Holy Cross priest presents reflection on immigration issues for bishops

By Natalie Hoefer

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody stood before the U.S. bishops June 14 and held up a chalice. It was not special in appearance, but rather in the story it told.

The chalice was handcrafted primarily with wood from a refugee boat that landed upon the beaches of Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island from which Pope Francis cast a wreath into the waters to remember the thousands of refugees who lost their lives there, attempting to flee persecution.

The base of the chalice was formed from mesquite, a common wood along the U.S.-Mexico border crossed by immigrants seeking better lives in America.

Together, he said, the materials of the chalice speak to the plight of immigrants, a topic addressed during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring assembly in Indianapolis.

"Migration is an incredibly, incredibly complex issue, and those who don't realize its complexity either aren't listening, or they don't understand," said Father Groody, an associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and director of immigration initiatives at the university's Institute for Latino Studies.

"And second, migration is an incredibly, incredibly simple issue, and those who don't realize its simplicity either aren't listening, or they don't understand," he said.

Along those lines of duality, Father Groody noted the need to "move people beyond binary language: legal or illegal, citizen or alien, native or foreigner, and to try to go to the deeper river of these issues."

He spoke of the tensions in the topic of immigration, the tension between sovereign rights and human rights, between civil law and natural law, and between national security and human security.

Father Groody's reflection preceded a review by the working group on migrants and refugees created out of the bishops' general assembly last November.

The group was to complete its work by this spring meeting, but "recognizing the continued urgency" so many migration and refugee issues present, Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, announced June 15 he was extending the group.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president and the group's chairman, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, addressed the working group's origins, activities and next steps on issues.

"Some of the desires that were expressed (at the November meeting regarding the working group) were in tension with each other and required a certain balance," said Archbishop Gomez.

For example, he said, "There was a desire for pastoral concern for those at risk, but there was also a desire to avoid encouraging accelerated fears. These tensions were not a problem, but were instead constructive, reminding us always of the full range of consideration at stake."

Archbishop Gomez noted that part of the reason the group was created last November was the bishops' "desire for a strong response to the anticipated policies of the incoming administration regarding refugees and immigrants."

That motive proved prophetic. Some of the group's first actions involved issuing official statements opposing three executive orders involving immigration and immigrants the Trump administration issued in its first week. The travel ban executive order and a revision of it is being held up in the courts; the order temporarily bans entry into the U.S. by people from six Muslim-majority countries.

"These statements, combined with many local statements by bishops across the country along the same lines, helped to make a positive impact on the public conversation regarding the orders," said Archbishop Gomez.

On the legislative front, Bishop Vasquez and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, director of Catholic Charities USA, wrote a joint letter in support of the BRIDGE Act, which stands for Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy. The bipartisan bill would provide temporary protection from deportation for three years as well as work authorization for young people eligible for former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

Archbishop Gomez said that while the letter and statements were more high profile, "the greatest fortune of the work was to provide each one of you with resources to support your local episcopal ministry in this area (of helping migrants and refugees)."

Such resources include information to provide to families fearing separation from deportation, action alerts, and information and analysis "to keep each of you well informed in a fast-paced environment, where even basic information is so often tainted by political polarization and partisanship," the archbishop said.

Bishop Vasquez also pointed to the ongoing collaborative effort of Catholic groups through Justice for Immigrants -- The website of coalition, created in 2004 and coordinated by the USCCB, offers backgrounders, webinars and action alerts that the working group developed and disseminated.

Such collaborative efforts and information are meant "to convey a comprehensive vision for immigration reform, to paint a fuller picture of what justice and mercy mean with respect to migrants and refugees in our country today," Archbishop Gomez explained.

"We must take the initiative to provide a more complete and positive account on our views," he added.

He pointed to "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey to Hope," a 2003 joint pastoral letter by the bishops of the U.S. and Mexico, for laying out the bishops' principles on immigration. In in the bishops challenged their governments to change immigration policies and promised to do more themselves to educate Catholics and political leaders about the social justice issues involved in migration and address migrants' needs.

To bring such perspective "into the public square (is) for the benefit of all, not just for migrants and refugees, or for the faithful, or for the institutional church, but for the common good," he said.

During the open discussion, a dozen bishops stepped forward to praise the group's work, make comments and suggestions, and even express caution.

"I have a reservation on (a) symbolic level," said Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego. "I think we have to keep signaling (that) we as a conference are on a level of heightened alert because our people are on a level of heightened alert because of the fears among them. (The fears) are not imaginary, and they have been stoked by particular actions and words and legislative orders."

The concept of sanctuary arose twice. While one bishop desired more guidance on the topic, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, cautioned that sanctuary "will not provide what the immigrant community needs long term, and that is to be incorporated as fellow citizens, brothers and sisters of this one society. Offering a more positive vision and to continue to hold for sensible, reasonable immigration reform is just key."

Bishop Donald J. Kettler of St. Cloud, Minnesota, encouraged helping immigrants through local ecumenical efforts.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee noted that officials in "the current administration are economic pragmatists." Since the loss of labor in small businesses and farms would be disastrous if so many are deported, he said, that angle on immigration should be pursued with such an economic-minded administration. It would be "a wonderful way to move the issue forward," he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle called the committee's work prophetic.

"Not all of us are on the same page supporting immigration. But at the same time we have to be countercultural," he said. "We all as Christians and Catholics have to be -- that's our mission, especially for the vulnerable people."

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Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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Gregory: Bishops 'can never say we are sorry enough' for tragedy of abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion

By Sean Gallagher

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- Standing before some 200 bishops from across the country, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said that "we can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy of broken fidelity and trust" in the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

He made this sober observation in a homily during a June 14 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on the opening day of the U.S. bishops' spring meeting.

The liturgy was a response to a call from Pope Francis to episcopal conferences around the world to observe a "Day of Prayer and Penance" for survivors of sexual abuse within the church.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant of the Mass and spoke about the pope's call at the start of the liturgy.

"Today, there is a special urgency to our prayer," Cardinal DiNardo said. "The Holy Father has asked that all episcopal conferences offer a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

"In solidarity with our brother bishops around the world, we acknowledge the sins that have occurred and ask forgiveness from and healing of those who have suffered abuse at the hands of those who should have been protecting and caring for them."

At the end of the Mass, the bishops, in a sign of penance, knelt while praying a prayer of healing and forgiveness for the victims of sexual abuse in the church.

"At this Mass," Archbishop Gregory said in his homily, "we bishops humbly and sincerely ask for the forgiveness of those who have been harmed, scandalized or dispirited by events that, even if they happened many years ago, remain ongoing sources of anguish for them and for those who love them."

The liturgy took place 15 years after U.S. bishops, in response to revelations about the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the church, approved the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which expressed the responsibility of Church leaders to reach out to abuse victims and offer them means for healing and reconciliation.

Archbishop Gregory was USSCB president at the time of the charter was approved in 2002.

"We humbly seek forgiveness from the faith-filled people of our church and from our society at large," he said, "and especially from those whose lives may have been devastated by our failure to care adequately for the little ones entrusted to us and for any decision that we made or should have made that exacerbated the sorrow and heartache that the entire church has felt and continues to feel -- for what we have done, and for what we have failed to do."

The charter established church procedures to ensure the care of victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church; that justice be pursued for them; and the prevention of such abuse now and in the future.

Earlier in the day, the bishops heard a report on the continuing implementation of the charter and annual audits of local dioceses across the country to evaluate their compliance with it.

"They are sincere, state-of-the-art and effective," Archbishop Gregory said of the charter's procedures in his homily. "Nevertheless, this expression of our sorrow is far more important at this time, in this place, than any administrative process or training effort, however beneficial to the church and to the world."

The Mass on the "Day of Prayer and Penance" was an expression, Archbishop Gregory said that "ultimately it must be the Lord himself who heals and reconciles the hearts of those who live with the pain of God's law unheeded. For that grace, with sincere hearts, with contrite spirits and with a renewed promise to protect, we simply pray this evening."

The bishops were joined at the Mass by many Catholics from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as well as USCCB staff members.

Tom Spencer, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, worshipped at the Mass and was impressed by the gesture of penance made by the country's bishops.

"It was very powerful," said Spencer after the liturgy. "I think that it's a very powerful statement. I hope that the broader church sees it as a great effort on their part to bring about healing, to listen to the folks who have been abused and to offer our prayer and sacrifice for them to help them heal."

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Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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