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Monday, February 19, 2018

Discussions about desertification continue

From 19 to 23 February, the annual meeting of the Administrative Council (CdA) of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, which was entrusted by Saint John Paul since its inception in 1984 to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, now part of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, is taking place in Dakar (Senegal).

The Under-secretary of the Dicastery, Monsignor Segundo Tejado Muñoz is present and will participate in the meetings of the CdA.  During the meeting, the participants will examine the projects which have been proposed for financing; those which were approved in 2017 numbered 127, including a total investment of approximately 2.3 million dollars; prior to 2017, projects financed by the CdA numbered 3,200 and involved a total investment of 38 million dollars.

The members of the CdA are:
  • His Excellency, Lucas Kalfa Sanou, Bishop of Banfora (Burkina Faso), President;
  • His Excellency, Paul Abel Mamba, Bishop of Ziguinchor (Senegal), Vice-president;
  • His Excellency, Martin Albert Happe, M.Afr., Bishop of Nouakchott (Mauritania), Treasurer;
  • His Excellency, Ambroise Ouédraogo, Bishop of Maradi (Niger);
  • His Excellency, Furtado Arlingo Gomes, Bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde (Cabo Verde);
  • His Excellency, Goetbe Edmond Djitangar, Archbishop of N'Djaména (Ciad);
  • His Excellency, Gabriel Mendy, C.S.Sp., Bishop of Banjul (Gambia);
  • his Excellency, José Câmnate na Bissign, Bishop of Bissau (Guinea Bissau); and
  • His Excellency, Augustin Traoré, Bishop of Ségou (Mali).
With the collaboration, especially of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the German Episcopal Conference and the local Church, the Foundation carries out, in the name of the Holy Father, projects against desertification aimed at the management and development of agricultural units, for the implementation of irrigation systems, for the improvement of potable water and renewable energy for the benefit of communities in member countries (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ciad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal).  It also deals with training specialized technical personnel, who can then be of service within their own countries.  Over the years, the Foundation has also been able to foster inter-religious dialogue: in fact, the majority of beneficiaries are Muslims.

According to the Human Development Index, which measures indices of human development for each country, among the bottom 20, 19 are countries in Africa and, of these, 7 are found in the Sahel zone.  The situation is made even more troubling by food shortages, the depletion of natural resources - especially water - and violence carried out against local populations who see and experience the presence of extremist groups.

Developments in Ahiara (Nigeria)

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has today released the following statement.

The Holy Father, after having accepted the resignation of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Peter Ebere Okpaleke, has relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara, and at the same time has thanked him for his love for the Church.

Following the Instructions of His Holiness Pope Francis, during the months of June and July 2017, He received 200 letters from individual priests of the Diocese of Ahiara, in which they manifested to Him obedience and fidelity.Some priests, however, pointed out their psychological difficulty in collaborating with the Bishop after years of conflict. Taking into account their repentance, the Holy Father decided not to proceed with the canonical sanctions and instructed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to respond to each of them. In this line, the Congregation has urged every priest to reflect on the grave damage inflicted on the Church of Christ and expressed hope that in the future they will never again repeat such unreasonable actions opposing a Bishop legitimately appointed by the Supreme Pontiff.

The Holy Father is grateful to all the faithful: priests, religious and laity, who have shown closeness to His Excellency, Bishop Okpaleke, and have supported him with their prayers. He is also grateful to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria for the support given to their Brother Bishop, to whom He sends a special Apostolic Blessing. The Holy Father thanks His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan for his service as Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Episcopal Conference, and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, His Excellency Anthony Obinna, for the efforts made to solve the lamentable situation.

For the time being, the Holy Father does not intend to appoint a new Bishop in Ahiara, but He reserves to Himself the right to continue to have a special and particular concern for this Diocese, assigning a new Apostolic Administrator, Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, in the person of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Lucius lwejuru Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia, to whom He grants all the faculties reserved to an Ordinary. The Holy Father, who accompanies with prayer this new phase in the life of the Church in Ahiara, hopes that, with the new Apostolic Administrator, the local Church will recover its vitality and never again suffer such actions that so wound the Body of Christ.
(Agencia Fides)

On June 8, 2017, the Holy Father hosted a meeting at the Vatican which included a delegation from the Diocese of Ahiara and other leaders from the Church in Nigeria.  They had travelled to Rome to pray and to discuss the challenge of accepting the Shepherd who was appointed (in 2012) by His Holiness, Benedict XVI to lead the Church in Ahiara.

Repentance and reconciliation are urgent, says Archbishop Okpaleke announcing his resignation as Bishop of Ahiara
Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - Since the announcement of the appointment, there have been violent reactions and resistance from a group of the Ahiara diocesan clergy, the laity and others, stresses His Excellency, Peter Ebere Okpaleke, Bishop of Ahiara, in the Pastoral Letter published on February 14, Ash Wednesday, in which he announced his resignation as Bishop of the Nigerian diocese. His Excellency, Peter Okpaleke had been appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Ahiara on December 7, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. His appointment, however, provoked strong opposition both among diocesan priests and some lay people. As recalled in his letter, in the face of this situation, on 15 February 2013, Bishop Okpaleke humbly requested that the period for his Episcopal Consecration and taking canonical possession of Ahiara diocese be extended for more weeks to see if the situation on ground would improve. The request was granted, the Bishop writes. The situation did not improve, but he was eventually consecrated on May 21, 2013, outside the diocese, at Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary, Ulakwo, Owerri, due to the situation on ground in Ahiara diocese. Up to now I could not take possession of the diocese of Ahiara, underlines Bishop Okpaleke, who points out It is now five years, two months and a week since the Papal appointment. Also the interventions of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Secretariat of State did not yield the desired fruits. The details of peace efforts and the unreasonable, violent reactions of some priests and faithful of Ahiara are still available on the internet.

Mgr. Okpaleke was forced to reside in Awka where I have remained till date. Not even the intervention of Pope Francis, who invited Bishop Okpaleke to the Vatican in June 2017, unblocked the situation, despite the fact that the Holy Father had confirmed the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke and asked for a letter of apology from all the priests incardinated in Ahiara, even those who resided outside the diocese. I am not in position to say the number that complied faithfully with the Pope's demand, writes Bishop Okpaleke. What is clear is that some of the priests asked the lay faithful to take over the leadership of the dispute. Archbishop Okpaleke emphasizes that till date, the legitimate representatives of the Catholic Church in Ahiara diocese have no access to the cathedral, the curia, etc.

The attitude of the priests and faithful who rejected the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke is, in his opinion, a refusal to give the Holy Spirit a chance, especially since the Bishop had chosen as his episcopal motto Veni Sancte Spiritus!.

Taking the above into consideration, I am convinced, in conscience that my remaining the Bishop of Ahiara Diocese is no longer beneficial to the Church, said Bishop Okpaleke. "I do not think that my apostolate in a diocese where some of the priests and lay faithful are ill disposed to have me in their midst would be effective. Therefore, for the good of the Church and the Catholic diocese of Ahiara in particular, I humbly requested the Holy Father to accept my resignation from the office of the Bishop of Ahiara. I have taken this step also for the good of all the faithful of Ahiara Diocese, especially those that have remained faithful in a local Church being controlled by some priests, he stresses.

I consider my resignation from the position of Bishop of Ahiara as the only proper option now to facilitate re-evangelization of the faithful and, most importantly and urgently, the priests of Ahiara Diocese, especially now that the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia can already decipher priests who affirmed their loyalty to the Holy Father and those who decided to bow out of the Catholic Church in disobedience.

After thanking those who offered him support in all these difficult years, Bishop Okpaleke reiterates his love and his prayer towards the faithful of Ahiara Diocese and invites all to repentance. I invite any dissidenting priests to re-examine their initial motivations for becoming priests in the Catholic Church. Repentance and reconciliation are urgent. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A privileged time with Jesus

Here is the text of the reflection I shared with those who came to pray with us this weekend.  On the first Sunday of Lent, some thoughts about how we can begin to use this time of grace to come close to Jesus and to allow him to come close to us.

Time to clean house

A few days ago, we began the season of Lent.  During this period of preparation for the celebration of Easter, the liturgy invites us to enter into a privileged experience of being in the presence of Jesus.  Saint Mark tells us that after Jesus was baptized, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness for forty days (Mk 1:12-13) so we can take comfort in the fact that as we begin this Lenten experience, we are not alone.  Jesus is travelling with us along the road.

We might begin by asking ourselves: What is it that I hope to accomplish this Lent?  Each of us needs to grow in some way, so Lent allows us to stop what we are doing, to look around us so that we can get our bearings, and then to return to the Father who is waiting for us with outstretched arms.

The first reading for today’s liturgy, taken from the Book of Genesis, reminds us of the story of Noah and his family who were saved from the flood.  After the waters had receded, God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants ... (Gn 9:10).  Our God is always faithful to his word.  He remembers the covenant he made with Noah and establishes a covenant with each one of us at the time of our Baptism.

All these many centuries later, we need to stop during the season of Lent so that we can remember that God has created a covenant with each one of us.  Perhaps as time has gone by, we have forgotten how precious we are in the sight of God, but he has never forgotten.

We need to look around us: look at the life that we have lived up to now and ask ourselves whether we have been faithful to the covenant that God created on the day of our Baptism.  If not, this is the favourable time for us to be honest with ourselves and with God.  He is appealing to our consciences (cf 1 Pet 3:21) and asking us to be true to ourselves and true to him.

The Church teaches that Baptism cannot be repeated, but if our journey this Lent should indeed lead us to recognize the fact that we have strayed from the original joy of knowing that each one of us is a precious and beloved child of God, we can still return to the Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few years ago, the entire Church was invited to live a Year of Mercy: a time when we were all invited to encounter God the Father’s merciful heart.  Many people took advantage of that special year to rediscover the joy of Baptism and the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but even after we have encountered the merciful heart of God and celebrated his forgiveness, there is always the challenge of keeping our consciences clean after we have received absolution.  The answer to that question is simple because the Sacrament of Reconciliation does not just allow us to rid ourselves of our sins; it also fills us with God’s grace so that we can face the future.

As we set out on our journey this week, let us pray for the grace to walk with Jesus.  He came to forgive our sins but also to make us holy.  Let us ask him to help us to come back home, into the loving embrace of our Father.

C’est le temps du ménage

Il y a quelques jours, nous avons commencé le temps du Carême. Au cours de cette période de préparation à la célébration de Pâques, la liturgie nous invite à vivre une expérience privilégiée, celle d'être en présence de Jésus. Saint Marc nous dit qu'après le baptême de Jésus, l'Esprit l'a poussé au désert pendant quarante jours (Mc 1, 12-13) alors nous pouvons être encouragés par le fait qu’en commençant cette expérience de Carême, nous ne sommes pas seuls. Jésus marche avec nous le long de la route.

Nous pourrions commencer par nous demander: Qu'est-ce que j'espère accomplir pendant ce temps de Carême? Nous avons tous besoin de grandir d'une certaine façon, alors le Carême nous permet d'arrêter nos activités, de regarder autour de nous pour retrouver nos points repère, puis de retourner vers le Père qui nous attend à bras ouverts.

La première lecture de cette Messe, tirée du Livre de la Genèse, nous rappelle l'histoire de Noé et de sa famille qui ont été sauvés du déluge. Après que les eaux se furent retirées, Dieu établit une alliance avec Noé et ses descendants ... (Gn 9, 10). Notre Dieu est toujours fidèle à sa parole. Il se souvient de l'alliance qu'il a faite avec Noé et il établit une alliance avec chacun de nous au moment de notre baptême.

Même de nos jours, nous pouvons nous arrêter pendant le temps de Carême afin de nous souvenir du fait que Dieu a créé une alliance avec chacun de nous. Peut-être que le temps a passé, nous avons oublié jusqu’à quel point nous sommes précieux aux yeux de Dieu, mais Lui, il n'a jamais oublié cela.

Nous devons regarder autour de nous: réfléchir sur la vie que nous avons vécue jusqu'à présent; demandons-vous si nous avons été fidèles à l'alliance que Dieu a créée le jour de notre baptême. Sinon, c'est maintenant le moment propice pour être honnêtes avec nous-mêmes et avec Dieu. Il fait appel à notre conscience (cf 1 Pierre 3:21) et nous demande d'être fidèles à nous-mêmes et fidèles à Lui.

Selon la tradition de l’Église catholique, le baptême ne peut être répété, mais si notre parcours nous conduit effectivement à reconnaître le fait que nous nous sommes éloignés de la joie originelle de savoir que chacun de nous est un enfant précieux et aimé de Dieu, nous pouvons encore retourne au Père par le Sacrement de la Réconciliation.

Il y a quelques années, tous les catholiques ont été invités à vivre une Année de la Miséricorde: un temps où nous étions tous invités à rencontrer le cœur miséricordieux de Dieu le Père. Beaucoup de gens ont profité de cette année spéciale pour redécouvrir la joie du Baptême et la puissance du Sacrement de Réconciliation; cependant même après avoir expérimenté la miséricorde de Dieu et après avoir célébré son pardon, il y a toujours le défi de garder nos consciences propres après que nous ayons reçu l'absolution. La réponse à cette question est simple parce que le Sacrement de la Réconciliation ne nous permet pas seulement de nous débarrasser de nos péchés; cela nous remplit aussi de la grâce de Dieu pour que nous puissions affronter l'avenir.

Au cours des prochains jours, prions pour avoir la grâce d’être conscients de la présence de Jésus. Il est venu pour pardonner nos péchés, mais aussi pour nous rendre saints. Demandons-lui de nous aider à revenir à la maison, dans l'étreinte amoureuse de notre Père.

Spiritual Exercises this week

This evening in Rome, the Holy Father and other members of the Roman Curia will begin the annual week-long Lenten retreat which is referred to as the Spiritual Exercises.

Again this year, the Exercises will take place at the Casa Divin Maestro (Home of the Divine Master) in Ariccia.

Pope Francis has chosen a Portuguese priest, Father José Tolentino Mendonça, to lead his 2018 Lenten Retreat for the Roman Curia which will take place this week at the retreat house in Ariccia, outside of Rome.  The overall theme of Father Mendonça’s meditations will be In Praise of Thirst.  The Portuguese-born priest will give 10 talks during the retreat, beginning with a meditation titled Apprentices of Awe. The other presentations include examining the experience of thirst, the thirst for nothingthe thirst for Jesustears and thirst, desire, and the beatitude of thirst.

Father Mendonça is a prolific and bestselling author and poet in Europe. His books available worldwide in English and published by Paulist Press include:

Our Father, Who Art on Earth (Paulist Press 2013)
Reflects on the relationship between faith and culture using cultural, poetic, and biblical reflections on every line of the Lord's Prayer. It will change the way readers see and say this beloved prayer.

No Journey Will Be Too Long (Paulist Press 2014)
Friendship is a universal experience and represents for everyone an irreplaceable process of humanization and hope. Friends bear witness to our heart that there is always a journey to be undertaken and no journey will be too long.

Jesus and the Woman (Paulist Press 2017)
A story of unconditional mercy. This book reveals the layers of meaning in the story of the sinful woman who inserts herself uninvited into a dinner party at a Pharisee’s home. Jesus's reaction to her reveals much about his relationship to us and the mercy of God.

Father José Tolentino Mendonça is also a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Angelus for the first Sunday of Lent

At noon today (6:00am EST), the first Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this first Sunday of Lent, the gospel recalls the themes of temptation, conversion and Good News.  The evangelist Mark writes: The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert and he remained in the desert for forty days, where he was tempted by Satan (Mk 1:12-13).  Jesus goes to the desert in order to prepare for his mission in the world.  He has no need for conversion, but as a man, he must go through this trial, both for himself - to obey the will of the Father - and for us - to give us the grace of overcoming temptation.  This preparation consists in fighting against the spirit of evil, which is to say against the devil.  For us too, Lent is a time of spiritual agonizing, of spiritual fighting: we are called to face the Evil One through prayer in order to be able, with the help of God, of overcoming his temptations in our daily lives.  We know this, evil is unfortunately a part of our existence and it is all around us, where violence, rejection of others, focus on self, war and injustices are many.  All these are the work of the devil, evidence of evil.

Immediately following his temptation in the desert, Jesus begins to preach the gospel, the Good News, the second word.  The first word was temptation, the second is Good News.  And this Good News necessitates our conversion - a third word - and faith.  Jesus proclaims: The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near at hand; then he calls out: Repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:15), which is to say believe this Good News that the kingdom of God is near.  In our lives, we constantly need conversion - every day! - and the Church helps us to pray for this gift.  In fact, we are never sufficiently focused on God and we continually need to direct our minds and hearts to Him.  In order to do this, we have to have the courage to reject everything that leads us astray, false values that deceive us by sneakily attracting our selfishness.  Instead, we must trust in the Lord, in his goodness and his loving plan for each of us.  Lent is a time of penance, yes, but it is not a time for sadness!  It is a time for penance, but not a time for sadness, for fighting.  It is a joyous and serious commitment to riding ourselves of our egotism, of the old man within us, and for renewing ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism.

Only God can give us true happiness: it is useless for us to waste our time looking for it in other places, in riches, in pleasures, in power, in careers.  The kingdom of God is the fulfillment of all our hopes, because it is also the salvation of mankind and the glory of God.  On this first Sunday of Lent, we are invited to listen attentively and to welcome the call of Jesus to repent and to believe the gospel.  We are encouraged to begin our journey toward Easter with commitment, in order to welcome more and more the grace of God who wishes to transform the world and make it a kingdom of justice, peace and fraternity.

May Blessed Mary help us to live this Lent with faithfulness in the Word of God and with intense prayer, like Jesus did in the desert.  It is not impossible!  It is a matter of living each day with a desire to welcome the love that comes from God, love that can transform our lives and the entire world.

Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

In a month's time - from 19 to 24 March - 300 young people from various parts of the world will be here in Rome for a preparatory meeting in anticipation of next October's Synod.  I is my hope that all young people should take part in this preparation.  For this reason, young people will be able to participate on line in linguistic groups that will be moderated by other young people.  Contributions from network groups will be added to the input from the meetings that take place here in Rome.  Dear young people, you can find the necessary information on the website of the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops.  Thank you for your contribution to helping us walk together!

I greet you all, families, parish groups, associations and all the pilgrims who have come from various parts of Italy and from other countries.  I greet the faithful from Murcia, Vannes, Warsaw and Breslavia; as well as those from Erba, Vignole, Fontaneto d''Agogna, Silvi and Troina.  I greet the young boys from Baggio (Milan) ad those from Melito Porto Salvo.

At the beginning of Lent, which - as I have said - is a journey of conversion and fighting against evil, I want to offer a special wish to people who are in prison: dear brothers and sisters who are imprisoned, I encourage each of you to live the season of Lent as an occasion for reconciliation and renewal of your own lives under the Lord's merciful gaze.  He never grows tired of forgiving us.

I ask you all to remember me in your prayers, as well as my collaborators in the Roman Curia.  This evening, we will begin the week of Spiritual Exercises (a traditional Lenten retreat).

I wish you a good Sunday.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Greetings for the seminarians from Sardinia

At noon today (6:00am EST), in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the Community from the Pontifical Sardinian Regional College.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
shared with members of the 
Pontifical Sardinian Regional College

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear professors and alumni!

I welcome you on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the establishment of the Pontifical Regional College of Sardinia.  It was Pope Pius XI who called on the Italian Bishops, especially from the south-central parts of the country and the islands, to agree on the concentration of the Seminaries, in order to provide for the education of those who aspire to the priesthood.  In your region, the Seminary was first established in Cuglieri, together with the Faculty of Theology; it was later transferred to the main town.  I greet you all with affection, beginning with your Pastors, especially the Archbishop of Cagliari, His Excellency, Arrigo Miglio, who I thank for his kind words.

On this anniversary, I wish to be one with you in offering praise to the Lord, who over these years has accompanied with his grace, the lives of many priests who have been formed in this important institution of education, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It has given the Church many ministers who are now engaged in your local Churches and in various missions ad gentes in other places throughout the universal Church.  May this commemorative circumstance give new energy to the pastoral care of vocations and to the up-to-date and accurate formation of candidates for Sacred Orders, for the benefit of the people of God.

Dear seminarians, you are being prepared so that you may be tomorrow's workers in the Lord's harvest, priests who know how to work together, including between various dioceses.  This is particularly precious for a region such as Sardinia, which is steeped in faith and in Christian religious traditions, and which, also due to conditions of insularity, requires special care for the relationships between your various diocesan communities.  Today's material and spiritual poverty makes even more important, that which has always been required, that pastors be attentive to the poor, able to spend time with them, with a simple lifestyle, so that the poor can feel that our churches are first and foremost their homes.  I encourage you to prepare yourselves beginning right now to become priests of the people and for the people, not seeking to dominate the flock that will be entrusted to your care (cf 1 Peter 5:3), but to serve them.  There is a great need for men of God who focus on what is essential, who lead a sober and transparent life, without nostalgia for the past but capable of looking ahead according to the healthy tradition of the Church.

During these years of preparation for the ordained ministry, you are experiencing a special and unrepeatable moment of your life. May you be ever more aware of the grace that the Lord has granted you by echoing within you the invitation to leave everything and to follow him, to spend time with him and then to be sent out to preach (cf Mt 4:19-20; Mk 3:14). In you, in a particular way, are the hopes of the Church that is in Sardinia! Your Bishops follow your progress with affection and concern, counting so much on you and your resolve to conform to Jesus, the Good Shepherd for the good and holiness of the Christian communities of your region. Walk with joy, tenacity and seriousness along this journey of formation, to take the form of apostolic life, which can respond to today's demands for evangelization.

The Seminarian is more than a function of an institution for the acquisition of theological and pastoral skills and a place of common life and study; yours is a real ecclesial experience, you are a singular community of missionary disciples, called to follow the Lord Jesus closely, to be with him day and night, to share the mystery of his Cross and Resurrection, to expose yourselves to the Word and the Spirit, to verify and to mature the specific traits of the apostolic following. From now on, it is your concern to prepare yourselves adequately to assume a free and irrevocable choice of total fidelity to Christ, to his Church and to your vocation and mission.

The Seminary is a school of faith, which is learned first of all in prayer, especially in liturgical prayer.  In this time, you are cultivating a friendship with Jesus, centred around the Eucharist and nourished by contemplation and the study of Sacred Scripture.  No one can be effective in the ministry if he does not live in union with Christ.  Without Him, we can do nothing (cf Jn 15:5).

In the journey of the Seminarian, the role of the formators is decisive: the quality of the priesthood depends largely on the commitment of those responsible for formation. They are called to work with rectitude and wisdom for the development of coherent and balanced personalities, capable of validly assuming, and then responsibly fulfilling, the presbyteral mission. In this delicate work of formation, your seminary also carries out an indispensable service to the Dioceses, promoting the quality of the formation of clergy and the communion among the Churches.

I entrust all of you to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria.  Based on my own experience, I can tell you that the Seminary is a privileged moment in which we experience this loving presence of Our Lady in our life. She is always watching with loving thoughts for each one of you. She is your mother. You can come to Mary often and you can trust her. I assure you of my prayer and my blessing for all of you. And please, I ask you to pray for me.

New members appointed to the Commission for the Protection of Minors

This morning, His Holiness, Pope Francis has renewed the appointments of some of those who have previously served on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and has appointed others who are new to this position of responsibility.

Members appointed by His Holiness, Pope Francis
to serve on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

Pope Francis has confirmed Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap. as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] and named sixteen (16) members to this advisory body, including nine new members.

The new members are: Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ethiopia); Sister Arina Gonsalves, RJM (India); the Honorable Neville Owen (Australia); Ms. Sinalelea Fe’ao (Tonga); Professor Myriam Wijlens (Netherlands); Professor Ernesto Caffo (Italy); Sister Jane Bertelsen, FMDM (UK); Ms. Teresa Kettelkamp (USA) and Mister Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos (Brazil).

The seven returning members are: Doctor Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines); Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera (Colombia); Father Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany); Professor Hannah Suchocka (Poland); Sister Kayula Lesa, RSC (Zambia) Sister Hermenegild Makoro, CPS (South Africa), and Monsignor Robert Oliver (USA).

Cardinal O’Malley stated: Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given much prayerful consideration in nominating these members. The newly appointed members will add to the Commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. The Holy Father has ensured continuity in the work of our Commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm.

The Holy Father has chosen these eight women and eight men from a multi-disciplinary field of international experts in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults from the crime of sexual abuse. Representatives from several new countries will now offer their insights and experience to the Commission, reflecting the global reach of the Church and the challenge of creating safeguarding structures in diverse cultural contexts.

Victims/survivors of clerical sexual abuse are included among the members announced today. Since the Commission’s foundation, people who have suffered abuse and parents of victims/survivors have been members. As has always been the Commission’s practice, the PCPM upholds the right of each person to disclose their experiences of abuse publicly or not to do so. The members appointed today have chosen not do so publicly, but solely within the Commission. The PCPM firmly believes that their privacy in this matter is to be respected.

Listening to people who have been abused
The Church needs to hear their voices

As decided by the founding members at the September 2017 plenary, the new PCPM membership and staff will begin its term by listening to and learning from people who have been abused, their family members, and those who support them. This victim/survivor first approach continues to be central to all the Commission’s policies and educational programmes. The PCPM wishes to hear the voices of victims/survivors directly, in order that the advice offered to the Holy Father be truly imbued with their insights and experiences.

The opening session of the April plenary meeting will begin with a private meeting with several people who have experienced abuse. The members will then discuss various proposals to foster on-going dialogue with victims/survivors from around the world. Discussions have been underway for some months with a view to creating an International Survivor Advisory Panel (ISAP), a new structure shaped by the voices of victims/survivors and building on the experience of the Survivor Advisory Panel of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission in England and Wales.

Baroness Hollins, a founding member of the Commission, has chaired the working group to research and develop a proposal on the ISAP and will lead the presentation to the April plenary meeting. The goals for this panel include studying abuse prevention from the survivor’s perspective and being pro-active in awareness raising of the need for healing and care for everyone hurt by abuse.

Creating a culture of safeguarding
Our biggest future challenge

The specific task of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is to propose to the Holy Father best practice initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults from the crime of sexual abuse and to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches for the protection of all children, young people, and vulnerable adults. Inculturating abuse prevention and protection into the life and action of local churches remains the PCPM’s future goal and greatest challenge.

Over its first four years, the PCPM has worked with almost 200 dioceses and religious communities worldwide to raise awareness and to educate people on the need for safeguarding in our homes, parishes, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. The members would like to thank all those who have embraced this call and to thank the Holy See for supporting and encouraging these efforts.