Thursday, September 21, 2023

CWI : Operation Latharna (9)

CWI : Operation Latharna

An 'Anonymous' posting on Mr Buckleys blog, on Septemmber 19, 2023 at 3.06pm reads as follows, and we quote...

Fair play to you, Bishop (sic) Pat, for your honesty and humility here. If you were a Roman Catholic bishop, you'd bury the mistake and never, ever apologise. (unquote)

Well, that in itself is an untrue comment, and well Mr Buckley knows it, and we referred to this in previous postings here, here and here.

You, Mr Buckley, are in possession of an email which gives lie to so many of your (almost 100) postings on your blog over the last almost 2 years - and so are we in possession of same said email - and yet you will not either admit to having such an email, and neither will you publicise it or its contents.

We all know why, don't we Mr Buckley...and we now take this opportunity to remind you of the following...

- - On March 26th 2023, and we quote a comment left on your blog, using the last line of that comment, where you are asked

'Have you the courage of your convictions?'

And you reply...

I have.

If I wronged you I will, if you wish, correct it here and give you a full apology. (unquote).

You better start writing those apologies Mr Buckley, and as for courage of your convictions, well the term convictions may yet hold more meaning for you than you know!!

Catholic Church has ‘a lot to learn’ from others about accountability, warns theologian (Opinion)

Eugene Duffy - Time to Look at Fundamentals - Association of Catholics in  Ireland

A leading theologian has said it is crucial for the Catholic Church to understand the need to learn from other organisations when it comes to accountability.

Fr Eugene Duffy, lecturer in theology at Mary Immaculate College in the University of Limerick and All Hallows College, Dublin City University, said it was “very important to acknowledge that the Church has a lot to learn from other organisations, from other social structures, from management theory”.

Speaking at The Tablet’s webinar, “A Synodal Church Needs Accountability”, he said, “We need external organisations to offer an evaluation and scrutiny of our performances.” He noted the role of the National Board for Safeguarding in the Irish Church which, he said, was completely independent of the hierarchy and monitors every diocese on a regular basis in regard to their compliance to best practice and standards.

Another issue twas the need for a reform of mindsets and attitudes, Fr Duffy noted.

“It’s not adequate or enough to change structures, regulations and procedures within an organisation, unless there is a cultural reform, or a reform of attitudes, mindsets, beliefs, assumptions, values, ideologies,” he said.

He said a “monastic kind of formation for diocesan priests” was no longer “adequate or appropriate” because most priests are going to be living on their own in the midst of communities.

He suggested that moving seminarians out of the seminary for most of their formation would be a better approach.

Fr Duffy, who is Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Renewal in Achonry diocese and co-moderator of the Peter and Paul Seminar, an interdisciplinary research project of historians, systematic theologians and canon lawyers, also called for a “serious review” of the way theology is taught in seminaries.

“We still teach theology in a very academic register,” he criticised and said it was often too abstract.

“Seminarians need to be facilitated in learning how to apply theology, how to work with it in a way that enriches the lives of people. I think we could learn a lot from something like medicine, where there is much greater interaction between the practicum and the theory.”

Speaking about the theology of priesthood, Fr Duffy noted that since John Paul II's pontificate there has been an emphasis on the priest acting in persona Christi and this was sometimes misused to create “the impression that a priest is accountable to God alone, that he is in a direct line from Christ without adequately factoring in his relationship to the entire church”.

This emphasis on the priest acting in persona Christi “underpins all kinds of clericalist attitudes and provides almost an ontology to justify the priest acting alone without due reference to the rest of the parish or those for whom he is responsible”.

He added that Vatican II’s emphasis was “a network of good relationships, of people in right relationship with one another, and in right relationship with God”.

A leading Asian theologian, who is one of the theological advisers to the Synod on Synodality, told the webinar that there is a “serious need” for seminaries to emphasise “servant priesthood” and “insist on the dignity of all the baptised” in order to address clericalism in the Church, . Redemptorist Fr Vimal Tirimanna C.Ss.R. said “clericalism and the authentic concept of priesthood are not tallying with each other”.

The lecturer in moral theology at the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy in Rome and the National Seminary in Sri Lanka underlined that the concept of obedience has at times been misinterpreted to the advantage of those in authority.

Referring to his paper published for the Peter and Paul Seminar, he said the separation of the clergy from the laity had contributed to non-accountability in the Church.

“Most of the priests and bishops who are into this clericalist mentality think that is the way priestly culture should be.”

He said they perceived themselves as “a separate group, as an elite group, and put themselves on a sort of a pedestal” and this in turn led them to the “terrible conclusion, consciously or unconsciously, that they are not accountable to anyone”.

Theologian Professor Rafael Luciani of the Universidad Catolica Andres Bell in Caracas, Venezuela and Boston College told the webinar that the Church needed to reform the trilogy of the theology of the priesthood, the seminaries and the parishes together at the same time.

“If you don't touch that trilogy, you will not move forward as a synodal church.”

Elsewhere during the webinar, Professor Myriam Wijlens of Erfurt University said the research of the Peter and Paul Seminar had found that “synodality implies accountability”.

“So listening alone is not sufficient and accountability, at the same time, requires a synodal church.”

Responding to concerns that the pontifical secret would be applied to discussions at the Synod assembly next month in Rome, canon lawyer Myriam Wijlens said, “Yes, that could happen.”

A member of the Coordinating Commission of the Synod on Synodality and a Co-Moderator of the Peter and Paul Seminar, Professor Wijlens reminded the Tablet webinar that the process is “not a parliament”.

She will be an expert at the Synod in the Vatican. She underlined her dislike of the word “secret” and its connotations of secrecy, particularly in relation to the abuse crisis. She said she preferred “confidentiality”.

Justifying the possible provision to protect opinions expressed at the assembly, she said, “I think there should be the space for people to come from an ‘I’ to a ‘we’.”

She also highlighted that without such a safeguard some members of the synodal process could be “extremely active on all kinds of social media and other voices could be lost” thus resulting in a sense that “there was only one perspective on all of this.”

A study of the reception of the Second Vatican Council had shown how one of the challenges for the synod would be bringing the rest of the church on board after the assembly so that everybody is part of the process.

Speaking about the clerical abuse scandals and accountability in the Church she asked how bishops from the same cultural contexts such as France, Germany and Switzerland had not learned from each other.

“Why have bishops a hard time speaking about this and sharing their experience – how come they are not able to learn from each other? I think we really need to attend to that.”

Bishops encourage prayer across Ireland for the Synod on Synodality in Rome

Statement of the Autumn 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops'  Conference | Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference

The Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops’ Conference met this week in Columba Centre of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  

The main item for discussion was the forthcoming universal Synod on Synodality, which will take place from 4 – 29 October in Rome, on the theme: ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission’.
Bishops reflected that, “The Synodal Process is about conversion, and we pray that all participants will be open in mind and heart to what the Holy Spirit wants of each individually, and collectively. In light of Pope Francis’ comment that ‘without prayer there will be no Synod’, we encourage people of faith to unceasingly pray to God over the coming weeks at daily and weekend Masses, at home, and in religious communities, to intercede for Pope Francis and for all members of the Synodal Assembly.”
Prayer texts have been made available to parishes as well as to the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland for the benefit of its members.  

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe, will represent the Irish Church at this global assembly.

Francis’s Marseillaise Trip

Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Marseille in September, to Conclude  Rencontres Méditerranéennes

On September 22 and 23, 2023, Pope Francis will visit the Phoenician city of Marseille with bishops from 30 Mediterranean area countries, as well as dozens of young people from all religious faiths, in order to take part in the third edition of the Mediterranean meetings. 

It is a project which is close to the heart of the head of the Church, and which allows a better understanding of one of the driving forces of the current Pontificate.

Pope Francis has repeated it enough to anyone who will listen: “I am going to Marseille, not to France.” It is to reiterate that the sSovereign Pontiff’s trip is neither a state visit nor an apostolic trip; it is the realization of a very specific project at the center of the current Pontificate.

In February 2020, in Bari, Italy, the bishops of the Italian Peninsula and the Mediterranean region gathered around the Pope to reflect on common solutions to the fractures that undermine the shores of the Mediterranean. 

Two years later, it was in Florence that the Pope received, in addition to the bishops, the mayors of the Mediterranean world in order to initiate cultural, political, and religious collaboration.

Finally this year, in Marseille, 70 young people representing all the religions and cultural backgrounds of the Mediterranean world will surround the bishops and the Pope. 

The Mediterranean meetings are being held to take up the issue of “resuming the culture of the meeting to rebuild a feeling of fraternity, by developing, in addition to fairer economic relations, more human relations, including with migrants,” as the Roman Pontiff himself explained on December 1, 2022, during a message addressed to the Rome MED Dialogues Conference.

Envoy says Pope Francis wants to meet Russian Orthodox leader again

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill discuss Ukraine war for first time

In a moment in which the aftershocks of a recent controversy over his approach to Russia are still being felt, Pope Francis on Monday received the credentials of Moscow’s new ambassador to the Holy See, veteran diplomat Ivan Soltanovsky.

Soltanovsky, 68, who was appointed as ambassador to the Vatican in May, brings a deep résumé to his new post.

He served as Russia’s deputy ambassador to NATO in Brussels from 2017 to 2019, and then as Russia’s last representative to the Council of Europe before Moscow exited the body in March 2022 over tensions related to its invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with the Russian news agency Ria Novosti after his encounter with Pope Francis, Soltanovsky said the pontiff expressed hope for a second meeting with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, after the first-ever encounter in Havana in 2016.

In the wake of that encounter, Francis and Kirill issued a 30-point joint declaration touching on a variety of global challenges. While the document was hailed by many observers as an ecumenical milestone, critics objected to its language on Ukraine, especially a reference to the “conflict” rather than a Russian “invasion.”

At the time, Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church said some of his flock felt “betrayed” by the statement,

Soltanovsky, however, said Francis expressed positive memories of the 2016 encounter.

“Pope Francis recalled his meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana warmly, and expressed the hope that it will not be the last, that he can see the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church again,” he was quoted as saying.

Soltanovsky also made reference to the ongoing peace mission of Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tapped by Francis in May as his personal envoy for the conflict in Ukraine. Zuppi traveled to Moscow in late June for a first cycle of meetings, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently announced that Zuppi shortly will be returning.

According to Soltanovsky, he “discussed the mission of the special envoy of the Holy Father, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at resolving certain humanitarian problems in the context of the Ukraine conflict, expressing support for it.”

On the humanitarian front, observers have suggested that the Vatican might play a role in the return of Ukrainian children removed from the eastern part of the country by Russian forces, as well as in relaunching a deal allowing for the export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The presentation of credentials comes in the wake of a recent contretemps related to comments made by Pope Francis Aug. 25 during a video call with Russian Catholic youth, in which the pontiff called the young people heirs to “Great Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.”

That language was dismissed as “imperialist propaganda” by a spokesman for the Ukrainian government, and led a senior advisor to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to describe Francis as “pro-Russian” and “not credible.”

Shevchuk issued a statement saying the pope’s words had caused Ukraine’s Catholics “great pain and concern.”

In his interview with Ria Novosti, Soltanovsky did not directly address that controversy, but did say that Pope Francis had confirmed “his respect for Russia and its people, culture and history.”

Married with a daughter, Soltanovsky graduated in international affairs from the State University of Moscow and entered the Kremlin’s diplomatic service. He’s previously served in Russia’s consulate in Karachi in Pakistan and in the Russian embassy in India, as well as the Russian mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In 2019, Soltanovsky addressed the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, effectively triggering the Second World War.

This anniversary is a good occasion to think about how the dogmatism, stubbornness and short-sightedness of European elites of the 1930s triggered a series of fatal events that led humanity to a six-year slaughter,” he said.

“We cannot help but find very unpleasant parallels if we compare the events of that time and the current political processes,” Soltanovsky said.

“Western nations still strive to ensure their security at the expense of others. All recent Russian initiatives to create a common security system in Europe have been ignored,” he said.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, expressed congratulations to Soltanovsky on Monday “as he prepares to take up his high office.”

Commentator says Vatican may be near breakthrough on kidnapped Ukraine children

Pope Francis sends Cardinal Zuppi to Ukraine to promote a 'just peace'

A leading Italian journalist has floated the possibility that Pope Francis’s personal envoy for the war in Ukraine may be poised to play a role in the return of Ukrainian children forcibly removed by Russian forces, suggesting that such a breakthrough would amount to an historical accomplishment for papal diplomacy.

“The image of thousands and thousands of children who, for the merit of Pope Francis, are returned to their families will enter, we’re certain, in the history books,” wrote veteran political commentator Paolo Mieli in a Sept. 17 essay for Corriere della Sera, Italy’s newspaper of record.

Mieli was reacting to recent comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the effect that Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tapped by Francis in May as his personal representative on the Ukraine conflict, soon will make a return trip to Moscow.

“The efforts of the Vatican, whose envoy is going to come again, are continuing,” Lavrov said Friday during a roundtable discussion with ambassadors from 35 countries in Moscow.

“We are ready to meet with everyone, we are ready to talk to everyone,” Lavrov said.

The fact that it was Lavrov in person who made the announcement has been interpreted by many observers to imply that if Zuppi does indeed return to Moscow, this time he’ll meet directly with Lavrov and other senior officials.

When Zuppi made his first visit to the Russian capital in late June, he was able to encounter only relatively minor officials, including an advisor to President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.

The session with Lvova-Belova was nevertheless considered significant, in part because she’s presently under indictment by the International Criminal Court for her role in the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children, but also because the meeting suggested Moscow might be willing to consider returning at least some of those children as a goodwill gesture.

Estimates of the number of Ukrainian children who’ve been removed from the eastern part of the country by Russian forces vary widely, from as many as 700,000 to perhaps around 250,000. That high-end estimate would include not only children deported since Russian invaded Ukraine in February 2022, but since Russia first occupied territories in Crimea and the Donbass in 2014.

In some cases, those children have been naturalized as Russian citizens and adopted into Russian families, creating obstacles to their eventual return to their families in Ukraine.

Moscow repeatedly has insisted the children were removed to protect them from the fighting in the area, including aerial bombardments, but those explanations have been rejected by Ukrainian authorities and human rights groups who have described the forced deportations as a war crime.

Mieli speculated that Zuppi may have received pledges of some sort of concession from the Russian authorities.

“It seems that Zuppi obtained a promise to return to Ukraine some part, though how many isn’t clear, of the kidnapped children,” Mieli wrote. “That’s a commitment, of course, which would have had to be authorized by Putin.”

Mieli noted that a columnist for Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, where Zuppi is the president, recently asserted that “the cloth of peace” which the pope’s envoy has been “patiently weaving for more than two months … is beginning to bear fruit.”

Though the immediate reference of that comment was Zuppi’s visit last week to Beijing and his meeting with a senior Chinese official, Mieli interpreted it to imply as well that a breakthrough with Russia is considered imminent.

“If Avvenire writes that a maturation is underway, it’s fairly likely that this time Zuppi will obtain a homecoming for these children, or at least a good number of them,” he wrote.

Such a result, Mieli wrote, would be a major diplomatic accomplishment. On the other hand, he warned, the lack of any concrete result would risk backlash.

“If the meeting between Zuppi and Lavrov ends in nothing more than a chat, however animated by good intentions, at least on the part of the cardinal, the disappointment would be great … truly, very great,” he wrote.

Priest commits suicide after police complaint for protesting anti-Christian violence

Catholic priest dies by suicide in Madhya Pradesh | Matters India

A Catholic priest who faced a police complaint for a social media post protesting recent anti-Christian violence in the Indian state of Manipur committed suicide on Sept. 13, with his body found hanging from a tree in a cemetery.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Sagar in India announced the death of Father Anil Francis in a statement to the press Friday, saying, “We are extremely pained and sad over the death of Fr. Anil Francis, who was known for his commitment to the works given to him and dedicated to the values preached by him.”

According to the statement, Francis’s death is under police investigation and the diocese is cooperating fully. It also noted that in a suicide note, Francis had requested that his body be cremated.

Francis, 40 at the time of his death, was ordained to the priesthood in April 2013. The statement indicated he had arrived at the bishop’s house in Sagar on the evening of Sept. 13 for a prayer meeting the next day.

The suicide came shortly after Francis had posted an image to social media depicting a woman wrapped in the colors of the Indian flag being held by two men, with a mob behind them, with the text, “Wounded Manipur: 2 women paraded naked, gang-raped, not none arrested since two months. We are ashamed. When will peace prevail? Pray for Manipur.”

The reference in the post was to ongoing violence in the northeastern state of Manipur, where ethnic clashes have taken on a religious dimension since the minority Christian presence in the region has been especially targeted. 

According to reports, more than 120 Christians have been killed amid the violence over the last three months, with 4,500 buildings and homes belonging to Christians and roughly 400 churches destroyed.

In July, a video showing two Christian women who belong to the Kuki ethnic group being paraded naked on a public road and molested by a mob of men on May 4 sparked wide outrage when it went viral on social media, reflected in Francis’s post.

Local media reports suggest that Francis was a convert to Catholicism as a teenager, and that his family remains Hindu and lives in a village within the Sagar district where he served as the head of a church-run primary school.

Sagar is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, also in northeastern India, where Christians have complained of harassment and persecution since the adoption of a sweeping anti-conversion law in 2021 by the state’s government, which is led by the right-wing Hindu BJP party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At the moment, a Catholic bishop and nun are facing prosecution in Madhya Pradesh following surprise inspections at a church-run orphanage, where discovery of Bibles on the premises led to charges of conversion. The Indian bishops’ conference issued a statement denying the accusations, insisting that the “age-old ‘bogey of conversion’ has no basis and has been brought up repeatedly to tarnish the selfless and dedicated service of thousands of priests, religious and lay people.”

Observers believe that the police complaint against Francis may be related to this broader context of anti-Christian pressures in the state.

“We realize that Fr. AniI Francis was under tension and pressure over an FIR lodged against him over a post he had shared on Manipur violence on social media,” the diocese said in its statement, referring to the police complaint.

On the other hand, church officials also stressed that they can’t yet confirm the motives for Francis’s suicide.

“We do not know what made him take such an extreme step,” said Bishop James Athikalam of Sagar.

Athikalam told Crux that Francis’s family had been invited to the bishops’s house, “where we expressed our pain and anguish and sorrow and comforted them and consoled them and showed them a great appreciation of the work he had done.”

“After the post mortem, when we received the body, we had a prayer for the office of the dead in the hospital itself before handing over the body to the relatives,” Athikalam said. “We, the priests, sisters and people had a requiem Mass at 3.00 p.m. In my homily I gave an appreciation of his work and asked people to continue to pray for his soul.”

Athikalam said that after the body is cremated, in accord with Francis’s wishes, the diocese hopes to have the ashes interred in the church’s cemetery.

‘Heretic’ Indian Bishop Offers Mass in Papal Basilica

In a historic first, the Vatican has permitted an Indian patriarch heading an autocephalous church branded as heretical by the Holy Inquisition to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at a papal basilica in Rome. 

Christ "calls us to recognize and adore him at a single Eucharistic altar," Pope Francis stressed, as His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews III offered the Divine Liturgy in the West Syriac rite at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls on Sunday morning. 

The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Churches but is part of the Oriental Orthodox family of churches and a founding member of the Protestant-dominated World Council of Churches.

Pope Welcomes Catholicos 

On Monday, Pope Francis welcomed Mathews, the catholicos of the East and the metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, to the Vatican and acknowledged the ancient faith of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, tracing its origins to the Apostle Thomas. 

"I am convinced that we can learn much from the age-old synodal experience of your Church," Francis stressed, highlighting the contribution of the Malankara Orthodox Church's synodal experience to the forthcoming Synod of Bishops in October. 

"The ecumenical movement is contributing to the ongoing synodal process of the Catholic Church, and it is my hope that the synodal process can, in turn, contribute to the ecumenical movement," Francis noted. "Pastoral ecumenism is the natural way to full unity."

The Thomas Christians as a whole reacted against Roman Catholicism.

"It is my hope that pastoral agreements between our Churches, which share the same apostolic heritage, may spread and develop, especially in areas where the faithful are in a minority or in diaspora," the pontiff added. 

Also known as the Indian Orthodox Church, the independent church traces its origins to the arrival of St. Thomas at Malankara in the south Indian state of Kerala in A.D. 52 and to the congregations of "Thomas Christians" he established in seven villages.  

Branded as Heretics

After 1561, Thomas Christians were branded as heretics by the Goa Inquisition, which had been established under Portuguese rule. The 1599 Synod of Diamper anathematized the Malankara Christians and other Indian Christians who did not submit to Rome.

With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century in South India, the ancient church of St. Thomas "began to undergo the decisive effect of the Portuguese colonial era coupled with the adverse effects of Roman Catholicism," the Malankara Church's website explains. 

Pastoral ecumenism is the natural way to full unity.

"Five well-planned maneuvers were played to force this church finally to obey Rome," it narrates. "The Thomas Christians as a whole reacted against Roman Catholicism in 1653 through the famous event known as the Coonan Cross Oath."

What the Roman Catholics "found to be heretical" among the Thomas Christians was "an emphasis on the full humanity of Jesus Christ, an appreciation of human freedom and responsibility, a positive attitude to other religions and cultures and a strong affirmation of the independence and freedom of the Indian Church," the history section of the website elaborates. 

Thomas Christians who resisted the attempts of Roman Catholic Portuguese missionaries to Latinize them and subjugate them to papal authority, regard their struggles with Rome as "a long and unending tale of misgovernment, bitterness, tyranny and woe," writes church historian Robert Frykenberg in Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present

The Malankara Church accepts miaphysitism, holding that in the one person of Jesus Christ, divinity and humanity are united in one nature without separation, without confusion, without alteration and without mixing where Christ is consubstantial with the Father.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church sent observers to the Second Vatican Council after Pope Paul VI met the Catholicos Baselios Augen I in Bombay in 1964. 

Vatican II Opens Doors

In 1983, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews I visited Rome. Pope John Paul II reciprocated three years later by visiting Mathews I in the Cathedral of Mar Elia in Kottayam. 

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis personally received Mathews III's immediate predecessor, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, in September 2013.

The ecumenical movement is contributing to the ongoing synodal process of the Catholic Church.

In May, Francis permitted the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran — the official ecclesiastical seat of the pope as bishop of Rome.

A month before Pope Tawadros' visit to the basilica, Anglican prelate Jonathan Baker, a suffragan bishop in the diocese of London, triggered outrage after attempting to celebrate Mass in the Roman Rite at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Saint John Lateran supersedes St. Peter's Basilica in primacy, and despite the grandeur of St. Peter's (designated a "basilica" compared to the Lateran "archbasilica"), St. John's remains the cathedral church of the Roman pontiff.

The Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity has stated that bishops may allow "priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church" the "use of a church" if they "do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies."

"Where there is a good ecumenical relationship and understanding between the communities, the shared ownership or use of church premises over an extended period of time may become a matter of practical interest," the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism adds.

Pope Defrocks Patron of Marian Vision for Sex Abuse

 Pope Francis dismisses Borongan priest due to alleged sex abuse

A prominent Filipino priest, celebrated for promoting devotion to the Rosary and a controversial Marian apparition, has been laicized by Pope Francis for allegedly abusing minors. 

The diocese of Borongan announced Sunday on its Facebook page that the holy father "has dismissed from the clerical state Fr. Pio Cultura Aclon." 

The priest is "no longer a cleric and cannot exercise priestly ministry in the Church."

Hundreds of Fr. Aclon's supporters slammed the diocesan statement signed by the bishop of Borongan, Crispin B. Varquez, and chancellor Fr. James B. Abella, with many pointing out that the champion of a controversial Marian vision was "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."

The circular, dated July 18, did not state the reason for Fr. Aclon's expulsion from the clerical state, but the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' news service revealed that the priest was defrocked "over sexual abuse involving minors."

"Aclon last served at a minor seminary in Borongan before the diocese suspended him from his clerical duties," the CBCP news media explained. 

Priest Demands Proof

The defrocked priest hit back in a Facebook post and demanded proof from the diocese that he was indeed dismissed by the holy father.

"I give you 10 days to provide us [with] the letter. You may send it to my legal counsel, Justice Harriet Demetriou. I repeat, send the letter of Pope Francis to me," he wrote. "Matters like this are communicated to the concerned individual and not in the social media platform." 

I repeat, send the letter of Pope Francis to me.

"The bishop of Borongan should explain regarding this matter because he violated, again, not only my canonical right but also my civil right!" Aclon added, attaching the diocesan notice.

Bishops' Vendetta?

Several supporters of Fr. Aclon accused the hierarchy of targeting the priest because of his advocacy for the popular Marian apparition known as "Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace," which was allegedly sighted at Lipa, Batangas, in 1948. 

There has also been speculation that the priest's laicization in July may have been retaliation for a case filed against Dominican superior Fr. Winston Cabading, who was arrested after he attacked the popular devotion to "Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace."

Police detained Fr. Cabading in May on criminal charges of "offending religious feelings." The case against the theologian was filed by devout Catholic, Harriet Demetriou, former justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan and former elections chief of the Philippines. 

Justice Demetriou, an ardent devotee of the Lipa visions, earlier defended Fr. Aclon pro bono when he was suspended from saying Mass in public "because of his ardent advocacy in promoting the authenticity of the apparitions in Lipa."

Aclon last served at a minor seminary in Borongan before the diocese suspended him from his clerical duties.

Over 200 testimonies from individuals, families and communities whose lives Fr. Aclon had touched were sent in six brown envelopes to Bp. Tobias' (the judicial vicar) office after the priest was sanctioned in 2017. 

Lipa Apparition

The visions of Lipa are said to have been seen by Sr. Teresita Castillo, a Carmelite postulant. In the final apparition to Castillo, the Blessed Virgin is alleged to have identified herself, saying, "I am the Mediatrix of All Grace."

There were fifteen reported apparitions. Mary appeared in white robes and held a golden rosary.

The visions were initially declared as "non-supernatural" in 1951 after an investigation by six Filipino bishops headed by Cdl. Rufino Santos. In 1991, the local bishop reopened the case.

Defying the Vatican and his fellow bishops, the then-archbishop of Lipa, Ramón Argüelles, formally approved the apparitions in September 2015, declaring them "supernatural in character and worthy of belief."

The then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded in December 2015, arguing that Pope Pius XII had made a "definitive" confirmation in 1951 against "the supposed apparitions" and declared they "were not of supernatural origin."

In June 2016, Abp. Argüelles retracted his declaration and reverted to the Holy See's judgment.

Sexual Time Bomb

Aclon's dismissal has sparked renewed discussions over the sexual misconduct of Filipino clergy. In his book Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church, investigative reporter Aries Rufio exposes the "ticking time bomb" of profligate priests. 

Rufio maintains that in the diocese of Pampanga, almost one-third of priests were having sexual affairs or siring children, noting that he was provided with a list of 35 fornicating priests out of the more than 100 in the diocese.

Across the nation, an average of 50 priests are in a "conflict situation" at any given time, almost all accused of having illicit affairs, notes retired Abp. Oscar Cruz, head of a dispensation and dismissal section in the CBCP that investigates priests who go astray. 

Rufio cites the anecdote of a meeting between papal nuncio Abp. Giuseppe Pinto with a retired prelate. 

When Pinto assured the Filipino archbishop that the Church would "provide support to children fathered by priests," the prelate responded, "But, Your Excellency, if you do that, you will be responsible for the bankruptcy of the Catholic Church in the Philippines!"