Friday, February 23, 2024

Don’t merge secular school into faith school, NSS urges council

The National Secular Society has urged Southwark Council to reject plans to merge a nonreligious school into a faith school to create a single Church of England (CofE) school.

The proposals would merge Charlotte Sharman Primary School, which has no religious character, with St Jude's Church of England Primary School. 

The resulting school would have a Church of England religious character.

The plans follow falling pupil numbers at both schools, although Charlotte Sharman is the larger of the two schools and has more places filled.

In a letter to cabinet member for children, education and refugees Councillor Jasmine Ali, the NSS said the merger would "significantly diminish parent's choice" to educate their child in an inclusive community school.

Charlotte Sharman is the only nonreligious school in the St George's ward of the London borough Southwark. 

The letter pointed to the duty of local authorities to secure diversity in the provision of schools under the Education Act 1996.

It said the local community would be "ill served" by a new CofE school which can legally discriminate on the basis of religion in its admissions and hiring.

The letter cited St Jude's collective worship policy which requires children to pray twice a day. 

St Jude's admissions policy explicitly privileges families that are "faithful and regular worshippers" at St George the Martyr and other Anglican churches.

The NSS noted the CofE is "strongly motivated" to support the merger as part of its plan to double the number of young "Christian disciples" by 2030.

The letter also raised "serious concerns" about consultation documents provided on the merger. It said they omitted "vital information" about the nature of faith schools that would leave parents and teachers "unable to make an informed choice".

The documents make no mention of faith-based admissions and hiring, legally mandated collective worship or faith-based religious education.

The NSS said the documents make "no attempt" to justify why the resulting school should be CofE and instead issue a "summary judgement". 

It said the decision was "especially perplexing" given both schools are minority Christian. 

Furthermore, St Jude's has filled only 39% of its places compared to Charlotte Sharman's 78%.

The letter urged Ali to "preserve the secular ethos" of Charlotte Sharman or any new school resulting from a merger.

A petition set up by Southwark National Education Union to defend the secular ethos of Charlotte Sharman has attracted over 700 signatures. 

It notes Charlotte Sharman "serves the diverse community" of Elephant and Castle and is "an inclusive, community school" without any emphasis on any particular religious belief.

NSS: 'Council must serve needs of children and families not agenda of the Church'

National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said: "Any proposal that strips a religiously diverse community of an inclusive secular school and forces children into a Church of England school defies logic and fails to respect the principle of freedom of religion or belief.

"Southwark Council must ensure it is first and foremost serving the needs of local children and their families – not the agenda of the Church.

"In a pluralistic and increasingly secular society, there should be a presumption towards religiously neutral schools to ensure students from all backgrounds can feel equally welcome and valued and not have other people's religion imposed on them."

Church of England rolls out contactless donation machines across Lancashire

Key Links — St George's Preston

Churches across Lancashire are welcoming new digital technology that allows parishoners to donate in a 21st century way.

It means that instead of digging around in your pocket or purse for the collection, giving is now as easy as tapping a payment card.

In the new scheme, managed locally by Church of England Diocesan Stewardship Resourcing Officers Stephanie Rankin and Christy Sawyer, the contactless giving devices have been snapped up at a discounted rate by 60 parishes.

It's hoped that it will drive up much-needed donations to the Church of England.

"Rush of applications"

“The contactless scheme was advertised to incumbents, treasurers, churchwardens, church council Secretaries, Lay Ministers and many others in our parishes during October and November last year; resulting in a rush of applications," said Stephanie.

“An assortment of devices were available and, based on the allocation made by the National Church, 38 of our churches have received the more portable 'CollecTin More' devices; 19 got the larger 'Payaz Giving Stations' and three which met different criteria received GWD contactless donation stations.”

This rollout in Blackburn Diocese is part of the National Church’s investment into giving over the last few years which has enabled all dioceses to provide a number of devices heavily subsidised by the Church Commissioners.

Stephanie and Christy worked with parishes to encourage them to apply and prepare them to receive their devices. 

Earlier this week dozens of parish representatives came to the Diocesan Offices on the edge of Blackburn over two days to pick up their new devices and to be shown how to set up and use them.

Christy said: “The thinking behind this major push on giving in a modern way is simple. Though regular giving is crucial for supporting the ministry in our parishes, we also need to enable those who are not part of planned giving schemes to give to support local ministry and mission. As fewer people now carry cash, contactless giving provides a convenient method for people to make donations and more churches will now have access to this technology."

Villagers in High Court battle with Church of England over former Rathmell school

The Church of England has been branded "unchristian" by campaigners involved in a bitter legal battle over the future of a former school.

Trustees of the old primary school in Rathmell, near Settle in North Yorkshire, are fighting attempts by the Diocese of Leeds to take ownership of the site, which dates back to 1716.

The school was turned into a community building, run by the Rathmell School Trust, after it closed due to dwindling pupil numbers seven years ago.

It has since been renamed Rathmell Old School and is used for activities, classes and community events.

The title deeds are registered to the trust, but the diocese is trying to take over the building using legislation which allows religious authorities to stake a claim for former church-run schools.

Trustees fear it will be flattened if the action succeeds.

The dispute is set for a costly High Court hearing in April.

Trustee Keith Mothersdale said the Church's attempts were "unchristian".

"I've been a Christian all my life, and I am ashamed to be a Christian," he said.

"If this is Christianity, forget it, [I] don't want to know. This is cruel."

The school became voluntary-aided – run by the Church in conjunction with the local authority – in the 1950s, before it closed in 2017.

Provisions in the Education Act allow the Church to seek ownership of a school site if a trust has "failed" – if a school closes or is no longer used for educational purposes.

The three trustees dispute that the buildings were ever part of an agreement for the diocese to take on the running of the school, as there was never any mention of a religious affiliation when the estate was originally left to the trust.

Mr Mothersdale said the group had racked up around £60,000 in legal fees since the Church made its original application in 2018.

"It's beyond comprehension," he said. "I'm on anti-depressants, you don't sleep at night, you're thinking about it all the time, but we can't stop, we have to do what we believe is right."

An online fundraising page to support the legal action has raised more than £9,700 so far, but the group says it could face up to £250,000 in costs.

The fundraising page suggests the Diocese of Leeds would "undoubtedly" sell the site for redevelopment, meaning the village would lose the "only community space" left in Rathmell.

Trustee Jacky Frankland said: "[I'm] astonished that an organisation that we're supposed to trust and respect can trample over people like us just trying to do a good thing for our community for their benefit."

She said the loss would be "enormous beyond words" if the Church won.

"They're doing this against the three of us personally," she said.

Local resident Joan Procter said the centre was "well-used".

"We need the facility," she said. "With good light, easy access, parking - it's ideal. And what'll happen to it if it doesn't stay?

"Once it's gone it's gone, it'll never come back, will it?"

The third trustee, Rosemary Hyslop, said it would be "so sad" if the village lost the heritage and history that the old school represents.

"We've basically got no amenities in this village, we've no shop, garage, post office, garage - we haven't even got streetlights.

"There's only 309 of us live here, but even so, why should we be deprived of our community centre?"

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Leeds said: “Numerous attempts to resolve this matter have been met with antagonism and so, regrettably, the diocese has been left with no option but to seek clarification in law.

"This will ensure the issues are fully considered and any proof provided.

"As this legal process is underway, it is not appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Justin Welby warns against divisions within the Church of England

Archbishop of Canterbury to criticise small boats bill in House of Lords |  Immigration and asylum | The Guardian

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against division within the Church of England, as he described “expressions of hatred” in correspondence sent to his London home.

Mr Welby said such expressions were “normally coming from within the church”, and gave another example of someone who had been working on a project for the church and had feared opening their emails “because of the bitterness and abuse” they faced.

In his presidential address to the General Synod as it opened on Friday, he said the fear and suffering which arise from division can make people see each other as enemies, something he said must be resisted.

At Lambeth (Palace), the brilliant member of staff who deals with the endless correspondence that comes in, is worn down by the expressions of hatred, normally coming from within the church

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

“Enemies make us afraid. Fear makes us suffer.

“Someone the Archbishop of York and I met recently from outside the church said that while they were working on a project for the church, they grew to fear opening their emails, because of the bitterness and abuse they were subject to.

“At Lambeth (Palace), the brilliant member of staff who deals with the endless correspondence that comes in, is worn down by the expressions of hatred, normally coming from within the church.”

Lambeth Palace is the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, his family and two religious communities, and is also described as the centre of his ministry, worship and hospitality.

As Lord Cameron said recently, when he looks around at the world today as foreign secretary, all the lights are flashing red

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

More recently it has faced scrutiny from politicians over the conversions of asylum seekers to Christianity.

The case of Clapham alkali attack suspect Abdul Ezedi, believed to have been supported in his UK asylum claim by someone from a Baptist church rather than the Church of England, prompted debate on the overall issue of the involvement of faith leaders in conversions and asylum applications.

The Church of England has repeatedly said it is the “duty of the Home Office, not the churches, to make decisions on asylum applications”, but has said it is considering an update on its 2017 guidance document for clergy on supporting asylum seekers.

Elsewhere in his speech Mr Welby spoke of the suffering raging across the world, with the war in Ukraine “frozen”, and the “havoc and horror” being experienced in the Middle East, as well as devastation in places including Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and poverty in the UK.

He said: “As Lord Cameron said recently, when he looks around at the world today as foreign secretary, all the lights are flashing red.

“We live in a world of suffering and, unlike in the past, it is a world where we are aware of the suffering.”

Pope Francis close to families and victims of deadly Valencia fire

Pope Francis is “closely following the news of the terrible fire in an apartment building in Valencia’s Campanar suburb in eastern Spain, in which lives have already been lost” and he assures all those affected of his spiritual closeness and prayers.

The Pope’s words of concern and closeness came in a telegram on Friday, signed on his behalf by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and addressed to the Archbishop of Valencia, Enrique Benavent Vidal.

Four people have been confirmed dead and 14 others are still missing following the fire that broke out at the 14-storey residential complex on Thursday.

The Pope said that “while commending the souls of the deceased to divine mercy,” he assures “the people of Valencia and all the families of those affected of his spiritual closeness, and prays to the Lord to give them strength in this moment of pain.”

He also said he prays for the sustainment of the firefighters and of those involved in search and rescue operations.

“With these sentiments,” the telegram concludes, the Pope invokes the intercession of the Patron of Valencia, Nuestra Senora de Los Desamparados, and of Spanish Patron Saint Joseph, and he imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of hope in the Risen Christ.

Three days of mourning

Fifteen people were treated for injuries and five remained in city hospitals on Friday, including four firefighters. All were said to be stable.

Authorities have announced three days of mourning and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited the scene, promising support for those affected and expressing gratitude to firefighters and military personnel who worked to extinguish the blaze.

It was not immediately known how many people were in the two buildings when the fire broke out, but dozens are believed to have lost their homes and belongings. The complex had some 140 apartments.

Irish bishops plan first national synodal assembly

FAQs | Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference

The Irish bishops will hold the first national synodal assembly in autumn next year as part of the Irish Synodal Pathway.

Julieann Moran, general secretary of the Irish Synodal Pathway, said this will be followed by a series of assemblies addressing different themes.

In an update on the progress of the Synodal Pathway in Ireland, she said that a series of regional and online gatherings with key representatives from dioceses and religious congregations were held at the end of January in Cork, Mayo and Tyrone. 

A fifth meeting was held online for members of movements and associations.

These regional meetings saw the launch of a synodal leadership training programme.

The programme is based on research carried out in March last year by the Synodal Pathway’s steering committee in which people expressed a desire for training and formation to provide the skills and knowledge necessary to advance as a synodal Church.  

Describing the training programme as “an investment in leadership development”, it aims to equip participants to lead synodal processes locally and facilitate dialogues in the synodal methodology of “Conversations in the Spirit”. 

“This programme also represents an investment in the long-term so as to nurture a culture of synodality that extends beyond the duration of any specific initiative, into the day-to-day life and mission of the Church in Ireland,” Ms Moran said.

She said that the success of the pathway rests on consistent and continued engagement in the parishes across the 26 dioceses of Ireland, as well as the engagement of religious communities, lay movements and associations, and other Church bodies.

The teams who undertake the training “have an essential role to play on the journey ahead”, she said.

Becoming synodal will not happen overnight, she said. “There is a growing realisation that the synodal pathway is a long-haul journey. We will be walking together for a very long time, listening to each other and discerning God’s will for his people in Ireland today.”

But she underlined that synodal processes and conversations can begin to be implemented now in parish pastoral councils, in diocesan councils, in other groups and institutions.

Meanwhile, following the completion of the initial two-year term of the steering committee, a new national team will be established for the remainder of the synodal pathway. 

Korean Priest Blesses LGBTQ+ Couple, While More Bishops Issue Condemnations

I'm A Bisexual Woman. I'm Also A Christian. Here's How I Came To Accept  Myself. | HuffPost UK Life

More than two months after Fiducia Supplicans was released, the debate over blessings persists, with some pastoral workers beginning to offer blessings, while in other cases, some bishops continue their resistance. 

Korean Priest and Couples Celebrate Blessings

Two couples in South Korea were blessed last month, in what is considered to be the country’s first public instance of such blessings. Hankyoreh reported:

“Arcus, an organization of LGBTQ+ Catholics and their allies in Korea, revealed on Monday that Rev. Lee Seung-bok Raphael of the Claretian Missionaries blessed the organization’s co-founder Chris and her partner Ari, as well as another same-sex couple, identified as Yoo-yeon and Yoon-hae, on Jan. 20. . .

“‘I felt like I had become an unwelcome intruder in the church, but I am happy to be back in the Lord’s presence through the blessing,’ shared Yoo-yeon about the experience. ‘I thank all the priests and sisters who are allies for opening up this path for us from the bottom of my heart.’

“Chris commented, ‘Unlike a marriage ceremony, pastoral blessings can be given to anyone any number of times. I hope that same-sex couples and clergy within the Korean Catholic church feel like they can ask for and give blessings as often as they want, without feeling too pressured.'”

Oregon Bishop, Other Prelates Still Condemning Blessings

In Oregon, Bishop Liam Cary of Baker issued a mid-February statement which banned all blessings for couples in “irregular” situations, same-gender and opposite-gender couples alike. Cary, citing opposition to Fiducia Supplicans in Africa, wrote, in part:

“If the priest complies with their request [to bless a couple], the subtle distinctions of Fiducia Supplicans will not keep bystanders from concluding that the Church the priest represents no longer believes as she always did before, but is now endorsing the unions of unmarried couples. That is not a message that I as bishop wish priests to be sending in the Diocese of Baker.”

Instead, Cary suggests individuals in such relationships be blessed with simple words that emphasize those requesting blessed “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” The bishop adds at the end of his statement that God is “the Redeemer of Marriage, not its disabler.”

In Nigeria, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, condemned Fiducia Supplicans as harming the unity and wellbeing of the Catholic Church. 

He said it “added to our pains,” and he spoke positively of church leaders who opposed Pope Francis’ inclusive vision. 

Back in December, the Nigerian episcopate banned blessings for same-gender couples. 

Homosexuality is criminalized in the country.

Acknowledging LGBTQ+ People Is Progress

While much of the Fiducia Supplicans debate is about whether or not to perform blessings, some commentators have identified another positive aspect to the declaration: the church recognizing LGBTQ+ people in more honest, open terms.

Virginia Saldhana, a theologian and former leader for family and laity issues for Asia’s episcopal network, wrote in UCA News:

“From the earlier stance where the Church did not even acknowledge LGBTQ+ persons, now the Church takes a small step in recognizing their humanity and acknowledging their need for a relationship with a person of the same sex. . .[But if] the Church is not going to be the source of life in all its fullness to the LGBTQ+ community, where should its members go?”

Fr. Daniel Horan, OFM, also made this point in a previously covered essay. And Fr. Kevin Quinn, SJ, who serves in Jesuit provincial leadership, wrote in America that Fiducia Supplicans “real development” is focusing not on acts, but people. He explained:

“Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the church’s concern from the nature of the relationship itself to the couple involved. . .Moreover, he insists ‘in our relationships with people, we must not lose pastoral charity…. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity.’ In speaking of pastoral prudence and charity, Pope Francis is gently guiding the church away from what many consider the dogmatism of his cardinal interlocutors. . .The pope’s courage and compassion in promoting a pastoral approach to this contentious issue in the church is to be heartily applauded.”

Catholic LGBTQ+ Advocates Still Celebrating

In many places, Fiducia Supplicans is being celebrated by LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies:

Philippines: Two theologians, Raphael Yabut and Stephanie Ann Puen, wrote that the declaration “gives hope for a more inclusive church,” and in the future, could “even open the doors for a more robust and inclusive LGBTQIA+ ministry.” 

They express concern about some bishops interpreting it in negative ways, such as Archbishop Socrates Villegas who argued that a blessing asks God “to have pity on [the couple] and to give them the grace of conversion so that they can regularize their relationships.” 

Nonetheless, Yabut and Puen concluded:

Fiducia Supplicans reminds us of the Filipino saying ‘malayo pa, pero malayo na.’ (“Still a long way to go but have already gone a long way.”) Certainly this document is a step forward in becoming more synodal, dialogical, and communal, grounded in Scripture and Tradition.

South Africa: Fr. Russell Pollitt, SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa and an LGBTQ+ advocate, said in a Crux interview that some African prelates’ resistance to Fiducia Supplicans was a matter of misplaced priorities. 

Asked what Pollitt would say to these clerics, he replied:

“I do believe that it is distracting from more important issues: Massive credibility issues such the abuse of power in the Church, abuse of children and women, denial when it comes to abuse on all fronts, a culture of secrecy, poor theological formation and a catechesis of clergy, the decline of belief in the world and the struggle in Africa to reconcile traditional cultures and the Church’s teachings, the fragility of celibacy amongst priests in the African church, financial mismanagement of both Church and donor funds, ongoing wars, growing gap between the rich and poor, the disastrous global leadership crisis…

“These seem to be issues that are, often, a thin line between life and death for ordinary people. Why so much energy on pastoral guidelines when these issues are, mostly, left poorly attended to?”

Canada: In Hamilton, Ontario, Deirdre Pike, a lesbian Catholic who works in ministry, described Fiducia Supplicans as a “monumental shift.” 

Pike detailed a bit of her journey, recounting how much the church has shifted on LGBTQ+ issues under Pope Francis:

“When my partner asked me to marry her in 2012, I told her I would need to wait until the Pope agreed to same-sex marriage. It wasn’t just a punchline with a stall tactic. I was committed to our relationship, but I was also a practicing Catholic as much as I was a practicing lesbian. I had no idea what saying ‘yes’ would mean liturgically and I wanted to be married in my church. . .

“Critics have been quick to point out the limitations of the blessing. It is on the people, not the union; the blessing may not be done within the context of a liturgy or ritual; and people are not to wear special clothing. Yes, all that is true, but it has not soured the taste of joy and mercy for me in this papal act of pastoral care.

“Renée and I have gone through many changes in our first decade of marriage as one would expect, but I never expected the church to make such a monumental shift in the same decade.”

United States: In Maine, the Catholic statewide network Becoming a Welcoming Community issued a statement, saying, in part, “[We are] Maine Catholics that love our Catholic church and love our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors. . .We are encouraged by anything that will help bring them closer together.” 

Ryan Fecteau, a gay Catholic and former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, said Fiducia Supplicans “moves the needle to some extent, but the lesser status of same-sex couples persists.” 

He raised concerns that even if blessings are permissible, it is still on a couple to find a willing priest, which may not be easy in some areas.

In New Jersey, Fr. Alexander Santora, pastor of Church of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, Hoboken, and an LGBTQ+ advocate, wrote about how he planned to implement Fiducia Supplicans

The parish already has an LGBTQ+ ministry, and in view of the declaration, plans to expand its offerings. 

Santora wrote:

“During Lent, we plan to print excerpts from ‘Fiducia’ in the parish bulletin and preach about how its meaning can unfold in parish life. We have planned a town hall style meeting after the largest Sunday morning Mass. This kind of gathering is familiar to our parishioners, as we hosted about a dozens meetings as part of the Synod listening process. . Every encyclical or letter from the pope is a teachable moment for the church, and it is important to invite people to learn about it apart from news headlines or online commentary.”

Santora also spoke about blessings in an interview with the Jesuitical podcast found here.

In Pennsylvania, members of Dignity/Philadelphia were hopeful that blessings were a step in the right direction. 

Michael Rocks, the group’s president, commended Pope Francis as a “great pope” and “the first one who has ever done anything to support the LGBT community.” 

Fr. Norman Simmons, who celebrates Mass for the group, added, “If God made us this way, he wants us to live out the fullness of our humanity, including our sexuality, and the church needs to come to recognize that.

Former papal confidant says prelates who ‘criticize’ Pope Francis are a threat to Church ‘unity’

Jesus' disciples are called to lead without lecturing, pope says - UCA News

A prominent Italian prelate has hit back at fellow bishops who “publicly criticize” Pope Francis, saying that they are “wrong” to do so, since they break the “unity of the Church.” 

In an interview published February 22 by Religion Digital, Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto in eastern Italy issued a strong critique of what the interviewer described as “bishops and cardinals who publicly criticize the Pope.”

Forte attested that such prelates “are wrong” for three reasons, implicitly accusing them first of attempting to assume the authority of a pope. 

“First,” he began, “because the Pope is the Successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the keys of the Kingdom to bind and untie.” 

The 74-year-old archbishop added that those who “criticize” the Pope are also wrong since “the Bishop of Rome has an overview of the Church and the world, which no individual bishop has in the same way.”

Finally, Forte attested that to “criticize” the Pope was “wrong” since it endangered or even broke ecclesial unity: “Thirdly, because breaking the unity of the Church hurts everyone and the leading role of individuals does not express the strength and beauty of communion, which comes from above, it is an icon of the Trinity and leads us to the beauty of the eternal homeland.”

While Forte did not name any prelate in particular, the most prominent prelates who have been accused of criticizing the Pope are the dubia cardinals, with the most recent public dubia submitted over the summer and released on the eve of the October 2023 Synod on Synodality. 

That dubia was submitted by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, former prefect of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Raymond Leo Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, former Archbishop of Guadalajara; Robert Sarah, the former prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong. Both Brandmüller and Burke were signatories of a previous dubia submitted to the Pope in 2016 concerning Amoris Laetitia.

Criticism or exercise of duty?

Indeed, since 2016, the dubia cardinals have been accused of fostering “apostasy” and “scandal” due to their public calls for clarity on Church teaching in the face of vague or heterodox pronouncements from Rome. 

The cardinals also pointed to the particular duty they hold as members of the College of Cardinals, outlined in Canon 349, under which they must “assist the Roman Pontiff… individually… especially in the daily care of the universal Church.”

Such an understanding of a prelate’s duty was shared by a number of bishops who supported the original 2016 dubia cardinals, such as Auxiliary Bishop Józef Wróbel of Lublin, Poland, who stated that the cardinals were “right to ask for clarification.”

Wróbel stated that the four cardinals had “done well and they have exercised correctly the provisions of Canon Law. I think it is not only a right, but even a duty.”

The process of a “fraternal” or “filial” correction is also one soundly defended in the Church’s teaching and is a spiritual work of mercy. As St. Thomas Aquinas writes in the Summa Theologiae, “fraternal correction is an act of charity.”

Writing on the topic of charitable correction, Monsignor Charles Pope presented the Church’s wealth of teaching on the matter, concluding that:

Fraternal correction, correcting the sinner, is prescribed and consistently commanded by Scripture. We must resist the shame that the world tries to inflict on us for “judging” people. Not all judgment is forbidden; in fact, some judgment is commanded. Correction of the sinner is both charitable and virtuous.

Who is Abp. Forte?

Forte is known for his ardent promotion of Holy Communion to the divorced and “re-married” in line with Pope Francis’ controversial Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia

In one such intervention he argued that it would be loving “as God does” for priests to give Holy Communion to the divorced and “re-married” who are living in adultery.

He also served as special secretary to the 2014 Synod on the Family and was credited with writing the synod’s controversial mid-term report, which suggested that the Church emphasize the “positive” aspects of actions it considers to be mortally sinful, such as adultery, premarital cohabitation, and homosexual relations.

With such influential roles, Forte appeared as a rising star and favored theologian in the early years of Francis’ pontificate.

However, he appeared to fall out of Pope Francis’ favor after he reportedly revealed in May 2016 the Pope’s tactics regarding the promotion of Holy Communion for the divorced and “re-married.” 

The archbishop claimed that Francis told him: “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”

Last year, Forte issued a surprising, public intervention after he reminded his archdiocese of the Catholic Church’s strict ban on participating in Masonic activities, following a flurry of public activity by the Freemasons in his area. 

The Masons stated they would appeal to Pope Francis for support.

Former Archbishop of Salzburg Kothgasser dies

The former Archbishop of Salzburg, Alois Kothgasser, is dead. 

He died on Thursday evening at the age of 86, as announced by the archbishopric. 

Kothgasser headed the archdiocese from 2003 to the end of 2013 and had previously led the diocese of Innsbruck since 1997.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn honoured the deceased as a "model of gentleness" and as "cheerful, cordial and close to people". 

"We in the Bishops' Conference have gratefully learnt to appreciate his gift of mediation and reconciliation," Schönborn told the Viennese press agency Kathpress. Kothgasser was "a good shepherd in the best sense of the word", said the Archbishop of Vienna and long-standing Chairman of the Austrian Bishops' Conference.

Born on 29 May 1937 in Sankt Stefan im Rosental in Styria, Kothgasser joined the Salesian Order at the age of 18. He was ordained a priest in 1964. 

Among other things, he studied at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, where he later also taught. In October 1997, Kothgasser was appointed Bishop of Innsbruck by Pope John Paul II; five years later, the Salzburg Cathedral Chapter elected him as the new Archbishop.

Title of a "Primas Germaniae"

Kothgasser was also known for his long-standing commitment to the Catholic Church's relations with the Eastern Churches. 

The Vienna-based Pro Oriente 2015 foundation made him an honorary member in 2015. 

Until 2017, Kothgasser was Grand Prior of the Austrian Lieutenancy of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The archbishops of Salzburg still hold the historic title of "Primas Germaniae". 

This is no longer associated with a canonical, but rather a liturgical primacy of honour. 

The title was initially held by the Bishop of Magdeburg. 

After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), when Magdeburg became Protestant, it was transferred to Salzburg.

After his successor Franz Lackner took office, Kothgasser moved to the neighbouring diocese of Innsbruck; he moved into a convent of sisters in Baumkirchen in Tyrol. 

A new bishop should "be free and not have the former bishop behind him", said the former bishop at the time. 

He last lived in the Salzburg seminary from 2022.

Ingolstadt judiciary discontinues investigations against monks

The Ingolstadt public prosecutor's office has closed the investigation into allegations of abuse against two religious

The suspected cases of sexual assault from 1991 to 1994 are time-barred, the authority announced on Thursday in response to an enquiry from the Catholic News Agency (KNA). 

It thus confirmed a corresponding report in the Ingolstadt "Donaukurier" newspaper from the same day. 

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart responsible for the priests said that they had commissioned a preliminary canonical investigation at the Archbishop's Metropolitan Court in Salzburg. 

The accused priests rejected the accusations.

According to the public prosecutor's office, the allegations that came to light last September concern the sexual abuse of children that allegedly took place at the boarding school in Rebdorf near Eichstätt, which was run by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at the time and has since been closed. 

A former pupil filed a complaint against two priests in April 2023.

Fraudsters pretend to be bishops on the phone

Spanish Episcopal Conference - Wikipedia

Using a Catholic version of the "grandchild trick", criminals in Spain have relieved gullible victims of thousands of euros. 

As the newspaper "El Diario" (Friday) reports, the fraudsters do not pretend to be close relatives on the phone, but high-ranking clergymen. 

With the help of artificial intelligence (AI ), they imitate the voices of well-known bishops, vicars general and priests.

In the Andalusia region, several nuns reportedly fell for the trick and transferred large sums of money at the request of the fraudsters. 

At least a dozen Spanish dioceses are said to be affected by the fake calls.

The Bishops' Conference has therefore issued a warning to all church institutions in the country about the new scam. 

Extreme caution is required: "The dioceses are not asking for money - or at least they are not doing it this way." 

Those affected should report any such calls immediately.