Friday, April 30, 2010

CW - Our Code, Your Rights - Code Of Responsibility

In recent days, we have been somewhat engaged with some who view, contribute, comment and post on this site in relation to how YOU should be able to take issue with postings and how they are dealt with so as to ensure all parties are satisfied if there is a problem. We have come to the following agreement with those representatives who we mailed in relation to this issue and with the necessary legal advice, the following is now part of the Code of Responsibility which is relevant to the public who visit this site:

* * * * *

1. Accuracy

i) Clercical Whispers will take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised will be corrected, promptly and with due prominence - on condition that evidence and information to the contrary of that presented is forwarded / notified to Clerical Whispers within a period of 28 days of original posting.

iii) Where determined and deemed as appropriate - an apology will be published for 5 consecutive days and also attached to the original posting.

iv) A posting will, as far as is possible, report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

2. Opportunity to reply

Clerical Whispers will ALWAYS offer a right to reply to those who clearly indicate as to why they may feel aggrieved with a posting, comment and/or contribution within 28 days of original being published online.

i) Invitation to reply will always be offered via either a private email which remains confidential or through a formal posting of a reply either in comment form or in actual posting itself.

ii) This invitation will be issued on 3 ocassions only and thereafter correspondence shall no longer be entertained.

iii) If after this the matter remains unresolved, then it will pass to our legal advisors for action if so deemed as necessary and appropriate.

* * * * *

We are very well aware that what we publish here may not be to everyones liking, and have always taken that on board when considering the publishing of an article.

Information that comes to us from private sources - unless otherwise indicated - remains just that - private.

Accuracy of such information as submitted is always sought, and if there is a contesting to such information and its accuracy, we extend the invitation to the allegedly injured party of right of reply.

In recent times, we are conscious that some may belligerently ignore and rebuff such invitations of right of reply which is also a right on their part(s), but after such rebuffs there is nothing further we can do except pass it on for legal action where necessary.

If YOU wish to comment or contribute to this site, the above points should be kept in mind.

If YOU wish to take issue with ANY posting please note that it should be so done within the 28 days time frame as laid down.

When writing to us in relation to a comment, contribution and / or complaint, please send your email to us: and subject line it Code of Responsibility, making sure to include a link to the offending post.

We will reply as immediately as possible for us.

Any further questions, queries or comments in relation to the above can be notified to us at given email address.

Taoiseach dismisses abuse of children in Magdalene Laundries – JFM outraged

Mr. Cowen was responding to a series of Parliamentary Questions (copy below) tabled on behalf of Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor-advocacy group, by Mr. Michael Kennedy, T.D. (FF) [27 April 2010].

According to Mr. Cowen, the government contends "that the position of women in such laundries was not analogous with that of children in the residential institutions that were the subject of the Ryan Report."

JFM has demonstrated over the past number of months that the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health were indeed complicit in referring women and children to the Magdalene Laundries. Mr. Cowen does not contest this fact. He merely seeks to deny its implications.”

JFM refutes Mr. Cowen's stated distinction between "children in the residential institutions" and "women in [Magdalene] laundries."

There were children in the Magdalene laundries. The Department of Education acknowledged its awareness of this fact when JFM met with senior officials on 2 February 2010. The Ryan Report (Vol. 3, Chapter 18) underscores this fact (although the term 'Magdalene Laundries' is conveniently elided and replaced with 'residential laundries').

The Kennedy Report (1970), also commissioned by the Department of Education, signals the scale of this reality, stating that "the Committee is satisfied that there are at least 70 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years confined in this way who should properly be dealt with under the Reformatory Schools' system" (39).

The "girls" referred to here were put in the laundries by "parents, relatives, social workers, Welfare Officers, Clergy, or Gardaí."

These "girls," in other words, joined the other population of children in the laundries, those transferred illegally from State residential institutions.

The Taoiseach’s response signals the State’s primary concern is to limit liability with respect to anticipated claims for compensation. Mr. Cowen and his government should, of course, be focused on providing justice for women and children denied their constitutional rights.

Does Mr. Cowen believe that the State, and in particular the Department of Education, did not have a moral and Constitutional obligation to protect every child from the exploitative work conditions in the laundry institutions? Or, is it the case that the Residential Institutions Redress Act (2002) now trumps the Constitution's promise to "provide the place of the parents" (42,5), to "provide a minimum basic education" (42,3,2), and to "ensure that the strength and health of workers and the tender age of children shall not be abused" (45,4,2)?

Mr. Cowen, in his response, also states that government "Departments would be ready to help … with further enquiries as far as possible."

Justice for Magdalenes has asked the Department of Justice to produce records for women sent "On Remand" to the Sean MacDemott Street Magdalene Laundry after 1960. We have asked for details of the 29 women "On Probation" at various religious convents, including Magdalene laundries, in March 1944.

We have asked for details of the 54 women referred to Catholic Magdalene laundries by the courts between 1926 and 1963. We have requested information regarding the official policy of transferring women from state-funded mother-and-baby homes to Magdalene laundries after 1934.

And, we have asked for details regarding capitation grants paid to religious institutions by both the Departments of Health and Justice as late as 1972. To date, our "enquiries" have been met with polite acknowledgement and nothing more.

Finally, Mr. Cowen acknowledges his awareness that JFM, and other groups advocating on behalf of Magdalene survivors, have contacted the four religious congregations involved: "The Government is also conscious that the Magdalene laundries were run by a small number of religious congregations with whom it is understood Magdalene women and their representatives are in contact; it is also understood that they are in contact with the person referred to by the Deputy."

JFM has, in recent months, twice written to the four congregations involved (Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Charity, Good Shepherd Sisters, and Sisters of Our Lady of Charity) all to no avail.

We have also written to Cardinal Sean Brady, who alone has acknowledged publicly his intent to work towards "a just" solution for Magdalene survivors.

JFM’s request that the government follow-up on this important signal, and engage Cardinal Brady in discussion regarding the Magdalene laundries, has fallen on deaf ears.

As Mr. Cowen makes evident in his cryptic concluding remark, the government disclaims any involvement in seeking justice for this most marginalized community of women and children.

Contact Details: Claire McGettrick [PRO]

Mari Steed

James M. Smith

QUESTION NOS: *106 &*107
DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Taoiseach
by Deputy Michael Kennedy
for WRITTEN ANSWER on Tuesday, 27th April, 2010.


To ask the Taoiseach in view of the fact that Justice For Magdalene's has demonstrated the State's complicity in referring women to the Magdalene Laundries, will he enter into discussions with a person (details supplied) who recently asserted their intent to find a just solution for survivors of the laundries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Michael Kennedy.


To ask the Taoiseach further to reports in a newspaper (details supplied) that he has promised to look into the situation of women who had been in Magdalene Laundries, if he will clarify the position with respect to issuing a formal apology and establishing a distinct redress scheme for survivors of the laundries; if the Magdalene Laundries was discussed at the recent meeting with representatives of the religious congregations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Michael Kennedy.


Along with the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Science, the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Health and Children and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and following on from the publication last year of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report), I met separately on 15 April 2010 with representatives of religious congregations and representatives from organisations of victims of abuse in residential institutions.

The context of the meetings was the Report of the Panel set up by the Government last year to report on the adequacy of the statements of resources to be submitted by the congregations to the Panel as a basis for assessing the responses to be made by the congregations to the call made to them last year by the Dail and the Government for additional contributions by way of reparation for the abuse suffered by children in residential institutions. The Government published the Panel Report and the congregations’ responses later on 15 April, along with a statement on the matter.

The position of women who had been in Magdalene Laundries was raised by representatives of some victims’ groups. While the matter was outside the focus of the meeting, the Government side indicated in response that the position of women in such laundries was not analogous with that of children in the residential institutions that were the subject of the Ryan Report. It was noted that the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and Health and Children had each already held meetings with Magdalene women and their representatives and I made it clear that those Departments would be ready to help them with further enquiries as far as possible.

The Government is also conscious that the Magdalene laundries were run by a small number of religious congregations with whom it is understood Magdalene women and their representatives are in contact; it is also understood that they are in contact with the person referred to by the Deputy.


Spanish cardinal calls Catholic teachers to be 'witnesses of evangelization'

The prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, remarked this week that amidst the moral crisis of society, Catholic schools must be revolutionary.

He also encouraged teachers to not only educate their students, “but also be consistent witnesses of evangelization.”

According to the AVAN news agency, the cardinal warned that “the world needs a decisive change, without which it has no future,” since there is widespread moral breakdown and man has forgotten God and lost “the meaning of life.”

“It is not possible to educate a society that allows abortion,” passes laws against the family or spreads on television “a vision of man that is totally contrary to the human person,” the cardinal continued. “Nor is it possible to educate a social system that is unjust, with the rich ever more rich and the poor ever more poor.”

Cardinal Canizares also said the exaggerated number of educational systems in the country make a united vision of Spain impossible.

After noting the failure of the educational system to respond to the demands of education, the cardinal addressed Catholic teachers and reminded them they should not only teach but also be consistent witnesses of evangelization.

Catholic schools must contribute to “the synthesis between faith and reason,” without forgetting that “at the center of the Christian concept of the Catholic school is Jesus Christ and his message of salvation.”


Legion director says he was unaware of founder's double life

The General Director of the Legion of Christ, Father Alvaro Corcuera, maintained this week that he had “no idea” and “no knowledge” of the double life led by the congregation’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel. Fr. Corcuera added that though the revelations of late priest have been “painful,” the Legion must move forward and grow in virtue.

In an interview with the newspaper, “El Sol de Mexico,” Fr. Corcuera stated that the decisions made during the upcoming meeting between the apostolic visitors to the congregation and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone would be “embraced with total obedience” by the Legion.

Asked about the skepticism of some over whether or not he was aware of Fr. Maciel’s double life, Fr. Corcuera said it was “very understandable that this suspicion exists, but I can assure you I had no idea and had no knowledge of these facts. I understand this doubt, this question, exists, and that ours is a position of much responsibility.”

For the Legionaries of Christ, he continued, this entire situation “has been a particularly painful trial.” However, he continued, “I don’t think about what we have suffered, but rather about what others have suffered. Now we must look forward and not turn our eyes from the facts.”

“I also think a lot about our brother Legionaries, about so many people who have profoundly suffered from this confusion … personally, sometimes I think I don’t have the right to think about how I am doing, but rather I must think about how others are and how to alleviate the sorrows of those who have and are continuing to suffer.”

He added, “It is also a time to strengthen our trust, which is not a virtue by which you wait and see what happens, but rather a virtue that makes you realistically accept the facts with sorrow, with sadness, but moving forward, improving and bringing life back to each one of us.”

Fr. Corcuera said he has followed the example of the Pope by meeting with various victims abused by Fr. Maciel, adding that the current crisis constitutes “an opportunity through which we have to purify ourselves and adopt a humble attitude.”

“What all the victims, what all the people have suffered pains us greatly,” he continued. “We sincerely feel profound sadness. We wish to show them our closeness and support.”

He added that everyone in the congregation has been humbled and that the Legion must “carry out self-analysis, so that we might truly do what God wants us to do, what society expects of the congregation, in order to move forward and not be centered upon ourselves, but rather to simply follow the example of Christ in doing good, which is the mission we have.”


The End Of The European Church

These are obviously dark days for the Roman Catholic Church.

For over a decade, the U.S. church has been assailed by abuse charges and devastated by the resulting litigation.

The Vatican used to console itself with the belief that this was a peculiarly American crisis, but, this year, similar abuse cases have arisen all over Europe — most agonizingly in Ireland, one of the world's most faithfully Catholic countries.

Across the continent, bishops are facing demands to resign, while critics are urging Pope Benedict himself to consider standing down. Some media commentators are even asking if the Church can survive the crisis.

But most evidence suggests that the Church will endure and even enjoy a historic boom — just not in places it has flourished historically. For years, its core has been migrating away from Europe, heading southward into Africa and Latin America. Some Church observers have remarked that the Vatican is now in the wrong location: It's 2,000 miles too far north of its emerging homelands.

The recent abuse scandals will accelerate this radical shift, discrediting older European elites and opening the door to new generations of leaders who are more attuned to the needs and concerns of believers in the southern hemisphere. Literally, the Catholic world will turn fully upside down.

For centuries, the Catholic Church was unquestionably strongest in Europe. In 1900, the continent accounted for perhaps two-thirds of the Church's nearly 270 million members.

Latin America had another 70 million believers, while Africa barely appeared on the map, with about two million followers. As Anglo-French sage Hilaire Belloc proclaimed in 1920, "The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith."

Since then, and especially since the 1960s, Catholicism has been moving south. Partly, this is due to evangelism sponsored by the Church and its religious orders; new conversions, for instance, have surged in Africa. But shifting demographics have also played its part: While populations have increased modestly in Europe, they have boomed across the global south — and Catholic numbers have grown apace.

Today, the world has 900 million more Catholics than it did in 1900, but only 100 hundred million of those new additions are Europeans.

In part, European Catholicism has been declining because of a general trend toward secularization and religious indifference. Recent survey evidence, for instance, shows only half of the French claiming to belong to the Church — down from about 80 percent two decades ago.

There has also been a massive decline in practice of the faith. Particularly in Western Europe, millions of Catholics are members of the Church only in the technical sense of having been baptized; they never darken the door of a church, and don't support official Church policies on issues of morality or sexuality.

At the turn of the millennium, only around 18 percent of Catholics in Spain and 12 percent in France reported attending weekly mass; the figures for Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands ran between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Latin America, in contrast, is now by far the world's most Catholic region. Rapid population growth over the past century has boosted the official number of believers to around 460 million, and this number should rise to 600 million within two decades — comprising some 45 percent of the Church's worldwide membership.

Vatican statistics show Brazil as the world’s largest Catholic country, with 160 million believers, or around 85 percent of the population. (More reliable estimates suggest that 65 percent of Brazilians are Catholic, because of the rise of fervent Pentecostal churches. Still, the number of Catholics is huge.)

Africa, meanwhile, is the scene of a religious revolution. During the twentieth century, Christian numbers boomed across the continent, and Catholics did particularly well. In 2000, Africa had 130 million Catholics, which, as Vatican observer John Allen, Jr. points out in his book The Future Church, represented a growth rate over the century of 6,700 percent.

By 2025, there should be at least 220 million African Catholics, making up around one-sixth of the Church's worldwide membership. (I say "at least" because the African Church is likely under-counting its followers as it lacks the institutional framework to track what's happening on the ground. According to the Gallup World Poll, the number of Africans claiming to be Catholic is already pushing 200 million, which is more than 20 percent larger than any official Church figure.)

By 2050, according to projections, Africa will have far more Catholics than Europe. Indeed, projections show that, by the half-century mark, Europe will account for perhaps 15 percent of Catholics — and many of those will be immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

So, while the Catholic Church will remain a major — likely still the major — player in the world's spiritual economy, it will be a very different entity. And its transformation will only be hastened by the current abuse crisis.

Previous abuse scandals, such as those in the United States in the early 2000s, had no obvious effect on Catholic adherence in Europe. Yet the recent allegations, which hit Germany, Ireland, Belgium and other European countries, will resonate deeply on the continent, especially since charges of official negligence seem to reach to the pope himself.

The impact will be particularly strong in Western Europe, with its powerful media that are increasingly antagonistic toward the Catholic hierarchy and even the Church itself.

We can't gauge precisely what impact the crisis will have on the Church's European membership — though, according to the Forsa Institute, perhaps one-fourth of German Catholics are considering leaving the Church.

At a minimum, the crisis will likely alienate already lukewarm Catholics and marginalize the minority of devoted believers. It will also severely diminish Church finances, particularly in countries where citizens opt to devote a portion of their taxes to religious and charitable causes: Expect a heavy diversion of funds away from Catholic causes.

Media coverage of the abuse and the Vatican's mangled response will also provide ample ammunition for those who want to keep religion out of the political realm. European opponents of the Church will find it much easier to silence the Vatican's voice in future legislation concerning issues like abortion, gay marriage and adoption, or reproductive technologies.

In any of these controversies, the rhetorical conflict is easy to predict: When Church leaders cite the defense of children and their rights as their reason for backing or opposing policies, secularist critics will immediately point out that bishops and cardinals haven't always been so concerned with children's welfare. It will be a tough criticism to counter.

But the effects of the abuse crisis will be far smaller in Africa and Latin America, where religious loyalties are intimately connected with complex social and familial networks. (African Catholicism, for example, is still tied up with loyalty to family, region and ethnicity, a sacred geography and history — much like the system that existed in Europe in bygone centuries.)

The secular media also don’t enjoy the same pervasive presence in Africa and Latin America that it does in Europe, and the Church has its own powerful media voices that will defend the faith. If abuse revelations do drive some Catholics away from the Church — and perhaps to rival faiths — then those people were probably on the verge of defecting anyway. The exposes will just have provided a final push.

Indeed, as the crisis quickens the wane of Europe's Catholic influence, it will help solidify the Church's new roots in the south. Membership there will continue to burgeon, and Church's hierarchy will increasingly be paved with southern clerics.

When the time comes to choose someone to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinals, acutely aware of the effects of the abuse crisis, will probably consider more innovative international candidates, untainted by European connections.

A Latin American pope would be a likely choice. Yet, in speculating what the Church might look like in 2050, John Allen imagines an African pope who would represent the interests of his home continent on the world stage.

It is very possible that the abuse crisis will only push this scenario closer to the present day; the next time the cardinals must choose a new Vatican leader, they may ask, why not an African?

By that point, perhaps, some keen theorist may be boasting, "Africa is the Faith."

And who would dare question the statement?


Brazil: Priest charged with 8 abusing boys

A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil is facing charges he abused eight boys in cases dating back to 1995, prosecutors said Wednesday, adding to a growing list of allegations against clergy in Latin America.

Father Jose Afonso, 74, is accused of abusing altar boys between the ages of 12 and 16, Sao Paulo state prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.

Prosecutors said the reported abuses occurred this year, in 2009 and in 2001 in the city of Franca, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Sao Paulo city.

At least one case was reported in 1995 in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais.

Afonso remains free while a judge decides if he should be jailed.

Calls to the Franca diocese rang unanswered. After-hours of calls to the offices of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops were not returned.

The case is the latest to hit Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation, and Latin America as a whole.

Earlier this month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on video tape having sex with a young man, a former alter boy.

He is under house arrest while an investigation continues. Two other priests in the same archdiocese as Barbosa are also accused of abuses.

A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.

Earlier this month Chile's bishops' conference issued a statement apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a "total commitment" to prevent it in the future.

Also this month, a Mexican citizen filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court in California against former priest Nicolas Aguilar Rivera and the Roman Catholic cardinals of Mexico City and Los Angeles, claiming they moved the priest between the two nations to hide abuse allegations.

Church reaction to the controversy around the globe has angered many who think the Vatican leadership has not acted strongly enough.

Pope Benedict XVI's second-in-command outraged many this month in Chile when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse. The comments by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.

Late Tuesday, a top Vatican official said the pope may issue a strong apology for the church's handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world's clergy in June.

Cardinal William Levada, who handles the abuse cases as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.

"It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that," Levada said.

He acknowledged the Vatican was caught by surprise, even though it was well aware of the scope of scandals in the U.S. and Ireland, but he also blamed "a certain media bias" for keeping the story alive.

Benedict has come under increasing pressure to admit some form of higher responsibility on the part of the Vatican for fomenting a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to fester unchecked for decades.

Benedict has expressed sorrow and shame for the abuse, he has wept with victims and promised new measures to protect children and bring justice to pedophile priests.

But he has admitted no personal or institutional responsibility, blaming instead the abusers themselves and their bishops for mishandling cases when they arose.


Humanists welcome Catholic calls against Pope’s visit being a state visit

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed a call in the Catholic press to cancel the official State visit of the Pope to the UK this September.

The view of the leading Catholic newspaper argues that the Pope's visit should be a private, pastoral visit and not a State visit, funded by the UK taxpayer.

In the last Leader's Debate, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all disagreed with the Vatican on a number of key issues, while maintaining support for the Pope's State visit.

At a Hustings event this week, organised by the LSE and the Fawcett Society, the Parties' equality spokespeople, Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone and Theresa May, all said they welcomed the Pope’s planned official visit, and refused to answer a question asking what women's equality issues they would raise with the Pope.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, "We support those Catholics and others who are now calling for the Pope's visit to not be a state visit. As a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many UK adherents, the Pope is of course free to visit the UK. But the Holy See is a fake state, which uses its international influence for religious ends and to allow the Pope to visit us as a head of state is ludicrous."

"Whatever the nature of the Papal visit turns out to be, we and our partners will still use it as an opportunity to raise awareness of the Vatican’s global violations of human rights and human dignity."


St Gallen: A Swiss city founded by an Irish monk

It all started when an Irish monk charmed a Swiss bear in the 7th century.

The bear gathered wood for the monk and was immortalised. Gallus, the monk, established a monastery around which grew a beautiful town, a textile industry, a sausage called Olma, and a festival of the same name.

Nineteen centuries after St Gallus arrived, we joined the festival, Alpine horns boomed, the procession of cow bells tonked, and, as dancers in folk costumes flounced down the street, a float followed dispensing glasses of foaming, golden, draught beer.

We were in Switzerland's northern canton of St Gallen and in the capital of the canton, also called St Gallen.

When the procession had almost passed, we walked across the road, noosed by a sharp, spicy, aroma. Two women, one who looked like a benign aunt and a younger blonde who we later learnt was from Kosovo, deftly scooped up two sizzling, palm-sized, sausages from a grill, inserted them into packets, and handed them over along with two buns...

Olma sausages have to be slightly charred and are never served with mustard or any sauces.

They are slightly crisp outside, soft inside, featuring a delicious blend of veal and pork with — and this is what surprised us in such a northern part of Switzerland — a mixture of mace, cardamom and white pepper. We asked ourselves 'How did spices reach this distant land?' We got an interesting answer, albeit tangentially.

Gallus probably knew how to make the famed Irish linen and he recognized the shrubs that grew in St Gallen as flax. The first textiles made here were of fine linen, produced from this plant.

Textile traders from St Gallen carried their products to the far corners of the earth and an old building, identified as the Textile Bourse, was decorated with sculptures of the heads of the natives of five continents: Europe, Africa, Australia, America and Asia..

Textiles are still very much a past of the economic outreach of St Gallen. We visited their excellent Textile Museum. It traces the history of fabrics from those found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and Coptic burial sites through the whole range of weaves and embroidery to state-of-the-art textures burnt out by computer-controlled lasers.

The smug prosperity of the traders of St Gallen became obvious to us when we strolled through Gallenplatz: The town square. Here the houses ranged from half-timbered ones with conical roofs like the settings of a fairy tales, to those with the high-status oriel windows thrusting out from the facades so that their owner could look down — quite literally — on the common people walking below!

We then strolled across to the fascinating Abbey Library. This has now been declared a part of World Heritage by UNESCO and draws 100,000 visitors every year.

Interestingly, people entering the library have to wear cloth overshoes to protect the ancient floors.

Apart from books and manuscripts, the library also has exhibits donated by its patrons from all over the world including the beautiful mummy of an 19-year old Egyptian.

A Greek inscription above the baroque doorway leading to the Library expresses the purpose of this great collection. It rightly claims that that library is a Sanctorium for the Soul. The Library was built up and nurtured by the Abbot of the monastery and the learned monks of the Benedictine order.

In the 16th century however, Europe was riven by its own, tumultuous, Great Cultural Revolution: the Reformation.

The Monastery was closed by religious reformers who got the collective title of Protestants because they had protested against some practices of the Catholic Church.

The palace of the Abbot became the seat of the secular civic administration. The authority of the Church and State were separated.

The Library, however, continued under the ownership and control of the Catholics, as it is today.

The most resplendent of all the buildings in St Gallen, naturally, is the Cathedral of St Gallus and Otmar. It is difficult to choose any single feature in this towering edifice.

Naturally, there's a statue of a towering Gallus with a small, rather docile, bear carrying a log. But this is the very least of its treasures.

Artists and artisans have vied with each other to give their very best to this imposing place of worship. The domed ceilings are richly painted; even the furniture of the area where the choir sits has been intricately and painstakingly carved.

Then there is stucco plaster work and a complex wrought-iron grille, highlighted in gold, separating the altar from the pews of the congregation.

Amid all this ornate decoration hangs an old, and rather battered, iron bell to one side of the altar.

Metallurgical tests have established that it has the same composition as bells made in Ireland in the 7th century.

Like St Gallen and his bear, old ties are what make this place special!


Pope receives copy of complete English translation of Roman Missal

After nine years of work involving Vatican officials, English-speaking bishops around the world and hundreds of consultants, Pope Benedict XVI received a complete version of the English translation of the Roman Missal.

The white-bound, gold-edged missal, which contains all of the prayers used at Mass, was given to the pope during a luncheon April 28 with members of the Vox Clara Committee, an international group of bishops who advise the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments about English liturgical translations.

"Soon the fruits of your labors will be made available to English-speaking congregations everywhere," the pope told the Vox Clara members.

"Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly 40 years of continuous use of the previous translations," the pope said, which is why "the change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity."

The pope thanked the Vox Clara members and all those who contributed to the translation process because "through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people."

The new English-language Missal is a translation of the Latin edition officially promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and released in 2002.

The copy given to the pope includes the "recognitio," or approval for use, dated March 25, 2010, and signed by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the worship congregation, and U.S. Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, congregation secretary.

Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that while the overall text has been approved for use, editions with specific adaptations for each country are pending. He said he expected the "recognitio" for the U.S. version before the end of May.

While Catholics definitely will notice the new translation, Cardinal George said, the change will be "far less dramatic than going from Latin to English was."

"When they see what a beautiful text it is, many people will welcome it," the cardinal said April 29. Some people, for a variety of reasons, will not like the translation, he said, "but in the end it will be the text the church uses for prayer."

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, a member of Vox Clara, told CNS that members expect bishops' conferences in most English-speaking countries to begin using the new translation starting in Advent 2011.

After the Vox Clara meeting in January, the archbishop said, members left Rome wondering if it would be finished in time for the April meeting.

The congregation and a group of volunteers working with Msgr. James P. Moroney, former executive director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "made sure that every line was checked and rechecked," he said.

Before a copy was presented to the pope April 28, the Vox Clara members were briefed on "how they brought the final version together -- how the final recensions were made, the copy editing and the consultation with different people on how it sounded," he said.

Because the missal was translated in parts and approved in sections by the various bishops' conferences, some prayers that are used only occasionally had been translated slightly differently in different parts of the missal.

The congregation determined which of the translations to use consistently, the archbishop said.

"While we may have had some reservations when we first started the project -- you know, 'I'd rather this than that' -- we began to see that the thing really came together and was a wonderful work of collaboration among the different countries of the world," Archbishop Prendergast said.

"I think we have a majestic, reverent text that is going to be a great contribution to the church," he said.

The Latin missal text was translated into English by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a body established by English-speaking bishops' conferences.

The conferences voted on each text and requested some specific wording for use in their own countries.

The texts approved by the bishops' conferences were forwarded to the Vatican for approval.

The congregation examined the texts with input from the members of the Vox Clara Committee.


Benedict XVI's pontificate shows his sensitive pastoral heart, Cardinal George writes

Reflecting on the five-year pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Cardinal Francis George wrote in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on Wednesday that joy and love are at the foundation of his teachings and ministry.

The American cardinal also praised the Pope's efforts to combat clerical sexual abuse and his efforts to reach out to victims.

April 19 marked the fifth year since the election of Pope Benedict XVI as the Successor of Peter.

Cardinal George referenced the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger in an interview given to Peter Seewald, for the book "God and the World," during which he said, "If we look at Christ, he is all sympathy and this makes him precious to us. Being sympathetic, being vulnerable, is part of being Christian. One must learn to accept injuries, to live with wounds and in the end to find therein a deeper healing."

All of the Pope's audiences, addresses and encyclicals, have joy and love at the foundation of his teachings, observed the cardinal, who said that he calls us to bring together "all aspects of human life in the embrace of divine love."

These teachings can be found in the way the Pope has lived his pontificate thus far, he continued. "Recognized at the moment of his election as an established scholar, prolific writer and theologian of great shrewdness, in these five years Benedict XVI has demonstrated to the world (that he has) a sensitive pastoral heart ..."

He has been able to reach the people, young and old, during his 14 apostolic journeys abroad and 17 trips within Italy, Cardinal George stated, noting his visits also with Muslims, Jews, American presidents and victims of sexual abuse.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago also commented on Pope Benedict's efforts to reach out to those who have been abused by priests, saying that the Pope has offered himself in the "model of the compassion of Christ" and that victims "have perceived his sorrow for their suffering."

The cardinal went on to underline that the Pope has long studied the problem of abuse and has "made decisive steps to confront both the bureaucratic slowness that aggravated the injuries and the culture of permissiveness that allowed these crimes to take place."

He praised Benedict XVI for facing the challenge of encouraging "many thousands of priests who feel betrayed by the sins of their brothers" and addressing "millions of Catholics disgusted by the fact that such crimes take place in the Church they love."

Citing other examples of the Pope's evangelization in the modern world, he pointed the Holy Father's calls for the unity of Christians and his message that love is stronger than death or desperation.

In all his efforts as the Successor of St. Peter, the cardinals support their leader, Cardinal George added. Those who elected him,"count on his strength, give thanks to God for his teaching and rejoice because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, corrects our weaknesses, heals the Church and unites it to its ever compassionate Lord," he added.

Celebrations for the Pope's five years and his recent birthday will be capped off with a concert this Thursday evening, organized by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

An Italian youth orchestra will play a series of three symphonies at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican for the occassion.


Catholic group starts fund to honor slain religious sister

A Catholic organization recently announced a fund honoring the slain Sister Marguerite Bartz, who was murdered in New Mexico last year.

The Catholic Church Extension society said on Wednesday that they have initiated a fund in the late sister's name in order to promote women religious communities throughout the U.S.

Adding to a preexisting fund, the group will pledge over $1.5 million to support the work of sisters in 33 dioceses across the country.

On Halloween night in 2009, Sister Bartz was murdered during a robbery in her home on the Navajo Reservation in Gallup, New Mexico.

Nineteen year-old Reehahlio Carroll was charged shortly after with beating the sister to death after breaking into her home and searching for valuables.

“Sr. Marguerite’s life is an invitation to all of us to support the work of selfless women religious dedicated to doing God’s work in the world,” said Father Wall, president of Catholic Extension.

“So many of us have wonderful memories of a sister who was a favorite teacher, a devoted nurse or community leader. This fund is for the women who are following in their footsteps.”

Contributions to the fund will be used in the U.S. mission dioceses, said the society, which are geographic regions where the needs are most pressing.

“Women religious have been and continue to be instrumental in developing innovative ways to serve the poor while nurturing faith – by their deep commitment to spreading God’s word and Christ’s presence,” added Joseph Boland, grants director for Catholic Extension.

“While we have always financially supported their work and celebrated their remarkable selflessness, we now invite the public to contribute to a fund that will honor a beloved sister by continuing her legacy.”

For more information on the Sister Marguerite Bartz Fund, please visit:


Armenian Catholic patriarch hopes for internal renewal from Middle East Synod

Speaking with CNA after the celebration of Mass in the presence of the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin on Monday, the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church reflected on the value of the linen to the faith and expressed his hope for internal renewal from the upcoming Synod of Middle Eastern bishops.

After having taken part in meetings in Rome to prepare for October's Special Synod for the Middle East, Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX went on pilgrimage to Turin with 12 others.

While at the Cathedral in Turin, the patriarch took a moment to speak with CNA.

Although he did not deliver a homily during the Mass, he told CNA afterward that the Shroud represents a "very eloquent testimony on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

"If one has faith, just a little faith," said the head of Armenian Catholics, "he already believes it all, even though the Church still hasn't pronounced on it yet."

It is his hope, the patriarch said, "that the image of the Holy Shroud might always fortify and help us in the difficult moments of our lives to never lose the orientation that Jesus Christ has given us, which is to love our enemies, an impossible thing humanly but possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit."

Speaking about the preparations for the Synod of Middle Eastern Bishops, set to take place next October in Rome, the patriarch revealed that the third round of preparatory meetings was held from April 23-24 at the Holy See.

Explaining the scope of the synod in his own words, he said that it has "three windows": an “internal renewal" of the communion between the Catholic Churches, improving communion with non-Catholic Churches such as the Orthodox and Protestant Churches and providing "another opening" to the non-Christian world, particularly to the Islamic and Jewish faiths.

The Armenian Catholic patriarch said that he is eagerly anticipating the release of the synod's working document by Pope Benedict on June 5 in Cyprus. This document, he told CNA, was prepared last Friday and Saturday during meetings between patriarchs in the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

Reflecting on the individual expectations that the Armenian Church has for the synod, he explained that it seeks that same objectives as the other Churches involved.

"We hope for an internal renewal, this is the most important (aspect). If there is no internal renewal, they are only beautiful words that don't give objective fruit for our life, for our Church."

He also said he hopes that through the work of the Holy Spirit, other Christian Churches would be guided to full communion with the Holy See.

The Armenian Catholic Church, centered in Beirut, Lebanon, has a presence all over the world.

In the U.S. it has eight parishes that serve approximately 25,000 faithful.


Austrian group records jump in church abuse claims

An Austrian group says 260 people have called its hot line since March 23 to report incidents of alleged abuse by clergy or employees of institutions run by the Catholic church.

The Platform Of Those Affected By Church Violence says 70 percent of the callers were men and 30 percent were women.

It says 58 percent of male callers and 40 percent of female callers reported sexual abuse, with the rest reporting physical or verbal abuse.

The group says it's tough to quantify the actual number of incidents since most callers _ aged 54 on average _ often reported being repeatedly abused during their childhood.

The group released the statistics Thursday after calling for a state-run commission to probe the alleged abuse during a closed-door meeting with Austrian parliamentarians.


French church recruits young priests via Facebook

As he sat in Church last Sunday afternoon, Guillaume Humblot found himself troubled by the declining number of Catholic priests in France, and asked himself if he was ready to join the cloth.

"There are almost none left," the 31-year-old Humblot said.

On Facebook, Humblot discovered a forum dedicated to people who, like him, are considering the priesthood.

The page was part of a campaign, launched by the Catholic Church this month, to attract young people to the priesthood following decades of dwindling ordainments — and amid waves of sexual abuse allegations that have darkened the reputation of the Catholic priest.

There are around 24,000 priests in France today, down from 42,000 in 1975. The number of Catholics entering the diocese has declined as well, from 116 ordainments in 1999 to 89 in 2009.

"There is a crisis in vocation," said French priest and family therapist Stephane Joulain. "We don't have sufficient numbers to renew the number of priests available for ministry today."

"Pourquoi Pas Moi?" or "Why Not Me?" is the slogan for the recruitment campaign — which today may prove a tough question for the Church to answer.

The €250,000 campaign was launched nationwide on April 20 and will last through May 5. Seventy-thousand postcards depicting a Catholic priest's outfit with a button reading "Jesus is my Boss," pinned to the lapel and the slogan "Why not?" written underneath will be distributed to 600 points throughout France, including restaurants, bars and movie theaters.

A Facebook page created April 21 garnered over 1,200 fans within one week.

From Germany to the United States to Brazil, hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months to say they were abused by Catholic priests, plunging the church into a worldwide crisis that has reached Pope Benedict XVI.

Many churchgoers say Vatican leadership has not reacted strongly enough.

French priests have not escaped the sexual abuse allegations, although complaints in France are less numerous than in countries such as Ireland, the United States and Germany.

"We must avoid stigmatizing priests," said Eric Poinsot, one of the priests coordinating the campaign. "All priests are not pedophiles and we don't want to be identified that way. We would rather work to present the priest as ... someone who believes in happiness, who searches to communicate."

While 64 percent of the French population, or 41.6 million of the country's 65 million inhabitants, identifies itself as Catholic, only a little more than 2 million attend church each week, said Jacques Carton, a representative from the Bishops Conference in France.

The current advertising campaign hopes to revitalize the Church's image in French society — but its main goal is to encourage young men to consider the priesthood.

"The priest is a disappearing presence in French society today," said Frederic Fonfroide de Lafon, director of the communications company Bayard Service, which the Church hired to run its campaign. "Often people think of him as a man a bit apart. I wanted to show that he is a man that is a part of society."

But young people like Humblot are still torn.

"I'm asking myself the question," he said. "It's a calling that interests me, but today I am unable to tell you if I am ready to go down that path."

Humblot, who enjoys karate and going to movies and is from the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, is not sure if he is ready to completely change his lifestyle. Most difficult for him to accept is the Catholic priest's commitment to celibacy.

"I understand celibacy," Humblot said. "It's not something I question, even if it's a difficult choice."

The vow of celibacy is not the only difficult sell the Catholic Church faces in its efforts to attract young priests.

"Without a doubt, celibacy is an obstacle for the young today because it's a radical commitment," Poinsot said. "It's also difficult for a young person to envision being a priest forever, especially in a society where people have many careers during their lifetime. The financial question is also difficult. The French priest does not make a lot of money."

Poinsot said that since the campaign launched last week, he's been receiving more than 100 emails a day in response, nearly all positive.

The number of Catholic priests in Europe and the United States was in decline well before the recent sex abuse scandals. Ordainments are increasing globally, however, in large part thanks to Asia and Africa. Churches around Europe have increasingly brought in young priests from developing countries.

It's common to see an Italian congregation straining to understand the Sunday sermon because it's delivered in heavily accented Italian by young clerics from Brazil, Mozambique, the Philippines and other countries where seminaries still represent a way to get an advanced education and earn a respectable living. The priest who delivered Mass Sunday at Humblot's church in Boulogne-Billancourt was African.

European priests are also aging. The average age of an Italian priest in 2003 was 60, with one of every eight priests 80 years or over, according to a study by a lay Italian think tank, the Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli, for the Italian bishops conference, found.

While he knows the Catholic church wants him, Humblot, an editorial assistant, said he will take his time to make sure he's ready for such a lifestyle change.

"I already have a professional life," he said. "I'm already settled in my life. I have hobbies, I like to see my friends. It's not easy to completely change your life like this."


Priest Murdered Near Mumbai

A priest was killed late last night in Baboola, one kilometer from the house of the bishop of Vasai, an ancient town near Mumbai (Maharashtra).

The motive for the murder is unknown.

The priest, fr. Peter Bombacha, was about to turn 74 years old and was loved and respected by all.

Monsignor Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai, arrived on the scene of the crime this morning.

Shocked and saddened at the sight of the slain priest, he told AsiaNews: "Fr. Peter was a priest full of faith, serving the Church and the people without discrimination of caste or creed, he forgot himself to serve the most poor and abandoned.

"When a man answers the call - he added - his life belongs completely to God and the people .... Even in a death, as tragic and painful as that of Fr Peter, a priest belongs to God ... His life and his death will be fruitful for the Church and for India."


Most people no longer trust church, Government or banks

PUBLIC TRUST in the Catholic Church, the State and banks has plummeted as a result of recent scandals and the recession, according to new research.

A majority of people do not trust the Government, the Church or the banks.

Respect for the media has also fallen, with almost six out of 10 respondents to the survey saying they did not “really” or “at all” trust it to be honest and fair.

The research was commissioned by the advertising agency Chemistry and carried out by the market research company Amárach in February with a sample of 850 adults over a 10-day period.

The impact of the Ryan and Murphy reports could be seen in a sharp rise in the level of distrust in the church. The number of people who did not trust the church “at all” rose from 6 per cent in 2001 to nearly a third (32 per cent) this year.

A further 21 per cent said they did “not really” trust the church this year, compared to 11 per cent in 2001.

Those who trusted the church “a great deal” fell from 18 per cent in 2001 to 4 per cent this year.

The erosion of trust in the Government was almost as dramatic with nearly half the public (44 per cent) saying they did not trust it to be honest and fair “at all” compared to 30 per cent in 2004, and 9 per cent in 2001.

The number of people who did not trust the banks at all was up from 9 per cent at the height of the boom in 2006 to 41 per cent this year, but the survey was carried out in February before the full extent of the liabilities heaped on taxpayers was evident.

Some 10 per cent of people said they trusted the banks “mostly” or “a great deal” this year compared to 38 per cent in 2006.

For the first time since trust levels were tracked in 2001, a majority of the public said they no longer trusted the media. The number of those distrusting the media has tripled from 20 per cent in 2001 to 59 per cent this year.

The number of people who did not really trust supermarkets has more than trebled from 6 per cent in 2001 to 19 per cent this year and those who do not trust them at all has increased from 2 per cent to 8 per cent in the same time frame.

There was a mixed performance for the health service and the legal system in the figures, which were first revealed at the 2020 conference in Croke Park on Tuesday.

Those who distrusted the health service rose from 19 per cent in 2001 to 41 per cent in 2010.

Distrust of the legal profession rose from 18 per cent in 2001 to 31 per cent in 2004 and stood at 29 per cent this year. Any gains for lawyers in this respect was mitigated by a drop in the number of people who trusted their profession “a great deal” or “mostly”.

Trust in the Garda remained fairly static between 2001 and 2010.

Chemistry director of strategy Carolyn Odgers said the lack of trust was compounded by the public’s frustration that so many of those who had caused the breakdown of trust were still in charge.

“We are very angry and very frustrated and don’t trust anybody anymore. This anger is part of the purging of the past, but the purging is slowed by the fact that we can’t get rid of the people who don’t trust,” she said.

“We seem to be stuck with so many of those who caused these problems in the first place. While they are still there we cannot restore trust,” she said.

Ms Odgers said the decline in trust in State agencies which did not directly cause the recession showed that the breakdown in trust can have a contagion effect across society and can also affect companies.

Last autumn Chemistry carried out research which asked the public who they trusted. About 70 per cent of them said they preferred to trust in themselves rather than any institution.


Saints' relics are not magic wands, says Cardinal

IN his first public appearance since he became ill the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has hit out at sceptics who liken relics of saints to "magic wands".

The cardinal was speaking at a Mass yesterday in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, to welcome the relics of a 19th century French saint, renowned for his zeal in hearing confessions.

Although the cardinal is not yet back at his desk, his spokesman told the Irish Independent last night he wanted to celebrate the Mass at which the relics of St John Vianney were displayed for veneration.

Better known as the Curé of Ars, St John Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests. Last month the Pope called for a revitalisation of the priesthood in Ireland through the intercession of the Curé of Ars.

In his homily Cardinal Brady personally endorsed the Pontiff's hopes of a faith revival in Ireland through the practice of confession inspired by St John Vianney.

But the cardinal recognised the "Sacrament of Reconciliation is in crisis".

He also acknowledged people were sceptical about devotion to the relics of the saints. "They think we treat them as if they were a magic wand," said Cardinal Brady.

But he insisted Catholics were devoted to relics because they reminded them "the saints got their heroic strength and ability to love not from themselves but from the merits of Christ, our one and only Saviour."


My religion was ‘elephant in room’ at BBC, claims Quinn

The Irish Catholic identity of a BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter was the "elephant in the room" in discussions with senior colleagues, an industrial tribunal was told.

Co Tyrone man Jerome Quinn claims he was unfairly dismissed by BBC Northern Ireland and discriminated against because he was Irish and Catholic.

He was sacked by the BBC — where he had been the self-styled face of the GAA — in March last year after he was found to be posting online comments criticising the broadcaster’s coverage of Gaelic games.

The journalist claims coverage of Gaelic games by BBC Northern Ireland and Radio Ulster had been scaled back and his role diminished when a new head of sport, Shane Glynn, took over around 2005.

The effect of the scaling-back was insulting to people “in the same group” as him in the sports department, Mr Quinn said.

The tribunal heard that in 2007 and 2008 Mr Quinn had informal meetings with four senior colleagues to discuss his concerns about his role.

But under cross-examination by Tariq Sadiq, acting for the BBC on the third day of the industrial tribunal yesterday, Mr Quinn said that he did not raise allegations of discrimination in those meetings.

He said: “To me it was the elephant in the room.

“It was the undercurrent, but to me it was obviously the area we were looking at, but I didn’t want to mention it.

“I thought if I mentioned that, it would have gotten round the building.

“It would have been even more detrimental.”

As part of the claim process Mr Quinn lodged questionnaires at the BBC but Mr Sadiq said the allegations in the questionnaire were personal and did not back up a claim of indirect discrimination.

The barrister said: “It’s all about me, me, me, isn’t it, Mr Quinn? You refer to ‘me’ on three occasions.

“A lot of it is about me but the answers I was seeking would have been relevant to Irish Catholics,” Mr Quinn said.

In his witness statement, Mr Quinn said: “I appealed to Mr Glynn to rethink his constant downplaying of GAA, which was insulting as well as divisive.

“There was the unhappiness of the GAA at how (news programme) Newsline was enjoying putting the boot into the GAA whenever there was a negative GAA story.

“They cut back their Sunday radio coverage... the institution of Sunday Sports Sound was wiped from the airwaves.”

The tribunal is expected to last three weeks.


Calls to adult abuse counselling service surges by 37%

CALLS to a vital adult counselling service for people abused as children surged by 37% in the aftermath of the Ryan and Murphy reports.

Figures released by the HSE-funded Connect service show that in the months following the devastating findings of the clerical abuse investigations, thousands of people affected by the crisis contacted the confidential help line.

According to the group, which acts as an out-of-hours support and counselling service for adults who were abused as children, 4,630 people used the helpline in 2007.

However, just two years later this figure had reached 8,264 – almost twice the 2007 total and 37% higher than the figure for 2008.

Reacting to the surge in calls, almost half of which were from Dublin, Cork and Galway, Connect chief executive Ann Richardson said the increase was "clearly linked" to the findings of the Ryan and Murphy reports.

"It is important that people in all areas know professional support is available to help them. People may feel a huge sense of relief from talking to someone about their experience.

"Once people make contact with Connect, they can take part in counselling for a period of time which may help them to take better control of their lives," she said.

Despite the increase in calls, Ms Richardson said the group continued to be concerned about the low number of men in rural, isolated areas who are availing of the service.

In 2009, just under one in three people who contacted Connect were male, the vast majority of whom lived in urban communities.

* The Connect service is available Wednesday to Sunday from 6pm to 10pm and includes services for partners or relatives of people who were abused as children.

Connect can be contacted on 1800 477 477 or at

Callers from Britain or Northern Ireland can contact the service on 00800 4774 7777.


Alarming rise in suicide level ‘a national disaster’

THE alarming level of suicide has been described as "a national disaster", with figures showing the number who took their lives last year to be the highest in a decade.

Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention Geoff Day said the effects of the recession would see the number of suicides exceed 500,– a situation that he described as "a disaster".

"The provisional figures for last year, the first three-quarters of last year, showed a 26% increase on the previous similar three-quarters of the previous year. If you extrapolate that and do the sums that brings you back past 500. That is a serious problem."

He said there has been a "new cohort" of people affected by mental health problems as a result of the recession.

"It is an older age group, 30- to 50-year-olds, guys who have always been in the labour market, always been well-off, have relationships and families and now all of a sudden the impact of the recession has damaged relationships, damaged the finances. Some of them unfortunately take their own lives."

He said the NOSP was working with various groups, including IBEC, MABS and Fás, to get the message of mental health awareness out to people, as well as through employers.

Last year, the NOSP received an extra one-off allocation which went towards a campaign targeted at young people. An accompanying website has received 20,000 hits, with the average visit lasting three minutes.

Minister with Responsibility for Mental Health John Moloney said he planned a series of town hall meetings around the country to increase awareness of mental health issues.

The minister said the recently launched See Change campaign would help spearhead a fresh approach to mental health issues, including the destigmatising of mental illness.


Prayer saves schoolchildren’s lives

A SCHOOL car park that was the scene of a horrifying accident yesterday afternoon would have been full of children returning home had they not been kept back by teachers – to say a prayer.

Parents of children attending Cregmore national school, about 15km from Galway city, were breathing a huge sigh of relief last night after an articulated truck smashed into almost a dozen cars as they waited to collect their children.

Remarkably, just five people were injured, none of them seriously.

At around 1.40pm yesterday the truck crashed into a car, jack-knifed, crashed through the school wall and smashed into 11 cars, most of which were complete write-offs.

Children from the infant classes were already lined up at the front door of the school ready to go to the collection point.

Last night it emerged they may have come out of school earlier had they not been kept back to say a prayer that an impending planning decision would be in favour of the school getting the green light to build a new hall.

The school is anxiously waiting for a decision by An Bord Pleanála in respect of an application to build a school hall and the prayer service was led by local parish priest Fr Des Walshe.

The accident happened when the truck collided with a car at a crossroads, just yards from the school.

As the truck driver tried desperately to bring his vehicle under control, it careered across the road and towards a low wall in front of a green strip outside the front of the school.

Principal of the 222-pupil coed school Joe Kennelly said he could not believe what he was seeing as the incident unfolded.

"I’m not overly religious, but I certainly believe that prayer saved us here.

"Never in my life have I seen anything like this. It was carnage, like a scene from Beirut and yes, it was that bad."

In all, five people were taken to hospital, including a parent, grandparent, a neighbour who was collecting a friend’s child and two children.

All were said to be in a stable condition at Galway University Hospital last night and their injuries are not believed to be serious.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catholics in Cyprus full of expectation for Pope’s visit

In preparation for the Pope’s apostolic visit to Cyprus this June, the Cypriot communications team for the visit has launched a new website to both prepare for the visit and report on it as it happens.

The Pope’s journey will take place from June 4-6.

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cyprus will be the first official papal visit to the island, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.

The Italian bishops' news agency SIR reports that the visit is being highly anticipated within the Catholic community.

There are between 7,000 and 13,000 Roman Catholics on the island and about 1,000 Maronite Catholics.

The website dedicated to the visit,, is a partner to that of the Maronite Eparchy of Cyprus.

On the site, viewers can learn about entry requirements, the languages spoken in Cyprus, the local currency, transportation and the medical system.

Greek and Turkish are the predominant languages on the island, though English is spoken widely and French and German are readily spoken by those within the tourist industry.

Statistics on the local Catholic community, as well as biographical information on the Pope are also available.

“The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cyprus will be a great opportunity to promote human and Christian principles and values, based on freedom, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace,” declares the site’s welcome page.


Vatican: Pope may apologize for abuse by priests

Pope Benedict XVI may issue a mea culpa for the church's handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world's clergy in June, the Vatican official in charge of handling abuse cases said.

Cardinal William Levada also said he intended to hold up the U.S. policy dealing with abuse as a model for bishops around the word.

Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast late Tuesday on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.

"It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that," Levada said. He acknowledged that the Vatican was caught by surprise, even though it was well aware of the scope of the U.S. and Irish crises, and blamed "a certain media bias" for keeping the story alive.

As the scandal has raged around the Vatican, Benedict has come under increasing pressure to admit some form of higher responsibility on the part of the Vatican for fomenting a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to fester unchecked for decades.

Benedict has expressed his sorrow and shame for the abuse, he has wept with victims and promised new measures to protect children and bring justice to pedophile priests.

But he has admitted no personal or institutional responsibility, blaming instead the abusers themselves and their bishops for mishandling cases when they arose.

Italian news reports this week suggested Benedict would use the June 9-11 meeting of the world's priests at the Vatican to issue some form of apology.

The meeting was initially called to simply mark the end of the Vatican's Year of the Priest.

A few weeks ago, as Benedict came under fire in the abuse scandal, the meeting's focus shifted and its organizers signaled it would instead be a giant pep rally to show solidarity with the besieged pontiff.

Now, it appears it will be also be a forum for Benedict to make a strong statement apologizing for abuse. Asked about the reports that a papal mea culpa would be issued, Levada said: "Whether he is going to do that or not we'll have to wait and see, but I wouldn't be surprised."

Levada was more forthcoming about his intention to hold up the U.S. abuse norms as a model for bishops conferences around the world.

The U.S. norms bar credibly accused priests from any public church work while claims against them are under investigation. Diocesan review boards, comprised mostly of lay people, help bishops oversee cases. Clergy found guilty are permanently barred from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.

The U.S. policy does not specifically order all bishops to notify civil authorities when claims are made. Instead it instructs bishops to comply with state laws for reporting abuse, and to cooperate with authorities. All dioceses were also instructed to advise victims of their right to contact authorities themselves.

It requires dioceses to maintain "safe environment" programs to educate children, parents and priests to keep children safe and prevent abuse.

Levada called the norms a "real success story" that should be a model for others — bishops as well as Boy Scouts and public schools.

"I will look forward to helping my brother bishops around the world see what can be done if you take good concrete steps, put things out on the table, make sure that you've got a program to educate your priests and screen for any problem areas as you are admitting priest and have a good program for safe environment," he said.

"I think that's happened in the United States and it should be something that can be done throughout the church."

Many bishops conferences have norms on the books already; many have said they planned to revise them in the wake of the scandal.

Officially speaking, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says no European bishops conference has asked them for advice; with Levada in Rome, however, that may not come as a surprise.

Even with a Vatican-approved policy on the books, advocates for victims and church leaders disagree over how closely the U.S. policy has been followed.

And even with all the reforms, the American church is still paying the price for the problem.

American dioceses have paid more than $2.7 billion for settlements and other costs since 1950, according to tallies by the bishops and news reports.


Vatican prosecutor denies inaction on accused priest

The Vatican's top prosecutor for sexual crimes against children on Wednesday rejected accusations he did not do enough to stop a priest accused of child abuse on the Vatican's doorstep.

La Caramella Buona, the organization that brought accusations against the priest, did not give Monsignor Charles Scicluna enough information to start an investigation, he told CNN.

"Caramella Buona had all the information," he said. "Their refusal to share the information with me puts the onus on them.

"By the end of the meeting with Caramella Buona in 2007 I was left with no real information I could act on," he said. "I did not have one single allegation I could refer to the bishop."

La Caramella Buona, an anti-pedophilia organization, had removed the names of the accusers from paperwork they showed Scicluna, he said, so he was left with no recourse but to advise them to go to the police.

The priest in question, the Rev. Ruggero Conti, was arrested in 2008 and testified Tuesday.

"I am not a monster. I am innocent," Conti said in court.

Conti is accused of molesting seven young boys at the Nativita di Santa Maria Santissima parish in Rome. He faces charges of committing sexual violence and prostitution.

Two alleged victims told police that Conti masturbated them and forced them to perform oral sex on him in his home, where he often invited them to dinner and to watch movies, according to court documents.

La Caramella Buona says Conti's superiors knew of allegations against him as early as 2006 but did not do enough to stop him.

Prosecutors say they will call Conti's bishop, Monsignor Gino Reali, to testify. Reali was interrogated by police as part of their investigation into Conti, the activists say.

Putting a bishop on the stand in Rome, the capital of deeply Catholic Italy, would be potentially explosive, particularly against the background of a Europe-wide scandal.

The Catholic Church has been rocked this year by allegations of child abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, following similar accusations in the United States in the past decade.

A damning Irish government-backed report last year said the Dublin Archdiocese had systematically covered up the allegations.

Pope Benedict XVI met this month with a group of men in Malta who say they were abused. He prayed and cried with them.

He has repeatedly insisted the church will do everything in its power to prevent child abuse.

But the trial taking place on his doorstep may undercut such assurances, especially since the alleged abuse of boys took place well after the scandal came to light in the United States.

Conti, a former adviser to the mayor of Rome, was arrested in June 2008, more than a year after La Caramella Buona brought accusations against him to Catholic Church officials.

Roberto Mirabile, the president of the organization, said a priest warned his group about Conti in the spring of 2007.

The group met with the alleged victims and their families, Mirabile told reporters on Friday.

Mirabile himself went to top Vatican officials, including the Scicluna, he said.

Scicluna said there was no Vatican record of complaints about Conti and advised him to go to the police with his concerns, Mirabile said.

Mirabile accused Scicluna of "washing his hands" of the matter.

La Caramella Buona officials went to the police, who launched an investigation in November 2007.

Conti was arrested as he prepared to go to World Youth Day in Australia in June 2008. Police believe he continued abusing children until March 2008, Mirabile said.

Conti's superior, Bishop Reali, told police in December 2008 he knew of vague accusations against the priest two years before he was arrested but did not take action, according to court documents.

Nino Marazzita, a lawyer for La Caramella Buona, provided CNN with what he said were transcripts of the prosecutor's interrogation of the bishop.

"You know that there are so many 'rumors,'" Reali told investigators, according to the lawyer. "And I can't run after each one of them."

Conti accused La Caramella Buona of being ideologically opposed to him in his testimony Tuesday. The group denies it.

Reali has not spoken publicly about the case since the day Conti was arrested.

His diocese issued a statement then saying Reali had "learned the news with incredulity," had "full trust in the investigating magistrates" and said "each person has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty."