Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Novena for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. In honor of your Assumption into heaven I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).

When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.

Feast Of St Aidan Of Lindisfarne

Aidan of Lindisfarne, born in Ireland, may have studied under St. Senan before becoming a monk at Iona.

At the request of King Oswald of Northumbria, Aidan went to Lindisfarne as bishop and was known throughout the kingdom for his knowledge of the Bible, his learning, his eloquent preaching, his holiness, his distaste for pomp, his kindness to the poor, and the miracles attributed to him.

He founded a monastery at Lindisfarne that became known as the English Iona and was a center of learning and missionary activity for all of northern England.

He died in 651 at the royal castle at Bamburgh.

Feminist voice emerges in Vatican paper

A piece in the weekend edition of L’Osservatore Romano on the female role in Catholic theology is fascinating - both for its content and its venue in a semi-official Vatican organ.

The author is Lucetta Scaraffia, who has in effect emerged as L’Osservatore’s in-house feminist.

It’s generally a mistake to think that pieces that appear in L’Osservatore necessarily represent what “the Vatican” thinks.

It’s more accurate to say they represent what some in the Vatican may be thinking, but there’s rarely any direct cause-and-effect relationship between a piece in L’Osservatore and an eventual policy choice in the Holy See.

That said, Scaraffia has been producing fascinating pieces for the Vatican newspaper. Back in March she opined that greater participation of women in decision-making in the church would have “ripped the veil of masculine secrecy” that covered the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

More recently, she asserted that post-Vatican II acceptance of altar girls means “the end of any attribution of impurity” to the female sex.

This time, Scaraffia asserts in a front-page essay that women too often are consigned to “subordinate roles” in the church, citing a recent study of ecclesiastical schools in Italy which found that women represent “just over ten percent of all theology professors, with very few teaching strictly theological disciplines.”

“Women are basically excluded from important sectors of theological research, such as liturgy and pastoral theology,” Scaraffia writes, “while they are attaining a bit of space in theological anthropology and spiritual theology.”

What Scaraffia is describing, of course, is the situation in pontifical institutions in Rome such as the Salesianum and the Lateran, and other ecclesiastical institutions in Italy.

The extent to which it applies to theology faculties in other parts of the world, including the United States, varies from place to place.


Newry Prior does best to facilitate weddings in historic chapel

The Prior of a famous Newry Abbey, which is one of the most popular wedding venues in Northern Ireland, has claimed that he is doing his best to facilitate weddings at the local Dominican Abbey despite extensive renovations.

Speaking this week Fr Gerard Fearon claimed that while some couples are disappointed that building renovations are going on at the Abbey, which was built in 1875, most decide to have their wedding ceremony there.

Speaking to the Newry Democrat he said, “It is a listed building, it's a heritage building, so anything that needs to be done to it must be done according to certain specifications and only certain specialist contractors can be approved to carry out the work.”

He added, “The tower on the chapel needs work. The tower is granite and the rosette windows are made from sandstone.”

He added, “The sandstone is crumbling, so the windows have to be taken out and replaced with sandstone.”

“Inside there is rot in the wood, so it's essential work that is being carried out and this is the first major renovation of the chapel since 1875.”

Fr Fearon also confirmed that no work is taking place inside the chapel so it does not interfere with the wedding ceremony.

He also confirmed that the Dominicans had offered the garden at the back of the Dominican Priory for pictures.


Bishop predicts World Youth Day's positive impact on Madrid

The general coordinator of World Youth Day 2011, Bishop Cesar Franco, said last week that the presence of thousands of young people on pilgrimage toward God, will have a great impact on Madrid.

Speaking to the media, Bishop Franco emphasized the importance of World Youth Day events and noted that “the holy scent of Christ” remains behind in the cities that host the event.

“It is a common experience for the people, even those who are not believers, to be impacted by the joy of the young people, by their good actions.”

“Naturally these are young people with virtues as well as defects, but they come as pilgrims in search of what gives meaning to man’s life: God, Christ, eternal life,” he said.

Bishop Franco expressed his desire that the Church in Spain would be strengthened by the event, as wherever World Youth Day is held.

“The Church has regained confidence in herself, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are reborn and the myth that young people don’t care about Christ or His Church evaporates.”

He went on to reaffirm the importance that the Church gives to young people, since they “are the future in all areas of life, as well as in the Church.”

Bishop Franco encouraged young people to participate because “with your presence the Church is younger.”

He said young people would experience the universality of the Church and would strengthen their faith.


Book gives new perspective on abuse crisis

Greg Erlandson decided to write a book on the clergy sex abuse crisis because the secular media kept raising questions about Pope Benedict XVI's handling of cases in their coverage of a new wave of clergy sex abuse in dioceses around the world.

For him, there was a "genuine curiosity about what's going on. ... It wasn't just a bishop in this diocese or a bishop in that diocese, but now it was about the pope and his credibility," said Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.

"As I dug into it, I felt there was a big chunk of the story that wasn't being reported and part of it was not getting the perspective" it deserved, he said.

Erlandson and Matthew Bunson co-wrote Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal.

The authors review the pope's work as a priest and theologian, his years heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and the "pivotal and personal role" he has played in the church's response to the abuse scandal.

They highlight the cases of some of the most notorious U.S. priest-abusers and cover the international scope of the scandal. They report on the pope's efforts "to help, heal and reconcile with those who have been hurt" through concrete measures, including his private meetings with victims, and spiritual ones, such as prayer and penance.

When a series of reports in The New York Times and other media criticized the pope for alleged inaction on sex abuse cases, Vatican authorities emphasized that it was the pope who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, pushed for harsher measures against abusers and made it easier for the church to defrock them.


Hospitals go on high alert for Pope visit

Hospital staff across central Scotland will be placed on high alert next month for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Fears over the pontiff’s health have led to every hospital on or near his route between Edinburgh and Glasgow being asked to make preparations.

The Vatican has been trying to play down fears for the 83-year-old.

But officials now say they are not prepared to have just one designated hospital – standard procedure on overseas visits.

Pope Benedict takes medication for a heart condition following a mild stroke in 1991.

A year later he suffered haemorrhaging after he cut his head in a fall, also believed to have been caused by a stroke.

Last December, traditional Christmas midnight Mass was held two hours earlier than scheduled because he was tired. The Pope also recently broke his wrist after slipping.

Concern has been raised that congestion on Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge could put his life at risk in an emergency.

The visit to the UK, from September 16-19, will be the Pope’s fourth overseas trip this year. He will meet the Queen in Edinburgh before coming to Glasgow to say Mass at Bellahouston Park.

A survey of more than 1000 adults across Scotland has found that 2% of Scots strongly object to the Pope’s visit, 3% object and some 63% are neither for nor against it.


Court to hear lawsuit against Pope Shenouda for holding priest's wife

A group of Islamist lawyers have filed a lawsuit in an Egyptian administrative court against Coptic Pope Shenouda to compel him to release alleged Muslim convert Camillia Shehata.

“Resorting to court is the most civilized and legal way to deal with this issue and saying that this could fan the flames of hatred is nothing short of fear mongering,” Lawyer Mamdouh Ismail, who is known for advocating Islamists in terrorism-related cases, told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Monday.

“This is an authority that has forcibly taken a citizen, hid her in a secret location, and this in itself is a blatant violation of law.”

Shehata’s case has been making headlines especially as a large crowd of Muslims protested rowdily after evening prayers in front of the Nour mosque in Abbassiya last Saturday carrying pictures of the “convert to Islam,” and calling for her “return to the Muslim community.”

The small posters and banners had Shehata’s picture in a full black veil that only keeps the face visible and carried the words, “I’ll die a Muslim.”

“The whole issue is bigger than Camillia, it’s about laws and constitution and the need of the state to intervene in order to impose them. Using words like ‘sectarianism’ and ‘sensitive issues’ in a human rights case is wrong,” Ismail said.

In addition to the lawsuit filed, which will be considered in a first session on 2 November, Ismail is spearheading another initiative in which he filed a petition to Egypt’s general prosecutor asking him to “order a search into Christian places of worship” where Shehata is believed to have been hidden after being handed over to Church officials by police authorities last month.

Shehata, 25, the wife of a Coptic preacher, had earlier left her home in the southern Minya province and her only child behind so that, reportedly, she can live as a Muslim. She went missing for five days before she was found by authorities.

Conflicting reports have surfaced regarding the details of how she was found and why she left her house to begin with.

Some reports, particularly those featured on Islamist websites that went as far as to say she already converted to Islam secretly a few years earlier, said Shetata sought some Muslims for help but was chased by authorities and found in a mosque minutes before she was supposed to declare her official conversion.

These stories remain unconfirmed.

This Tuesday, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information is expected to demand the revelation “of the fate of Camillia Shehata,” according to their official website, during an international day dedicated to those who “disappeared.”

“She was forcibly detained in a monastery,” wrote the Cairo-based rights watchdog on its website on Monday, “which is considered abduction punishable by law and is a case of involuntary disappearance criminalized by the UN.”


Earth's resources must be protected for future generations, says pope

People today have a duty to leave the earth in a state in which future generations "can live in dignity and safeguard it further," said Pope Benedict XVI.

Expressing his support for the Sept. 1 Day for Safeguarding Creation, the pope told people gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 29, "There can be no peace in the world without respecting the environment."

The Day for Safeguarding Creation is celebrated by the Catholic Church in Italy and the Greek Orthodox Church, which also makes the occasion "important on an ecumenical level," the pope said.

In a message marking the day, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said all men and women must take part in "this titanic and just fight" to address the environmental crisis and prevent its impact on the earth from worsening.

The Orthodox patriarch's written message was published in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Aug. 28.

The patriarch called on people to adjust their lifestyles and behavior so as to minimize their personal and communal impact on the earth's resources.

The current economic crisis might provide an opportunity for communities to reassess the way they pursue development and inspire new economic and social models in which top priority is given to the environment and not "unbridled financial gain," he wrote.

Citizens and politicians must cooperate so that the current economic and ecological crises can be reversed in a way that promotes "sustainable and long-lasting environmental development," wrote the patriarch.


US legal firm hires private detective to track down defrocked Limerick priest

THE SEARCH is again on to find a Limerick priest who was deported to Ireland 10 years ago after being jailed for abusing two boys.

The American law firm Manly, McGuire and Stewart, want to serve defrocked priest Oliver O'Grady with papers for a civil action on behalf of alleged victims.

In their quest to find the 65 year-old from Limerick city the firm hired a private detective to track him down.

Patrick Wall, Manly, McGuire and Stewart, arrived in Dublin last week, in a bid to serve O'Grady with new lawsuits of alleged child abuse in a Californian diocese.

In recent years he has been reported to be living in Limerick, Dublin and also Holland, and is now believed to be residing in a hostel in Dublin city centre.

The firm are trying to serve O'Grady with civil lawsuits, relating to the alleged abuse of three young boys and two young girls, from two different families, in the Californian diocese of Stockton.

O'Grady returned to live in the Mid-West in 2001, after being deported from the United States, where he was convicted on four counts of lewd and lascivious acts on two males.

He served half of a 14-year prison sentence, but in depositions he admitted to the rape, molestation and abuse of over 20 children from 1973 onwards.

The former priest is not listed on the Irish sex offenders' register as it only came into existence under the Sex Offenders Act 2001, and the register does not apply retrospectively.

Mr Wall said he believes the gardai are in contact with O'Grady, however they have no obligation to pass on his whereabouts to the legal firm.

This summer O'Grady was due to receive a pension worth $100,000, or $800 a month upon reaching his retirement age.

Mr Wall, a former Roman Catholic Priest and Benedictine monk, has consulted on more than 200 cases of clerical abuse in the United States.

He has been pursuing the alleged child abuser for over a year and has urged he should be placed in a "locked-down psychiatric facility, where he won't pose a danger to children" and described him as "the Hannibal Lector of the clerical world.


Bishop Edward Daly's Irish News opinion article on the NI Police Ombudsman's report into the 1972 Claudy bombing

Bishop Edward Daly's Irish News opinion article on the NI Police Ombudsman's report into the 1972 Claudy bombing

I retired from public life 17 years ago but recently have felt obliged to come out of retirement temporarily to deal with media demands arising out of the Saville Report and, now, the Police Ombudsman’s Report on the Claudy Bombings.

As a curate and bishop in Derry during some of the worst episodes of the ‘Troubles’ I got to know many journalists who came to report on many sensitive issues.

I see a less challenging style of journalism at work now. Maybe it is just that many of the reporters have no experience of the exacting pressures that their professional predecessors faced as they foraged for truth here in the 1970s.

Journalists then soared above the pressures of spin from government and combatants on all sides. They had exacting standards as they scrutinised and recorded controversial events. They asked awkward questions. Papers and broadcast networks took independent lines on stories. They did not sheepishly follow Establishment or State. In contrast, I find media coverage of the Claudy Report very disquieting. Media have not questioned key aspects of the Ombudsman’s Report in relation to allegations that Fr James Chesney was a senior IRA figure directly linked to the bombings.

Everyone takes the same unquestioning line and competes to write the most lurid headline. The once sacrosanct presumption of innocence has been dispensed with and replaced with a presumption of guilt. I am not at all convinced that Father Chesney was involved in the Claudy bombings. I may be mistaken, but I do not think so. I was a contemporary of his at school. I did not know him very well but knew him reasonably well.

Personal involvement in several major miscarriage of justice cases, for example the Birmingham Six, has bred in me constructive scepticism. I have seen convictions based on signed admissions and forensic evidence completely overturned years later. Fr Chesney was never arrested, questioned, charged or convicted. He cannot answer for himself. He has been dead 30 years.

The Report aired suspicions about him that were based solely on intelligence reports. But intelligence and evidence are completely different things. Why was the Ombudsman unable to find evidence against him after years of investigation? He found only these ‘intelligence reports’, and 1972-type RUC intelligence at that.

In the 1970s there was widespread scepticism about RUC Special Branch intelligence. Hundreds were interned on such intelligence.

Now, media portray as fact unsubstantiated claims emanating from agencies whose history is anything but clean. Where have all the campaigners for justice gone? The Claudy dead and wounded and their relatives deserve both truth and justice. They were victims of evil acts of violence. They were also cruelly deceived by senior RUC figures and the Northern Ireland Secretary in the failure to ensure that the bombing was thoroughly investigated.

If police suspected Fr Chesney in the atrocity, they should have arrested him rather than closing the case, thus allowing all the perpetrators to go free. Can anyone believe that just because ‘Man A’, whom the RUC suspected of involvement in major horrendous terrorist crime, gave another major suspect (Fr Chesney) in the same crime as an alibi, that police could allow them both walk free?

How did security forces became so coy whenever Fr Chesney came on their radar – even when they alleged that a dog detected explosives in his car? That was not my experience in South Derry then, when I was often terrified and humiliated by the treatment and delays I experienced at security force checkpoints as I returned from Confirmations and other pastoral duties late at night.

Other aspects of the Report are strange. For example, an NIO note of 6 December 1972 attributes to Cardinal Conway an uncorroborated description of Fr Chesney as being “a very bad man” – a very mild commentary on someone alleged to be a mass murderer. I knew Cardinal Conway quite well during 1974-77. That was not a phrase he would use. It appears to me it was Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw’s version of what the cardinal did or did not say. Does anyone sincerely believe that if Cardinal Conway and my predecessor Bishop Farren believed a mass murderer was in the Church’s ranks they would have permitted him to continue in the active priesthood? I cannot believe they would have omitted to tell me when I was appointed as Bishop of Derry in 1974 if they had for a moment believed one of the priests in my future diocese was a mass murderer.

Mass murder cannot be compared with any other sin or crime. It is the foulest and most obscene of deeds. I witnessed mass murder at first hand in 1972. I am more aware than most of how appalling and grotesque it is and the enormity of it. It is a huge insult to suggest I would knowingly allow someone whom I knew to be a mass murderer to serve as a priest in my diocese. I do not accept theories – voiced by several people in the aftermath of the Report - about priests being endangered and a possible subsequent fall-out in society if Fr Chesney had been arrested.

Two priests were murdered by the British Army in Belfast just months earlier that year and there wasn’t exactly community uproar. Did anyone believe the mere arrest of an obscure priest in County Derry would worsen the already chaotic N. Ireland climate? Northern Ireland was a war zone in 1972. Some 500 people were killed.

I do not accept the Ombudsman’s suggestion to reporters that Fr Chesney continued his republican activities when he was in Donegal. As bishop at that time, I was aware of his previous espousal of views, and he knew I was having him observed. There was a never a complaint about him. I believe it possible that the RUC wanted Fr Chesney out of South Derry because of his publicly proclaimed republican sympathies and a fear of the influence these might exert on young people in the area.

The IRA was seeking recruits and Fr Chesney’s public views were seen, perhaps rightly, as dangerous. Police wanted him out of a potential powder keg and used William Whitelaw to persuade Cardinal Conway into facilitating this. Of course it would have been preferable if the cardinal had told Whitelaw “to get lost” and to arrest Fr Chesney if there was evidence. I can reach that conclusion in the comparatively peaceful climate of today. Thank God I was not in the cardinal’s position in the mayhem of 1972.

Perhaps Fr Chesney’s conduct did spark suspicion that he was involved with the IRA. The pertinent questions must be, however; was he or was he not a member of the IRA and, if so, was he involved in the Claudy bombing? I don’t know. The Ombudsman’s report and the subsequent media reporting do not offer any evidence to help answer these questions.

Claudy has at last received its legitimate and long overdue recognition as one of Northern Ireland’s the most despicable acts of terror. I will continue to pray “the truth will out”. The families, the community and Fr Chesney’s relatives need to hear it. I hope the Claudy families launch a campaign that achieves justice and truth. I hope that clergy will continue to offer pastoral and spiritual support. I am pleased to hear that the Bloody Sunday families, with all their years of expertise, have offered to assist the Claudy families.

I hope journalists will assist them, too.

I now plan to return once more to private life. I hope that justice will finally be done to the dead of Claudy as well as the dead of Bloody Sunday.


Bishop Edward Daly was Bishop of Derry from 1974 to 1993. Bishop Daly's opinion article was published in today's Irish News. The Public statement by the Police Ombudsman under Section 62 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 Relating to the RUC investigation of the alleged involvement of the late Father James Chesney in the bombing of Claudy on 31 July 1972 was published on 24 August 2010.


Top archeaologist claims monastic site could lose UNESCO status

A leading archaeologist has described the recent restoration work that took place on one of Ireland's oldest monastic islands as, “one of the great cultural disasters.”

Galway based archaeologist Michael Gibbons, who has carried out extensive work on Skellig Michael Island off the county Kerry coast and which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, said that the government's failure to fully document three decades of work at the site puts the beauty spot's UNESCO status under serious threat.

Speaking to The Kerryman newspaper, he said, “What is going on here is so far below international best practice, it is laughable.”

He said that the site is on the agenda at UNESCO's annual meeting in Brasilia, where the world heritage body stated, “It regretted that no substantial progress has been made in delivering a fully resourced publication programme to enable the conservation approaches to be fully and widely understood.”

Mr Gibbons also called for the publication of a report on the Skelligs conservation by OPW archaeologist Grellan Rourke.

He added, “I have asked for this through a freedom of information request and have not received it, this is simply not good enough as it is critical to the whole debate.”

He claimed if this is not done, then the Skellig's could be delisted as a world Heritage site.

An OPW spokesperson said that the publication of a programme to document all conservation works done on the island is their “number one priority.”

Skellig Michael contains a 6th century monastery that is often described as one of Europe's better known but least accessible monasteries.

Along with Newgrange in County Meath, It is one of just two sites in Ireland that have UNESCO world heritage status.


Westmeath priest to sky dive for charity

A County Westmeath based priest will make a real leap of faith by skydiving to raise vital funds for his parish.

Fearless Fr Tony Gavin from Rosemount in County Westmeath will jump 4.000 metres in a bid to fund a heart defibrillator for his parish.

He said, “I said if I was ever to jump out of a plane it would have to be for a good cause. We are a rural community and it is a bit of a distance to the local hospital if anything happened so the defibrillator will save lives.”

He is hoping to raise around €2,000 from sponsorship to help fund the defibrillator.

And Fr Gavin, who is forty seven and who made the jump Sunday (August 29) added that he is terrified of heights, saying, “I have climbed to the top of the church and school when work needed to be done up there and coming down was not pleasant.”

“I’ll just have to grit my teeth and get on with it.”

Fr Gavin's jump was scheduled to take place at Clonbollogue airfield near Edenderry in County Offaly.


Future Pope Pius XII's diligence shown in notes from Vatican Secret Archives

While recently released documentation written by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli in the 1930's does little to dispel the "black legend" of Pope Pius XII, it does provide insight into his character.

During the 10 years he served as secretary of state to Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, took detailed notes of the Pontiff's every audience.

L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) welcomed the release of what are called the "audience pages" in an extensive spread in their Sunday edition.

The "pages" were the notes taken by Pope Pius XI's secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, during private daily audiences between himself and the Pope as well as those the Pontiff had with diplomats, Church officials and others.

Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, documented 1,956 such audiences over the course of the decade he served as secretary of state, from 1930-39. He left 2,627 pages of notes which have been collected, edited and now published by representatives from the Vatican's Secret Archives.

LOR's director, Gian Vian, called the entries an "until now unknown source of extraordinary interest for contemporary history."

The collection, he said, "with precision and immediacy, takes account of numerous questions, illuminating the routine work procedure in the heart of the Holy See. Through this emerges the wise energy of government of Pius XI, alongside the intelligence and absolute loyalty of Pacelli."

Current Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote in the publication's preface that the documentation bears witness to the "thousands and thousands of issues (which) occupied the time and thought of Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli over so many years … "

The subjects, he explained, range "from the most minute requests for subsidies ... to the relevant ecclesiastical and political questions, so much more complicated as the years advanced that separated the wounds of the First World War from those of the Second."

Cardinal Bertone also pointed out that with the passage of time, through documentation such as this, the future Pope Pius XII's "human and Christian stature, as a diplomat, secretary of state and Pontiff, beyond preconceived and distorted 'colorings,' is ever better delineated."

Many people impatiently await the release of documents from the Vatican archives, which they hope will shed light on Pius XII's actions during the Second World War.

He has been labeled 'the silent Pope" or "Hitler's Pope" by critics for allegedly remaining "quiet" as the Holocaust took so many lives, including those of more than 1,000 Roman Jews who were deported to Auschwitz in Oct. 1943.

But many other scholars, led by Pope Benedict XVI, continue to staunchly defend the war-time Pope for having done what was within his power to provide aid, assistance and protection to all civilians, including Jews, often in secrecy.

The lack of open access to the Vatican archives concerning Pius XII's pontificate has left many questions in the air, but answers appear to be on the horizon as the Holy See is working to organize and release the extensive war-time documentation in the coming years.

Few answers, however, will be found in this regard in this most recent publication, as the prefect of the Archives, Archbishop Sergio Pagano, explained in an additional LOR article.

The point of the notes, he said, was to document issues dealing principally with the correspondence between the secretariat of state and a variety of ecclesiastic, government and civil offices and individuals.

He explained that while "it's obvious to think that subjects of politics or government of the Church, (and) obviously even more relevant (issues), were the subject of the attention of the Pope and his secretary of state ... at least as far as we can say today, Pacelli did not take notes (of these conversations), or at the most he limited himself to writing some annotations on the very documents that were the object of discussion."

Concluding, Archbishop Pagano noted the diligence of the future Pope during his meetings with Pope Pius XI, saying that "no one" at that time in the secretariat of state documented "with equal systematic method, continuity and precision as did the secretary of state Pacelli."


Cardinal Rivera: Massacre points to social disorder and loss of values in Mexico

The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, expressed profound sadness last week over the murder of 72 immigrants in the state of Tamaulipas.

He called the incident “more evidence of the social disorder and loss of values” dominating “some areas of the country.”

In a statement, the cardinal said that the massacre also points to “the lack of a comprehensive immigration policy in Mexico that is consistent with the needs demanded by human mobility regarding the humanitarian treatment of immigrants, just as Mexico is demanding of the United States.”

This “shameful tragedy” must not go unpunished, the cardinal said. He then called on the governments of America “to take immediate actions to ensure that such deplorable acts never happen again.”

“Pope Benedict XVI has said in the context of migrant ministry that ‘human mobility is a co-responsibility of States and international organizations,’ and in this sense, Mexico is obliged to make every effort to safeguard the fundamental rights of those who enter the country without documents, with the dream of achieving a life of greater dignity,” he said.

The refusal of the victims to cooperate in the drug trade—which was the reason for their deaths—is “a true message of hope and faith,” the cardinal stated.

“The sacrifice of these innocent people conveys the universal message about the defense of values and the love of their families.”


Bishops to run in Denver marathon to pay off cathedral debt and boost vocations

Two Catholic bishops will take part in a Denver marathon in October.

One is running to raise funds to pay off the $2.07 million debt on his diocese’s cathedral, while the other is joining local Catholics to increase prayers for and awareness of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Bishop of Springfield, Ill. Thomas J. Paprocki, a longtime marathon runner, has announced he is training for the Oct. 17 event.

In a statement from the Diocese of Springfield, the 58-year-old prelate said he enjoys running and has participated in 16 marathons.

“This year I have decided to dedicate my marathon effort to help pay off the debt of the recent restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield,” said the bishop, who took over the diocese in June.

“Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois can take rightful pride in our beautiful mother church, especially the many people who have already contributed generously to help pay the restoration costs,” he commented.

However, he explained that “unexpected expenses” had caused the debt and he would like to “retire this debt completely.”

He invited tax-deductible pledge donations and asked for prayer intentions for him to include while he is running and praying.

“As sacred Scripture says, ‘Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1). Your support will be greatly appreciated by me and all Catholics who gather and pray at our magnificent Cathedral,” Bishop Paprocki wrote.

The “Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon” website says that the time limit for the full marathon is six hours, a pace of 13:45 minutes per mile.

Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James Conley will also take part in the event.

Natalia Fletcher, executive assistant in the office of priestly vocations, responded to a CNA inquiry about the bishop’s participation. She reported that Bishop Conley and Bishop Paprocki attended graduate school together in Rome. Conley later told CNA in an e-mail that the two had run together in Rome, but not in a marathon.

The Denver auxiliary bishop will join archdiocesan vocations director Fr. Jim Crisman and two St. John Vianney seminarians as part of a relay team to increase support for and awareness of vocations. He will run 8.9 miles of the course and is following a training regimen of 15 miles per week.

In the past he has run in the Colfax 1/2 Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the Rome Marathon, the Monte Carlo Marathon, the Pikes Peak Ascent and the Rome-Ostca 1/2 Marathon.

According to Fletcher, the archdiocese asks other runners and teams of runners to sign up for the event. Rather than seeking financial donations, the archdiocese asks that runners seek pledges of prayers for vocations to holy orders and to the consecrated life within the Archdiocese of Denver.

“There is a great need in the Church and world today for men and women who are willing to lay down their lives in service to others,” Fr. Crisman commented in a press release. “Please pray for an increase in vocations to Holy Orders and Consecrated Life, and pray for those already living these heroic vocations.”

He encouraged participants to form their teams as soon as possible so they have time to train and to pray.

The Office of Priestly Vocations has set up a section for the marathon in the “Run” section of its website http://www.Priest4Christ.com.


Poll shows Scots ready to welcome Pope Benedict

Based on the results of a recent survey and the disappearance of protest plans in Scotland, the spokesman for the Scottish Bishops' Conference (SCMO) has declared that the Pope's visit has the support of the people. Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien said that this result confirms the good nature of the people of his country.

In a survey carried out among a pool of 1,007 adults by Opinion Research Business in early June, 31 percent of those polled were "Very or fairly favorable" to the Pope's visit on Sept. 16, as opposed to just five percent who "Object" or "Strongly object" to his presence.

Incidentally, more than half of those surveyed had no opinion.

The lack of opposition to the papal visit has led the "Protest the Pope" group to "ditch" their plans to march in Scotland, opting rather for a single demonstration in London, SCMO spokesman Peter Kearney pointed out. Reacting to the poll results, he declared on Sunday that, "It’s now clear to everybody that this tiny minority of secularists speak for nobody but themselves.

"Most" of the nation's people, he added, "will be delighted to hear that they’ve given up their attempt to spoil what promises to be a very exciting day for all Scots.”

The Holy Father will spend most of the first day of his U.K. visit in Scotland, first visiting Queen Elizabeth at her summer residence near Edinburgh and later celebrating Mass in Glasgow. His visit on Sept. 16 coincides with the feast of St. Ninian, the country's first saint.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien also responded positively to the poll on Sunday, saying he was "greatly heartened" and asserting that the results "again (confirm) that the vast majority of Scots are warm-hearted and welcoming of all people.

"Next month’s papal visit," he said, "is going to be a truly historic occasion for our country and one which I hope all Scots will share in and enjoy.”


Belgian cardinal: I was 'naive' to meet victim

The former head of Belgium's Roman Catholic Church has acknowledged that he should not have held a meeting with a victim of serial sexual abuse and suggested a cover up until the offending bishop retired.

The April 8 meeting that retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels held was secretly taped by the victim and the conversation was published in two newspapers over the weekend.

Since the tapes' publication, Danneels, 77, has faced fierce criticism for his suggestion that the sexual abuse be kept secret and that the victim should consider forgiving the bishop, his uncle, as part of seeking closure.

"He realizes that the whole approach, as it was, was not the right one," Danneels spokesman, Toon Osaer, told The Associated Press on Monday. Osaer said Danneels was unprepared for the meeting. "It was improvisation."

On Monday, La Libre newspaper, long a staunch ally of the church, joined the chorus of Danneels' critics.

In a commentary, it said Danneels' behavior shows how long "the law of silence" was "the only response of the Catholic hierarchy" to sex abuse cases. "The absolute priority remained the preservation of the image of the institution and the honor of its members."

Two weeks after the April 8 conversation, 73-year-old Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium, resigned, expressing sorrow for having long abused his nephew, both as a priest and after becoming a bishop more than 20 years ago.

Danneels said he only knew a few days ahead of the meeting of the bishop's abuse, which ended more than two decades ago. "At a certain point, he let himself be persuaded by Monsignor Vangheluwe to take part in such a meeting," Osaer said. Monsignor is the courtesy title that bishops use.

"Looking back I have been naive by going to such a meeting unprepared," Osaer quoted Danneels as saying. But Danneels also said he regretted that the confidential meeting was made public by the victim, who is now 42 years old.

In the conversation that the victim secretly taped, Danneels said: "In fact, the monsignor steps down next year. It would be better that you wait" to go public. He then suggested measures about how to keep it quiet.

Later Danneels said, "I don't know whether it would be to your advantage to make a lot of noise about it. Neither for you, nor for him." He also urged the victim to simply forgive his uncle for the 13 years of abuse.

Osaer said that the transcript was "in no way" in doubt, but he added it was not complete to give a more nuanced idea of the meeting. "It is not correct to say that Danneels implied — let's give forgiveness and that's it," Osaer said.

Danneels' successor, Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard, has said from the outset of his tenure in January he would not cover up any cases of abuse.

On Monday, his spokesman Jurgen Mettepenningen said the church was preparing a new initiative to deal with the sex abuse issue, which should be ready by the middle of September.


Long-imprisoned underground bishop dies

Retired Bishop John Yang Shudao of Fuzhou who spent at least 30 years in prison life because of his faith has died at the age of 91.

The late bishop who headed the underground Catholic community in Fuzhou suffered a stroke and became unconscious several days before his death on Aug. 28.

He died at St. Teresa’s Church in his hometown in Liangjiang county shortly after being discharged from hospital.

His funeral, to be presided by underground Bishop Peter Lin Jiashan, is scheduled for Sept. 1 at the same church which has a capacity of 3,000.

Bishop Lin was a former coadjutor bishop of Fuzhou diocese but now apostolic prefect of Jianou, according to a Church source close to the Holy See.

Several Church sources told ucanews.com that many government officers came to the church on hearing of the bishop’s death.

“They are concerned about security issues and have restricted the number of people paying tribute,” one said.

Fuzhou diocese currently has about 250,000 Catholics, with 81 “underground” and 27 “open” priests. The government recognizes the “open” Catholic community but not the “underground” one.

Father Joseph Li Ronghua, coordinator of the open community, told ucanews.com that he heard of Bishop Yang’s death but has received no further information from the underground side. He and many of the “open” priests had never met the bishop, he said.

Bishop Yang told ucanews.com in 2004 that reconciliation with the open Church would mean “a betrayal of faith.”

In addition to the spilt between the open and underground communities since 1980s, the “underground” Catholics have in the past decade themselves split into two factions, one led by Bishops Yang and Lin and another led by Father Lin Yuntuan.

Currently, “underground” Bishop Vincent Huang Zhoucheng of neighboring Mindong diocese is the administrator of Fuzhou diocese, according to a Church source close to the Holy See.

Church sources are concerned about the diocese’s future. They agreed the funeral is a testing case for reconciliation. “If factions cooperate for the funeral, there can be room for communications. Otherwise, reconciliation will be distant,” a source said.

Bishop Yang was born on April 16, 1919 and was ordained a priest in 1947. The then Father Yang was arrested with other priests and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1955 for refusing to denounce the Pope and to join the government-sanctioned independent church.

Bishop Yang was released in 1981 after 26 years in prison. He was clandestinely ordained a bishop in 1987.

He was rearrested in 1988 and jailed for another three years.

Since then, he has been arrested several times and was under surveillance.


Mother Teresa "Missionary of the Millennium"

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta "is the best missionary of the century if not of the Millennium as she committed herself totally for the cause of Christ. Mother was absolute in her total surrender to the Lord, right up to her last breath and made her life so simple for herself and the Missionaries of Charity", says Bishop of Baruipur, Mgr. Salvadore Lobo, who headed the diocesan Commission of Inquiry into the beatification of religious, speaking to AsiaNews.

Last August 26 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Blessed, the bishop celebrated a Mass with 13 priests of the diocese.

In his homily, Mgr. Lobo recalled: "The Eucharist was the central point of the life of Mother Teresa, who attended Mass every morning."

500 faithful gathered outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary - highly desired by Mother Teresa and inaugurated in Baruipur last November 13 - the bishop asked them to "be channels of peace, as she has always asked her missionaries."

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr. Lobo recalled: "My association with Mother began as a young seminarian the 4th August 1968,when she had come to Morning Star College and she spoke to us of the Love of Christ, her simplicity and her devotion to her mission was palpable. She was totally dedicated to the cause of Christ, in her absolute submission to God until her last breath".

It is this dedication that had a particular influence over the Indian people.

The case of Kapil Dev, captain of Indian cricket, is exemplary. As the bishop said, "the player had no children.

In 1995, he met Mother Teresa, telling her he had been trying to have children for 14 years without success.

The Mother blessed him saying not to worry, because God is good. Months later, Kapil's wife gave birth to a daughter. As Dev said “little Amiya is a gift of Mother Teresa”.

"For me – continues Mgr. Lobo - Mother Teresa was a real mother and often she was my counsel and guide and gave me peace of mind and direction in life, I cannot divulge additional details as I had to take an oath of confidentiality for the commission, but she was a light for all India".


Belgian Church Leader Urged Victim to Be Silent

The former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium urged a victim of serial sexual abuse by a bishop to keep silent for a year, until the bishop — the victim’s own uncle — could retire, according to tapes made by the victim last April and published over the weekend in two Belgian newspapers.

The tapes, which church authorities have verified as accurate, are among the more revealing documents in the continuing scandal of sexual abuse by clerics and subsequent cover-ups by the church.

And having a record of a cardinal entreating an abuse victim to keep his silence is another embarrassment for the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 77, who retired as the archbishop of Brussels in January after 30 years, met with the victim, now 42, and his uncle, Bishop Robert Vangheluwe, 73, on April 8 to press the victim either to accept a private apology or to wait until the bishop retired, according to the tapes.

“The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” the cardinal told the victim. “I don’t think you’d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.”

The cardinal warned the victim against trying to blackmail the church and suggested that he accept a private apology from the bishop and not drag “his name through the mud.”

The victim responded, “He has dragged my whole life through the mud, from 5 until 18 years old,” and asked, “Why do you feel sorry for him and not for me?”

The fact of the April meeting was reported by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times in July after an interview with the victim, who said he had sought for many years to alert the church about the molesting by his uncle. He did not mention then that he had made a tape of that meeting and another one of another meeting.

The tapes, which were published Saturday in the Flemish daily newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad, display the tactics the church used to try to hush up the scandal and placate the victim by appealing to his feelings for his family and the larger church.

De Standaard said in an editorial that the cardinal’s “only aim is to avoid having the case made public so many years after the facts,” adding, “It is containment, nothing more.”

The Belgian cases are special in part because of an extensive police inquiry, not just an investigation by the church, into allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy and subsequent cover-ups.

Cardinal Danneels has been subject to at least 10 hours of police questioning in the matter, and the police raided church headquarters to seize documents, a raid criticized by the Vatican.

In the end, Bishop Vangheluwe retired within two weeks of the April meeting, on April 23, admitting he sexually abused “a boy in my entourage” 20 years earlier.

He quit after a friend of the nephew e-mailed Belgian bishops threatening to expose the bishop and demanding his resignation.

In a second tape, of the other meeting, the bishop apologizes to his nephew and says he has tried for years to make up for his sin.

“This is unsolvable,” the victim said. “You’ve torn our family completely apart.”

The victim told the newspapers he released the tapes, apparently made secretly, to prove that he had not demanded hush money.

A spokesman for the cardinal, Toon Osaer, said no attempt had been made to cover up the meeting itself.

Tribune reporters were told in July that the family was angry because Cardinal Danneels accompanied the bishop to the April meeting, and not the new head of the Belgian church, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard.

A retired priest, the Rev. Rik Devillé, said he tried to warn Cardinal Danneels about the bishop’s abuse of his nephew 14 years ago, but was berated by the cardinal for doing so.

It is not known whether Cardinal Danneels or others informed the Vatican when they learned of the abuse by Bishop Vangheluwe.

The Vatican accepted the bishop’s resignation in June, but said nothing about the case until the Belgian police raided church properties on June 24, seizing evidence and files that the church had assembled in its own belated investigation of sexual abuse.

Bishop Vangheluwe has retreated to a Trappist monastery where he has kept his silence.

The Belgian police are investigating him in this case and others, as well as looking into charges that he concealed similar complaints of abuse made against other clerics.


This Turbulent Priest

Some claim Fr James Chesney was an IRA leader and a mass murderer.

His defenders say the charismatic cleric with a taste for the high life is an easy scapegoat, because dead men can't talk.

We have heard all about him over the past week.

The playboy priest, the devil's disciple, the country cleric with the matinee-idol good looks who literally got away with murder.

Yet Fr James Chesney remains a far more mysterious figure than tabloid headlines suggest. And responsibility for the Claudy bombing, in which nine people were slaughtered, extends far beyond one rogue priest with a penchant for poker and sports cars.

Chesney's father John, a Protestant, worked in the loyalist Upperlands in Co Derry but converted to Catholicism after meeting his future wife Mary Ann.

Nobody remembers ever seeing Chesney with his parents but he was regularly in the company of his wealthy aunt and uncle, Willie and Betty Noon.

Former civil rights leader and SDLP founder Ivan Cooper recalled: "They arrived at my house in a bright red Mercedes. She was dripping with furs and waving a long cigarette holder. The Noons had no children. Fr Chesney was like a son to them."

Cooper's account set the tone for most media coverage. He spoke of Chesney "haring along country roads in his sports car". He described him as "sophisticated, strikingly handsome, an extremely magnetic and engaging man... Fr Chesney was Derry's answer to Bonnie and Clyde".

Yet Chesney cut a far from dashing figure. A heavily built man, with old-fashioned bushy sideburns and a receding hairline, looks out from faded photographs.

"I was not aware his political views were very different from his aunt's and uncle's until some time later," said the ex-civil rights leader whose evidence to the Saville inquiry on Bloody Sunday was rejected as completely unreliable.

Held in high esteem

Contrary to Cooper's understanding, a former Sinn Féin member describes the Noons as "extremely dedicated republicans" who tirelessly raised money for the Green Cross, the IRA prisoners' fund, in south Derry.

Solicitor and former civil rights activist Padraigín Drinan remembers attending some of their fundraising dinners: "They were fancy events in a nice hotel, not like the normal prisoners' functions in shebeens. The food would be arranged on the plate so the colours matched the tricolour.

"The peas on the left, the potatoes and chicken in the middle, and the carrots on the right. Fr Chesney was always spoken of at these dinners. It was obvious he was held in high esteem."

Still, Drinan is concerned at much of what has been reported as fact about Chesney – that he was the IRA's south Derry commander and drove the lead bomb car into Claudy. The police ombudsman's report found that the RUC, Catholic church and the British government conspired to cover up his suspected activities.

The explanation circulating has been that arresting a Catholic priest would have worsened the security situation by inflaming nationalists. "That doesn't ring true," says Drinan. "During the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre, British soldiers shot dead Fr Hugh Mullan who had gone to help an injured man.

"Another priest was also shot in east Belfast but survived. And two Belfast priests, Fr Peter McCann and Fr Malachy Murphy, were arrested for not completing the 1971 census forms in protest against interment.

"The state had shown it was prepared not just to arrest priests but to shoot them, so why not question Fr Chesney if there was evidence against him? I don't know if he was or wasn't involved in Claudy, and I'm no fan of the Catholic church, but something stinks. It's easy to scapegoat Fr Chesney because dead men don't talk back."

Drinan's concerns are shared by retired Catholic bishop of Derry Edward Daly, a staunch opponent of republican violence.

Daly, who had gone to school with Chesney, expressed "serious doubts" about the Claudy allegations which he said the priest had "utterly, unequivocally and vehemently" denied.

However, a former senior IRA figure in Derry told the Sunday Tribune that while he didn't know if Chesney was involved in Claudy, the priest was an IRA member: "Like many others, he joined following that natural wave of anger at how civil rights marchers were treated. He was deeply affected by the introduction of internment."

The former IRA man attended a meeting in the parish hall in Bellaghy, Co Derry, at which Chesney was present: "It was arranged by a well-respected Dungiven republican Tommy Toner. The meeting was so the IRA in Derry city and in Co Derry could co-ordinate their activities more.

"Meetings were regularly held in parish halls in Dungiven and Bellaghy. The church could be bluffed into thinking it was a civil rights-type meeting, rather than an IRA one, or it could bluff itself into believing that."

'He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty'

The ex-IRA member was "very impressed" with Chesney: "He was extremely confident and dynamic. He wasn't just a verbal republican. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Although he didn't swear in IRA volunteers, he was present at meetings where that happened."

The ex-Provisional was in jail at the time of the Claudy bombing so he doesn't know if Chesney played any role in it. Three bombs were driven into the village. They were left at the petrol station, the post office, and the Beaufort Hotel.

The IRA's aim was to divert British troops away from Derry city. That day thousands of soldiers had entered the Bogside in Operation Motorman, an attempt to take control of no-go areas. The bombers had planned to make phone warnings from Dungiven but the telephone exchanges – blown up in an earlier IRA attack – hadn't been repaired so the bombs exploded without warning.

"It was a badly planned operation from start to finish," says one local republican. "It was organised by the Derry brigade. There was something sinister about the whole thing. There were plenty of other ways of drawing the Brits out of Derry. Driving three bombs into a wee place like Claudy made no sense. It wasn't like leaving bombs at a police station, a courthouse, or a commercial town centre. This was a village with 400 residents. Propaganda-wise, it was disastrous for the IRA."

Charity proceeds 'handily robbed'

Martin McGuinness was the IRA OC in Derry at the time of the bombing. "It's unbelievable that he didn't organise it [Claudy] or, at the very least, authorise it," a former comrade says.

A republican source told the Sunday Tribune that RUC Special Branch was given Chesney's name as the Claudy bomber by the then IRA OC in Kilrea, Co Derry.

Chesney regularly organised charity dances or £1,000 bingo sessions. "Often, the proceeds would be handily robbed by men in balaclavas," says the ex-IRA man. "Other times, he'd organise these big social gatherings as cover so other meetings could take place without the RUC or Brits knowing."

But while the priest's IRA involvement seems indisputable, he is a convenient character on whom to heap all the blame for Claudy. Apart from the leaders who authorised the bombing, eight people took part. The IRA arranged for some to go to America afterwards.

A heavy smoker, Chesney had heart by-pass surgery the same year as Claudy. He was moved to Donegal in 1973. Once, he tried to book the Boomtown Rats for a community gig. He was instrumental in fundraising to build a huge community centre in Burnfoot where a plaque honours his memory. He was a keen sailor and member of the Lough Swilly yacht club.

Chesney died in 1980 aged 46. His death, like his life, remains a mystery. Some reports say he died of cancer, others of thrombosis. He was buried with his mother and father in Maghera, Co Derry. The gravestone asks visitors to pray for the repose of his soul.


Senior ex-Provisional confirms Fr James Chesney was in IRA

A senior ex-IRA member in Derry has told the Sunday Tribune how he attended IRA meetings with Fr James Chesney, the priest accused of involvement in the Claudy bombing in which nine people were killed.

It is the first confirmation from a republican source that Chesney was an IRA activist. Last week, the police ombudsman's report named the priest as a suspect in the atrocity.

RUC special branch alleged he was the Provisionals' South Derry commander and drove the lead bomb car into Claudy. However, given special branch's history, many nationalists are suspicious of its claims.

The former senior IRA figure said Chesney was definitely an IRA member: "Like many others, he joined following that wave of anger at how civil rights' marchers were treated. He was deeply affected by the introduction of internment."

The ex-IRA man attended a meeting in Bellaghy, Co Derry, at which Chesney was present. He was "very impressed" with Chesney: "He wasn't just a verbal republican. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty."

The ex-Provisional was in jail at the time so he doesn't know if Chesney played a role in the bombing.

In 1973, the Catholic Church moved the priest to Malin Head, Co Donegal. The former IRA man claimed Chesney was instrumental in setting up a training camp in the area which was used right up until the 1994 ceasefire.

Former IRA chief of staff Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said the priest had denied involvement in Claudy to him.

"Fr Chesney approached me in 1979 in Sligo after I'd addressed a H-Block rally. He said there were rumours that he was involved in Claudy but he had nothing to do with it and was on holiday in Donegal at the time of the bombing."

Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Martin Mc­Guinness, who was the IRA's Derry OC at the time of the bomb, has been urged to be honest with bereaved families.

"The names of the senior republicans involved... are common knowledge. These individuals must do the decent thing and tell the families the full truth," said SDLP councillor Brenda Stevenson.

"As a party in government, Sinn Fein must live up to its responsibilities. Letting it all hang on Fr Chesney who is dead is the cowardly way out."

Asked to comment, Sinn Féin said McGuinness was on holiday. "Martin McGuinness wasn't mentioned in the Claudy report so anyone asking questions clearly has an agenda," a spokesman said.


Mass for families of the missing

FAMILIES OF missing people travelled from around Ireland on Saturday to attend a Mass in a place of ancient pilgrimage.

The Mass at Our Lady’s Island in south Wexford was organised by Search for the Missing, which is headed by retired Garda diver Thomas Lavery.

Mr Lavery extended a special welcome to the families of missing people in attendance, which included relatives of Jo Jo Dullard from Kilkenny, Gussie Shanahan from Limerick and Philip Cairns from Dublin.

The largest representation by far was from a local family, the Sinnotts. The outdoor Mass was celebrated by Fr Brendan Nolan less than a kilometre from the pub Fiona Sinnott was last seen leaving in February 1998.

“Ambiguous loss is the worst cancer of all – not knowing where someone is,” said Mr Lavery.

During the Mass, seven homing pigeons were released by Mr Lavery with the help of Fiona Sinnott’s nephew, Johnny Walsh.

Mr Lavery said the two white pigeons represented a male and female missing person and the five blue pigeons were going to guide them home.

“We’re not looking for justice, we’re just looking for closure,” said Bob Shanahan, whose son Gussie went missing in Limerick more than 10 years ago.

“We just someone to come forward with information so we can give our son a decent burial,” said Mr Shanahan, who is offering a substantial reward for information that will lead to the recovery of his son’s remains.

He said he was glad so many had come to the Mass. “It was lovely because you can discuss it with other people. You are trying to console one another. It gets no easier, you are always hoping for closure,” he said.

Also still looking for closure are the Sinnott family. Fiona’s first cousin Gina Sinnott once again appealed, in a poem, for those with knowledge of what happened to the 19-year-old mother of one to do the right thing.

“How can you sleep with what you have done, with tears flowing down her face, her empty cries, her swollen eyes, only you know her resting place,” she read.

After Mass, Fr Nolan passed the cross to her and she led the families of missing people and the other pilgrims in attendance around the island, as they prayed for the return of their loved ones.


Cardinal says he retains support of faithful

THE CATHOLIC Primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, Sunday said that the vast majority of people with whom he works and meets support him.

Asked if he retained the confidence of the Catholic faithful in Ireland, after revelations confirmed his role in canonical investigations into abuse perpetrated by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975, Cardinal Brady said: “I retain confidence of priests and people in my own diocese. Okay, there are some people that will disagree, but the vast majority of people, as far I can see, who I work and meet with support me.”

He added: “They know that these situations are not easy to handle.”

Speaking at the Old Ground hotel in Ennis after the ordination of the new Bishop of Killaloe, Kieran O’Reilly Sunday, Cardinal Brady said: “I try to present a Christ who is credible. I will go on doing that as long as I can. Certainly from the support I have got from occasions like this, but also there are a lot of people who want us to continue to do what we are doing.”

Asked to respond to the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, Reg Empey, who described his response to the Claudy bombing as “entirely inadequate”, Cardinal Brady said: “we put a lot of thought into the preparation of that response.”

The Cardinal said that he has explained the church’s position and that Bishop Séamus Hegarty went to Claudy to celebrate mass and meet some of the families.

He said: “Of course that is where our attention must be: the needs of those who have lost dear ones in that terrible tragedy and the focus of attention must be on the search for those who perpetrated the bombing. I appeal to everybody who has information on that to co-operate, that . . . will be the most adequate response to this terrible situation.”

Cardinal Brady declined to comment when asked to respond to the Vatican rejecting the resignations of auxiliary Bishops Eamon Walsh and Ray Field.

His accompanying spokesman would only say: “That is being dealt with.”


Bishop of Killaloe installed at Ennis cathedral ceremony

THE BISHOP of Killaloe, Dr Kieran O’Reilly, who was installed Sunday, was entering the church at a time when “it is having a Good Friday experience”.

That is the view of Fr Tim Cullinane, who Sunday delivered the homily at the ceremony at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ennis before an invited audience of 1,800 people that included Cardinal Seán Brady and members of the hierarchy.

According to Fr Cullinane, a former colleague of Dr O’Reilly at the Society of African Missions (SMA): “We do need, especially at the moment, to remember that after Good Friday came Easter Sunday and new life with Christ rising, wounded but glorious.”

Fr Cullinane added: “At the moment it may be winter in the Irish church and in the country at many levels but spring will come because Christ, our hope, has risen and is always with us. Indeed, the first green shoots are already visible . . . for those who wish to see them.”

Dr O’Reilly (58), from Cork, succeeds Dr Willie Walsh, who resigned earlier this year on reaching 75. He has stepped down as superior general of the SMA, where he led an international group of more than 1,000 missionaries since 2001.

In his first remarks as the new bishop at the 2½-hour ceremony, Dr O’Reilly quoted the line of poet Robert Frost of “the road less travelled”.

“Perhaps that is the road that we, members of the church are asked to travel into the future, a pilgrim road, a road that offers us opportunities and challenges in preaching the message of love and hope brought by Jesus Christ.”

The road less travelled – without prestige and power – was different from what had been known in the past.

The congregation gave Dr Walsh a standing ovation after his successor said: “Bishop Willie, it is not possible for me to express adequately the gratitude that is due to you for your ministry as priest and bishop. You have shepherded the flock of Killaloe since 1994.

“I know you are held in high esteem by the people of the diocese and, indeed, well beyond the diocese, not only for your public presence but also for your quiet ministry of kindness and compassion to so many people.”

Cardinal Brady was accompanied by senior church figures, including Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin and Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford.

Also there were Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and Minister for Defence Tony Killeen. President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen were represented by their aides de camp.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Novena for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. In honor of your Assumption into heaven I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).

When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.

Feast Of St Fiacre

St. Fiacre (Fiachra) is not mentioned in the earlier Irish calendars, but it is said that he was born in Ireland and that he sailed over into France in quest of closer solitude, in which he might devote himself to God, unknown to the world.

He arrived at Meaux, where Saint Faro, who was the bishop of that city, gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie.

There is a legend that St. Faro offered him as much land as he could turn up in a day, and that St. Fiacre, instead of driving his furrow with a plough, turned the top of the soil with the point of his staff.

The anchorite cleared the ground of trees and briers, made himself a cell with a garden, built an oratory in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and made a hospice for travelers which developed into the village of Saint-Fiacre in Seine-et-Marne.

Many resorted to him for advice, and the poor, for relief. His charity moved him to attend cheerfully those that came to consult him; and in his hospice he entertained all comers, serving them with his own hands, and sometimes miraculously restored to health those that were sick.

He never allowed any woman to enter the enclosure of his hermitage, and Saint Fiacre extended the prohibition even to his chapel; several rather ill-natured legends profess to account for it.

Others tell us that those who attempted to transgress, were punished by visible judgements, and that, for example, in 1620 a lady of Paris, who claimed to be above this rule, going into the oratory, became distracted upon the spot and never recovered her senses; whereas Anne of Austria, Queen of France, was content to offer up her prayers outside the door, amongst the other pilgrims.

The fame of Saint Fiacre's miracles of healing continued after his death and crowds visited his shrine for centuries. Mgr. Seguier, Bishop of Meaux in 1649, and John de Chatillon, Count of Blois, gave testimony of their own relief.

Anne of Austria attributed to the meditation of this saint, the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641.

She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV.

Before that king underwent a severe operation, Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, began a novena of prayers at Saint-Fiacre to ask the divine blessing.

His relics at Meaux are still resorted to, and he is invoked against all sorts of physical ills, including venereal disease.

He is also a patron saint of gardeners and of cab-drivers of Paris.

French cabs are called fiacres because the first establishment to let coaches on hire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, was in the Rue Saint-Martin, near the hotel Saint-Fiacre, in Paris.

Saint Fiacre's feast is kept in some dioceses of France, and throughout Ireland on this date.

Many miracles were claimed through his working the land and interceding for others.

Conway saw Lemass as an ally

With the publication of the report into the Claudy bombing the reputation of Cardinal William Conway has taken a pummelling.

Cardinal Conway -- a plump, avuncular, pipe-smoking prelate -- oversaw the Irish church's modernisation during the fire-and-brimstone-lite Vatican II era.

But last week came dark claims that in 1972, Cardinal Conway colluded with the British government to protect bomber priest Fr James Chesney from prosecution.

Allegations of collusion between the Catholic Church in Ireland and the British state raise questions about what kind of private relationship Cardinal Conway, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1963 and 1977, had with the rulers of the Republic.

For such a significant figure in modern Irish history, Cardinal Conway is under-researched. This is because his personal papers, which are held by the Armagh Diocese, are closed to the public.

What's more, Jack Lynch (who was Taoiseach at the time of the Claudy bombings and returned for his second term in office the year Cardinal Conway died) burned all of his private papers on leaving office. This leaves only official documents, which are notoriously stiff in tone and content.

Fortunately, while researching a new book on Lynch's predecessor, Sean Lemass, I gained exclusive access to sections of Cardinal Conway's private papers.

Lemass was Taoiseach when Conway was made Cardinal in 1965. Contemporary newsreel shows him kneeling on the tarmac of Dublin Airport, poised to kiss the episcopal ring as the rotund Cardinal Conway steps off the plane from Rome. Yet, according to some historians, "the architect of modern Ireland" verged on agnosticism.

Tom Garvin, Lemass's latest biographer, argues that he conformed to the rituals of the Catholic tribe whilst not being much of a believer. Evidence from the Conway papers suggests otherwise.

In the Conway-Lemass correspondence, one document in particular stands out. Beneath a pile of fawning but brief exchanges is a long letter Cardinal Conway wrote to Lemass on his retirement as Taoiseach. This document is particularly telling about the closeness of the Taoiseach to the cardinal and, by extension, the Irish church to the Irish State.

At length, Cardinal Conway describes the personal warmth between him and Lemass and heaps praise on him for the "understanding and helpfulness which you showed at all times in church-State relations". It is obvious that Cardinal Conway thought of Lemass as an ally.

Compared to Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, Cardinal Conway represented compassionate Catholicism and an easing of the authoritarianism of the bishops. And like Cardinal Conway, Lemass was a reformer. But when in office, Cardinal Conway and Lemass's relationship was one of conservative collusion in a decade of rapid social change.

As a 'moderniser', Lemass has been placed closer to Cardinal Conway than McQuaid. But McQuaid regularly corresponded with his superior in Armagh praising the "cooperation" of Lemass. When a book-sharing scheme which threatened McQuaid's sectarian principles was mooted, McQuaid marched to Leinster House; he was "glad to report that today I saw the Taoiseach and that the proposal to conjoin TCD new library and the National Library will not be heard of again".

Lemass had been granting McQuaid favours for quite some time. During the Emergency he'd given the archbishop a petrol allowance of 50 gallons per month when the general public made do with one.

In the same manner as Cardinal Conway assured the authorities in 1972 that he would "see what could be done" about Chesney, quietly moving him to a parish in Donegal, Lemass, like his predecessor de Valera, became adept at appeasing the bishops from behind closed doors.

In the mid-Sixties, the early years of Cardinal Conway's primateship and the last of Lemass's premiership, republican violence lay dormant.

By 1969 things had changed. Lemass, his health rapidly deteriorating in retirement, underestimated the political resolve behind the nightmare unfolding in Northern Ireland, predicting that it would only take a wet weekend to dampen the enthusiasm of civil rights activists.

By 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles, Lemass was dead and Cardinal Conway, his friend and confidant, was sending Chesney to Coventry.

Many things had changed; but private deals between church and State, it seems, had not.