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Pope Francis celebrates 50th ordination anniversary by honoring his mentor

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Fifty years ago on Dec. 13, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained a Jesuit priest in Argentina. As pope, he will celebrate his ordination anniversary Friday by honoring one of his early spiritual mentors, Fr. Miguel Angel Fiorito.

Fiorito, 1916-2005, was a Jesuit Argentine priest, professor, and spiritual writer who died when Cardinal Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In a preface to a five-volume collection of his writings to be launched Dec. 13, Pope Francis wrote that Fiorito had a “passion for the spiritual exercises,” and “taught many to pray and to discern the signs of the times.”

The future Pope Francis first met Fiorito as a seminarian, and Fiorito became Bergoglio's spiritual director as he prepared for priestly ordination.

As Jesuit provincial for Argentina, Bergoglio later went on to put Fiorito in charge of the last stage of Jesuit seminary formation.

As a professor of Jesuit spirituality, Fiorito understood that “the spiritual mercy is to teach to discern,” Pope Francis wrote in the preface to his spiritual writings which he will present at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus Dec. 13.

“He had a special nose to feel a bad spirit, he knew how to expose him for his bad fruits. He was a man of combat against a single enemy: the bad spirit, satan, the devil, the tempter, the accuser, the enemy of our human nature,” he said.

Pope Francis described Fiorito in the preface as both “a man of “dialogue and listening” and “lovable father, a patient master and a firm adversary.”

The pope discovered his own vocation to the priesthood as a chemistry student in Argentina after a making a confession with a priest who was dying from leukemia.

“At that moment I felt that I had to become a priest. And I didn’t have the slightest hesitation,” Bergoglio said in an Italian radio interview in 2013.

In 1958, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He received a philosophy degree in 1963, taught literature and psychology, and then studied theology. He was ordained a priest in 1969. He would go on to serve as Jesuit provincial for Argentina, a seminary rector, a pastor, a professor, and a spiritual director.

Fr. Bergoglio was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Buenos Aires archdiocese in In 1992. He became the archdiocese's coadjutor archbishop in 1997, and succeeded as archbishop the following year. St. John Paul II appointed Archbishop Bergoglio a cardinal in 2001.

Pope Francis began his 50th ordination anniversary with a private morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta with all of the cardinals present in Rome. In the evening, he will celebrate with the General Curia of the Society of Jesus as he presents Fiorito’s collected writings.

Fr. Fioriti “brought us the divine imprint that the Lord Jesus has impressed on his life: that of the passion for spiritual exercises, which are an instrument for knowing how to feel and taste the Lord's request to our soul and help to cleanse it of all ambiguities,” Pope Francis wrote.

Senior Victoria cops said Pell investigation could distract from major police scandal

Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Senior police officials in the Australian state of Victoria discussed by email the way that their 2014 investigation into Cardinal George Pell could deflect public scrutiny from an emerging corruption scandal in the force.

In a 2014 email exchange, then-Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton and Charlie Morton, assistant director of media and corporate communications for the Victoria police department, discussed how to respond to a high-profile scandal which would hamper the credibility of Victoria police operations.

In an email dated April 1, 2014, Morton advised Ashton not to make a media appearance in response to the “Lawyer X” scandal, because forthcoming announcements about Cardinal Pell could distract media and public attention.

“The Pell stuff is coming tomorrow and will knock this way off the front page,” Morton wrote to Ashton.

“Unless there are some serious appeals from convicted [criminals] which might get up as a result of this, then I can't see this continuing with the same level of profile.”

The emails emerged this week as Ashton, now Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, gave evidence at a Royal Commission inquiry into the use of police sources and the Lawyer X scandal, in which criminal defense lawyer Nicola Gobbo was recruited to work as an informant against members of the Calabrian mafia, while she was representing several of them as an attorney.

Gobbo has claimed that her work as an informant for Victoria police from 1995-2009, despite issues of professional ethics and client confidentiality, led to 386 convictions, many of which are now believed to be tainted, subject to appeal, and could be overturned.
 
The email exchange between Ashton and Morton came after a news radio host in Melbourne referred on air to the about-to-break story as one of the “biggest law and order scandals in [Victoria state] history” and predicting it could result in “killers walking free.”
 
A subsequent High Court injunction prevented publication of Gobbo’s name, or any media reporting of the case from 2014, part of a years’-long, $4.5 million legal effort by Victoria police to keep details of the case from becoming public.
 
The reference to news about Pell being used to deflect negative coverage came just two months after Pope Francis had appointed Pell to reform Vatican financial affairs, placing him in charge of the newly-created Prefecture for the Economy in February, 2014.
 
It is not clear what information the two police officials were anticipating would be released the next day, though the previous week Pell had given evidence before the Royal Commission investigation into child sexual abuse in Church institutions.
 
In 2013, Victoria Police opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes by Cardinal Pell, although no victims had come forward against him and there had been no criminal complaints made against him at the time. Although they had found no victims or criminal accusations, in 2015 the program was expanded and put on a more formal footing.
 
In 2017, Pell was charged with sexually abusing two minors. He was convicted in 2018 on the evidence of a single victim-accuser, the second supposed victim died of a heroin overdose on Aril 8, 2014 – one week after the Victoria police email exchange. That second victim had denied on several occasions that he was sexually abused by Pell.

The cardinal’s conviction was upheld on appeal by the Victoria Supreme Court in August. The Australian High Court will hear Pell’s appeal of that decision in 2020.
 
Since the court gag order was lifted in 2019, the Lawyer X scandal has tainted successive chiefs of the Victoria police force, all of whom were aware of Gobbo’s role a mob informer and practicing criminal lawyer.
 
Much of Gobbo's work as a lawyer was with Australian members of the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia organization, which has established a deep presence both in Victoria and across the country, with allegations of multi-million dollar bribes to judges and close connections to local Victorian politicians in both political parties.
 
The link between the Italian and Australian branches of the organization is known to be close and ongoing.

The Lawyer X scandal has tainted several former heads of the Victoria police, all of whom were aware of Gobbo’s role and allowed it to continue. Ashton was first told of her work in 2007 when he was serving as assistant director of the Office of Police Integrity, an anti-corruption body.

Ashton told the Royal Commission on Tuesday that he saw no reason to suspect “anything untoward was going on” when he learned the lawyer was acting as a police informant against her own clients.

Gobbo, who is the niece of a former Victoria Supreme Court judge, has since said she fears retribution by police because of the scandal, refusing to go into witness protection and claiming police have threatened to take her children into protective custody to compel her cooperation.

Earlier this week, she told Australian media that “It's not the first time that they [Victoria Police] threatened me in relation to toeing the line and doing things their way or they would take my children."

The Victoria police force has been the subject of numerous scandals over the years. In addition to the allegations concerning Gobbo, a 2017 report found that nearly half (46%) of Victoria Police employees believe they would suffer personal repercussions if they reported corruption, with almost one in five saying it would cost them their job.
 

Copy Desk Daily, Dec. 13, 2019

NCR Today: The Copy Desk Daily highlights the latest news and opinion that have crossed copy editors' desks, on the way to readers.

Rochester Diocese using old legal 'playbook' by declaring bankruptcy, say victims' advocates

Reeling under the financial weight of clerical sexual misconduct lawsuits, Rochester joined a list of other dioceses across the country that have also filed for bankruptcy protection, which, say victim advocates and legal scholars, denies victims their day in court, can cover up wrongdoings and result in lower settlements.

Your thoughts on traditional Latin Mass, part two

Your thoughts: Last month, NCR published reader responses to two opinion pieces on Latin Mass. More readers wrote in after this first batch appeared.

A look at 15 states making it easier to sue over sex abuse

Fifteen states have revised their laws in the past two years extending or suspending statute of limitations to allow child sex abuse claims stretching back decades, unleashing potentially thousands of new lawsuits.

Ours is a time of lying: See also, 'The Afghanistan Papers'

Distinctly Catholic: Mendacity has long been a feature of public and especially political life; this week, however, has been a banner week for big institutional lies, partisan lying, and self-serving claims from the stump that are demonstrably impossible.

Pope's quotes: Good sentiments

Pope's quotes: "Mercy is that outbound trip of misery to my heart, borne by my heart, that moves my heart and that, at times, moves it to the point that the heart becomes like a compass at the North Pole, that is unable to stop, for what it feels."

How the blind can 'see' Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 12, 2019 / 07:10 pm (CNA).-

Just inside the entrance to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is a small area with a bas-relief sculpture of the Virgin Mary on display, designed especially for the blind to encounter Our Lady.

Fr. Umberto Mauro Marsich, an Italian Xavarian missionary priest, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, that the image is made of highly durable nylon fiber and is a gift from the Institute of Italian Culture and the Italian Embassy.

The sculpture is a “gift to the Archdiocese of Mexico so the blind can come here” and venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said.

“They first read the entire description in Braille, the Nahuatl symbology of the image” on a panel to the side, “and then they come over and touch the image with their hands,” he explained.

Marsich, who holds a doctorate in moral theology and teaches at the Pontifical University of Mexico, played a key role in having the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the blind made and donated.

The idea came about in 2008 during an exposition of a painting of the Virgin de la Pera in Mexico which was brought to the country along with a much simpler bas-relief version.

The head of an association for the blind was in attendance at the exposition. When he touched the bas-relief image he said, “Why can't we do something similar with Our Lady of Guadalupe?”

Fr. Marsich, who was also there at the time, said he worked with two other Italians to have a bas-relief of Our Lady of Guadalupe made.

“My friend Faranda went back to Italy and looked for people to make donations” for the work of art, Marsich said.

The sculpture was produced in the city of Faenza, Italy, in 2009. It cost about $22,000 to make.

A few days after its completion, it was brought to Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, where Pope Benedict XVI blessed it. It was then transported to Mexico and placed in the Guadalupe Basilica on Dec. 9, 2009.

More than 100 visually-impaired people gathered on the day the statue was installed in the basilica. Marsich said he was touched by their emotion, as, “finally being able to touch her, [they] discovered the beauty of the message conveyed to them by the Nahuatl symbology, which is a very luminous symbology.”

“People were so obviously moved that they were weeping,” he recalled.

However, the image is not just to be contemplated by visually impaired people, he pointed out.

The priest stressed that everyone can express “in some way our affection, our love, our tenderness for Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Marsich hopes other bishops will be encouraged to ask for a replica of the image of the Virgin Mary for their dioceses, which he said would cost significantly less than the original.

 

Lebanese bishops concerned about Christian emigration

Beirut, Lebanon, Dec 12, 2019 / 06:01 pm (CNA).-   As anti-government protests continue in Lebanon, the country’s economic crisis is worsening. Banks have imposed restrictions on withdrawals and transfers, the currency has been devalued and many people are losing jobs. Financial despair has driven at least three Lebanese to commit suicide.



 A growing number of Christians are contemplating emigration, just as happened during Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990), when thousands of Lebanese Christians left for the West. Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai said Dec. 6: “Some embassies, which I will not name now, are facilitating the issue of emigration, as if it is a second war to empty Lebanon of its people and Christians.”

Aid to the Church in Need spoke about the situation in Lebanon with Melkite Archbishop Georges Bacouni of Beirut. He said:

“We are living like in an earthquake. We’re facing enormous economic problems, including a failing banking system. Since the protests began, many more people have lost their jobs, and now some are getting only half of their salary. This has a huge impact on families.

“NGOs from around the world have been taking care of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is appreciated. Now, with the new situation, will they consider helping the Lebanese people as well?
 
“Because of the economic crisis, Christians are facing the question of emigration, of looking for a better way of life. There’s a risk of losing the young generation: they don’t want to stay in Lebanon. There are too many question marks about the country’s future.

“The Church in Lebanon is going to face hard times as it has to care for more and more needy people. Church institutions—schools, universities and hospitals—are already experiencing serious difficulties. People cannot afford to pay tuition or medical bills. We don’t want to make difficult decisions like closing schools.  Historically, Catholic schools in Lebanon have served Muslim and Druze students as well. Like Catholic universities, they are places of coexistence where young people can experience the culture of living together.  

“For the first time I see Lebanese from many confessions, many religions, united and trying to put sectarianism aside.  It’s beautiful. However, Church leaders have urged the demonstrators to carry out all their movements peacefully.

“The Church supports the people who are asking for an end to corruption, to have ministers who are experts in their domains and who would take measures to stop all forms of corruption. We hope a new government will be formed soon.

“Throughout this ordeal, Jesus is with us and He will not leave us. We pray and hope to soon see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.”



Doreen Abi Raad writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.