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Fernando Karadima, former priest whose sex abuse scandal rocked Chile, dead at 90

Fernando Karadima / Chilean Judicial Branch

Denver Newsroom, Jul 26, 2021 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Fernando Karadima, an influential former priest in Chile whose sexual abuse of minors prompted major questions about episcopal cover-ups, has died at the age of 90. Allegations that Karadima’s protégés helped cover up his abuse entangled Pope Francis, and resulted in massive controversy and sweeping changes to the makeup of the country’s bishops.

Local media reported that while the cause of Karadima’s death was unknown, he had previously been treated for heart problems. According to Reuters, while one news report said that Karadima died Monday, CNN Chile showed a death certificate indicating that he died the night of Sunday, July 25. He had resided most recently at a nursing home in Chile.

“We closely accompany the surviving victims and their families, asking the merciful God to heal the pain caused to all those who have suffered,” the Archbishopric of Santiago said in response. “At the same time, as the archbishopric we reaffirm our commitment to continue working to promote healthy and safe environments within the Church.”

Karadima was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is considered to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood, and some of these men became bishops.

Karadima himself has denied the allegations of sex abuse, and he never faced a trial under Chilean law for his alleged crimes because of the statutes of limitations. He was convicted in a church court and was later laicized.

As details of his abuse became known, several prominent Chilean bishops stood accused of systematically covering up his abuse, and of doing the same for other accused priests.

On a 2018 visit to Chile, Pope Francis publicly contended it was “calumny” to claim that Karadima’s protégé Bishop Juan Barros had collaborated in abuse. The pope said that he had seen no evidence of this. After drawing rebukes, he soon apologized to Karadima’s victims and investigated the matter. He then said he had been misinformed, sought a meeting with some victims, and demanded that scores of Chile’s bishops submit their resignations to him.

Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in a canonical process handled by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011. Because of his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation (for his crimes) as well for the victims of abuse.”

In September 2018, Pope Francis laicized Karadima, expelling him from the clerical state in a move the Vatican described as an “exceptional measure” taken in response to the “exceptional damage” done by the priest’s crimes.

In March 2019, the Court of Appeals of Santiago ordered the Santiago archdiocese to pay 300 million pesos - about $439,000 - to three victims of Karadima who said the former priest abused them over a period of years when they were minors 

The Santiago archdiocese accepted the court ruling and voiced hope the action could help restore trust and prevent further mishandling of abuse. The archdiocese said the ruling showed the necessity of making “deep reforms” to prevent other failures. The ruling could mean many more civil lawsuits against the Church.

Karadima victims Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo had filed the lawsuit against the archdiocese in 2013 for “moral damage.” The public testimony of the men, especially Cruz, was instrumental in bringing the Chilean abuse crisis to international attention.

In a July 26 statement posted to Twitter by Cruz, the three men responded to his death.

“Everything we had to say about Karadima has been said. He was one more link in the culture of abuse and cover-up in the Church,” they said. “We are at peace, and we are only moved to continue fighting so that these crimes do not happen again, and for so many people who have lived through it and who still do not have justice.”

Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s protégés and protectors, helped turn the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis made his public defense of Barros. 

Those remarks drew serious rebukes, including one from Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the pope’s commission on sexual abuse. Pope Francis apologized for the tone of his remarks, while initially insisting on the innocence of Barros.

The Pope then sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an expert on clerical sexual abuse allegations, to investigate the claims against Barros. Scicluna produced a lengthy report on the matter, leading to a more thorough papal apology and major efforts to change and reform the leadership of the Catholic Church in Chile.

In April 2018, Francis sent a letter to Chile’s bishops saying that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” After crisis meetings over several days in May 2018, the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country. Some 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations, and the Pope accepted at least eight of them.

In March 2021 Pope Francis appointed Cruz, a victim of Karadima, to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. I deeply appreciate it,” Cruz said in response.

In 2015 Cruz had sought to send a letter to Pope Francis through Marie Collins, then a member of the pope’s sexual abuse commission. The letter included Cruz’s report that Barros and others had witnessed Karadima abusing or kissing him but did nothing to stop it. In April 2015, Collins delivered this letter to O’Malley and asked the cardinal to deliver it to Pope Francis.

In February 2018, Collins told the Associated Press that O’Malley gave assurances that the letter was delivered during the September 2015 papal visit to Philadelphia. Collins said O’Malley “told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope — in his hands.”

Victims have argued that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, who both served as archbishops of Santiago, were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. In March 2019 Pope Francis accepted Ezzati’s resignation as archbishop—a resignation originally submitted with the other Chilean bishops. Ezzati had faced allegations of covering up abuse by other priests, though he denies ever covering up abuse.

In a 2018 lawsuit, Cruz and the two other Karadima victims with him charged that Errazuriz had committed perjury in the civil suit for compensation for damages filed against the Archdiocese of Santiago.

Cardinal Errazuriz served for a time on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, a special advisory body. He left that council in 2018, telling local media it was the end of his term. He has been accused of misinforming the Pope about the role of Barros in concealing Karadima’s abuse.

CRS warns of ‘hunger pandemic’ afflicting the elderly in Cuba

July 11, 2021: Cubans protest in Havana / Domitille P/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 26, 2021 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

The director of the Hispanic Development Unit of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ana Gloria Rivas-Vásquez, called for Catholics around the world to help Cuba, especially its elderly, afflicted by what she calls a "hunger pandemic."

“In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a hunger pandemic in Cuba. The people most affected are the elderly. The people of Cuba are aging and around 20% are older people,” Rivas-Vásquez told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner July 25, the day the Church inaugurated the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

According to 2017 data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 20% of the population of the countries of Barbados, Cuba and Uruguay was 60 years old or more, and 6 to 7% of the population was 75 years old or more.

The commission’s data also indicated that the island became the first aging economy in the region since 2010 due to various factors, including a sustained decline in fertility and a sustained net loss in emigration versus immigration.

The Cuban government itself reported that at the end of 2020, 21.3% of its population was over 60 years old. Some estimates indicate that in the near future, one-third of the island's inhabitants will be seniors.

In this context, CRS has been working closely with Cáritas Cuba for about 30 years to help the vulnerable population, including the elderly.

Both humanitarian agencies currently have a feeding program for older adults in the dioceses of Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Holguín.

Rivas-Vásquez indicated that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this "program for the elderly, which was initially carried out in soup kitchens, is now carried out individually, house by house."

“We also bring food to people who are in isolation after being infected with the virus, which makes logistics even more difficult. However, thank God, Caritas Cuba has a network of volunteers who help these people who need it so much,” she added.

The Catholic Relief Services director said "there’s a shortage of food, hygiene supplies and personal health protection equipment" in Cuba.

Massive protests took place across Cuba from July 11-12. Protesters shouting “Freedom!” also cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has blamed the United States for the country’s economic problems, as the Castro brothers before him had done. The United States has maintained an economic embargo of exports to Cuba since 1960. However, the U.S. State Department stated on July 23 that the embargo “allows humanitarian goods to reach Cuba, and the U.S. government expedites requests to export humanitarian or medical supplies to Cuba.”

Given the situation, Rivas-Vásquez said that "what we want is to increase the help we provide to Caritas Cuba, because the elderly are the most affected by the crisis."

“We do everything possible so that the food reaches our partner agency. We work in more than 100 countries around the world and we are always looking for ways to get help to those most in need. We have nearly 80 years of experience in many different environments,” she explained.

Rivas-Vásquez said that CRS has "very generous Catholic and non-Catholic donors in the United States," but that today they want "to reach more people to help us, especially with our brothers and sisters on the island."

Donating responds to “the call of the Gospel, to help others,” she said. “We thank in advance for all the financial help, because without that we would not be able to do our job. But we also always ask for prayer.”

Recent target of NY pro-abortion protests speaks out

Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR (right) encounters protesters during the July 10 "Witness for Life" prayer procession in Brooklyn. / Jeffrey Bruno/Instagram/EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2021 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

After pro-abortion protesters obstructed a July 10 pro-life rosary procession in Brooklyn, a priest leading the procession compared it to a “Way of the Cross.”

Pro-life advocate Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR helped lead the “Witness for Life” prayer procession from St. Paul’s Catholic church in Brooklyn to the local Planned Parenthood clinic on July 10. Pro-abortion protesters physically impeded the march and harassed participants; the procession took two hours to traverse seven blocks, according to march leaders.

“When we go to the abortion clinic, it’s as if we’re going to modern-day Calvary, where innocent blood is shed,” Fr. Moscinski told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in an interview on Thursday, July 22. “And our procession there, on that day, was kind of like a Way of the Cross for us.”

“I was kind of thinking of the abuse that Our Lord suffered when He was carrying His cross to Calvary,” he said, noting that “we were all in a spirit of prayer there, we were praying the rosary as we went.”

“So it was difficult, but we persevered, and we did finally get there.”

Brooklyn’s Witness for Life day of prayer, which occurs on the second Saturday of each month, normally begins with an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Paul’s church. A rosary procession to the local Planned Parenthood clinic follows Mass. 

However, on July 10, the group New York City for Abortion Rights (NYCFAR) gathered outside St. Paul’s before the morning Mass and chanted throughout the Mass. Some of their chants outside the church included “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide,” as well as “St. Paul’s Church harasses patients” and “Free abortion on demand, can we win it? Yes we can.” 

Protestors held signs with phrases including “God loves abortion,” and “This church harasses women.” 

NYCFAR targeted Moscinski in flyers as the “leader” of the pro-life march and described him as “far from peaceful.”

Photos of the procession showed pro-abortion advocates holding signs and smoking cigarettes in the face of Fr. Moscinski. EWTN Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro asked Moscinski how he found peace amidst the chaos 

“We had just come from celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We received Jesus in Holy Communion, and He’s the source of our peace and our strength,” he said. “And when I was looking at those people, I was thinking ‘these people are not the enemy. They’re deceived.’”

When asked what more pro-life advocates could do to fight abortion, Fr. Moscinski said that “prayer and fasting” is necessary. 

“We need to discover again the humility and courage to pray and fast,” he said. “And I think that’s something we could all do a lot better.”

“Pro-life is the pre-eminent issue in the United States, and every Catholic has to be actively engaged in the pro-life movement in some way,” he said in the July 24 interview. “Not everybody can do everything,” he said, “but everybody has to do at least something.”

The July 10 encounter between pro-abortion protestors and “Witness for Life” was the second such incident in as many months. At the previous month’s Witness for Life event, NYCFAR organized a protest as well.

Moscinski told Hadro the situation for the pro-life movement in the area is “challenging and difficult,” noting the almost 300 abortions that take place each day in the state. 

Moscinski has been arrested multiple times in “red rose rescues,” where he enters abortion clinics and attempts to counsel women seeking abortion to choose life. 

“Our measure of our love for Christ is determined by what we do to save the least among us,” Moscinski said, “because the Lord said whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did to me.” 

'APSA-lute' transparency: Vatican hopes to quell financial intrigue

On the eve of a trial for financial malfeasance connected to the Vatican's purchase of a property in London, the office that handles most of the Vatican's investment portfolio, including real estate, made public a summary of its annual budget for the first time. The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, known by its Italian initials APSA, released its budget synthesis July 24, and its president, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, described it as "a step forward in the direction of transparency and sharing." APSA directly administers 4,051 properties in Italy and entrusts to outside companies the administration of some 1,200 properties in London, Paris, Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, the report said.

Vatican reports $78 million deficit, also releases APSA report

The Vatican reported the Roman Curia had a $78 million deficit in 2020, and on the same day, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which administers Vatican properties and investments, made a summary of its annual budget public for the first time.

Elderly are to be valued, not discarded, pope says

Older people are precious nourishment for families, young people and communities, Pope Francis said in the homily he wrote for the Mass marking the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Fr. Jacques Hamel: Catholic priest honored 5 years after he was killed at Mass in terrorist attack

Fr. Jacques Hamel. / Diocese of Rouen via Wikipedia.

Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, Jul 26, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen celebrated a Mass on Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in a terrorist attack.

The Mass took place at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, in northern France, where Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State during Mass on July 26, 2016.

In his homily, based on the day’s Gospel reading, Lebrun said: “The Kingdom of God is built from the smallest of seeds or a little leaven. How can we not think of Fr. Jacques Hamel, an anti-celebrity priest, working in a parish that was apparently little-noticed, who sowed by his presence, by his welcome, by his preaching?”

“It takes time, the time of the plant that grows, the time of the leaven that makes the dough rise. Time is an ally. We are only at the fifth anniversary, if I dare say so.”

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, attended both the Mass and a civil commemoration in the town in the Normandy region.

“Isn’t murdering a priest in his church a profound attack on the soul of France?” he asked in a video posted on his Twitter account. “And by striking the Catholic Church, the Church of France, the terrorists did not simply strike those who believed in God, they evidently struck all French people.”

The French weekly La Vie published documents earlier this month indicating that the attackers, who were shot dead by police as they exited the church, communicated beforehand with a senior ISIS operative based in Syria.

AFP reported on July 26 that four people suspected of involvement in the attack are scheduled to go on trial in Paris on Feb. 14, 2022.

The Rouen archdiocese began a preliminary inquiry into Hamel’s sainthood cause in 2016 after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- announced the formal opening of the priest’s cause on April 13, 2017.

During the diocesan phase of the cause, archivists transcribed 600 homilies preached by Hamel, reported the French Catholic television channel KTO.

Lebrun gave the French section of Vatican News an update on the cause on July 24.

He said: “As you know, the pope dispensed us from the five-year time limit for opening the cause, which made it possible to carry out the diocesan investigation.”

“And if I may say so, providentially, this dispensation was welcome because a few weeks ago, the first eyewitness, Jeanine Coponet, passed away, just before the five years elapsed.”

“Then, two years ago, we filed the acts of the diocesan investigation. A year ago, we received the decree of validity, which means that the investigation is valid.”

“Now, all the testimonies are registered at the [Vatican] Congregation for the Causes of Saints and it is no longer ours. We are waiting wisely and I think it is good that the five-year deadline is being respected.”

Benedict XVI laments lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Freiburg, Jul 26, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has expressed concern about the lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany.

The retired pope made the comments in a written conversation in the August issue of the German magazine Herder Korrespondenz, marking the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“In Church institutions -- hospitals, schools, Caritas -- many people participate in decisive positions who do not share the inner mission of the Church and thus in many cases obscure the witness of this institution,” he said.

In an exchange with Tobias Winstel, the 94-year-old reflected on the concept of the “Amtskirche,” a German term that can be translated as “institutional Church” and is used to refer to the large number of Church-tax funded structures and institutions in Germany.

He wrote: “The word ‘Amtskirche’ was coined to express the contrast between what is officially demanded and what is personally believed. The word ‘Amtskirche’ insinuates an inner contradiction between what the faith actually demands and signifies and its depersonalization.”

He suggested that many texts issued by the German Church were crafted by people for whom faith was largely institutional.

“In this sense, I must admit that for a large part of institutional Church texts in Germany, the word ‘Amtskirche’ does indeed apply,” he commented.

He continued: “As long as in institutional Church texts only the office, but not the heart and the spirit, speak, so long the exodus from the world of faith will continue.”

Benedict, who was prefect of Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before he was elected pope, said: “That’s why it seemed important to me then, as it does now, to take the person out of the cover of office and expect a real personal testimony of faith from the spokesmen of the Church.”

In the conversation, Benedict also discussed an issue that he had highlighted in 2011, during his final trip to Germany before his resignation as pope in 2013.

In an address in Freiburg, a university town in southwest Germany, he implicitly criticized aspects of the German Church, referring to a tendency to give “greater weight to organization and institutionalization” than to the Church’s “vocation to openness towards God.”

Benedict called in the speech for a “Church that is detached from worldliness,” using the German phrase “entweltlichte Kirche.”

The former pope told Herder Korrespondenz that he now felt that the term was inadequate.

“The word ‘Entweltlichung’ [‘detachment from worldliness’] indicates the negative part of the movement I am concerned with,” he wrote. “The positive is not sufficiently expressed by it.”

Rather, he said, it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time “into the freedom of faith.”

In the written exchange, Benedict also warned Catholics against the danger of seeking a “flight into pure doctrine.”

Benedict, who was the Vatican’s doctrinal chief from 1982 to 2005, said that attempting such a flight was “completely unrealistic.”

“A doctrine that would exist like a nature preserve separated from the daily world of faith and its needs would be at the same time an abandonment of faith itself,” he said.

In the conversation, Benedict was also asked whether he was a good pastor when he served at Precious Blood church in the Bogenhausen district of Munich after his ordination on June 29, 1951.

“Whether I have been a good priest and pastor, I dare not judge,” he replied, adding that he had tried “to live up to the demands of my ministry and ordination.”

How priests prepare to say Mass

Newly ordained priests are vested during their Mass of Ordination in St. Peter's Basilica, April 26, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

In preparation for Mass, priests make ready the sacred vessels, linens, and vestments that they use. Afterward, they take care to clean up. Every action they take, every word they say, stresses the importance of the Mass.

Two priests located in Washington, D.C., Fr. William Foley at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Fr. Charles Gallagher at Immaculate Conception, gave a behind-the-scenes look to EWTN News In Depth July 16.

Preparations for Mass are made in the sacristy.

“One of the first things I do is to make sure the chalice is ready,” Fr. Foley said. 

Priests often receive a chalice at their ordination. His family, he said, purchased his from a chalice maker in Montreal, Canada, over 42 years ago.

Both the chalice and the paten, a plate that holds the hosts, consist of precious metals.

“The reason why the paten is – and the chalice – are so beautiful,” Fr. Gallagher said, is “because they really touch God. And we want to give the best we have to God.”

Linens also play a critical role in the Mass. The corporal, which takes its name from the Latin word for “body,” is a square linen cloth that often has a cross embroidered on it. 

 

It exists, Fr. Foley said, so that “during the Mass, when the priest breaks the host, nothing falls off of it.” Instead, the cloth catches the body of Christ. 

Fr. Gallagher also discussed the purificator. 

“So after the chalice is used,” he said, “I consume the remaining precious blood and I rinse it with water and then I use the purificator to wipe it and to dry it.”

After the vessels and linens are prepared, the priest vests.

First, the priest “says a special prayer to wash his hands,” Fr. Gallagher said.

“This prayer in Latin says, ‘Give, Lord, strength to my hands to wipe out all stain so that, without pollution of mind or body, I may dare to serve You,’” he translated.

One layer at a time, the priest gets ready for Mass.

“The first is called an amice,” said Fr. Gallagher, pointing to a white cloth that wraps around the shoulders and neck. “This is really meant to be like a helmet of salvation.”

Then, “over the amice, I put on the alb,” he said. The floor-length white vestment with sleeves is put on with the prayer “Wash me clean, Lord, and cleanse me from my sin; that I may rejoice and be glad unendingly with them that have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

Around the alb, the priest places a cincture, the prayer for which is: “Gird me, Lord, with the belt of faith, my loins with the virtue of chastity, and extinguish in them the humour of lust; that the strength of all chastity may ever abide in me.”

Next comes the stole, at which the priest prays, “Restore to me, Lord, I beseech Thee, the stole of immortality, which I lost in the transgression of the first father; and, though unworthy I presume to approach Thy sacred mystery with this garment, grant that I may merit to rejoice in it forever.”

Finally, the priest dons the chasuble, a sleeveless and often ornate outer vestment, praying, “O Lord, who said: my yoke is sweet and my burden light: grant that I may be able so to bear it, so that I may be able to obtain Thy grace.”

The point of the prayers for the vestments “is that the priest is covering up his humanity, because it's Our Lord Jesus who celebrates the Mass,” Fr. Gallagher emphasized. “So all of these different elements help the priest realize it's Our Lord Jesus who is taking over.”

He added, “Yes, he uses my voice, my hands, my gestures, but it's really Our Lord and his power that is able to change the bread into his body.”

Following the Mass, the linens and the vessels must be cleaned.

“It's washed in a very special way,” Fr. Foley said, pointing to the corporal. “Because it may, it comes in contact with the precious host, the precious blood.”

Fr. Gallagher added, “It would soak for a few days in water along with any other – the sacred linens.” That water is later “poured into a special sink that we call a sacrarium.”

The sacrarium, Fr. Foley said, “goes not into the sewer system, but into the dirt, into the ground,” so that “the precious body and blood of the Lord does not get mingled with sewage.”

Their actions and words point to the reverence due to the Mass and the body and blood of Christ.

“The Mass is actually not one of the most time-consuming things we do, but it is the most important thing we do,” Fr. Gallagher concluded. “So that's why it's sort of shrouded with all these special rituals, prayers of preparation to help the priest prepare and celebrate Mass very well. And that's the most important thing he can do for his people.”

Pope Francis offers blessing to athletes at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Iran and Poland compete in the volleyball tournament of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. / Tasnim News Agency via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In his Angelus address on July 25, the pope noted that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad began in Japan on July 23.

“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.

“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”

The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.

McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.

“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.

Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.

Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”

“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”

“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”