St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Canons of St. John Cantius founder to face review board after removal amid misconduct claims

Chicago, Ill., Mar 19, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church was removed from office last week for unspecified “credible” allegations of misconduct involving adult men, a response the Chicago archdiocese says is typical in such cases.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago removed Father C. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church.
“I am aware that this is difficult news to receive, but the Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to ensuring those serving our parishioners are fit for ministry,” the cardinal said in a statement. “Know that this decision was made after careful consideration. I will continue to pray for you and am confident the Lord will sustain the St. John Cantius community as you make this transition.”
Cardinal Cupich said he had to withdraw the priest’s faculties to minister in the archdiocese “after learning of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men.”
Susan Thomas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA that the priest is not accused of a canonical crime, known as a “delict,” and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he is not being investigated for a civil crime.

The archdiocese has referred the matter to Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists, to deal with the allegations and to decide on any further action. Phillips, though the founder of the Canons Regular, is canonically a member of the Resurrectionists.

Phillips’ attorney, Steve Komie of Komie and Associates, told CNA that he has been informed that the Resurrectionist provincial has directed a review board to review the priest’s situation.

“Father Philips has asked me to say that he’s looking forward to the convocation of the board under the decree of the provincial and he’s looking forward to appearing in front of the board, and he’s looking forward to have the board work its way through the claims being currently made,” Komie said.
“He looks forward to the report and in the meantime he’s praying for the peace and reconciliation of all involved.”
“That’s the extent of his statement, because at this time under the rules he is not allowed to comment further,” said the attorney.

In some Catholic circles, St. John Cantius Parish has become well-known for its liturgy and music. It celebrates some Masses in Latin, including the Extraordinary Form.
Phillips had served at the parish since 1988. In 1998 he founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and the Congregation of the Resurrection. It follows the Rule of St. Augustine and seeks to “preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church,” its website says.
Phillips will live away from the parish at a residence to be determined by his order.
Thomas told CNA that removal is “a typical response for misconduct of this nature.”
“Other cases have been handled in the same way,” she said.
The priest was removed in accordance with “the standard Archdiocesan process in addressing allegations of improper conduct with adults.” The allegations do not concern minors.

In 2015, Rev. Marco Mercado was removed from a Chicago archdiocesan parish because of what the archdiocese called an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” His priestly faculties were also revoked.

In the same year, Rev. Brendan Curran, O.P, was removed from ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago after he was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with an unmarried adult woman. In addition to parish ministry, Curran was known as an immigration rights activist in the Chicago area.
Cardinal Cupich has appointed Fr. Scott Thelander, S.J.C., as administrator of St. John Cantius Parish and interim superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
“He is an experienced pastor who is committed to ensuring that the spiritual, pastoral and administrative services of your parish will continue without interruption,” the cardinal said. “The current services offered at the parish and schedule of Masses will continue.”
The service and training of the Canons Regular and members in seminary formation will continue, the cardinal said.

Supreme Court to hear arguments about California abortion law

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, to decide if a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

California’s “Reproductive FACT Act” requires pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion services to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

The Reproductive FACT Act was passed in 2015. Pregnancy centers filed suit shortly afterwards. NIFLA argues that pro-life employees at pregnancy centers should not be compelled to share information about abortion services. After a series of appeals, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2017.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities and sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. They do not provide abortion services or abortion referrals, and counselors at these centers encourage a woman to continue her pregnancy.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional. 

Is abortion really safe? Critics respond to new study

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report calling the practice of abortion in the U.S. a safe procedure was published last week, causing multiple critics to question the accuracy of its findings.

The study, “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States”, was conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It ultimately concluded that abortions offered within the U.S are safe medical procedures.

“I would say the main takeaway is that abortions that are provided in the United States are safe and effective,” stated Ned Calonge, co-chair of the committee which authored the report, according to NPR.

However, Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that abortion is never safe.

“Abortion is not safe for women. Safe means free from risk, free from harm. And abortion harms women,” Harrison told CNA, adding that “abortion is never safe for the unborn child. It is lethal for the unborn child.”

Harrison said that abortion is harmful to women on a number of different levels. First, it can “harm women physically by damaging their uterus, and causing them to have pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies.”

While the study, approximately 200 pages in length, also reported that complications due to abortions are “rare,” Harrison highlighted a number of risks that are associated with the practice.

“Abortion can harm women immediately with the risks of bleeding and damage to their womb and other pelvic organs,” she said, also underscoring long-term effects such as harming women “psychologically, increasing their risk of suicide, drug abuse, and hospitalization from depression.”

Other harms, such as an increased risk for breast cancer, are also very real, according to Harrison, since abortion affects the maturity of breast tissue development, prematurely halting the production of milk and making the tissue more susceptible to cancer.

However, the report claimed that abortion does not effect a woman’s well-being or overall health, saying there is no evidence that breast cancer follows abortion.

“A politically motivated study doesn’t change the reality that abortion hurts women,” Harrison said.

The study also made claims that some state laws which regulate the practice of abortion can cause a road block to “safe and effective care.”

The report pointed to various state laws which require doctors to notify their patients about the risk of breast cancer when receiving an abortion, or requiring a 24-hour waiting period before going through with the procedure. Other states require an ultrasound before an abortion, while some states only allow physicians to perform the termination.

These regulations, according to the study, hinder the effectiveness of abortion and could “put the patient at greater risk of an adverse event.”

Abby Johnson, president of the pro-life organization “And Then There Were None,” said these state requirements “are not a hardship” and would not cause additional harm to the mother.

“None of the provisions made by the states, who have the right to regulate abortion, are to make abortion unsafe or inaccessible,” Johnson noted.

“Any surgery requires pre-op. Abortion should be no different,” she continued.

The study also made claims that nurse practitioners should be able to perform the procedure, saying it would not be necessary for the termination to be strictly performed by a licensed physician.

However, Harrison called this casual view of a significant medical procedure “irresponsible,” according to NPR.

“The tendency to look at abortion as though it were not a serious medical procedure is irresponsible,” Harrison said.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, noted some discrepancies in the report’s findings.

Hawkins said “there is no national reporting law requiring that the outcome of abortion be tracked.” In fact, Hawkins noted that all abortion data within the U.S. is voluntarily reported by the abortionists themselves, which could leave room for a significant bias in overall reporting.

“One must assume that the public relations gloss on the report covers up the reality that we can’t determine all the harms of abortion in the United States because we only know what abortionists want to tell us,” Hawkins said in a recent press release.

“What we have is the word of abortion partisans, and not real, verifiable data,” Hawkins continued, saying, “if abortion is so safe, then let’s have a national abortion reporting law that tracks all abortions and all abortion outcomes.”

How the Big Easy celebrates St. Joseph

New Orleans, La., Mar 19, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic culture is everywhere in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is the city’s defining celebration. The city’s cathedral is one of its most well-known landmarks. And in the days leading to March 19, the people of New Orleans take up a Catholic tradition that began in the Middle Ages - they build “St. Joseph altars.”

This year, nearly 60 New Orleans Catholic schools and parishes have constructed devotional altars, as an expression of gratitude to St. Joseph, and as a labor of love for parishioners, friends, and neighbors.

"The original [St. Joseph’s] altar was built by the people of Sicily in thanks for his prayers to bring an end to their famine," said Sarah McDonald, communications director of Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"Today, they are considered a labor of love. As you are supposed to be working on the altar you are praying to St. Joseph to bless your family and to hear your intentions and pass them on," she told CNA.

The tradition began in Sicily, where St. Joseph's intercession is said to have helped the island through a severe famine almost 1,000 years ago. According to legend, people thanked St. Joseph for his prayers by building prayer altars, on which they placed food, pastries, flowers, wine, and, especially, fava beans.

The beans, which are said to pair well with Chianti, were the first crop Sicilians are believed to have grown once their drought ended.

The altars became a custom in Sicily. They came to New Orleans during a wave a Sicilian migration in 19th century.

"In New Orleans we have a very large Sicilian immigrant population coming over in the late 18th century/early 19th century, and with the Sicilian immigrants came the tradition ... of St. Joseph's altars,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the altars were first built in people's homes, for celebration with neighbors and families. They have now moved to parishes and are even found in some businesses, including grocery stores and concert venues.

Constructed over several days, the altars typically are made in the shape of a cross, with three tiers to represent the Trinity. A picture of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier. Altars are typically blessed by a priest.

The altars are covered with baked goods, flowers, candles, fruits, vegetables, and meatless meals. Many of the pastries and cookies have a symbolic meaning: some cookies are shaped as carpenter's tools or the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The food is an expression of gratitude for the local harvest, McDonald said, noting that after the festival canned goods and money are donated to those in need.

To complete the day, many parishes stage a reenactment of the Holy Family's search for shelter in Bethlehem, after which a feast is served.

Called "Tupa Tupa" or "Knock Knock," the custom has children representing the Holy Family knocking on the parish door looking for shelter. Two times the procession is denied shelter, and on the third knock everyone is let in for the feast.

UK bill seeks to protect conscientious objection for medical practitioners

London, England, Mar 19, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill in the British Parliament would clarify the rights of conscientious objection for medical professionals, protecting them from participating in medical procedures to which their beliefs are opposed.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would defend healthcare workers in England and Wales from partaking in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, IVF or similar fertility treatments, or abortion if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

The bill, now at the committee stage in the House of Lords, was introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, a peer from Northern Ireland, who believes medical professionals should not be discriminated against for their personal beliefs.

O’Loan said the bill seeks to “affirm as a matter of statute that no one shall be under any duty to participate in activities they believe involve the taking of human life,” according to News Letter UK.

“Conscientious objection is a matter of liberty, equality and morality,” said O’Loan, who denied claims that the bill’s underlying motive is to restrict access to abortion or other medical procedures.

The protection of conscientious objection dates back to 1757 in the UK, and was again defended in the Human Rights Act 1998, which proclaims that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

During the two world wars, more than 76,000 conscientious objectors in the UK were accommodated for their beliefs on war and killing, according to Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

“Reasonable accommodation of conscientious objection is therefore a long-respected matter of liberty and equality in this country, and this respect should be as relevant as ever today,” said Bruce, who is advocating for the bill’s passage.

The bill would bar employers from discrimination or victimization of employees who make use of conscientious objection, and medical practitioners would be able to demonstrate conscientious objection simply by stating so under oath.

A 2016 report by the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group found that some doctors and nurses have faced discrimination in their workplace due to their personal beliefs against certain procedures. O’Loan particularly noted a legal case involving midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, both of whom refused to supervise abortions because of their personal beliefs.

O’Loan also noted many other aspiring healthcare workers who want to pursue a career in obstetrics or gynecology, but do not do so because of their personal objections to abortion.

Some opposition to the bill has arisen from various groups, including the British Medical Association, which has filed a brief against the bill, saying objections to abortion will risk “patient access to safe and timely care.”

Other objections have been raised in the House of Lords, where some peers voiced concern over privileging religious beliefs.

However, Bruce noted that conscientious objection is not only a product of religious beliefs, but can also be formed on other bases.

“Conscience can equally be informed by a person’s philosophy, morality, beliefs, or scientific understanding,” Bruce remarked.

“To suggest that, for example, conscience is something applicable only to those with religious beliefs would be a grossly restrictive understanding of the concept,” she continued.

Toni Saad, a medical student at Cardiff University, noted that conscientious objection will not affect a doctor from doing what is best for their patient.

“I doubt there is any conscientiously objecting doctor who believes he is not acting according to his patient’s best interests,” Saad wrote at The Spectator Feb. 23.

The bill, Saad said, “deserves the attention and support of those interested in liberty and tolerance, and those in a position to establish these in our statute books.”

If the measure is passed, it would affect all healthcare workers on the registers of the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health and Care Professions Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council in England and Wales.

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords and has passed its first and second readings. It is scheduled for a committee debate March 23. It would then face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before passing to the House of Commons, the consideration of amendments, and then the royal assent.

“Baroness O’Loan’s Bill is both timely and welcome, seeking as it does to clarify and affirm that, as a matter of law, no one with a conscientious objection should be compelled to be involved in activities which they believe involve the taking of human life,” said Bruce.

“[The bill] would be a concrete example of our commitment to a diverse and inclusive society, and would serve to strengthen the morale of those involved in healthcare, something surely no one – in all conscience – could deny is a good thing.”

Courage of St. Joseph highlighted at Mass for Congressional staffers

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Joseph is a model of courage for those in political life today, Fr. Carter Griffin told attendees of Monday’s second-annual Gold Mass for Congressional Staff.

The Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on the March 19 Solemnity of St. Joseph. Fr. William Gurnee, chaplain of the Congressional Catholic Staff Association, was the principal celebrant. Fr. Griffin was the homilist.

In his homily, Griffin focused upon St. Joseph’s many virtues, but specifically noted his courage in choosing to stay with Mary and help raise Jesus.

“It took an enormous amount of courage to do what Joseph had to do,” said Griffin.

“In the Gospel reading, we have the angel of the Lord coming to him, telling him not to be afraid, to take Mary into his home. He was to assume responsibility for the Chosen One – for the Son of God and his beloved mother. He was to have responsibility for the Holy Family.”

This relates to the lives of Congressional staffers, said Fr. Griffin. He encouraged Congressional staffers to remain steadfast in their faith, stressing that it is not skills, or talents, or political convictions that shape the world – but rather, holiness.

“What makes the greatest difference in the world, without exception, without question, is holiness,” he said.

“Courage is a prerequisite for every virtue. I think uniquely for what you do, in public service.”

This courage, said Fr. Griffin, is especially needed today, in order for people working in Congress to “remain faithful to the Gospel” and to “become the saints that God wishes us to be.”

“These are times for saints,” the priest said, “for those of you serving in the public realm, sanctity is what we need most from you.”

Staffers should especially turn to St. Joseph as a “beacon of light” in rough times. This courage and faithfulness will transform the country and “ignite a revolution,” Griffin said.

“And like St. Joseph, your courage will pave the way for a life of genuine holiness, which in turn will help ignite a revolution, a revolution of grace that will truly change our country and the world, one soul at a time, to the glory of God, forever and ever.”


South Carolina artist honors memories of Holocaust victims with drawings

IMAGE: CNS photo/Christina Lee Knauss, The Catholic Miscellany

By Christina Lee Knauss

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (CNS) -- Mary Burkett never had formal art lessons. Drawing was something she resolved to try as a hobby in January 2017.

She decided to sketch the face of a little boy she saw in a black and white photo on the internet.

To her surprise, Burkett was able to produce his image on the paper with amazing ease.

"It was like he was already there waiting for me, like he just peeked out at me," she told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston. "I was entirely amazed. I didn't feel like I had drawn him. I felt like he was hidden in the page."

The image is of a boy with a wide-open gaze, fair hair spilling from under a vintage-style cap cocked back on his head. He looks bemused, as if he was forced to pause for a portrait on his way out the door to play.

It wasn't until later that she discovered the photo was of a Romanian Jewish boy named Hersch Goldberg. He died at Auschwitz in 1944, one of millions of children who were victims of the Holocaust.

Burkett had a visceral and emotional reaction to the innocent yet haunting face of Hersch. The fact that his life had been cruelly ended before it ever really began led her to search out images of other children with similar fates.

She felt as if she knew Hersch after drawing him and she wanted to learn the stories of other children like him. Eventually, she decided she wanted other people to learn their stories too.

A year later, that first drawing of the photo of Hersch Goldberg has blossomed into a collection Burkett calls "Beloved: Children of the Holocaust."

It features Burkett's sketch portraits of 25 other children killed in the Holocaust, as well as one of Janusz Korczak, a Polish pediatrician who ran an orphanage for Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto and was eventually killed at the Treblinka concentration camp.

"I wanted to give these children a chance to speak to the world," Burkett said. "I wanted to honor their precious little lives."

That first sketch launched a journey she never dreamed of when she first put pencil to paper. She has displayed the collection at churches and synagogues, colleges and universities. Several schools have asked her to speak to classes that are studying the Holocaust and she has traveled halfway across the country to share her work with others.

Burkett, who attends St. Peter Church in downtown Columbia, lived in Belgium for several years as a child, where she learned firsthand of the suffering and death that European Jews and other groups suffered at the hands of the Nazis. That perspective, and a lifelong love of children built through motherhood and a 40-year career as a pediatric nurse, likely are part of the reason her portraits of the children are so riveting.

To look at them is to briefly feel as if you have touched a tiny soul. Their eyes, especially, reach out with a spark of life.

Five-month-old Alida Baruch, who died at Auschwitz in 1942, looks like a Gerber baby. Fani Silberman, with dimples and tiny hoop earrings, has the twinkling innocence of a child movie star. Abraham Henselein, although he died at 6, already had an intense gaze. Perhaps he would have been a future scholar or national leader.

Burkett said their expressions convey so much because they were captured in an era when photos were more rare than today.

"Children weren't used to posing all the time back then, so we get to see more of who they really were," she said.

Burkett said her skill can only come from God. As she is quick to explain, she had no formal training prior to that January day when she first started to work. Her artist's tools are spare and simple.

What she calls her toolbox is a Ziploc bag with a few simple items. She uses a pencil in a shade of reddish-brown called sanguine, and smooths edges and lines with cotton balls and swabs. Burkett does most of her sketch work at a large table on the second floor of her West Columbia home, before a window where sunlight spills in on nice days and she can look out at a span of green hills and trees.

Just as she did not expect the "Beloved" collection would exist a year ago, Burkett says she does not know what the future will bring. All she knows is that the children who reached out to her from photos have been given a new life through her pencil.

"I just try to be faithful to what God is telling me and what he is doing in my life," she said. "I feel like through this work the children are being honored and God is being honored. My job now is to shepherd them on the journey. They have a path in front of them. I think part of that path is to show people the sanctity of all life and the true love of God."

- - -

Editor's Note: To view the Beloved collection and learn more about Burkett's work, visit

- - -

Knauss is a reporter at The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Update: After Vatican verdict, Guam archbishop apologizes for predecessor's 'harm'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Publicly apologizing on behalf of the whole archdiocese for the "grave harm" caused by former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes said a new chapter of humility, repentance and healing has opened for the Catholic Church in Guam following a Vatican verdict against his predecessor.

"I called and still call upon all Catholics on Guam to intensify their prayers and with great humility, offer sacrifice for the grave harm and sins which we have experienced or have enabled in our church," Archbishop Byrnes said during a news conference in Guam March 18.

"We hang our heads in shame for the grave evil one member inflicted upon others, in this case the most vulnerable," he said in remarks, which were later released in a written statement.

"Our prayers for the victims of child abuse by Bishop Apuron and all victims of abuse here and worldwide continue; so shall our efforts to bring healing and restoration to all victims of clergy sexual abuse and to ensure this never happens again," he said.

Archbishop Byrnes, who has been leading the archdiocese since 2016, made his comments after a Vatican tribunal announced March 16 it found Archbishop Agana guilty of some of the accusations made against him, including the sexual abuse of minors.

After a canonical trial conducted by the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican judges imposed the following sanctions on the 72-year-old archbishop: the removal from office and a prohibition from residing in Guam. The archbishop can and will appeal.

During the news conference, Archbishop Byrnes said he did not know on what charges the former archbishop had been found guilty and which ones had been dismissed. In fact, he told local reporters, he had received no communication about the trial's findings other than "I got a phone call saying to go to this site" to read the Vatican's public announcement.

He said there had been no follow-up from the Vatican either as of March 17 and he assumed the former archbishop was now to be called Bishop Apuron, since losing the office of archbishop meant also losing the title associated with it. 

"We'll see with the appeal" what the final situation will be, he added.

Archbishop Apuron released a statement March 17 through his lawyer, Jacqueline Taitano Terlaje: "While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict. ... God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process."

Supporters of the archbishop, conversing anonymously with journalists, claimed the archbishop was found guilty on only two of six charges and that the sentence implies those charges were not the most serious ones. Generally, clerics found guilty of sexually abusing minors face either removal from the priesthood or are sentenced to a life of prayer and penance and banned from any public ministry.

Archbishop Byrnes said while there is much work and consultation to do in regard to local legal issues, he felt "a sense of relief" when the Vatican verdict had been announced.

He said his reaction upon hearing the news was, "OK, good. Something's happened and they're not just stringing us along." The announcement of the verdict from the Vatican investigation, which began in February 2017, had been expected last year, the archbishop had said.

Archbishop Apuron is among the highest-ranking church leaders to have been tried by the Vatican for sexual offenses.

In a statement released March 16, the Vatican tribunal said, "The canonical trial in the matter of accusations, including accusations of sexual abuse of minors, brought against the Most Reverend Anthony Sablan Apuron, O.F.M.Cap., Archbishop of Agana, Guam, has been concluded."

"The apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composed of five judges, has issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam." U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a noted canon lawyer, was the presiding judge in the canonical investigation of Archbishop Apuron.

The statement did not specify the number of charges the archbishop faced, how many of them he was found guilty of or even the nature of the offenses for which he was convicted.

"The sentence remains subject to possible appeal," the Vatican statement said. "In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective. In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution."

Archbishop Apuron had been accused of sexually abusing several boys in the 1970s, and, in early January, one of the archbishop's nephews publicly claimed the archbishop had sexually abused him in 1990. Archbishop Apuron continually has denied the abuse allegations.

Pope Francis placed Archbishop Apuron on leave in June 2016 after the accusations were made public. The pope named an apostolic administrator to run the archdiocese for several months and then named Coadjutor Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, a former auxiliary bishop of Detroit, to take over.

Until the Vatican court handed down its sentence, Archbishop Apuron had continued to hold the title of archbishop of Agana, but did not hold the faculties, rights or obligations pertaining to the office, because they had been granted to Archbishop Byrnes.

The former archbishop greeted Pope Francis at the end of a general audience February 7 in Rome. The Italian website, Vatican Insider, claimed former Archbishop Apuron told the pope, "Holy Father, I wanted to see you before I die."

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Imitate St. Pio's life, don't forget poor, marginalized, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy (CNS) -- Many people admire St. Padre Pio, but too few imitate him, especially in his care for the weak, the sick and those who modern culture treats as disposable, Pope Francis said during Mass at Padre Pio's shrine.

"Many are ready to 'like' the page of the great saints, but who does what they do?" the pope asked March 17. "The Christian life is not an 'I like,' but an 'I give myself.'"

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Shrine of St. Pio of Pietrelcina with about 30,000 people after visiting children in the cancer ward of the hospital St. Pio founded, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering).

In his homily, the pope reflected on three words that both summarized the day's readings and, he said, the life of Padre Pio: prayer, smallness and wisdom.

Smallness, he said, calls to mind those whose hearts who are humble, poor and needy like the young patients cared for in Padre Pio's hospital and those who in today's world are unwanted and discarded.

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said he remembers being taught in school about the Spartans, who, "when a boy or girl was born with malformations, they would take them to the top of the mountain and throw them over."

"We children would say, 'How cruel,'" the pope said. But, "brothers and sisters, we do the same. With more cruelty and more knowledge. Whatever isn't useful, whatever doesn't produce, is thrown away. This is the throwaway culture. The little ones are not wanted today."

"Those who take care of children are on the side of God and defeat the throwaway culture, which, on the contrary, prefers the powerful and considers the poor useless," he said. "Those who prefer the little ones proclaim a prophecy of life against the prophets of death of every age."

Only with wisdom, motivated by love and charity for others, can true strength be found, he said. Christians aren't called simply to admire great saints like Padre Pio, but rather to imitate their way of fighting evil wisely "with humility, with obedience, with the cross, offering pain for love."

Prayer, he said, is "a gesture of love" that is often stifled by excuses and leads to Christians forgetting that without God "we can do nothing."

"We must ask ourselves: do our prayers resemble that of Jesus or are they reduced to occasional emergency calls? Or do we use them as tranquilizers to be taken in regular doses to relieve stress?" the pope asked.

Padre Pio recognized throughout his life that prayer "heals the sick, sanctifies work, elevates healthcare and gives moral strength," he said.

Pope Francis began his day of tribute to St. Pio with an early morning visit to Pietrelcina, where the Capuchin saint was born in 1887.

Thousands waited outside the square of the Chapel of the Stigmata which houses a piece of the elm tree Padre Pio sat in front of when he first received the stigmata -- wounds on his feet, hands and side corresponding to those Jesus suffered at the crucifixion -- in September 1918.

Pope Francis entered the chapel where he prayed privately for several minutes before making his way to the square to greet the faithful.

Standing in front of an iconic image of a young Padre Pio bearing the wounds of Christ's crucifixion in his hands, the pope said that it was in Pietrelcina that the future saint "strengthened his own humanity, where he learned to pray and recognize in the poor the flesh of Christ."

"He loved the church, he loved the church with all its problems, with all its woes, with all its sins -- because we are all sinners; we feel shame -- but the spirit of God has brought us here to this church which is holy. And he loved the holy church and its sinful children, everyone. This was St. Pio," Pope Francis said.

Recalling the time in Padre Pio's life when he returned to Pietrelcina while he was ill, the pope said the saintly Capuchin "felt he was assailed by the devil" and feared falling into sin.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope asked the people if they believed the devil existed. When only a handful of people responded, he told them it didn't seem "they were totally convinced."

"I'm going to have to tell the bishop to give some catechesis," he said jokingly. "Does the devil exist or not?"

"Yes!" the crowd responded loudly.

Christians, he continued, should follow the example of the Capuchin saint who did not fall into despair but instead found refuge in prayer and put his trust in Christ.

"All of theology is contained here! If you have a problem, if you are sad, if you are sick, abandon yourself in Jesus' arms," the pope said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Blurred lines: Vatican manipulation of photo becomes the story (commentary)

IMAGE: CNS/Vatican Media

By Greg Erlandson

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- What was meant to be an intellectual tribute to Pope Francis has instead become the backdrop to the latest tempest over transparency and this pontificate.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, unveiled a series of 11 books focusing on the intellectual roots and thought of Pope Francis.

Numerous theologians contributed to the volumes, and they are being published in several languages.

In a news conference attended by Catholic News Service, Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication who oversees LEV, explained that he had asked retired Pope Benedict XVI to "write a page or a page and a half of dense theology in his clear and punctual style that (we) would have liked to read this evening."

Pope Benedict responded with "a beautiful, personal letter," Msgr. Vigano said. The retired pope explained that he could not write a theological reflection on the 11 volumes because he had not read them and would be physically unable to do so in time for the March 12 presentation. However, he expressed the hope that the series would contradict "the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation '"

Pope Benedict said the books "reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament."

So far, so good.

However, when the Secretariat for Communication released a photo of the first page of the letter, two lines at the end of the first page were blurred out, making it look as if someone had intentionally obscured the fact that Pope Benedict had not read the series, and leaving only the words defending his successor.

Two days later, some Vatican watchers began writing about the blurred photo.

At this point, the blurring, not the book series, became the story. As reported by the Associated Press' lead Vatican reporter, Nicole Winfield, "The Vatican admitted Wednesday that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter of retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards."

Sources at the Vatican explained that the letter itself was never intended to be made public, which was why the second page was obscured in the carefully staged photo. One source called it a "photo illustration."

U.S. photojournalists adhere to strict standards regarding any sort of manipulation of a photographed image. AP norms, which are followed by Catholic News Service, state that "no element should be digitally added or subtracted from any photograph."

Whatever the intention on the part of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, the obscuring of a portion of the letter suggested something they did not want everyone to see. Read in this context, Pope Benedict could be seen to be qualifying his generic support for the publication of the series.

For those who attended the news conference, the context of Pope Benedict's comments was clear, and the fact that Msgr. Vigano read out loud the lines that were subsequently obscured in the image makes the incident sound more like a matter of poor judgment than deception.

The controversy comes on the heels of the publication of Pope Francis' World Communications Day message, which criticized the phenomenon of "fake news," defining the phrase as "false information based on nonexistent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader."

The entire incident is a reminder that in a media-sophisticated age, with a media-omnipresent pope, the Vatican communications apparatus must be committed both to transparency and to best journalistic practices. Anything less is a disservice to the church.

- - -

Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service.

- - -

Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at