VATICAN CONFIRMS CARDINAL PELL’S LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR TRIAL – STATE DEPARTMENT REMOVES REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

Today is May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and a holiday in the Vatican. May 1 is also Labor Day throughout most of Europe and a huge holiday as well. Many Italians took off Monday to create a “ponte” or bridge for a long holiday weekend. Others created an even longer holiday period by starting a mini-vacation on the April 25 Liberation holiday, remaining off work through today.

The crowds in Rome have been just enormous – long waits at all major monuments – unless, of course, you were smart and reserved your visit to the Vatican Museums and a few other spots online.

As I write, Pope Francis is on his way by car to the shrine so beloved by Romans, the shrine of Divine Love, where he will preside over the recitation of the Holy Rosary for the beginning of the Month of May. (photos from shrine website and rometoday.com

The original little church shrine –

The new, massive shrine –

A heads-up: If you are a weekly fan of Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, you have to tune in tomorrow at 9:40 am (ET) when Teresa and I have our weekly chat because we have a special report on an astonishing, unique evening we had in Rome with another friend of ours, Margaret Melady – a unique evening we want to share with you, especially for your next visit to Rome.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the photos we took during and after dinner. I will also be packing as I depart Thursday for a few days in Fox Point, Wisconsin, for a very special First Communion and mini family reunion. Stay tuned!

VATICAN CONFIRMS CARDINAL PELL’S LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR TRIAL

A statement from the Holy See Press Office this morning noted that, “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Today, May 1, in Melbourne, Australia, a judge ordered Cardinal George Pell to stand trial, following a monthlong pre-trial hearing on charges of alleged episodes of sexual abuse, dating back to the 1970s when Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, was Fr. George Pell. There was also charges dating from the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

The cardinal took a leave of absence, with papal approval, in the summer of 2017 to face the charges.

Although a number of charges in the hearing were dropped, the judge, Belinda Wallington said she believed there was enough evidence to proceed to a full trial.

Before his return to Australia, the cardinal told reporters at a Vatican news conference: “I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me. These matters have been under investigation now for two years. There’s been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination.”

The cardinal spent days last year giving testimony from Rome via television linkup with Australia.

Cardinal Pell’s attorneys today issued a statement: “Cardinal George Pell has at all times fully cooperated with Victoria police and always steadfastly maintained his innocence. He voluntarily returned to Australia to meet these accusations. He will defend the remaining charges. …The cardinal thanks all those who have supported him from both here in Australia and overseas during this exacting time and is grateful for their continuing support and prayers.”

Cardinal Pell is also one of the nine cardinals who form the C9 group of cardinals who advise the Pope.

STATE DEPARTMENT REMOVES REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights report, drawing praise from pro-life leaders who say that the phrase had become a thinly veiled reference to abortion.

“‘Reproductive rights’ has long been a euphemism for destroying human life in the womb,” said Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action.

“A phrase that sounds like empowerment is a really only code for the subjugation of preborn children.”

The U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 were released last week, and now feature statistics on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”

Michael G. Kozak, a senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in a press briefing that the changes are “not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it,” but rather were done in order “to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

Previously, the “reproductive rights” section of the report included information about the legality of abortion within a country as well as the availability of contraception. The “Reproductive Rights” section was first included under the Obama presidency in the report that was released in 2012.

The new “Coercion in Population Control” section is under a larger section of each country’s report, titled “Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons.” The new section appears under the subsection for “women” and features reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization procedures, and “other coercive population control methods.” There are also links to maternal mortality figures as well as the prevalence of contraceptives in a country.

Continue story here: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/state-department-removes-reproductive-rights-section-from-human-rights-report-23871

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SHORT TAKES…..

Pope Francis tweeted this today, May 1: “May Saint Joseph give young people the ability to dream, to take risks for big tasks, the things that God dreams for us.”

Today is May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and the celebration throughout Italy and much of the world of Labor Day, a public holiday and this year a three-day weekend. Rome is extraordinarily quiet today, with most stores and all offices closing, and fewer busses and taxis running. In fact, on Sundays and holidays the number of busses and taxis are cut in half, so that taxis on those days number 4,000, not 8,000. You do not need a newspaper article to tell you this – just try waiting for a bus. The waiting time is longer than usual (and on some routes that can be quite long) and many bus routes simply do not function on those days. Tourist monuents and the Vatican, however, always have high numbers of visitors on holidays.

A huge rock concert takes place on this day every year on the grounds surrounding St. John Lateran basilica. The crowd has traditionally been really huge – several hundred thousand over the hours of the concert that ends around midnight. It may be larger than usual today simply by the fact that Italians had a long three-day weekend with the May 1 holiday.

It was a long weekend for Pope Francis – he was in Egypt for 27 hours Friday and Saturday and on Sunday, back in Rome, he addressed a massive crowd of members of Italian Catholic Action as they celebrated the 150th anniversary of this organization. He prayed the noon Regina Coeli prayer with all the faithful that spilled over into Via della Conciliazione.

Francis was in Egypt to attend the International Peace Conference at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Friday, after his arrival, he paid a courtesy visit to Egyptian President Al-Sisi. Afterwards, he went to Al Azhar University, the summit of Sunni Islam teaching where he heard an opening address by the Grand Imam, Sheik Ahmad Al-Tayeb. Francis told the conference that religious leaders must denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God.

Later, in a meeting with Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II Pope Francis said the two communities must oppose violence and work more closely together to witness to Christ in the world.  Both agreed they must try to fix a common date for Easter among Christians.  Friday evening, an impromptu meeting took place when a group of  around 300 young people gathered in front of the apostolic nunciature in Cairo, where the Pope spent the night. He had brief remarks for the young people, blessed them, prayed the Our Father with them and said several words in Arabic.

Saturday at the seminary in Cairo, Francis told priests, religious and seminarians to be “sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue,” despite the many difficulties they face. At Mass at Cairo’s “Air Defense Stadium,” he spoke of the need to “proclaim our faith in the Resurrection precisely by living in a way that conveys our conviction.” He said, “the only fanaticism that believers can have is that of charity – any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him.” He returned to Rome Saturday evening.

SHORT TAKES…..

FRANCIS AND THE MEDIA ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (CNA/EWTN News) – In his conversation with journalists on the way back from Egypt, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including North Korea, populism and a possible visit from President Donald Trump. Click here to read full text of papal in-flight presser: (photos: news.va)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-presser-from-egypt-24826/

POPE FRANCIS APPEALS FOR END TO VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA – (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for an end to violence in Venezuela and for respect of human rights in the country where nearly 30 people have been killed in unrest this month. His appeal came on Sunday before the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square. “I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, to respect human rights and to seek a negotiated solution.” Decrying the “grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population,” the Holy Father said we are continuing to receive dramatic news of people being killed, injured, and detained. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-appeals-for-an-end-to-violence-in-ven

FRATERNITY CAN GENERATE A JUST SOCIETY WITH DIGNITY FOR ALL -(Vatican Radio) On May 1st the Church  remembers Saint Joseph the Worker, a day marked across the globe as International Labor Day. Pope Francis’ thoughts in these days go especially towards young people as expressed in his May 1st tweet: “May Saint Joseph give young people the ability to dream, to take risks for big tasks, the things that God dreams for us,” many of whom are faced with unprecedented high rates of unemployment and socio-financial difficulties. And, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as it holds its Plenary Assembly in the Vatican on the theme “Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration,” the Pope recalls the “hard battles” of workers during the 19th and 20th centuries which took place “in the name of solidarity and rights.”       http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-fraternity-can-generate-a-just-society-with-d