Pope Francis is currently holding a series of closed-door meetings with the Bishops of Chile to formulate a response to the abuse crisis that has rocked the Church in that country. The discussions are being attended by 31 diocesan and auxiliary bishops and 3 emeritus bishops, and will be ongoing until May 17th. (photo vaticanmedia)

Press conference of two Chilean bishops

On the eve of the meeting, two Chilean bishops held a press conference in Rome, Bishop Fernando Ramos, auxiliary of Santiago and General Secretary of the Chilean Episcopal Conference, and Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo.

Called by the Pope
Archbishop Ramos recalled Pope Francis’ letter of April 8th with which he summoned the bishops to the Vatican. He explained how the Bishops have come specifically “to receive the conclusions of the report by Archbishop Scicluna following his visit to Chile, and also to discern short, medium and long term measures to restore communion and justice.” According to the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, these were “the two great themes to which the Holy Father invited us with his letter.”

Discerning responsibilities
Speaking at the press conference in Rome, Archbishop Ramos said the content of the meetings with the Pope would include: “The issues of abuse of power, abuse of conscience, and sexual abuse, that have occurred in recent decades in the Chilean Church, as well as the mechanisms that led, in some cases, to concealment and serious omissions against the victims. A second point is to share the conclusions the Holy Father drew from Archbishop Scicluna’s report. And a third point is the Pope’s invitation to make a long synodal process of discernment to understand the responsibilities of each and every one regarding these terrible wounds of abuse, and to seek necessary changes so that they are not repeated.”

Pain and shame
Archbishop Ramos spoke of the Bishops’ feeling of “pain and shame.” “Pain,” he said, “because unfortunately there are victims: there are people who are victims of abuse and this causes us profound pain. And shame, because these abuses occurred in Church environments which is precisely where this type of abuse should never occur.”

Forgiveness and reparation
Archbishop Ramos continued: “We must ask forgiveness 70 times 7. I think it is a very important moral imperative for us. The important thing is that the request for forgiveness is truly reparatory.” He concluded: “In all humility we will listen to what the Pope will tell us. … this is a very important moment” for the renewal of the Chilean Church.

Pope Francis as an example for the Chilean bishops
Also speaking at the press conference, Bishop González said the Chilean bishops see Pope Francis as an example for having admitted his mistakes, for asking forgiveness, and for meeting with the victims. The victims are the center of our attention, he said, and for this reason the Church in Chile must work towards reparation, with humility and hope, following the teaching of Jesus.

Restoring trust in the Church
When it announced the meeting with the Chilean bishops, in a communiqué on May 12th, the Vatican Press Office explained that “it is fundamental to restore trust in the Church through good Pastors who witness with their lives that they have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd, and who know how to accompany the suffering of the victims, and work in a determined and tireless way in the prevention of abuse. The Holy Father thanks his brother Bishops for their willingness to stand in docile and humble listening to the Holy Spirit, and he renews his request to the People of God in Chile to continue to pray for the conversion of all.”

The communiqué concluded by confirming that the Pope will not be issuing any statements, either during or after the meetings, “which will take place in absolute confidentiality.”


This is a story posted last night (May 14) by SIR (Servizio Religiosa Italiana:

“I have been in the Holy Land for 30 years and I have never seen the like, I have never seen so much rage from Palestinians. People are dying in Gaza, riots are taking place in Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and in other West Bank cities. The toll of victims is being updated all the time. And it might be even worse tomorrow.”

The person speaking on the phone to SIR from Jerusalem is Father Ibrahim Faltas, director of Franciscan schools in the Holy City and in charge of relations with Israel and Palestinians for the Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscan father knows the local situation very well: during the so-called second Intifada, he was involved in the Bethlehem Nativity siege (from April 2 to May 10, 2002) and in the forefront of the negotiations to reach an agreement with the 240 Palestinian activists who had taken shelter in the basilica to escape being captured by the Israeli army – an agreement that was reached after a 39-day siege.

“Since then, things have got worse and the peace process seems to have stopped,” he says while he listens to “breaking news” about the Palestinians’ protests and the riots in Gaza and in the West Bank. All this, while president Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the coat of arms and opened the US embassy in Jerusalem.

“President Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem has not only kindled the Palestinians’ resentment, it has also split Israeli society. Here in town there are Israelis who cheer and others who protest,” states Father Ibrahim, confirming the news that about 200 Israeli and Palestinian activists are rallying just in front of the diplomatic HQ.

It is more appropriate than ever, now, the priest points out, “to remember John Paul II’s words, when he said that ‘If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace anywhere else in the world’. Jerusalem is a unique city. It must be a city for everyone and everyone’s city’.”

“The toll of casualties in Gaza now (jfl: last night) amounts to 41 people dead and 1,800 injured, but many of them are serious. A number that is bound to increase, unfortunately. We are having a terrible day today, and tomorrow the Palestinians will celebrate Nakba, the catastrophe, which is the birth of Israel for them. Much worse might happen.

“On our part,” the Franciscan concludes, “we keep praying for peace and hoping. As Franciscans, we have been in the Holy Land for 800 years and we have never lost hope and we won’t ever. Praying and hoping, while helping the people who suffer, who want dialogue and peace. These are tough, difficult days, but let’s pray that fine, peaceful days may come.”


Today the United States observes National Sanctity of Human Life Day! As President Trump’s proclamation for this day says, we mark this “to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human’.”

That proclamation goes on to say, “Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.”

On another matter: In answer to a journalist’s question at the end of his time in Chile, some words pronounced by Pope Francis caused quite a bit of consternation for victims of clerical sex abuse.

In this regard, Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and a key papal advisor (one of the C9, that is, the Council of Cardinals that advises the Holy Father) released a statement that appeared in the online version of The cardinal was in Peru for another event but did concelebrate at Pope Francis’ final Mass in that nation.

The last story is again from it was reported by a CNS correspondent aboard the papal flight from Lima, Peru to Rome. The Pope landed about 2:15 this afternoon in Rome.


From The Boston Pilot, January 20, 2018:

(Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley released the following statement Jan. 20 after Pope Francis’s response to a journalist in which he defended the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to lead the Osnoro Diocese in Chile. Bishop Barros had been accused by abuse advocates of covering up abuse perpetrated his friend Father Fernando Karadima. — Ed.)

It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message “if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed” abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.

Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.

Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope’s statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.

My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain. In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfilment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.


In a statement, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, says, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children.”


(From ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) — Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete proof.  (CNA photo)

“To hear that the pope says to their face, ‘Bring me a letter with proof,’ is a slap in the face,” the pope said.

Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?” the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.

His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima’s victims who said the pope’s response made his earlier apologies for the church’s failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.

Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word “evidence,” not “proof.” The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was “not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart.”

“Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don’t have it,” he said. “Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous.”
However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was “personally convinced” of the bishop’s innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.

Pope Francis said that while “covering up abuse is an abuse in itself,” if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, “I would be committing the crime of a bad judge.”

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.

As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.

Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope’s statement about Bishop Barros.

“Words that convey the message ‘If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” the cardinal wrote.

He also said, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O’Malley’s statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope’s remarks.

Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.

The movement’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.

“He declared himself innocent of the charges against him,” Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, “the verdict will be released in less than a month.”

Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission’s membership was allowed to lapse.

Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.
The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began “and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.”



This afternoon I attended the funeral Mass for Cardinal Bernard Law, 86, who died early Wednesday morning. As is Vatican tradition for cardinals who reside in Rome, Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at the Mass, concelebrated with other members of the College of Cardinals and a number of archbishops.

Members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance, including U.S. ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich who will present her Letters of Credence to Pope Francis tomorrow morning, She was accompanied by her husband, former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After the Eucharistic celebration, Pope Francis entered St. Peter’s through the diplomatic entrance to the church, just opposite the Santa Marta residence, and presided over the rite of Final Commendation and the Valediction, as is usual at a funeral Mass for a cardinal. He did not pronounce any personal or prepared remarks.

Missalettes prepared by the Vatican assisted those present, including many priests and friends in the Roman Curia and others who lived in Rome, to follow the funeral rite.

Cardinal Law’s final resting place will be in St. Mary Major Basilica where he served many years as archpriest, resigning six years ago on his 80th birthday. It is customary for priests who served there to be buried there.

From CNA/EWTN News:
Cardinal Law died in Rome at the age of 86, after a brief hospitalization due to a congenital heart failure. Two weeks ago, he experienced a decline in health and was admitted to a clinic in Rome to monitor the problem. He had been unresponsive for several days before his death.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation from Boston, said in a statement on his death that like each of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.”

“While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and a good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

“May Cardinal Law rest in peace. And in these days when, as Christians, we celebrate the Child who restored God’s goodness to our broken humanity, may we all recommit ourselves to making Christ’s Church a worthy, welcoming home for all, especially those most vulnerable and in need,” Coyne added.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, published a statement Dec. 20, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who has experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.

“As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people,” particularly children, he stated, noting his own work and the work of other priests and religious sisters of the Archdiocese to help bring healing to those most affected and the wider Catholic community.

The fact that Cardinal Law’s life and ministry, for many people, is identified with the crisis of sexual abuse by priests is a “sad reality,” he said, because his “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions.”

These include his involvement in the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in the early part of his priesthood, as well as his leadership in the ecumenical and interfaith movement following the Second Vatican Council. He was also well-known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved, O’Malley recounted.

“In the Catholic tradition, the Mass of Christian Burial is the moment in which we all recognize our mortality, when we acknowledge that we all strive for holiness in a journey which can be marked by failures large and small,” he concluded.

“Cardinal Law will be buried in Rome where he completed his last assignment. I offer prayers for him and his loved ones as well as for all the people of the Archdiocese.”

A Dec. 20 statement by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed O’Malley’s statement of condolence and prayers.

Expressing his closeness to survivors of sexual abuse, especially at this time, DiNardo prayed that they might find peace and strength.
He also commended their brave witness, which led to “a comprehensive response from the Church in the United States to protect and heal the deep wounds of abuse.”

On a personal note:

I have known Cardinal Law for at least 32 years, since the day he was made a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul, who assigned him the titular church of Santa Susanna, home at that time for the Catholic American community in Rome. The cardinal was unable to take possession of the title of Santa Susanna until 1993 because the church was closed for years to repair the beautifully carved and gilt wood ceiling that, over the past 400 years, had simply worn out and was threatening to cave in. Work took far longer than anyone anticipated and we were the pilgrim church on earth for a good eight years.

I was a lector at many of the Masses that Cardinal Law celebrated at Santa Susanna and we also shared a number of meals over the years, breaking bread with friends, sharing stories of our lives in Rome, etc.

When news of the clergy sex abuse scandal began to seep out from Boston and then grew from a small wave to a tsunami, I, like millions, was devastated by what I heard and read. Things just seemed to get worse, priests from other dioceses were being accused, the number of victims was growing and then we learned – over time – that the same situation was being discovered in other countries, in seminaries, in places where the word ‘abuse’ should never have even been pronounced, much less actually happen!

I worked at the Vatican at the time and it seems we lived day to day, awaiting new revelations, papal reaction and action, action by the cardinals and other prelates of the Church in America. Those were very difficult months and years for every faithful Catholic. How on earth could this ever have happened!

I was fully aware of those early years in Boston – and then elsewhere. I was fully aware of the charges, the victims’ stories, the physical and spiritual anguish and damage, etc . My heart broke and still breaks when I hear such stories. I know that one bad priest is one too many!

I say “I was fully” aware – maybe I should say I was as fully aware as possible without being a victim.

I tried to place myself in their shoes and never fully succeeded, of course. Just as I have never succeeded in imagining what it would be like to lose everything I own in a fire or hurricane, to lose a limb in an accident, to have my whole family wiped out in a tragedy,

I followed everything for years, especially because I covered then, as I do now, the Church and the Vatican. And I have always followed the news of the
commission the Pope set up to combat sex abuse by clergy – or anyone

It is such a sorrowful fact that the Church even needs such a commission!

In the case of Cardinal Law, for all the very bad judgment he may have used – and bad advice he may have received and heeded – I cannot allow myself to be his judge. There is so much I do not know.

What I do know is how he was a friend to me and to many in Rome. I know
of some – but not all – of his many humanitarian works, his caring gestures for people in need, his efforts to be there for anyone who needed his time or advice or assistance. I know how he helped the pastor of Santa Susanna’s church – Cardinal Law’s titular church in Rome – when the Cistercian nuns closed the doors to our wonderful faith community, never again allowing us back in the church! He did all he could to help us find a new church – and to be close to our beloved pastor during those four years of exile (again!).

And, if you talk to the many people in Rome who knew him and to those who attended his funeral today, you will hear even more good stories – dare I say, heart-warming stories.

There was an enormous amount of good in Cardinal Law’s life – very hard to find in the media during his later life. It is truly amazing how many people do not know anything of Cardinal Law’s life other than the scandal.

As Cardinal O’Malley of Boston pointed out yesterday in The Pilot:

”It is a sad reality that for many Cardinal Law’s life and ministry is
identified with one overwhelming reality, the crisis of sexual abuse
by priests. This fact carries a note of sadness because his pastoral
legacy has many other dimensions. Early in his priesthood in
Mississippi Cardinal Law was deeply engaged in the civil rights
struggle in our country. Later, he served in the Archdiocese and
nationally as a leader in the ecumenical and interfaith movement
following the Second Vatican Council, developing strong collaborative
relationships with the Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities in
Boston. He was well known for visiting the sick, the dying and the
bereaved at all hours of the night and day, a ministry that extended
to the rich and poor, the young and elderly, and people of all faiths.
He also held the care for immigrants and their families in a special
place in his ministry.”

Reading those lines reminded me of the day years ago, after I had had serious surgery, that Cardinal Law came for a visit to the Pio XI clinic where I was a patient, accompanied by one of his good friends, the late Cardinal William Baum. The nuns were all aflutter because “two”, and they repeated it, “two cardinals” came calling on me. They thought I was important and had not told them (!). I assured them the important people in the room were the cardinals whose ministry it was to visit the sick! And without fanfare!

That is, by the way, the very same clinic in which Cardinal Law died yesterday.

As I write, I am trying to spend time remembering the good in a man’s life as everyone is already aware of the bad.

I must close with a request for prayers, prayers for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Bernard Law, for the Lord’s mercy to shine upon him and, most especially in this season when the Lord Jesus first appeared in our lives, prayers for the victims of abuse, for their families, for those whose hurt may never diminish.