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PHOTOS: Nighttime eucharistic adoration in St. Peter’s Square

There was a candlelit path to the altar holding the Eucharist during adoration in St. Peter's Square on March 14, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2023 / 09:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican held its first monthly eucharistic adoration in the area in front of St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday night.

The first monthly eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square, March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The first monthly eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square, March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The March adoration was led by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, OFM Conv, who is the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica. The holy hour was offered for Pope Francis in light of his 10th anniversary as pope.

Eucharistic adoration at the Vatican on March 14, 2023, included music, Scripture readings, and prayers. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Eucharistic adoration at the Vatican on March 14, 2023, included music, Scripture readings, and prayers. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti lifts the Eucharist during benediction at the end of adoration March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti lifts the Eucharist during benediction at the end of adoration March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti genuflects in front of the monstrance during eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square March 15, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti genuflects in front of the monstrance during eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square March 15, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Several hundred adorers gathered at the Vatican to take part in the hour of prayer, which included music, Scripture readings, and prayers interspersed with moments of silence.

Religious sisters pray during eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Religious sisters pray during eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
A woman prays in front of the Eucharist during a holy hour in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
A woman prays in front of the Eucharist during a holy hour in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Adorers kneel in front of the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Adorers kneel in front of the Eucharist in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Large orange candles created a visual pathway to the Eucharist, which was displayed in a gold monstrance set on an altar.

Adoration concluded with Benediction.

There was a candlelit path to the altar holding the Eucharist during adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
There was a candlelit path to the altar holding the Eucharist during adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The Eucharist was displayed in a gold monstrance for adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The Eucharist was displayed in a gold monstrance for adoration in St. Peter's Square March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Benediction during the first monthly eucharistic adoration in front of St. Peter's Basilica March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Benediction during the first monthly eucharistic adoration in front of St. Peter's Basilica March 14, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The eucharistic adoration, a new pastoral initiative of St. Peter’s Basilica, will take place the second Tuesday of every month from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

It is open to the public.

Texas man sues ex-wife’s friends for facilitating unborn child’s abortion

Abortion Pill Reversal seeks to counter the effects of the first progesterone-blocking abortion pill, providing an opportunity to save the unborn child. / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Mar 15, 2023 / 08:25 am (CNA).

A Texas man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his aborted unborn child. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million from each of the three women the man says helped his then-wife obtain abortion pills.

“Abortion harms not only the unborn children who are killed but also the fathers who have had their fatherhood stolen from them,” Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation at the Thomas More Society, said March 11.

Breen’s Chicago-based public interest law firm is representing the father, Marcus A. Silva of Galveston County, Texas.

“We commend Mr. Silva for stepping forward, and we will help any father who seeks justice on behalf of his unborn child who is killed in an unlawful abortion,” Breen said.

Silva’s ex-wife is not a defendant in the lawsuit. She had filed for divorce in May 2022 and the couple divorced in February. They have two living daughters. According to the lawsuit, she learned she was pregnant in July 2022.

According to Silva’s lawsuit, she “concealed this pregnancy from her husband and decided to kill the unborn child without Marcus’ knowledge or consent.” The wife’s friends allegedly conspired with her “to murder her unborn child with illegally obtained abortion pills.”

“The wrongful-death statute allows surviving parents to sue those who cause the death of an unborn child by a wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default,” says the lawsuit, which refers to the unborn child as “baby Silva.”

“Jackie Noyola, Amy Carpenter, and Aracely Garcia each caused the death of baby Silva through their wrongful acts,” says the lawsuit, which expressly notes that Silva’s ex-wife is exempt from civil and criminal liability.

In July 2022 Silva’s then-wife sought assistance in obtaining abortion pills from Noyola and Carpenter, who live in Houston. They offered their homes as a place where the abortion could take place. Garcia, the third defendant, allegedly conspired with Noyola to obtain the abortion pills in Houston.

None of the defendants are physicians or health care providers and the abortion pills were not administered in accordance with the law, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is more aggressive in choosing to allege wrongful death.

It does not take advantage of a 2021 Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone believed to be involved in helping a woman procure an illegal abortion in the state. The legal awards under this law are only in the tens of thousands of dollars, National Public Radio reported. One of Silva’s attorneys is Briscoe Cain, a state representative who helped design that legislation.

Damages for wrongful death are much more severe. The lawsuit cites a Texas law that dates back to 2003. That law states a person who assists a pregnant woman in obtaining a self-managed abortion has committed murder and can be sued for wrongful death.

“Anyone involved in distributing or manufacturing abortion pills will be sued into oblivion,” Cain said in a March 11 statement. “That includes CVS and Walgreens if their abortion pills find their way into our state.”

Breen, the Thomas More Law Center attorney, agreed.

“It’s well past time to hold accountable those who are involved in the distribution and manufacture of these murderous drugs,” he said.

The manufacturer of the abortion pill used by the pregnant woman is also liable for the baby’s death and will be added as a defendant once it is identified, the lawsuit says. Anyone else involved in the distribution of the abortion pills is also liable.

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring the defendants from distributing abortion pills.

The lead attorney in Silva’s lawsuit is Jonathan Mitchell, former solicitor general of Texas.

Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, called the lawsuit “absurd and inflammatory.” In her view, there is no underlying cause of legal action for a self-managed abortion because the pregnant woman is protected from prosecution. She said the law will have a chilling effect on those who seek to help others procure an abortion.

“Who is going to want to help a friend find an abortion if there is some chance that their text messages are going to end up in the news? And maybe they’re going to get sued, and maybe they’re going to get arrested, and it’s going to get dropped eventually, but in the meantime, they will have been terrified,” Grossman told the Texas Tribune.

While Grossman doubted that the lawsuit would hold up in court, Charles Rhodes, a law professor at South Texas College of Law, told the Texas Tribune the lawsuit could have merit under Texas law.

U.S. Bishop Daniel Flores to help prepare Synod on Synodality assembly

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville delivers the St. Thomas Day Lecture at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paul, Calif., Jan. 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of TAC. / null

Rome Newsroom, Mar 15, 2023 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, has been named to a small committee planning the Vatican’s October assembly for the Synod on Synodality.

Flores, 61, is one of three bishops on the preparatory commission, which also includes three priests and a religious sister.

The committee was put together by Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops Cardinal Mario Grech, who will also oversee its work.

Flores was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville in early 2010, after just over three years as an auxiliary bishop of Detroit.

Born in Texas, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1988. In 2000, he received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.

The bishop, who has both Mexican and American roots, frequently posts in both English and Spanish on his popular Twitter account, where his profile name is “Amigo de Frodo.”

The Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality has been underway since October 2021. It will include two nearly monthlong Vatican assemblies: in October 2023 and October 2024. The continental phase, which followed a diocesan phase, concludes this month.

The two sessions of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will bring together bishops from across the world to discuss and prepare a document to counsel the pope.

In addition to Flores, the other episcopal members of the organization committee are Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Australia, and Bishop Lucio Muandula of Xai-Xai, Mozambique.

From Japan, Sister Shizue Hirota, a member of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz, will also take part in the commission.

Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, who played a key role in the Vatican’s communications for the 2019 Amazon synod, will be the group’s coordinator, while Polish priest Father Tomasz Trafny will be its secretary.

A theology and ecclesiology professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Father Dario Vitali, is also part of the committee. He is currently teaching a course titled “‘Sensus Fidei’ and Magisterium in a Synodal Church.”

Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the Synod on Synodality, will also participate in the group’s meetings.

Pope Francis: A Christian life based on achieving higher positions is ‘pure paganism’

Pope Francis at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 15, 2023 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2023 / 04:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that everyone in the Church is equal in dignity, thus a focus on hierarchical advancement is “pure paganism.”

“Within the framework of the unity of the mission, the diversity of charisms and ministries must not give rise, within the ecclesial body, to privileged categories,” the pope said at his March 15 general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“There is no promotion here, and when you conceive of the Christian life as an advancement, that the one above commands others, because he has succeeded in climbing, that is not Christianity,” he said. “That is pure paganism.”

At his weekly meeting with the public, Francis reflected on the call to apostleship as part of the larger theme of evangelization.

“What does it mean to be an apostle? It means being sent for a mission,” he said, adding that it is also a vocation.

Being an apostle of Christ is not just a matter for bishops or priests but the call of every baptized person, Pope Francis said.

“Who has more dignity in the Church? The bishops, the priests?” he said. “No. We are all Christians in service to others.”

He said a religious sister is just as an important for the Church as anyone else: the baptized, unbaptized, a child, a bishop.

“We are equal. And when one of the parts believes himself to be more important than the others, and he sticks his nose up like this, he errs,” he emphasized.

“The vocation that Jesus gives to everyone, and also to those who seem to be in the highest positions, is service.”

Pope Francis at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 15, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis at his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on March 15, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope said if you see someone in a “high” position in the Church who is vain, you should pray for “the poor guy,” because he has not understood his vocation.

“The vocation of God is adoration of the Father, love of the community, and service,” he added.

Pope Francis drew from documents of the Second Vatican Council to illustrate what it means to be an apostle today.

“The Council says: ‘The Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate,’” he said, quoting the decree on the apostolate of the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem.

Quoting from Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church, he said apostleship “is a calling that is common, just as ‘a common dignity [is shared] as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope, and one undivided charity.’”

“It is a call that concerns both those who have received the sacrament of orders, consecrated persons, and all lay faithful, man or woman.”

Pope Francis addressed the crowd as he said “the laity — all of you, the majority of you are laypeople, all of you — likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 2).”

He encouraged Catholics to consider how they relate to others, both in and outside the Church, in light of apostleship.

“For example, are we aware of the fact that with our words we can undermine the dignity of people, thus ruining relationships? While we try to engage in dialogue with the world, do we also know how to dialogue among ourselves as believers?” he said.

“Listening, humbling one’s self, being at the service of others: This is serving,” he continued. “This is being Christian. This is being apostle.”

“Let us not be afraid to pose these questions to ourselves, to flee from vanity, the vanity of positions,” Pope Francis concluded.

“May these words help us to confirm the way in which we live our baptismal vocation, how we live our way of being apostles in a Church that is apostolic, that is at the service of others.”

Pro-lifers in Mexico call for ban on surrogate motherhood

Young pro-life people paint a mural with messages opposing surrogate motherhood in Mexico. / Courtesy: Steps for Life

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 14, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Steps for Life platform in Mexico called for legislation against surrogate motherhood, known in Spanish as “rent-a-womb,” as well as any other form of exploiting women’s fertility.

As part of its campaign to oppose surrogate motherhood, the Steps for Life platform is painting outdoor murals with messages such as “Women are not for rent much less are their children for sale.”

The purpose of these murals, the platform explained in a statement, is to “make visible this grave practice that is spreading in Mexico.”

To date, it has painted murals in the states of Coahuila, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Jalisco, and in Mexico City.

Pilar Rebollo, director of Steps for Life, charged that surrogate motherhood “or any form of exploitation of female fertility violates women more than what has been done for centuries.”

According to research by the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in 2018 this industry generated profits of $6 billion worldwide. By 2025, it is estimated that the figure could rise to $27.5 billion.

“At Steps for Life, we fight for better conditions for pregnant women and their children so that the dignity of each person is respected from conception to natural death. We condemn that [for] a woman in need, her body and her fertility is being commercialized,” Rebollo said.

In No. 2376, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ right to become a father and a mother only through each other.”

Addressing the Federation of Catholic Family Associations of Europe on June 10, 2022, Pope Francis warned that “the dignity of men and women is also threatened by the inhuman and increasingly widespread practice of ‘rent-a-womb’ in which women, almost always poor, are exploited and children are treated as merchandise.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Mexican religious sister tells how Christians live in Sudan, a Muslim-majority country

Sister María del Carmen, a Mexican Combonian missionary who served in Sudan. / Credit: Ana Paula Morales/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 14, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Sister María del Carmen Galicia, a Mexican nun of the Comboni Missionary Sisters who worked in Sudan, an African country with a 97% Muslim population, stressed that “peaceful coexistence” is possible between the followers of Islam and Christianity.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the nun related that Muslims “come, attend, and participate” in Catholic celebrations, such as marriages and confirmations.

“Then, when it’s Ramadan,” the month dedicated by Muslims to prayer and intense fasting during the day until sunset, “they also invited us to eat with them” in the evenings.

Galicia explained that she lived in the Nuba Mountains region in central Sudan.

“It [was] an abandoned, isolated area: There are no roads, there’s no electricity, there’s no water, there are no essential services, to say nothing of schools! There were no schools or hospitals,” the nun continued.

Under the leadership of Macram Max Gassis, the bishop of El Obeid (Sudan) from 1988 to 2013, in the region “schools, a hospital, and also a radio station where I was working were built with the help of benefactors,” she said.

“It was very beautiful, because not only Christians participated in my radio program but also Muslims,” she said.

Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been mired in civil wars and ethnic, religious, and economic clashes.

In 2011, Christian-majority South Sudan broke away and became the world’s newest country.

Christians in Sudan know ‘God is a loving Father’

The Comboni missionary highlighted the joy of Christians who live their faith in Sudan.

In one of the Christian communities where she served, she said, “the Masses could last more than an hour and a half. They are very happy, they sing, play the drums, and dance.”

“It means a lot to them that there is a Father in the face of the experience that they have had of much pain, much suffering for years of war.”

“Hearing that God is a Father who loves them, who does not abandon them and that, even though they are ‘people of color,’ he is with them, is very consoling for them.”

For example, “when they go to Communion, during the celebration they start to sing around the altar.”

“On one occasion, a lady, wondering if God was with them or not in that situation affirmed that God was there in fact [and] she saw him present in the missionaries who were accompanying them, and she felt that God was showing them his love,” the sister said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

National Catholic Prayer Breakfast speakers address attacks on human dignity

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak addresses the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2023. / Credit: Shannon Mullen/CNA

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.

Addressing an audience of more than 1,000 people, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak brought attention to the human toll of the continuing war in Ukraine.

“What is the worth of our dignity?” Gudziak asked during his keynote address. “Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives for the land, justice, truth, and dignity that God gives us.”

“In the 21st century … when truth is transactional, when media, politics, diplomacy, and popular culture are by a post-truth anti-ethic,” Gudziak said, “Ukrainians have been saying, ‘No, not so fast. There is good and there is evil. There is truth and there are lies.’ And they are doing it at the risk of their own lives.”

In a moving moment, Gudziak brought up to the stage a Ukrainian father whose son was killed while fighting against the Russian invasion in the Ukrainian armed forces.

“Last June his son … gave his life for human dignity,” Gudziak said. “Like the heavenly Father, he blessed his son on a mission that led to the sacrifice of his life.”

Gudziak thanked the American Church for its support and asked for continued prayers as Ukraine fights Russian aggression.

Speakers at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast also addressed violations of human dignity occurring within the United States.

Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2023. EWTN News
Ongoing attacks against human dignity were the focus of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which took place in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2023. EWTN News

Catholic bioethicist Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, spoke about the continued threat of abortion to the unborn and mothers.

Snead called for a compassionate Catholic response to attacks against human dignity through abortion, especially now in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

Abortion, Snead said, divides the world into “persons who bear human rights and nonpersons who live on the sufferance of others based on their interests and desires. And in doing so, isolating the woman in her moment of need and absolving us of our obligation to care for her and her child. ‘Her body, her choice, her problem.’”

“We are made for love and friendship,” Snead said. “We as Catholics are specially equipped and called upon and have a special obligation to build a culture of life and a civilization of love.”

“[Catholics must] respond with love — radical, unconditional, self-emptying love,” Snead added. “Love of neighbor, love of mothers, fathers, and their babies. Love of our enemies … locking arms to care for moms and babies and families, seeking to put women and children and families first as we rise to build a culture of life and civilization of love in a post-Roe world.”

Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, accepted the 2023 Christifideles Laici Award honoring the work of the laity. She is the co-founder and director of the Person and Identity Project. In her speech, Hasson brought attention to the increasing gender ideology indoctrination in public schools, yet another form of attack against human dignity facing children outside the womb.

According to Hassan, 80% of Catholic children attending non-Catholic schools are inundated by an LGBTQ+ ideology that is both antithetical to Catholic teaching and human dignity.

“It’s impossible for 40 hours a year of religious education to overcome 1,200 hours of being saturated in an anthropology that is false, that renders [children’s] hearts and minds inhospitable to the Gospel,” Hassan said. “Drawn in by this false anthropology, burdened with a false freedom to have to create themselves, young people don’t know who they are.”

“But there’s hope. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This moment, where gender ideology is flooding our culture is a tremendous opportunity,” Hassan added. “Young people are seeking meaning; they want to know who they are. And we have an answer to give them: ‘You are a son or daughter of the Lord. You are loved incredibly. God has a plan for your life.’”

Since 2004, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast has gathered politicians and Catholic leaders from across the country for a morning of prayer and fellowship.

Other key leaders in attendance this morning included Sen. Pete Ricketts, R-Nebraska; former U.S. Attorney General William Barr; and the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

Historic building near Vatican to become Four Seasons hotel

Palazzo della Rovere, also called Palazzo dei Penitenzieri. / Credit: Lalula via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2023 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

A Catholic order of knighthood has signed a leasing agreement that will allow a Four Seasons hotel to manage part of a historic building close to the Vatican.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem signed an agreement with Fort Partners, a Miami-based development company, on March 10, according to a statement published Tuesday.

The lease to Fort Partners includes an agreement to use that part of the building for a hotel under the management of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

The other part of the building houses the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The order is a lay institution under the protection of the Holy See whose first mention in historical records dates to 1336. Today, the charitable group has approximately 30,000 members in almost 40 countries and is dedicated to supporting the Church in the Holy Land.

The Renaissance-era Palazzo della Rovere is about a three-minute walk from St. Peter’s Basilica and features a turret, a grand courtyard, and frescoes by Pinturicchio on the main floor.

The order has been under pressure from the Italian state for years to renovate the decaying building.

A March 13 report from the Wall Street Journal said that Fort Partners had agreed to a 30-year lease and to invest 54 million euros ($57.5 million) into the restoration, which will be carried out under the direction of Italian architect Fabrizio Casiraghi.

The Wall Street Journal cited Fort Partners Chief Executive Nadim Ashi, who said the hotel will have between 55 and 60 rooms and a courtyard restaurant when it is completed.

Fort Partners expects the luxury project to be finished in 2025, in time for the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year.

From 1952-2008, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre leased part of their property to the historic Hotel Columbus, but the order entered into a lengthy legal battle with the hotel after it refused to vacate the premises after its lease ran out.

The hotel was forcefully evicted in 2018, three years after the Italian courts ruled in favor of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

Starting in 2020, a commission was set up to review offers for the new lease and restoration of the building.

The order said in 2018 it had been under pressure to restore the building by the Special Department of Rome Archeology, Fine Arts, and Landscape.

“These urgent and necessary repairs will preserve the building and provide for necessary safety upgrades while also restoring the invaluable 15th- and 16th-century frescoes, which have been seriously damaged,” it said.

According to the order, Fort Partners will fully cover the costs of the renovation of the building, “allowing the order to donate in full to the Holy Land the voluntary contributions received from its members.”

The order says it followed “a strict transparency procedure” in choosing Fort Partners from among the “many offers” it received for the building.

The charitable organization was also authorized by the Vatican to negotiate with the development group. 

Citing abuse lawsuits, California’s smallest diocese files for bankruptcy

Cathedral of St. Eugene in Santa Rosa, CA. / chrisw80/wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

Denver, Colo., Mar 14, 2023 / 09:47 am (CNA).

The Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in northern California said on Monday that it will file for bankruptcy, citing the number of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it in the last three years. Many alleged abuse incidents are more than three decades old.

“While I have been anticipating this action for more than a full year, it is most distressing to have the duty of actually proceeding with this filing,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a March 10 statement. “Nevertheless, I remain convinced that it is a necessary step for the diocese and the only way to resolve the claims which have been presented against it.”

In December 2022 the diocese announced plans to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy following “careful and prayerful consideration” and seeking the advice of priests, the diocesan finance council, and professional counsel. Santa Rosa serves about 180,000 Catholics among about 950,000 residents, according to figures on the diocesan website. By population, it is California’s smallest Catholic diocese, with 41 parishes and 22 missions.

The State of California passed legislation allowing a three-year exemption to the statute of limitations on sexual abuse lawsuits. The window began Jan. 1, 2020, and ended Jan. 2, 2023.

A similar legal window was opened in 2003, but it did not allow for retrospective lawsuits against hospitals and schools where abuse was alleged.

“These cases are too numerous to settle individually and so they have accumulated until the closing of the three-year window,” Vasa said. “Now that the window is closed, we have received notice of at least 160 claims and we have information that perhaps more than 200 claims have been filed in total against the diocese.”

More than 115 cases date back more than 30 years, Vasa said. According to a diocesan question-and-answer briefing paper, some of the lawsuits involve alleged incidents from more than 60 years ago.

The bishop emphasized Catholic child protection and safe environment efforts in the last 20 years have sought to prevent abuse. All employees and volunteers now face background screenings.

The bishop said it is the diocese’s prayer “that children are actually kept safer now than in the past and that all in our pews are more aware and vigilant about potential risks.”

“Nevertheless, we are deeply saddened that so many have endured abuse in the past and that the scourge of child sexual abuse is a part of our diocesan history. The present action of the diocese is necessary and through this process we hope to provide for those who have come forward and who are yet to come forward at least some compensation for the harms they have endured.”

The Santa Rosa Diocese has about 200,000 Catholics out of a population of close to 1 million.

In 2003, the Santa Rosa Diocese faced “similar circumstances” but “many fewer cases.”

The diocese sold property, borrowed money, and paid about $12 million in settlements, with another $19 million from insurance. Since 2003, it has spent another $4 million in individual settlements.

“Now, facing at least 160 new cases, with excess property depleted, with insurance for many of the years either nonexistent or exhausted it is impossible to see any way forward without recourse to the bankruptcy protections our country makes available.”

Filing for bankruptcy will provide “a process to carefully evaluate and compensate, as fairly as possible, those who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse.” It will allow all parties to resolve their claims under the bankruptcy court’s supervision, and the diocese may deal with these issues collectively rather than one by one.

“At the same time, the process provides a way for the diocese to continue the various charitable ministries in which it is engaged,” he said.

Bishop Vasa said only the diocese’s “corporation sole” known as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa is filing for bankruptcy. Parishes and schools are separate civil corporations or ecclesial entities and “should not be parties to this filing.”

The bankruptcy proceedings will determine whether any parish and school entities will take part in the process, he said.

The diocese provided a question-and-answer briefing that addressed several questions, including whether parishes or schools will be forced to close because of the bankruptcy process. The diocese noted that creditors have challenged the separate corporate status of Catholic parishes or schools in other dioceses’ filings.

“That is why our pastors and other religious entities of the diocese have sought independent legal counsel to represent parish interests in this process.”

The diocese noted that the Legislature could again change the law to create more “look-back windows” for lawsuits or eliminate statutes of limitations entirely. The most recent changes now allow an abuse victim to sue by the age of 40 years or five years after they realized the abuse caused harm to them. Previously, the statute of limitations barred lawsuits after the victim turned 28 years old.

A bankruptcy reorganization protects against any lawsuits in the future, it said.

“It is the only way to get all of the claimants to the table at once and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties,” the diocese said.

“A thorough process is required, and will be undertaken, to notify the public of this action and to assure that any survivors of child sexual assault have an opportunity to file claims.”

In February, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego announced that his diocese could have to resort to a declaration of bankruptcy in 2023 to manage the cost of hundreds of new abuse claims.

More than two dozen U.S. dioceses, including two in U.S. overseas territories, have entered into bankruptcy proceedings, the vast majority in the past decade. California’s Diocese of Stockton went through a three-year bankruptcy period from 2014 to 2017.

Vatican-China deal ‘not the best deal possible,’ top Holy See diplomat says

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 14, 2023 / 08:54 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s foreign minister has said that the Vatican-China deal was “not the best deal possible” and that negotiations are underway to make the deal “work better.”

In an interview with Colm Flynn for EWTN News, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for Relations with States, said that Holy See diplomats are “negotiating improvements” to the Holy See’s provisional agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, first signed in 2018.

“Obviously, the objective is to get the best deal possible, which certainly this agreement is not the best deal possible because of the other party: They were only prepared to go so far and to agree to certain things. But that was what was possible at the time,” Gallagher said.

“It wasn’t really a great time to sign the deal, for various reasons. It was always going to be difficult; it was always going to be used by the Chinese party to bring greater pressure on the Catholic community, particularly on the so-called underground Church. So we just go forward.”

Gallagher, who was not directly involved in the negotiations, underlined that the agreement with China, which the Vatican has renewed twice in the past five years, was the fruit of a long process under three pontificates.

“And most of the agreement was already agreed and accepted by the Holy See, and by the Chinese authorities already in the time of Pope Benedict,” Gallagher said.

“So it was only a bit of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

The Holy See diplomat said he believes that the Vatican and Chinese authorities have grown in “a greater understanding, a greater respect” for each other over the years.

“Everything is done obviously in the context of Chinese domestic politics. … And therefore, we can only achieve so much,” he added.

China’s Xi Jinping assumed an unprecedented third term as president last week at a rubber stamp parliamentary session of the National People’s Congress that unanimously voted for Xi in an election in which there was no other candidate.

The National People’s Congress had previously confirmed a constitutional change eliminating term limits granting Xi the possibility of lifelong rule in 2018, six months before the Holy See first signed its deal with Beijing.

Under Xi’s leadership, respect for human rights and religious freedom has deteriorated. Xi has come under mounting international condemnation for China’s brutal persecution of Uyghur Muslims in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, and state officials in different regions of China have removed crosses and demolished church buildings.

In November 2022, the Vatican said that Chinese authorities had violated the terms stipulated in its provision agreement on the appointment of bishops.

A statement released on Nov. 26 said that “the Holy See noted with surprise and regret” that Bishop John Peng Weizhao had been installed as an “auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,” a diocese that is not recognized by the Vatican.

“The Holy See hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, remains awaiting appropriate communications on the matter from the authorities, and reaffirms its full readiness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest,” it said.

In the interview with EWTN, Gallagher confirmed that “there are negotiations underway for the appointment of other bishops.”

“We remain committed to carrying forward that dialogue,” he said.

When asked in the interview what he considers the biggest diplomatic challenges today, Gallagher said that the war in Ukraine, climate change, and conflicts in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and the destabilization of Latin America are the top issues facing the international community.

“But one of the things that the Chinese and the Catholic Church and the Holy See have in common is that we don’t think in months, or even in years. We’re thinking in terms of a much longer time. And we hope that, in time, the relations between the Catholic Church in China will be shall we say much more ‘normal,’ much more fluid, much more fruitful,” he said.

“And as we set off from here, we remain committed, believing that good Catholics can also be good citizens of the People’s Republic of China.”