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WASHINGTON (CNS) — Each year the U.S. Catholic Church unveils its annual report on what...

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Each year the U.S. Catholic Church unveils its annual report on what it’s doing to prevent abuse of minors by clergy and other church workers.

What it also should tell church members is what’s being done, particularly by bishops, to help those suffering after the abuse, said a priest who works with survivors and perpetrators.

“We hear how much we’re paying victims, all these training programs” to prevent abuse, said Jesuit Father Jerry McGlone, himself a survivor of abuse by a priest, “but where is the initial and ongoing accompaniment of survivors? That, to me, is a real missing piece.”

In the two decades since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” “there were some really good advances that the charter promulgated: a sense of setting up a system that was not there, setting up policies that needed to be followed … having victim assistance coordinators, having safe environment training,” Father McGlone said in a June 9 interview with Catholic News Service.

The USCCB says on its website that the most important information in the annual report includes:

— “Findings regarding diocesan/eparchial compliance with the charter and recommendations from the auditor on how charter implementation can be improved.”

— “A progress report from the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection on its activities.”

— “And data regarding allegations, safe environment programs, background checks, financial costs related to allegations and child protection efforts in dioceses/eparchies.”

“But you know, with that we lack the data to find out how effective this has been,” said Father McGlone, a psychologist and researcher at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Washington’s Georgetown University.

Audits that the church now presents about what it is doing administratively, in terms of training, handling of abuse reports and following best practices, also should include, he said, what church leaders are doing pastorally — and long term — to be there for survivors of abuse and their families and with parish communities where abuse has occurred — and what they’re doing to apologize to all.

Father McGlone, who said he “walks” with survivors as well as perpetrators, told CNS he has sometimes asked offenders “when are you willing to simply apologize to your victim survivor?”

So, too, should the church, as an offending institution, “take accountability and be transparent” for the abuse under its watch, he said, and for failures that continued even after bishops were “forced” to adopt the charter following press reports.

While the charter aimed to prevent allegations of abuse of minors by clergy from falling through the cracks, it did not fully address how bishops could be held accountable for improperly handling reports, including any involvement in covering them up, nor did the charter take into account allegations against bishops who committed the same or similar crimes.

This flaw became apparent after a cascade of sex abuse allegations, of minors and young men, came forward against former cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, of Washington, starting in 2018.

McCarrick is now laicized and facing three counts of sexually assaulting a teenager in Massachusetts in the 1970s. Many questions have since arisen and remain unanswered about who knew of the allegations and failed to do something about them.

In 2019, Pope Francis, who has consistently acted to reduce abuse, issued his “motu proprio” titled “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), which revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable for protecting abusers worldwide.

In addition, a reporting system for accepting sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. bishops and eparchs was established in 2020. The Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting System incorporates a website and a toll-free telephone number through which individuals can file reports regarding a bishop.

Years before McCarrick’s larger-than-life profile brought to light abuse perpetrated by a prelate, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Florida, resigned in 2002 over allegations of the type of abuse Father McGlone suffered when he was teenager: the Florida prelate, who died in 2012, faced accusations that he had in the past, as a priest, groped former seminarians.

Father McGlone speaks of a Catholic writer who suggested that as a sign of penance for the “sins of the pastors,” all the bishops in the United States should refuse to wear their miter “and put it down in front of the altars and kneel before every public event in lamentation.”

“In this 20th commemoration of the charter, wouldn’t it be nice if every bishop took off their miter, held it for the entire service in front of the altar, in ashes, in lamentation?” said Father McGlone.

“Where’s a church of lamentation recognizing the sin, being resolute not to do it again?” he asked. “And where’s your sign of penance? What have you done as a sign of penance? Where is the sense of moral outrage at the sins of the past?”

In June 2017, U.S. bishops at the spring general assembly gathered at the cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a Mass of Prayer and Penance. It took place after Pope Francis called on all episcopal conferences across the world to participate in a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims of sexual abuse within the church.

In 2019, a small group of U.S. bishops also met with members of the survivor group Spirit Fire on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington but, by and large, most of the gatherings between bishops and survivors have taken place one-on-one and in private and it’s hard to know how many prelates have participated in this practice.

These meetings and acts of penance and contrition also should include families and parish communities and the church in general, argues Father McGlone, because the pain is widespread.

In November 2021, during the USSCB’S annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Cardinals Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, along with six other prelates and religious leaders of various faiths prayed and took a “sunrise walk” with abuse survivors.

Father McGlone and family members of abuse victims were among them.

The priest praised efforts by those present at the service as well as prelates such as Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, who regularly meets with survivors and has urged his brother bishops to do the same, and Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under whose leadership the archdiocese in 2018 negotiated a $210 million settlement agreement with 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

The Minnesota archbishop continuously offers contrition, Father McGlone noted.

That’s what survivors want to see more of, not leaders intent on “saving reputation and saving face,” he said. It makes the situation worse to see bishops more worried about church finances, than those who’ve been hurt, Father McGlone said.

“If we need to be a bankrupt church, then so be it. What amount of money gives back the innocence of a child who’s been raped?” he asked. “What amount of money?”

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Thousands of records detailing requests to the Vatican made by Jewish...

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Thousands of records detailing requests to the Vatican made by Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis will be made available online to the public, the Vatican announced.

In a statement released June 23, the Vatican said universal access to the documentation, which has been available to researchers since March 2020, was made “at the request of the Holy Father.”

The documentation, titled “Ebrei” (“Jews”), aims “to preserve the petitions for help from Jewish people all over Europe, received by (Pope Pius XII) during the Nazi-Fascist persecutions,” the statement said.

“The archival series consists of a total of 170 volumes, equivalent to nearly 40,000 digital files. An initial 70% of the complete material will be made available initially, before being integrated with the final volumes that are currently being worked on,” the Vatican said.

While the Vatican made no direct link, the decision to make the documents available online closely follows controversy over a new book by historian David I. Kertzer.

In his book, “The Pope at War,” Kertzer suggested that Pope Pius remained silent out of fear of the Nazis and that the Vatican prioritized saving Jewish converts to Catholicism from persecution.

In an article for the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, highlighted the case of Werner Barasch, a Jewish university student from Germany who was held at a concentration camp in Miranda de Ebro, Spain.

Barasch wrote a letter in 1942 to an Italian friend and asked that Pope Pius send the apostolic nuncio in Madrid to secure his release so he could travel to the United States and be reunited with his mother.

Archbishop Gallagher said that while two documents revealed that the Vatican Secretariat of State had intervened, no other paperwork existed that revealed the young man’s fate.

However, an internet search revealed that “he was released from the Miranda camp the year after his appeal in a letter to the pope, and that in 1945, he was finally able to join his mother in the United States,” the archbishop said.

The documentation being released online, he added, details more than 2,700 cases of requests for help from the Vatican, primarily for families, but also for groups of people.

“Thousands of people persecuted for their membership to the Jewish religion, or for merely having ‘non-Aryan’ ancestry, turned to the Vatican, in the knowledge that others had received help, like the young Werner Barasch himself writes,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

Archbishop Gallagher said the cases were given the name “Pacelli’s list,” referring to Pope Pius’ given name, Eugenio Pacelli, echoing “Schindler’s list,” the title given to the list of those saved by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over a thousand Jews during World War II.

“Although the two cases differ, the analogy perfectly expresses the idea that people in the corridors of the institution at the service of the pontiff worked tirelessly to provide Jewish people with practical help,” he said.

The Vatican foreign minister said that the release of the documents to the public will aid “descendants of those who asked for help to find traces of their loved ones from any part of the world.”

It also will “allow scholars and anyone interested to freely examine this special archival heritage from a distance,” the archbishop said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Cardinal Kevin Farrell celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Meeting of Families 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNAVatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 02:30 am (CNA).Cardinal Kevin Farrell said on Thursday that Saint John the Baptist is a witness to the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.The Irish-American cardinal celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 23.The Mass in English was part of the World Meeting of Families 2022, taking place in Rome from June 22-26 with families from around the world. Families are also encouraged to participate in the event from home via livestream.Even before Saint John the Baptist was born, "at the moment of Mary's greeting, [he] recognized the Lord Jesus and leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb," Farrell said."A call from God reached him while he was still in the womb," he noted. "It invested him with the great task of preparing the hearts of humankind to recei...

Cardinal Kevin Farrell celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Meeting of Families 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 02:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Kevin Farrell said on Thursday that Saint John the Baptist is a witness to the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.

The Irish-American cardinal celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 23.

The Mass in English was part of the World Meeting of Families 2022, taking place in Rome from June 22-26 with families from around the world. Families are also encouraged to participate in the event from home via livestream.

Even before Saint John the Baptist was born, "at the moment of Mary's greeting, [he] recognized the Lord Jesus and leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb," Farrell said.

"A call from God reached him while he was still in the womb," he noted. "It invested him with the great task of preparing the hearts of humankind to receive the Savior of the world."

The cardinal, who leads the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which organized the World Meeting of Families, said Saint John's reaction to encountering the unborn Jesus points to an important aspect of family life.

"All of this helps us to understand another key dimension of the family vocation," he said, "to be guardians of the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death."

Saint John the Baptist's birth is ordinarily celebrated on June 24, but is moved to June 23 when it coincides with the Feast of Corpus Christi or the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as happened this year.

In his homily, Cardinal Farrell, who is camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, reflected on the liturgy's first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah.

"The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name," Farrell said, quoting Isaiah 49:1.

"The life of each child must be protected and defended precisely because God has great plans for that child's goodness and holiness right from the beginning," he said.

"God's call has reached your children too," he continued, "right from the beginning, so that all of them may be saints of tomorrow and will make our world a brighter place for all."

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This painting of St. Peter visiting St. Agatha was created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant'Agata in the Milan Cathedral. It was directly commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin of St. Charles Borromeo. / Photo by Kathleen NaabMilan, Italy, Jun 22, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).Within the splendor of Milan's cathedral, a unique image from the late 16th century hangs over one of the side altars of the south aisle of the nave.Created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant'Agata, it was commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin to St. Charles Borromeo, the saint and champion of the Counter-Reformation and hero of the plague.The painting is unique because it depicts a Christian legend that, today, is not particularly well known.The basic outlines of the story of St. Agatha are familiar, largely due to the fact that they are so gruesome one can hardly forget them.Agatha, a young virgin from Sicily, had p...

This painting of St. Peter visiting St. Agatha was created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant'Agata in the Milan Cathedral. It was directly commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin of St. Charles Borromeo. / Photo by Kathleen Naab

Milan, Italy, Jun 22, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Within the splendor of Milan's cathedral, a unique image from the late 16th century hangs over one of the side altars of the south aisle of the nave.

Created by Federico Zuccari between 1597 and 1599 for the altar of Sant'Agata, it was commissioned by Milan native Federico Borromeo, a cousin to St. Charles Borromeo, the saint and champion of the Counter-Reformation and hero of the plague.

The painting is unique because it depicts a Christian legend that, today, is not particularly well known.

The basic outlines of the story of St. Agatha are familiar, largely due to the fact that they are so gruesome one can hardly forget them.

Agatha, a young virgin from Sicily, had pledged herself to Christ when a Roman Senator Quintianus became enamored by her beauty. She refused his advances, protesting that she already belonged to God, and this infuriated him. The governor turned her over to various tortures, one of which is memorialized in the iconography of the virgin: he had her breasts cut off. 

This horrific torment led to her becoming a patroness of women everywhere, but especially of breast cancer sufferers and nurses. It also brought about the tradition of peculiar breast-shaped sweets being popular on her Feb. 5 feast day.

Agatha is a much-beloved saint, especially in Italy, Malta, and other places, and is one of the female martyrs mentioned in the Roman Canon. Her death is believed to have occurred during the persecution of Decius, from 250 to 253.

But a lesser-known element of her legend involves St. Peter. 

According to the story, once Quintianus' minions had severed her breasts and left her in agony in prison, St. Peter and an angel appeared to her. The first pope healed the young virgin's wounds and reaffirmed her in her zeal.

The healing did nothing to shock or shame Quintianus into changing his mind, and he had Agatha dragged through the streets of the city until her triumphant death finally brought an end to her suffering.

It is this visit from Peter and the angel that is depicted at her altar in Milan's cathedral, the Duomo. The painting shows a childlike Agatha looking upward, where three cherubs hover in bright light, contrasting with the darkness of her cell. Her left hand lies over a silver tray containing her severed breasts. With her right hand, she points up and her bloodied chest stains her garments. An older, bearded Peter offers her a cup, with the angel standing in the foreground, as if keeping guard against the night watchmen.

The narrative is clear, in line with Federico Borromeo's desire to use art as a way to promote the devotion of the faithful and their understanding of the stories of salvation.

Which is why June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, is a good day to consider this legend and this masterpiece.

St. Peter was himself martyred some 200 years before Agatha and is shown here to the faithful as a source of comfort and the bearer of God's healing for the suffering young Christian. As the first of Christ's vicars, he is an image of the whole Church and thus comes to offer both fatherly and motherly consolation to the agonizing Agatha.

Peter's 266th successor, Pope Francis, invites us to feel something of what Agatha must have felt at seeing Peter come to her in prison.

"Let us ask ourselves if, deep in our hearts," the pope said in his Feb. 16 general audience, "we love the Church as she is … all the goodness and holiness that are present in the Church, starting precisely with Jesus and Mary. Loving the Church, safeguarding the Church, and walking with the Church."

St. Peter naturally calls to mind the pope's teaching role and how the magisterium is the source of unity for the Church; but it also reminds us that he is, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, the "shepherd of the whole flock" (No. 881) and "pastor of the entire Church" (No. 882). In other words, his teaching office is meant to be combined — as it was in Christ — with the fatherly, caring role of one who accompanies, especially in suffering.

Pope Francis often emphasizes the importance of this role. In speaking of priestly identity, he urges pastors to be close to their sheep, accompanying them both with prayer and presence in the realities they face.

"I am convinced that, for a renewed understanding of the identity of the priesthood, it is important nowadays to be closely involved in people's real lives, to live alongside them, without escape routes," he said in a Feb. 17 address at a symposium on the priesthood. 

Certainly, Peter's presence beside Agatha in prison gives us a vision of just such an accompaniment.

As we celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, let us allow our hearts to fill with gratitude for the splendor of the Church's art and history; for the many saints who are our friends in heaven; for the Church herself, our mother; and for Peter's successors down through the ages, bringing us Christ's comfort and closeness.

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Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the Vatican in April 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.Berlin, Germany, Jun 22, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).A theologian considered close to Pope Francis has warned that the German Synodal Way is at risk of "breaking its own neck" if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.Cardinal Walter Kasper also said organisers were using a "lazy trick" that in effect constituted a "coup d'etat" that could result in a collective resignation, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner.The 89-year-old German cardinal is President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and was Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999.  He spoke at an online study day on June 19 of the initiative "New Beginning" (Neuer Anfang), a reform movement critical of the Synodal Way.Kasper warned that the Church was not some su...

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the Vatican in April 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Berlin, Germany, Jun 22, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

A theologian considered close to Pope Francis has warned that the German Synodal Way is at risk of "breaking its own neck" if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

Cardinal Walter Kasper also said organisers were using a "lazy trick" that in effect constituted a "coup d'etat" that could result in a collective resignation, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner.

The 89-year-old German cardinal is President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and was Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999.  

He spoke at an online study day on June 19 of the initiative "New Beginning" (Neuer Anfang), a reform movement critical of the Synodal Way.

Kasper warned that the Church was not some substance to be "re-molded and reshaped to suit the situation". 

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a "fraternal open letter" to Germany's bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland's Catholic bishops' conference raised serious concerns

Such concerns "will be repeated and reaffirmed and, if we do not heed them, will break the neck of the Synodal Way," Kasper warned in his speech.

It was "the original sin of the Synodal Way" that it did not base itself on the pope's letter to the Church in Germany, he said, with its "proposal of being guided by the Gospel and the basic mission of evangelization". 

Instead, the German process, initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, "took its own path with partly different criteria", Kasper said.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to Catholics in Germany urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a "growing erosion and deterioration of faith." 

The president of the German bishops' conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has repeatedly rejected all concerns, instead expressing disappointment in Pope Francis in May 2022.  

In an interview published earlier this month, Pope Francis reiterated that he told the leader of Germany's Catholic bishops that the country already had "a very good Evangelical Church" and "we don't need two."

"The problem arises when the synodal way comes from the intellectual, theological elites, and is much influenced by external pressures," the pope said.

Bätzing, who serves as president of the Synodal Way, is also a signatory to the "Frankfurt Declaration". This petition demands German bishops should declare their commitment to implementing resolutions passed by the process, CNA Deutsch reported

On Sunday, Kasper decried this push for "commitment", saying it was "a trick and, moreover, a lazy trick."

"Just imagine a civil servant who allows himself to be appointed, then renounces the exercise of his legal obligations," the cardinal said. "He would be sure to face proceedings under civil service law. Ultimately, such a self-commitment would be tantamount to a collective resignation of the bishops. Constitutionally, the whole thing could only be called a coup, i.e., an attempted coup d'état."

The Church can never be governed synodally, Kasper stressed: "Synods cannot be made institutionally permanent." Instead, he said, a synod constituted "an extraordinary interruption" to ordinary proceedings.

The Synodal Way, also referred to as Synodal Path, describes itself as a process bringing together Germany's bishops and selected laypeople to debate and pass resolutions about the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts.

Cardinal Kasper has repeatedly expressed concern about the process.

On Sunday, Kasper used the close-sounding German words Neuerung ("renewal") and Erneuerung ("innovation") to say one could "not reinvent the Church," but rather one should contribute to renewing it in the Holy Spirit: "renewal is not innovation. It does not mean just trying something new and inventing a new Church."

Instead, Kasper continued, true reform was about "letting the Spirit of God make us new and give us a new heart." 

Analogously, he said, the term "reform" applies to bringing the church back "into shape," "namely, into the shape that Jesus Christ wanted and that he gave to the Church. Jesus Christ is the foundation, no one can lay another (1 Cor 3:10 f); he is at the same time the capstone that holds everything together (Eph 2:20). He is the standard, the Alpha and Omega of every renewal."

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Pope Francis speaks at the opening of the World Meeting of Families in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic marriage is a gift, not just a formality or rule."Marriage is not a formality to be fulfilled. You don't get married to be Catholic 'with the label,' to obey a rule, or because the Church says so, or to throw a party," the pope said at the opening event of the World Meeting of Families on June 22."You get married," he continued, "because you want to base your marriage on the love of Christ, which is as firm as a rock.""We can say that when a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift: marriage. A wonderful gift, which has in it the power of divine love: strong, enduring, faithful, able to recover after any failure or fragility," Francis said. The World Meeting of Families 2022 opened with a Festival of Families in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. ...

Pope Francis speaks at the opening of the World Meeting of Families in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic marriage is a gift, not just a formality or rule.

"Marriage is not a formality to be fulfilled. You don't get married to be Catholic 'with the label,' to obey a rule, or because the Church says so, or to throw a party," the pope said at the opening event of the World Meeting of Families on June 22.

"You get married," he continued, "because you want to base your marriage on the love of Christ, which is as firm as a rock."

"We can say that when a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift: marriage. A wonderful gift, which has in it the power of divine love: strong, enduring, faithful, able to recover after any failure or fragility," Francis said. 

The World Meeting of Families 2022 opened with a Festival of Families in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. The event featured a performance by Italian operatic rock trio Il Volo.

Pope Francis and around 2,000 families from around the world also listened to the testimonies of married couples and individuals with stories of overcoming incredible challenges or of serving others.

The 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families, which ends on June 26, includes three days of talks from lay Catholics on subjects related to marriage and the family. Mass and Eucharistic adoration are also on the schedule.

Pope Francis told families: "In marriage Christ gives himself to you, so that you have the strength to give yourselves to each other."

"Take courage, then, family life is not an impossible mission," he added. "With the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey to be taken together with him, never alone."

"Family is not a beautiful ideal, unattainable in reality. God guarantees his presence in marriage and family, not only on your wedding day but throughout your life. And he sustains you every day in your journey," Francis said.

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The Chiriaco family share their story at the World Meeting of Families, June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 13:07 pm (CNA).As millions of refugees fled the war in Ukraine this year, a Catholic family of eight made the decision to welcome a refugee family into their home.Pietro and Erika Chiriaco live in Rome with their six children. The couple explained to their children during family prayer time that welcoming a refugee family would be "like welcoming Jesus."This is how Iryna and Sofia, a mother and her 17-year-old daughter from Kyiv, came to live in the Chiriaco family in the southern outskirts of Rome. The pair left the Ukrainian capital 10 days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and eventually took a bus to Italy."The decision to leave was not easy," Iryna said."Today I thank God because he sent so many good people in our path," she added. Iryna and Sofia shared their story with the pope alongside the Chiriaco family on the stage of ...

The Chiriaco family share their story at the World Meeting of Families, June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2022 / 13:07 pm (CNA).

As millions of refugees fled the war in Ukraine this year, a Catholic family of eight made the decision to welcome a refugee family into their home.

Pietro and Erika Chiriaco live in Rome with their six children. The couple explained to their children during family prayer time that welcoming a refugee family would be "like welcoming Jesus."

This is how Iryna and Sofia, a mother and her 17-year-old daughter from Kyiv, came to live in the Chiriaco family in the southern outskirts of Rome. 

The pair left the Ukrainian capital 10 days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and eventually took a bus to Italy.

"The decision to leave was not easy," Iryna said.

"Today I thank God because he sent so many good people in our path," she added. 

Iryna and Sofia shared their story with the pope alongside the Chiriaco family on the stage of the World Meeting of Families, which is taking place in Rome June 22-26.

The Chiriacos said that they made the decision to host the Ukrainian refugees out of gratitude to God. Erika Chiriaco added that the presence of the Ukrainian mother and daughter in their home has been a "blessing from heaven."

Pope Francis thanked the family for their generosity and for witnessing to what it means to be a "welcoming family."

"Welcoming is truly a 'charism' of families, especially large families," Pope Francis said.

"We may think that, in a large home, it is harder to welcome other people; yet that is not the case, for families with numerous children are trained to make room for others. They always find space for others."

The pope added that a family is the place where a person "experiences what it is to be welcomed." He said that this can be seen when a family welcomes the life of a child with a disability, welcomes a relative facing difficulties, or welcomes an elderly person in need of care. 

The organizers of the 10th World Meeting of Families are encouraging families to participate virtually in this Catholic tradition started by St. John Paul II by tuning into media broadcasts and live streams of the speeches and catecheses.

Pope Francis thanked Iryna and Sofia for sharing their witness to faith amid human brutality at the World Meeting of Families.

"You gave a voice to all those persons whose lives have been devastated by the war in Ukraine," he said.

"In you, we see the faces and the stories of so many men and women forced to leave their homeland. We thank you, for you have not lost your trust in providence and you have seen how God is at work in your lives, not least through the flesh and blood people he led you to encounter."

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As a victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Donna Eurich said believes...

As a victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Donna Eurich said believes one of the best results of her position — which springs from the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” — is to help victims both find healing and not lose their faith.

Eurich, who was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 5-8 for the 16th Annual Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference, where the 20 years since the so-called “Dallas Charter” was a looming topic of conversation, said in her diocese she is mostly engaging with “historic” claims of clergy abuse — meaning the perpetrator is deceased.

Sitting with victim survivors has required her to have a good listening disposition and to be able to handle hearing traumatic stories without being reactionary; to not herself become traumatized by what she is hearing and to be strong for the benefit of survivors.

“The most important thing is to apologize and acknowledge that something has happened and to believe them; in some cases this might be the first time they are speaking publicly about their experience and the church wants to help them through that,” Eurich told Catholic News Service by phone.

“It is a ministry of the church, a topic of respect life; those of us in this ministry take this very, very seriously. We love people and we want them to become healthy and whole again,” she said.

The diocese provides for victim psychological treatment and spiritual directions relative to the trauma someone experienced, she added.

The goal of the victim assistance coordinator is to be “trauma informed,” affirming that a survivor’s trauma is real and that there are specific do’s and don’ts that must be observed in helping someone on the road to healing.

“Another big hope is to extend help to people may have been abused by nonclerics: other adults, incest or other situations not (necessarily) related to the church directly,” Eurich said.

One of the speakers at the conference in Grand Rapids, she said, noted “how far we have come and what great work has been done but unfortunately much of the world doesn’t know about” in the 20 years since the “Dallas Charter.”

The bishops approved the charter during a historic general assembly in Dallas June 13-15, 2002, months after news of a devastating clergy abuse scandal emerged in the Archdiocese of Boston and led to investigations of clergy behavior nationwide. The charter was revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018.

In addition to creating the position of victim assistance coordinator, among other provisions, the document also requires dioceses to have a safe environment officer overseeing the approval and ongoing child safety training of church staff and volunteers.

But it’s a commitment to translate those policies and procedures into a genuine project that continuously strives to prevent future abuse and to tweak the elements that go into the church response to those who have been harmed by abuse, according to Heather Banis, coordinator of the Office of Victims Assistance Ministry for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I am constantly learning from victim survivors and it troubles me a bit to know how much I do learn from them: As informed as we are, there is always more we can learn,” Banis said.

Twenty or more years ago, the church didn’t have a sense “for what this big picture really looked like, and how many people had been harmed, understanding the inner workings that failed, (were) covered up,” Banis noted. “Nor did we have a full understanding of the impact of child sexual abuse and the layers added to that when it is by the hands of a clergy person.”

Today, the church is well on its way to being a place of healing “although we are not fully there yet,” she added. “For people in my position our default is compassion. And we are a little bit more confident because we know that we have experience in what we can, should and are offering.”

In the spirit of taking healing to the next level, the Los Angeles Archdiocese is following the lead of a local abuse survivor with an expertise in horticulture to create an outdoor healing garden for those survivors who have left the church and may want to explore coming back.

“The survivor has been consulting on the garden and he is a faith-filled Catholic even as he reconciles what has happened to him,” Banis said, noting that later this summer the archdiocese hopes to dedicate the healing garden for those not yet ready to set a foot in a church but who wish to sit in a comforting place of healing.

Like other public memorials that mark tragic events, “it is a very tangible, physical symbol of the church’s commitment and one that a loved one or survivor can access on their own, which offers a place of solace and kindling and connection with God,” Banis said.

“It can feel overwhelming but I believe healing is possible. It is a real labor of love for all of us involved. It is not the only way but it is a perfect offering in its own way,” she added.

Whitney True-Francis, who is in her second year as a victim assistance coordinator at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, said the tone that emerged the conference in Grand Rapids identified the church’s evolution these past 20 years to a more restorative approach to survivor healing and trauma as a lifelong endeavor.

The Missouri diocese, she said, offers survivors a generous program of counseling not only for themselves but for their friends and family members who suffered secondary effects.

Now the diocese has rolled out a new program called “Journey to Bethany,” which for the first time recently brought together a small group of survivors at a community center who wished to gather in a safe place for sharing their story with each other and with professional counselors.

“My primary job is to accompany survivors who come to me in various ways and however they wish to proceed: investigate, speak to our general council or take advantage of counseling services,” True-Francis told CNS. “It is my honor to walk with victim survivors where they are; and healing is not linear; it lasts a lifetime and we really have to hold space wherever they are and provide counseling.”

“We are trying out a lot of different things,” she added.

Rod Herrera, who is director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, and who also was in Michigan for the child protection conference, said many in his position struggled with what to do on the 20th anniversary of the “Dallas Charter.”

“It is not a celebration, but we need to recognize it has been 20 years since an extraordinary document that the bishops ratified in such a short time in response to what was coming out of Boston that year,” Herrera said, in reference to the high-profile Boston clergy scandals that became a media focal point.

“It still needs to be looked at and improved in order to protect children in all our parishes and schools — one case of abuse is too many,” he said. “But we have really decreased the number of incidents and a lot of it is because of the training we do. It requires that we train adults and that we train children as well.”

At the Michigan conference, a clergy abuse survivor from the Midwest area spoke to the conference about coming forward some five years ago and about her initial three-hour interview with church representatives during which she felt affirmed.

“She felt listened to and cared about and this is not something that would have happened that way (decades ago),” Herrera said.

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BEIRUT (CNS) — Two U.S. Maronite Catholic dioceses are sponsoring 450 families each month in...

BEIRUT (CNS) — Two U.S. Maronite Catholic dioceses are sponsoring 450 families each month in Lebanon and have provided several hundred thousand dollars for hospitalization costs.

“I’ve never seen Lebanon like this before,” Maronite Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles told Catholic News Service in mid-June. “What concerns me the most,” he said of his homeland, “is the dire need of the people. It’s a very, very sad situation.”

Bishop Zaidan is a U.S. board member for Caritas, the church’s charitable aid agency in Lebanon, and the two U.S. Maronite dioceses work through Caritas Lebanon. Since late 2019, Lebanon has been in an unprecedented economic crisis, such that nearly 90% of the population is now living in poverty.

“We need to save the Lebanese people,” said Bishop Zaidan.

During his visit to Lebanon, the Los Angeles bishop met with Carmelite Father Michel Abboud, president of Caritas Lebanon, who said the organization is experiencing an increase in the number of families asking for support. The priest said the coming year is expected “to be a very difficult one” and thus is asking for more help.

With the collapse of the Lebanese currency — its devaluation has reached 95% — Bishop Zaidan said that, now, even $50 “can go a long way” in helping a struggling family, and that $300-$400 can nearly cover a Catholic school annual tuition.

“Now is the time to save Lebanon. We need to save the Lebanese people,” Bishop Zaidan said.

After Maronite bishops from around the world met in Lebanon June 13-18, they said the “the deteriorating economic, financial, social, living and security situation in Lebanon and Syria” constituted “a dangerous reflection on Lebanon’s identity, role, and mission, and on the presence of Christianity in the Middle East.”

The prelates commended “the great efforts” of bishops, in cooperation with parish priests and committed laypeople in the field of social service and church and civil associations, who worked on getting the necessary help to whose in need and encouraged the faithful to “remain firm in their faith in God.” They also thanked Maronite dioceses in the diaspora — like the two in the United States — and international church and civil institutions for their support.

The bishops also warned that Lebanon’s Catholic schools “are threatened with closure and collapse due to the great challenges in the current economic, social and living conditions, the inability of the state to pay its dues and the difficulty of parents in paying the installments.”

The bishops reiterated “the educational mission of the church, which has contributed through the ages and continues to contribute to the development of societies and the spiritual, scientific and national advancement of humanity, and which has made Lebanon a country of distinctive cultural radiance.”

They demanded that the state “do its duty to support private education as well as public education” and to support social security, medical care and hospitalization for all citizens.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church professes marriage and family life to be a...

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church professes marriage and family life to be a path to holiness — a daunting concept — but one that can start with a tiny step, Pope Francis said.

“Start from where you are, and, from there, try to journey together: together as couples, together in your families, together with other families, together with the church,” the pope said June 22, opening the World Meeting of Families with an evening “Festival of Families” in the Vatican audience hall.

The in-presence portion of most of the event June 22-26 was limited to about 2,000 people — official delegates of bishops’ conferences, Catholic family associations and movements. But the entire event was being livestreamed, and parishes and dioceses around the world were holding their own events at the same time on the theme, “Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness.”

At the opening festival, with some 4,500 people in the Vatican audience hall, Pope Francis said he wanted the church to be a “good Samaritan that draws near to you and helps you to continue your journey and to take a step forward, however small.”

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, welcomed delegates to the gathering and told Pope Francis the five families — from Rome, Ukraine and Congo — that shared their stories “are not perfect families … because, as you always say, perfect don’t exist.”

“They are normal families who, like so many others, in every country and latitude, go through the difficulties and sufferings typical of our time,” the cardinal said, but they have discovered that when the problems are experienced with faith, they can open “incredible paths of family holiness.”

Serena Zangla and Luigi Franco, who have lived together for 10 years and have three children, spoke to the pope of the difficulty they had in finding a parish that would accept and support them, for which Pope Francis apologized. Zangla said they finally have found a community and are hoping to be married soon.

The sacrament of marriage is the gift God gives to couples in love, the pope said. “It is a marvelous gift, which contains the power of God’s own love: strong, enduring, faithful, ready to start over after every failure or moment of weakness.”

“Family life is not ‘mission impossible,'” he told them. “By the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey, to be undertaken together with him and never alone.”

Roberto and Maria Anselma Corbella shared with the crowd the story of the illness and death of their daughter, Chiara, who eventually chose not to pursue cancer treatment so her unborn baby would live.

“To see how she experienced the trial of her illness helped you to lift up your gaze, not to remain imprisoned in grief, but to be open to something greater: the mysterious plans of God, to eternity, to heaven,” the pope said. “I thank you for this witness of faith!”

Paul and Germaine Balenza of Congo spoke of the crises in their marriage, including infidelity, and how members of the Christian Family Community helped them find the strength to forgive and begin again.

“No one wants a love that is short-term or is marked with an expiration date,” the pope said. “We suffer greatly whenever failings, negligence and human sins make a shipwreck of marriage. But even amid the tempest, God sees what is in our hearts.”

Listening to their story, the pope said he was reminded of the biblical story of the prodigal son, “only this time, the ones who went astray were the parents, not the child!”

Pope Francis congratulated the couple for celebrating a “feast of forgiveness” with their children and renewing their wedding vows at Mass, because it helped their children see “the humility needed to beg forgiveness and the God-given strength to pick yourselves up after the fall.”

Iryna Kozhushko and her daughter Sofia from Ukraine, and Pietro and Erika Chiriaco, the couple with six young children hosting them in Acilia, a suburb of Rome, also shared their stories.

The welcome offered by the Chiriaco family, Pope Francis said, shows the generosity that almost naturally comes from having a large family where people are “trained to make room for others.”

“In the end, this is what family is all about. In the family, we experience what it is to be welcomed. Husbands and wives are the first to ‘welcome’ and accept one another, as they said they would do on the day of their marriage,” he said. “Later, as they bring a child into the world, they welcome that new life.”

“Whereas in cold and anonymous situations, the weak are often rejected,” the pope said, “in families it is natural to welcome them: to accept a child with a disability, an elderly person in need of care, a family member in difficulty who has no one else — this gives hope.”

Zakia Seddiki, a Moroccan Muslim and widow of Luca Attanasio, the Italian ambassador to Congo killed in an ambush in 2021 at the age of 43, also spoke at the event.

Seddiki had told the crowd, “We based our family on authentic love, with respect, solidarity and dialogue between our cultures.”

“None of that was lost, not even after the tragedy of Luca’s death,” the pope said. “Not only do the example and the spiritual legacy of Luca continue to live on and to speak to the consciences of many people, but also the organization that Zakia founded in some way carries on his mission. Indeed, we can say that Luca’s diplomatic mission has now become ‘a mission of peace’ on the part of your entire family.”

Pope Francis praised Seddiki and Attanasio for supporting and respecting each other’s religious identities and focusing on how both Islam and Christianity called them to work “to overcome divisions, prejudices and narrow-mindedness, and to build together something grand, something beautiful, on the basis of what we have in common.”

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