Vatican may try priests on charges related to sex abuse at pre-seminary

Formally requesting indictment against the two priests required the personal intervention of the pope.

Vatican City:  The Vatican City State prosecuting attorney requested an indictment against two priests on charges related to the sexual abuse of boys at a minor seminary located at the Vatican.

Following an investigation that began in November 2017, the Vatican prosecuting attorney issued notices Sept. 16 and Sept. 17 requesting that Father Gabriele Martinelli be tried for sexual abuse allegedly committed in the St. Pius X Pre-Seminary and that Father Enrico Radice, former rector of the seminary, be tried for aiding and abetting the abuse, the Vatican press office announced Sept. 17.

The alleged abuse occurred prior to 2012, the statement said.

Formally requesting the indictment against the two required the personal intervention of Pope Francis, the statement said, because at the time the crimes allegedly occurred, Vatican law required the victim himself to make the accusation within one year of the crime’s occurrence.

The request for the indictments “was possible by virtue of a specific provision made by the Holy Father July 29,” the Vatican statement said.

The pre-seminary is run by Diocese of Como, Italy, but located inside the Vatican. Boys in middle school and high school live there, serve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and attend a Catholic school in Rome while considering applying to a seminary when they are older.

Reports of abuse began circulating in 2013 and were investigated by seminary staff and the Diocese of Como, the Vatican had said in November when it opened its own criminal investigation following media reports and a book that repeated the allegations.

In his book, “Original Sin,” the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose books based on leaked Vatican documents were at the heart of two other Vatican trials, had written about one student sexually abusing another at the seminary.

The Italian television program “Le Iene” followed up with a program featuring an interview with a young Polish man, identified only as 21-year-old Kamil, who said he arrived at the pre-seminary at age 13, wanting to be an altar server for the pope. He said he was thinking only vaguely of becoming a priest one day.

Kamil claimed another student, one given responsibility by the rector for determining the liturgical roles of all the students at papal Masses, regularly sexually abused his roommate.

Kamil said the older student would come into their room at night, get into bed with his roommate and abuse him. The alleged abuser was ordained to the priesthood in June 2017, “Le Iene” reported.

Father Martinelli, 26, now a priest of the Diocese of Como, allegedly is the older seminarian. Italian authorities have been conducting their own investigation of him.

Source: CNS

Priest bailed amid anti-Christian campaign in Jharkhand

But catechist still in jail as thousands demand arrests for attack on Jesuit college.

Thousands of tribal Christians march Sept. 16 through the town of Sahibganj, Jharkhand state, demanding the arrest of vandals who attacked a Jesuit-run college Sept. 3. (Photos supplied).


Bhopal:  A court in Jharkhand state, eastern India, has granted bail to a Catholic priest, as some 3,000 mostly tribal people staged a protest demanding the arrest of vandals who attacked a church-run college.

Father V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda of Bhagalpur Diocese were arrested Sept. 7, in their Rajadah mission area of Godda district, accused of land-grabbing and engaging in forced religious conversions.

Father Binoy was admitted to a hospital immediately after his release Sept. 16 after complaining of nausea and general weakness, said Father N. M. Thomas, vicar general of Bhagalpur Diocese, to which the priest and catechist belong.

A mob of some 500 suspected Hindu hardliners vandalized the Jesuit-run St. John Berchmans College Sept. 3 and a hostel for tribal students attached to it in the town of Sahibganj.

The attackers were armed “with wooden sticks, iron rods, pipes, knives, pistols, bricks and stones,” said the college secretary, Father Thomas Kuzhively. “The irony is that almost a fortnight after the attack no action has been taken against the accused.”

The bigger, ‘anti-Christian’ picture

The targeting of Christians is part of a larger plan to tarnish missions in the villages that attract poor and illiterate people seeking education and healthcare, Christian leaders say.

Father Thomas said the case against Father Binoy and the catechist were “absolutely baseless but part of a plan.”

He said an anti-Christian campaign had been going on in the state since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power locally and nationally in 2014. The government is accused of supporting the Hindu groups orchestrating violence against Christians.

Father Thomas said lawyers of the diocese were “in the process” of getting the catechist out on bail. “We hope he will be out shortly,” he told

Two others also face charges

Two villagers — village head Rameshwar Thakur, Hindu and Charlis Hansda, a Catholic — have been accused of the same offenses but have reportedly absconded.

The four have been accused of violating the state’s stringent anti-conversion law, which prohibits religious conversion through allurement or force and without informing government authorities.

They are also charged with several violations of the Indian Penal Code, including criminal intimidation of villagers, injuring or defiling places of worship, and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of others.

They have also been accused of grabbing protected tribal land in violation of state laws that restrain a tribal person from selling his land to non-tribals.

Tribal people constitute 16 percent of the 32 million people in Jharkhand. The state has about 1.5 million Christians or 4.3 percent of the population, almost double the 2.3 percent figure for India as a whole.

Source: UCAN

An Indian journalist’s struggle for a free media

Ravish Kumar wins Magsaysay Award for his efforts to preserve and promote critical, socially responsible journalism.

India:  In the age of instant information via social media, an Indian journalist has been working to create a “space for ethical journalism” in the so-called mainstream media.

For his “people-centered reporting,” Ravish Kumar of India’s New Delhi Television Network has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, “Asia’s Nobel Prize.”

Raised in Jitwarpur, a village in Bihar, northeast India, Kumar pursued his early interest in history and public affairs through postgraduate studies in history at Delhi University.

In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network, one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from a field reporter.

After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, “Prime Time.”

Today, as NDTV India’s managing editor, Kumar is one of India’s most influential television journalists.

With “Prime Time,” Kumar was able to provide a voice to people whose opinions about issues are often ignored.

Through the years, he has interacted easily with people, especially the poor, generating unique stories that he also uploads on social media.

All the while, the television host insists on the “professional values of sober, balanced, and fact-based reporting.”

Kumar’s kind of journalism, however, brought in critics, and even “haters.” He has received death threats and has been harassed by extremist groups and politicians.

Threats to media

Being a journalist in India today is not easy.

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index released by the group Reporters Without Borders notes that Indian journalists are being attacked online as well as in the field.

It noted that all those who dare to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist ideology are branded “anti-Indian scum who must be purged.”

Kumar said the report only validates claims that the media in Asia “is in very bad shape.”

He said big corporations and governments have connived to “ideologically transform and radicalize” newsrooms into “an extended arm for propaganda.”

He said television is being used as a venue to propagate hate.

“The community is completely divided and the media is indulging in spreading hatred,” he added.

India’s media have always faced challenges in the past, “but they never propagated divisive policies,” said the journalist.

“Now, this has become legitimate. This has become a reference point of media ‘deteriorism,'” he said. “This is very saddening.”

No space for good journalism

Kumar said corporate houses, which own most news services in India, have become propaganda machines of the government.

“They are sacking good journalists who are not writing propaganda,” he said.

There are more than 800 television news channels in India with about 900 private satellite television stations operating, half of which devote their time to news coverage.

Added to these are 17,000 newspaper titles with a circulation of more than 400 million. As of March 2019, there were 560 million internet users in India, the second largest number in the world after China.

Kumar said whatever is going on in media space is controlled by big businesses with “very less space left for real journalism.”

He said that in the past news channels that broadcast racism did not get advertising. “Now, the more racist you are, the more advertisements you get,” he said.

“There is ample space to say anything that suits the government but there is less space for truth-telling,” he said.

‘People-centered journalism’

Media watchdogs have been warning against increasing violence committed against journalists in India. Journalists who openly criticized the government lost their jobs.

Kumar said there are many good journalists in India but their influence in mainstream media has shrunk in recent years. “Today, they are on Twitter,” said Kumar.

“They spend their time on social media to criticize and question everything,” he said because good journalists receive no support and are even attacked.

He warned that the media industry will not survive “unless we reform mainstream media.”

Kumar said there is still hope and a lot of reasons for journalists to continue but they should strive to create a “space for journalism that puts service to the people at its center.”

He said journalists have a duty to tell the public that the media has been hijacked by people in power.

In awarding Kumar the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the award panel body recognized his “unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards.”

Source: UCAN

Catholic priest, catechist arrested in Jharkhand

Church leaders say the arrests in Jharkhand are part of a politically motivated campaign.

The church and adjacent primary school in the Rajadah mission area of Godda district under Bhagalpur Diocese. A priest and a catechist were arrested and jailed on Sept. 7 accused of conversion and land grabbing. (Photo supplied)

Bhopal: A Catholic priest and a catechist were arrested and jailed on Sept. 7 in India’s Jharkhand state after they were accused of grabbing tribal people’s land and engaging in forced religious conversions.

Father V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, who work in the Rajadah mission area in Godda district under Bhagalpur Diocese, were arrested after a complaint by a villager.

Two villagers — village head Rameshwar Thakur and Charlis Hansda — were accused of the same charges but reportedly absconded.

The four have been accused of violating the eastern state’s stringent anti-conversion law, which prohibits religious conversion through allurement or force and without informing government authorities.

They are also charged with several violations of the Indian Penal Code including criminal intimidation of villagers, injuring or defiling places of worship, and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of others.

Church leaders say the allegations and arrests are a political move.

“It is a politically motivated campaign against us for helping the poor and the illiterate in the region,” said Father N.M. Thomas, vicar general of Bhagalpur Diocese.

On Sept. 6 morning, police went to the residence of Father Binoy and his colleague Father Arun Vincent and asked them to go with them to meet the district’s police superintendent.

Police took them to a police station but allowed Father Vincent to leave. Meanwhile, they also arrested catechist Hansda. However, police kept them in custody for a day and night and took them to the top official only the next day.

The superintendent interrogated them and accused them of grabbing the protected land of tribal people and of enticing people to convert to Christianity. He also called media and narrated his “cooked up story” in front of the priest and catechist, Father Thomas said.

They appeared before a local court, which remanded them in judicial custody.

Father Thomas said the entire case is “a well-orchestrated conspiracy” as complainant Luckram Besra had been working with the priest until 10 days earlier.

Nine years ago, the mission received 35 acres of land from 20 people to build a church and a primary school. About seven acres of the land came from Besra’s father. Bersa, who was working in Assam at the time, objected to the deal when he came back some years later, and “we voluntarily returned three acres to him,” the priest said.

He also started working with the mission and now “we are accused of grabbing their land they donated nine years back. We have all the legal documents of the donations,” Father Thomas said.

Land laws in Jharkhand prohibit non-tribal people from buying the land of tribal people. The law was enacted to protect the land of uneducated and gullible tribal people.

Church leaders say the state government, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, began to target Christians after a tribal protest, helped by church groups, resulted in the government withdrawing its attempt to amend land laws to enable the government to take over tribal land for big companies.

Father Thomas told on Sept. 9 that he is confident the priest and the catechist will be bailed this week.

Tribal people constitute 16 percent of the 32 million people in Jharkhand. The state has some 1.3 million Christians or 4.3 percent of the population. Its Christian presence is almost double the national average of 2.3 percent.

Source: UCAN

Nuns protest media coverage of dismissed sister

Kerala newspaper accused of maligning and defaming Catholic religious life.

Some 500 Catholic religious protest in front of the office of Mathrubhumi newspaper in Kerala on Sept. 4. (Photo supplied)

Kochi:  Hundreds of Catholics demonstrated on a public road in India’s Kerala state to protest what they called a deliberate media disinformation campaign to ridicule and discredit Catholic religious life.

With lit candles, prayers, speeches and hymns, some 500 religious, mostly nuns from more than 50 religious congregations, gathered in front of the office of Mathrubhumi (motherland), a prominent daily newspaper, in Kannur town on Sept. 4.

“We strongly oppose the manner in which the newspaper has been projecting Catholic religious life,” said Father Varghese Vallikkatt, spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.

He said the immediate reason for the protest was a disparaging presentation in the newspaper’s Sept. 1 edition of the lives of priests and nuns who have taken vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

It published an interview with Catholic nun Sister Lucy Kalapura, who was dismissed from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) for violation of her vows of obedience and poverty.

The nun in the interview called for a revision of religious vows to reflect modern life. She continues to live in her Kerala convent pending the decision of her appeal in the Vatican.

Father Vallikkatt said the article justified rebellious moves and defiance to regulations, portraying in a poor light the thousands of religious who follow the vows.

The daily’s “coverage in the past two years has been aimed at maligning and defaming Catholic religious life,” the priest said. “We understand it as a motivated campaign against Catholic religious life.”

Sister Emestina, superior general of the Dina Sevana Sabha (Servants of the Poor), told that the newspaper and other media outlets “use isolated incidents as an excuse to despise Catholic religious life.”

Most media coverage, she said, presents Catholic religious as a group of disappointed people suffering inside their convents and monasteries under superiors who follow outdated systems and rules.

“That is far from the truth. We took up this life of our own free will and we lead a life of contentment in serving others,” Sister Emestina said.

FCC provincial Sister Noble Mary told that in her interview Sister Kalapura had tried to project entire religious life as one of strife and bondage.

She said the FCC alone has 7,300 professed nuns. “It is painful when the media project the views of one rebellious person to tarnish the image of several thousand who lead a happy religious life.”

Media in the southern state highlighted Sister Kalapura’s case after she connected her dismissal with a public protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, who was accused of raping a nun of a diocesan congregation — Missionaries of Jesus — under his care.

Sister Kalapura maintains that the FCC began action against her after she supported the public protest of five Missionaries of Jesus nuns last September demanding the arrest of the bishop. The prelate was eventually arrested and charged but was bailed and is facing court proceedings.

In mainstream and social media, nuns have been portrayed as victims trapped in convents under an ancient patriarchal system, often exploited by priests and bishops.

“We are upset and annoyed with such biased reports that send a negative message about Catholic ascetics to people who are totally ignorant about the Catholic religion and its ascetic life,” said Father Joseph D’Cruz, a priest in Kannur Diocese.

Father D’Cruz, who was among 20 priests who supported nuns at the Sept. 4 protest, told that they had collected signatures of protesters to be sent to Mathrubhumi’s management.

Source: UCAN

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