Vatican clears Indian nun for sainthood

Kerala-born Blessed Mariam Thresia worked to help the poor, sick and afflicted.

Indian nun Blessed Mariam Thresia was cleared for canonization by the Vatican on Feb. 13. (Photo courtesy of catholicsaints.info)

Kochi: India will soon have a new saint after Kerala-born nun Blessed Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan was cleared for canonization by the Vatican.

Pope Francis has authorized the Congregation for the Cause of Saints to publish a decree recognizing a miracle through the intercession of the nun, the Vatican announced on Feb. 13.

The recognition of the miracle was “the last step for the canonization and it’s cleared now,” said Sister Punneliparambil Udaya, superior general of the Holy Family Congregation of the saintly nun in Kerala state.

“It is huge global recognition for the Indian Church and its spirituality,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

He said that “it was also huge consolation at a difficult time of hostility and bad press” for the Indian Church in recent months.

Sister Mariam Thresia (1876-1926) founded the Holy Family Congregation in the archdiocesan area of Trichur to continue her work among the poor and serving the sick and afflicted.

As Blessed Mariam Thresia is also known “as the other Mother Teresa because of her love for the poor, we see her as a great gift” to the Indian Church and “an inspiration to hundreds of people, Catholic nuns and priests working in the villages of India,” Bishop Mascarenhas said.

He said the saintly nun “is truly the compassionate face of the Indian Church” and honoring her helps people see the merits of the Catholic mission amid an anti-Christian atmosphere prevailing in India since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

The date of her canonization and its details are still to be decided but the congregation’s nuns hope it will be held in the second half of this year, said Sister Udaya.

The miracle attributed to the nun involved the cure of a prematurely born baby boy on April 7, 2009, after doctors said they were helpless to save the child.

The child’s grandmother, a devotee of Blessed Mariam Thresia, sought her intercession by placing a relic on the chest of the boy with the help of a nurse. Within 30 minutes, the nurse reported an unexpected improvement, Sister Udaya told ucaenws.com.

In 2012, the miracle was reported to Rome, 12 years after the venerable nun was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000.

The Holy Family Congregation has 1,970 nuns in 248 houses in nine countries.

“Our sisters continue the charism of the founder — the family apostolate. They mainly visit homes and help the education of girls and care for the sick,” Sister Udaya said.

Blessed Mariam Thresia will become the seventh Indian saint including Portuguese-born Franciscan Brother Gonsalo Garcia (1556-97), canonized in 1862, as the first one.

The first Indian saint in modern history was St. Alphonsa, canonized in 2008, a native of Kerala state. Kerala-born Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia were canonized in 2014. Goa-born Father Joseph Vaz, a missionary in Sri Lanka, was made a saint in 2015, while Mother Teresa was canonized in 2016.

Pope Francis also recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-90), a cardinal, theologian and founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England, clearing his path to canonization.

Source: UCAN

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Kerala diocese hails court jailing priest for rape

Court exonerated seven others who were co-accused in the case including a priest and four nuns.

Kochi: A Catholic diocese in southern India has welcomed a court handing out a 20-year jail term to a priest convicted of the statutory rape of a teenage girl who gave birth to his child.

A court in Thalassery town of Kerala sentenced 50-year-old Father Robin Vadakkumcherry of Mananthavady Diocese to 60 years in jail on Feb. 16.

The court convicted him on three sexual offense counts and gave him 20 years in jail for each crime. However, the court said the jail terms can be served concurrently for 20 years.

He was charged with rape of a minor under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and with violating sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The court also fined the priest 300,000 rupees (US$4,300) and ruled that half would be used as compensation for the victim.

“The court has found the priest guilty and sentenced him. We welcome it,” said Father Jose Kocharackal, spokesman for Mananthavady Diocese.

The priest was arrested on Feb. 28, 2017, just weeks after the girl gave birth to his child amid allegations of church officials attempting to cover up what occurred.

At the time of the crime, Father Vadakkumcherry was the priest of St. Sebastian’s parish in Kottiyoor. He also managed a church-run school in the parish where the victim was a grade 11 student.

During the trial the Catholic parents of the girl claimed she was above the legal age of 18.

The victim told the court that she and the priest had mutually consented to have sex as two adults.

During police investigations the girl’s biological father also claimed to have raped and impregnated his own daughter in an attempt to exonerate the priest.

However, police conducted a DNA test on the baby and the priest was found to be the child’s father. Police also produced birth records from the school and hospital to prove the girl was below 17, a minor according to Indian law.

Court exonerates seven others

Father Kocharackal also welcomed the court’s decision to exonerate seven others who were co-accused in the case including a priest and four nuns.

“Since the beginning we were confident that they were innocent, and the court has put its stamp of approval on our stand,” he said.

Diocesan priest Father John Therakom, who was chairman of the district’s Child Welfare Committee, two doctors at the hospital and four nuns were accused of not reporting a crime and assisting in the destruction of evidence. The court exonerated them for lack of evidence.

Father Kocharackal said that immediately after his arrest Father Vadakkumcherry was suspended from exercising his right as a priest. “Therefore, he cannot offer Mass or conduct any other priestly activity, even if he is not defrocked,” he said.

The diocese will initiate canonical procedures to take away his clerical status but church laws insist the priest has a hearing to complete the process, Father Kocharackal said.

“But in this case, he will be available [for a hearing] only after serving his 20-years in jail,” he said.

The priest said the diocese has not handled or paid for the cases of either the accused or the co-accused.

“We are not in a position to say if the priest will appeal to a higher court against the verdict,” Father Kocharackal said.

Meanwhile, local media reports said police plan to take their cases against those exonerated to higher courts.

Source: UCAN

Kerala priest gets 20 years in jail for rape

He was tried under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

 

Kannur: A 51-year-old Kerala Catholic priest Robin Vadakkumchery on Saturday was sentenced to 20 years in jail in three different cases of rape and abuse of minor girls.

Four nuns, another priest and one more woman attached to the convent, who were co-accused in the police charge sheet were let off due to lack of adequate evidences.

Thalassery Judge P.N. Vinod also fined the priest from the Mananthavady diocese in Wayanad district Rs 3 lakh after it was established that he had raped and impregnated a minor girl in 2016.

He was tried under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Vadakkumchery was serving as a parish vicar near Kannur and was the manager of the Church-backed-school, where the victim, a Class 11 student was studying.

The priest was arrested on February 27, 2017 night near Kochi International airport while he was preparing to slip out of the country.

A Childline agency that works among school children had registered the complaint against the priest.

The priest came under pressure after the girl gave birth to a child on February 7, 2017 at a hospital run by the management .

During the trial, the victim and her mother turned hostile. Despite that the court proceeded on the basis of evidences collected already and handed out the verdict.

The police will appeal against the discharge of the six others, who were found to have failed in discharging their duties.

IANS

Courtesy: UCAN

Pope Francis defrocks ex-US Cardinal….

Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

 


Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was expelled from the priesthood after he was found guilty of sexual abuse.CreditCreditNicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz

Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday.

The move appears to be the first time any cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse — marking a critical moment in the Vatican’s handling of a scandal that has gripped the church for nearly two decades. It is also the first time an American cardinal has been removed from the priesthood.

In a statement on Saturday, the Vatican said Mr. McCarrick had been dismissed after he was tried and found guilty of several crimes, including soliciting sex during confession and “sins” with minors and with adults, “with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

While the Vatican has defrocked hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church’s leaders have faced severe discipline. The decision to laicize, or defrock, Mr. McCarrick is “almost revolutionary,” said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.

 

“Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment,” Professor Martens said. “The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”

The expulsion of Mr. McCarrick is the most serious sign to date that Pope Francis is addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis, after facing criticism that he has moved too slowly. In October, the pope laicized two retired Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors. In December, he removed two top cardinals from his powerful advisory council after they were implicated in sexual abuse cases.

Since last summer, when allegations against Mr. McCarrick first surfaced, the church has been plunged into a new chapter of the ever-growing scandal. State and federal investigations across the United States are now underway, and each week a new diocese releases names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

[He preyed on young men who wanted to be priests. Then he became a cardinal.]

The announcement’s timing shows that church leaders hope they can move forward from the scandal before the coming week, when the pope and the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world are meeting at the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse crisis.

Robert Ciolek, who was abused by Mr. McCarrick in the 1980s, when Mr. Ciolek was a young seminarian and later a priest, said on Saturday that he viewed the defrocking as “as a very positive step.”

 

He added, “It signals that Rome may finally be serious about taking matters like abuse of power very seriously, with grave consequences for those who engage in that conduct.”

Mr. McCarrick, now 88, was accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians and priests. A New York Times investigation last summer detailed settlements paid to men who had complained of abuse when Mr. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s, and revealed that some church leaders had long known of the accusations.

Pope Francis accepted Mr. McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. He was first removed from ministry in June, after a church panel substantiated a claim that he had abused an altar boy almost 50 years ago.

Mr. McCarrick was long a prominent Catholic voice on international and public policy issues, and a champion for progressive Catholics active in social justice causes.

The Archdiocese of Washington said in its own statement, “Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.”

James Grein, who told The Times that he was 11 when Mr. McCarrick began a sexually abusive relationship with him, said in a statement on Saturday: “For years I have suffered, as many others have, at the hands of Theodore McCarrick. It is with profound sadness that I have had to participate in the canonical trial of my abuser. Nothing can give me back my childhood.”

He added: “With that said, today I am happy that the Pope believed me. I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children.”

 

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the church.”

Mr. McCarrick had appealed the Jan. 11 ruling. On Wednesday, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejected his appeal, and Mr. McCarrick was notified on Friday of its decision. Now that he has been defrocked, Mr. McCarrick loses church-sponsored housing and financial benefits.

On Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, told reporters that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had extended Mr. McCarrick a penal process in which “all his rights were respected” and that his “lawyers played an active role in the course of some of the interrogations.”

The Vatican’s news media outlet, the Vatican News, splashed the news of Mr. McCarrick’s dismissal from the clerical state across its website and detailed the history of allegations against him. It noted that after the Archdiocese of New York had reported accusations to the Holy See in September 2017, “Pope Francis ordered an in-depth investigation.”

The Vatican News added that ahead of the coming meeting, it was worth recalling the pope’s recent call for a unified response to “this evil that has darkened so many lives.” Mr. Gisotti also reiterated an October statement from the Vatican that “both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact, represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

Mr. McCarrick’s behavior has figured prominently in extraordinary attacks against Pope Francis, which have accused the pontiff of turning a blind eye to abuse in his midst.

In August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal ambassador in Washington, wrote a scathing letter arguing that rampant homosexuality in the priesthood had caused the child abuse crisis and that the Vatican hierarchy had covered up accusations that Mr. McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians. The letter claimed that Pope Francis had empowered the American prelate despite knowing about the abuses years before they became public.

 

Those allegations, which the Vatican disputes, remain unproven, and the timing of Mr. McCarrick’s ascent through the hierarchy coincided with the pontificates of Pope Francis’ predecessors, Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican seemed eager on Saturday to wipe its hands of at least one of those leaders. “On the subject of what McCarrick will do now,” Mr. Gisotti said, “I have no information to give.”

Sharon Otterman, Elisabetta Povoledo and Palko Karasz contributed reporting.

Courtesy: The New York Times

Expressions of faith mark World Day of Sick in Kolkata

Vatican-sponsored program stressed the Church’s compassionate mission for those sick and suffering.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson prays over a women on Feb. 10 in Kolkata city as part of the World Day of the Sick that his Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development organized. (Photo supplied)

Kolkata: Crowded programs of faith and pastoral discussions on the Church’s healthcare mission marked this year’s World Day of the Sick in India with a special focus on the works of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata.

The three-day Vatican-sponsored program from Feb. 9-11 stressed the compassionate mission of the Catholic Church among the sick and the suffering. It has 300 participants including 200 delegates from India and other Asian nations,

Programs were led by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that sponsored the event in Kolkata, the base of St. Teresa.

“There cannot be any true care of the sick without sharing their condition,” Cardinal Turkson told the inaugural gathering when explaining the meaning and purpose of the World Day of the Sick that Pope St. John Paul ll started in 1992.

The program should help Christians better understand their mission to help the sick by “showing excessive compassion” and expressing a “readiness to bring them care and comfort,” he said.

The event included visits to church-run care centers, two public Masses, praying over the sick and administration of the sacrament of anointing of the sick for some 200 people.

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, papal legate at the event, appreciated selecting Kolkata for the occasion.

He said St. Teresa, more popularly known as Mother Teresa, is “an unmistakable icon of works of mercy and Christian charity.”

Father Michael Biswas of Kolkata Archdiocese said the most memorable aspect of the programs was on the second day when participants visited three care centers, two of them managed by Missionaries of Charity congregation started by Mother Teresa.

At the St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in Kolkata, which is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, “some of [the elderly] were in tears when they explained how their families have abandoned them,” Father Biswas said.

When visiting the three care homes, the delegates were split into three groups of some 100 each.

Those who visited Missionaries of Charity nuns’ Shanti Dan (gift of peace) and Prem Dan (gift of love) reported “enriched experience,” said Farrell Shaw, the event’s coordinator.

The opening day of Feb. 9 was spent mostly in seminars discussing the theological and pastoral aspects of the Church’s mission among the sick and suffering.

Delegate bishops and diocesan healthcare secretaries also had a private meeting with the 16-member Vatican delegation. But there were no public resolutions or declarations, Shaw told ucanews.com.

Father Biswas said what surprised him was the faith of some 3,000 Catholics who attended the public Mass at St. Xavier’s College on Feb. 10. After the Mass, hundreds lined up to be prayed over. Around 200 were administered the sacrament of anointing of the sick.

“[After the Mass] people crowded and waited around the two cardinals with bottles of water and oil from their homes. They wanted the cardinals just to touch and bless what they carried,” Father Biswas said.

Local Catholics use the water or oil in the hope that they will cure their ailments, he said.

“Hundreds of people also lined up wanting to be prayed over by the priests, bishops and the cardinals,” Father Biswas said.

Some 160 priests were designated for administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick people, who were selected earlier. “Most of them came from Missionaries of Charity homes and some were brought in wheelchairs,” Father Biswas said.

The concluding function on Feb. 11 was held at the Basilica of the Holy Rosary, a 16th century Portuguese-built church in Bandel, 50 kilometers from Kolkata.

About 700 people joined the Mass, prayers for the sick and anointing of the sick there as well, Shaw said.

Source: UCAN

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