Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Marie Collins resigns from Vatican child protection body

Marie Collins has been with the commission for ‘three difficult years’.File photograph: Matt KavanaghAbuse survivor Marie Collins has resigned from the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors due to frustration with some officials in the Roman curia. Her resignation takes effect from today.

She had been with the commission for over three years. “Three difficult years. But I’ve kept the hope that we would be able to bring change because the other members of the commission are very sincere. They’re very good people, as is (commission chair) Cardinal Seán O’Malley. And Pope Francis has supported all our recommendations.”

But she has found “the attitude of a small number in the Vatican’s curia is resistant to the work of the commission and has not been co-operative.” 

Her decision to resign followed an accumulation of frustrations at the hands of such officials. It came to a head recently over “one small issue that for me was the last straw. It was in the context of healing for survivors and victims.”

The commission recommended to Pope Francis that all Vatican departments acknowledge letters from survivors and victims of abuse. 

“It seemed like a simple request but I learned afterwards that this particular dicastery (Vatican department) was not going to change their processes, was not going to put in place a system whereby they would respond to such letters. For me that’s just the end of the line.”
It was not its practice to respond to such correspondence, it said.
This was also “the dicastery that would receive the most correspondence from victims and survivors; the dicastery victims write to about cases if they’ve been abused by a priest,” she said.


She did not wish to identify the Vatican department involved but The Irish Times has learned it refers to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which seems at the root of frustrations felt by the commission generally.
“I said when I joined the commission three years ago that if there was anything happening inside and I learned anything that was counter to what was being said publicly by the church, I wouldn’t remain.”

The issue was important to her. “It may not seem important to many. But the fact that we have pronouncements all the time about care for victims and care for survivors and how the church wants to help with healing and that’s their first priority, I think that not being able to simply respond to a victim or survivor’s letter is totally counter to that. So I felt it was time for me to go.”

Other commission work frustrated by officials included the accountability tribunal announced in June 2015 to deal with negligent bishop and church leaders who had not protected children, she said.

Legal issues

Although Pope Francis himself recommended it, legal difficulties were soon found by officials and it was discarded. “I was particularly disappointed with that because accountability was always my number one reason for joining the commission,” Ms Collins said. 

Last June, Pope Francis tried again with his apostolic letter A Loving Mother which addressed the same issue. 

“The Pope didn’t just leave it lie, which was a good thing. He came in with an alternative. It was supposed to come into operation last September but it’s very difficult to get any information as whether it is actually up and running or not.”

Now, she is worried “that it may go the same way as the original accountability tribunal.”

It has been “just shocking to me that in 2017 I can still come across these defensive, inflexible attitudes in men of the church, the same attitudes I saw 20 years ago when I was trying to bring my own case to justice here in Dublin. That’s what’s really the most shocking,” she said. 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin paid tribute to the work carried out by Ms Collins, saying few people in Ireland had made such a consistent contribution to the change in the Church’s response to child sexual abuse.

“Despite opposition and resistance, she remained committed and constructive in what were for her good moments and bad moments,” he said in a statement. “I have learned above all to see in her a person of integrity who is not afraid to chart her own course: where things were wrong she identified them and named them; when she felt uncomfortable she was never tempted to take the easy path and remain quiet and I am certain that will be her position in the future.”

He said child abuse victims and survivors “owe her an enormous debt, but she was never one to seek praise or affirmation for herself”.

Marie Collins resigns from Commission for Protection of Minors

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] has issued the following statement after the resignation of abuse survivor, Mrs. Marie Collins.

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  

In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia. 

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

The full statement from Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., is below

Statement from PCPM President, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

Ash Wednesday

Image result for Ash WednesdayAsh Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. 
It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.


Why we receive the ashes


Following the example of the Nine vites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told

"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance.

On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year.

Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. 

The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. 

Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. 

In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.


The Ashes


The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. 

The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. 

While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. 

His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.

March - Prayer to St Joseph

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.

Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

Lent calendar prayer and reflection for 1 March - Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. 

As we begin our Lenten journey, we pray for the humility to walk back into the open arms of God.

Jesus teaches us to give, pray, and fast in secret, and in this way to give glory to God. 

Let us think about these three good deeds a little more deeply today.

Give How can I give joyfully, and not reluctantly or out of self-righteousness? Can I look into the eyes of my sister or brother living in poverty, seeking to understand their hopes and struggles, and give generously to bring healing?

Pray How can I create space to pray to the Lord? Can I close the door on the world, away from the hustle and bustle, to rekindle my relationship with God? Can I make time every day to do this, trusting that God’s grace will bring light to my life and to those around me?

Fast How can I give up some of the things I normally indulge in to create more space for God? Can I give up chocolate or wine, complaining or arguing; and instead try to grow in love, peace, and kindness for my neighbours near and far?       

Lent prayer

Loving God, we pray that we may grow closer to your son, our Lord Jesus, and share our love with our sisters and brothers who are most vulnerable. Amen.


How can you give, pray or fast today to give glory to God?

Egyptian Christian shot dead by militants in front of his wife and child

Egyptian security officials say suspected Islamic militants gunned down a Coptic Christian inside his home in northern Sinai, the sixth such killing in a month’s time in the restive region.

The officials said on Friday that militants stormed the home of Kamel Youssef, a plumber, the previous day and shot him dead in front of his wife and children in the town of el-Arish. 

It was later reported by a priest that the daughter was kidnapped and also killed.

The killings come days after Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which is based in the Sinai Peninsula, vowed to step up attacks against the embattled Christian minority.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to reporters.

On Wednesday, suspected militants killed a Coptic Christian man and burned his son alive, then dumped their bodies on a roadside in el-Arish.

Major changes recommended to Catholic Church's controversial Melbourne Response

Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, ordered a review into the Melbourne Response.Victorian child sex abuse victims who receive a capped payout from the Catholic Church should no longer be forced to sign away their rights to future legal claims, a redacted report has recommended.

An independent review into the church's controversial Melbourne Response scheme was announced by Archbishop Denis Hart in August 2014, but has been suppressed by the church for more than a year.

A heavily edited version was finally submitted to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Friday, containing 24 pages of the 176-page document.

It included 17 recommendations from the report's author, retired Federal Court judge Donnell Ryan, QC, including that victims no longer be obliged to sign a deed of release in order to access monetary payments.

Mr Ryan said this waiver could be made on the condition that if victims were to receive future payouts through civil proceedings, the money already received through the Melbourne Response would be deducted from the final amount.

The report also recommends opening up payments of up to $150,000 to family members of victims, including those left caring for their loved ones.
Mr Ryan said the time and cost expended in caring for victims should not be the only thing considered. He said "the psychological and other effects on the secondary victim" should be taken into account.

Anthony and Chrissie Foster's two daughters, Emma and Katie, were serially abused by notorious paedophile Father Kevin O'Donnell in Oakleigh in the 1980s and '90s. Emma took her own life at the age of 26 after a long battle with drug addiction attributed to her rape as a school girl, while her sister Katie drank heavily before being left disabled by a drunk driver in 1999.

Anthony Foster said the immediate family, as secondary victims, were initially denied any assistance from the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, though the church would later agree to pay the Fosters $750,000 in a civil case.

Mr Foster said although the family had no further contact with the church and "they have denied us any further psychological help", assistance would be very important to other victims and families.

"The harm continues over time and sometime accelerates over time," he said.

Asked about the ongoing impact of past abuse on family members, Mr Foster said that his wife Chrissie collapsed in his arms at the royal commission on Friday while listening to Archbishop Hart.

"It is with us every moment of the day. It's always there. Sometimes it breaks through and sometimes we break down," he said.

The archdiocese has doubled the maximum compensation payments under the Melbourne Response to $150,000, but has yet to make any other significant changes despite critics saying it has re-traumatised victims and the royal commission agreeing it is overly legalistic.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne did not respond to Fairfax Media's request for comment on how many of the 17 recommendations from the long-awaited Melbourne Response report it would implement.

On Friday, Archbishop Hart said he was prepared to consider whether the Melbourne Response scheme would continue alongside any future state or national redress scheme.

"We are committed to going forward into the common one for the whole country if we can do it and are permitted by Victorian law," he told the royal commission.

"Or if that's not possible, our serious negotiations together with other churches with the Victorian government would mean we are definitely intending to go into that."

Asked whether the archdiocese would keep the Melbourne Response as its local complaints handling process, Archbishop Hart said he would consider it.

"I'd have to take advice on the pros and cons with that but I'd certainly be prepared to look at it."

INDIA : For Kolkata nun, serving the poor means welcoming everyone, regardless of their faith Mary Mukta Kindo belongs to the order of the Discalced Carmelites of the Apostolic Carmel. She works at the Mother Veronica Social Centre for Women in Barrackpure, near Kolkata (West Bengal) where “serving the poor means welcoming everyone, regardless of their religious convictions."
Speaking to AsiaNews, she explained the reason for her apostolate, dedicated in particular to women in need. For her, "Working with and for the poor allows me to spread the love of Jesus."

Since 2001, Sister Mary works with the centre to make items of clothing like uniforms and tunics as well as church linen. "In our centre, everyone is welcome. We make no differences in religion. We work only for the good of the poor."

The Carmelite nun runs sewing, knitting and embroidery classes that enable poor women to gain more confidence in themselves and be economically independent.

Since it was opened, the centre has trained more than 200 women. Currently, 40 students from various religious backgrounds are registered.

"Our goal,” Sister Mary noted, “is to train these women to be social agents of change in their families and society through the values ​​of the Gospel and a stronger character. They learn to understand the value of their role in the family and earn a living by making the most of their talents and abilities."

The centre "has created a melting pot of religions, in which solidarity grows and peace and harmony is promoted in society, thanks to women taking leadership roles. All this happens because they learn to take care of themselves."

"For me, it is a source of great satisfaction to see that these women, who were poor before, can lead a dignified life and help their families. I will continue to be at the service of the poor and spread God's compassion and Jesus’ love for the most disadvantaged."

LEBANON – SYRIA – VATICAN : Greek Melkite Church: peace reached between Patriarch Gregory III and “rebel” bishops ecclesial communion and fraternal charity triumphed in the end. 

The Holy Synod of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church issued a surprisingly frank statement on Thursday after its three-day meeting (21- 23 February) at the patriarchal headquarters in Rabieh, Lebanon.
In the communiqué, “rebel” bishops and Patriarch Gregory III acknowledged their own errors that had led to the cancellation last year of the previous meeting of the Holy Synod for the lack of a quorum. Many bishops stayed away, accusing the patriarch of mishandling Church’ real estate assets.

The break had scandalised the faithful, and pushed the Congregation of Eastern Churches to intervene, with a pressing call for dialogue and reconciliation between the parties.

The exceptional presence of the Apostolic nuncios to Syria and Lebanon, Cardinal Mario Zenari and Bishop Gabriele Caccia, contributed to the appeasement between the two sides.

Thus, after a few months, the grave crisis that had hit the Melkite Greek Catholic Church seems to be over. 

At the end of the meeting, participants issued a statement cited herein, starting with thanks to Pope Francesco "for the attention he reserves for domestic issues of our Melkite Church".

"During the meeting, the bishops found regrettable and disturbing the insurmountable difficulties that have lately appeared. Nevertheless, dialogue between the participants has resulted in positive results. Some of the bishops who did not participate in previous synods or spread misleading statements in the media admitted that they behaved in an improper manner. They recognised they did wrong. The bishops noted some mismanagement, probably involuntary, in the administration of the Greek Catholic Church.”

“We thank the Saviour that the spirit of fraternal reconciliation and renewed commitment to returning to the path of communion enabled the restoration of peace in the Church and prevailed over the misunderstandings”.
Stressing some “important choices for the good of the Church, the Synod ended scheduling its next meeting for 19-24 June 2017 after the election of its new permanent members who will help the patriarch in his decisions.”

After making an appeal for a “shared journey”, the patriarch and the bishop call on the faithful at Lent to turn to a “conversion of the heart and acts of charity so that the world may see the light of our Church and glorify God the Father, leading us in communion towards the joys of the Resurrection."

The Holy Synod ended with a liturgy of reconciliation to which the superiors and general superiors of the religious orders of the Melkite Church were invited.

A summary of the statement of the Holy Synod was to be read on Sunday in all the Greek Catholic parishes in the Archeparchy of Beirut.

Iraqi Christians erect large cross in area liberated from ISIS

Cross erected in Telekuf-Tesqopa, Iraq. Credit: Patriarchate of Babylon.After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located just 17 miles from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS.
As a visible sign of the rebuilding, a giant cross was erected on a hill, marking the victory of the Christian faith against the darkness of the jihadists.

On Feb. 18, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Sako, visited the village, where he blessed the large cross and participated in the celebration of the first Mass after two and a half years in Saint George Church.

According to the website of the Patriarchate of Babylon, the authorities and officials of the region were present at the celebration.

In his homily, Patriarch Sako said that this event is “the first spark of light shining in all the cities of the Nineveh Plain since the darkness of ISIS, which lasted almost two and a half years.”

“This is our land and this is our home,” he told the faithful. He also said that now is the time to regain hope and for the people to return to their towns to begin a new stage of life.

The patriarch said that Christians will thus demonstrate to the world that the forces of darkness, which wreaked havoc and ravaged their land, are ephemeral and that the Church of Christ, although it suffers, is built upon rock.

When the Mass was over, everyone went out to a hill located on the outskirts of the city. 

There Patriarch Sako blessed the huge cross which was raised amid fireworks and with cries of “Victory! Victory! Victory!  For those who chose the faith and those who return!”

The Catholic Patriarch said that this cross will announce “to the world that this is our land, we were born here and we will die here. Our ancestors were buried in this pure land and we are going to remain to preserve them with all our might and for future generations.”

“It is a sincere and great call to return and rebuild. We are joined to our land, to our future on the land of our ancestors. Here we can be proud of our history and here we can obtain the granting of all our rights,” Patriarch Sako said.

Before the celebration of the Mass, a delegation came to Telekuf-Tesqopa to assess the state of damage and to thus ask for the support of international organizations for reconstruction. 

Saint George Church was cleaned by volunteers from the French aid organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. (SOS Christians of the East).

The placement of crosses has become a recurring gesture since the Iraqi Army began the offensive to recover the city of Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

In every village liberated on the Plain of Nineveh, Christians have made wooden crosses and have placed them on the roofs of churches and homes.

Muslims have also participated in these events. Last week, a group of Muslims youths joined those cleaning a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in east Mosul, liberated by the Iraqi Army.

This action is part of a campaign that seeks to remember the religious coexistence that was present in the city before the jihadists occupied it in 2014.

Syrian priest: After liberation of Aleppo, living conditions still dire

Credit: IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) filter added.Nearly three months after the Syrian Army liberated the city of Aleppo from ISIS control, the local population is facing harsh living conditions in a city left in ruins after nearly six years of fighting.
In an interview with the French aid organization L´Oeuvre D´Orient, Father Ziad Hilal who carries out his pastoral ministry in Aleppo, said that the cost of living in Syria has gotten more expensive.

“Previously, the dollar used to be worth 50 Syrian pounds, today it is equivalent to more than 520 Syrian pounds. Ten times more! The people of Aleppo lack money to live on, few people have a job.”

“They need food, fuel, they have to pay tuition for the children, university students, for milk for the children. They have to pay for electricity generators for each family,” Fr. Hilal said.

“Several thousand people are there in the Aleppo region. They are often without shelter, or housed in old factories. They need everything. Others are close to Idleb (southwest of Aleppo) on the border with Turkey, in Damascus, in Lebanon. Others have taken refuge in Europe. There are also some who have remained in Aleppo by going over to the west side,” Fr. Hilal said.

The Jesuit priest explained that after the evacuation of the rebels from the eastern part of the city, “the situation has gotten a little better, but a lot of rebels still remain in the surrounding villages. There are exchanges of gunfire and shelling between Aleppo and the outskirts.”

“East Aleppo is almost destroyed. There is a military presence but the people can't return there,” he said.

“Despite that, people are going out on the streets, they can go shopping, the children are calmer. On the other hand, neither electricity nor water have been restored to the city. After the fighting, we had ten days with the water supply cut off which was very trying for everyone. That's why people aren't coming back right now, even if some of them want to. Even more so because it's been a rough winter this year, we've had two snowfalls,” Fr. Hilal said.

“The Church must now come alongside the refugees, the displaced, those marginalized. The people of Aleppo come not just to pray but also to get help.”

He stressed that this situation “is not easy work for the priests, the men and women religious, but we're taking this on.”

For example, the six Catholic churches in Aleppo work together to run an initiative called “the milk place.”

Each month they distribute milk to about 2600 children in Aleppo. The churches also distribute food baskets, hygiene supplies, and pay for tuition and housing for families.

Fr. Hilal said that the reconstruction of Aleppo is premature “as long as there is no peace in the country.” However, he said that they are studying with a number of organizations the possibility of rebuilding some churches and destroyed houses.

“The Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari and Mgr. Dal Toso of Cor Unum, came three weeks ago to evaluate the situation.”

“On the other hand, we can't expect electricity to be restored here for at least a year because the network was completely destroyed by the fighting. It would take millions and millions of euros to rebuild it,” he said. “Who's going to pay for that? You have to invest in the city. You have to have hope.”

Vatican 'goes shopping' in Italy earthquake zones to help local economy

Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche and Papal Almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski purchase food from small farmers. Photo courtesy of the Holy See Press Office.In a bid to help local economies in the zones ravaged by several major earthquakes in 2016 recover, the Vatican this week purchased produce from several small farmers in the area, using it to feed the poor and homeless in Rome.

A Feb. 24 communique from the Papal Almoner’s office said that “at the express wish” of the Pope, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the man in charge of managing the papal charities, visited the earthquake zones in Central Italy this week “to purchase from small farmers, in great difficulty due to the earthquake, food typical of the affected areas.” 

The produce was then “immediately distributed” in different soup kitchens around Rome to be used in preparing the daily meals offered to homeless and persons in need.

According to the communique, Annona, the supermarket inside Vatican City, has already for some time been selling products “typical of the earthquake zones” as a way of “supporting and helping to restart the economy in that part of Central Italy still in difficulty.”

Krajewski traveled to several of the small towns in the area, filling large trucks with products from farmers whose stores or markets struggling to continue after the damages they endured after the earthquakes.

The first 6.2 magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2016, killing some 250 people throughout Central Italy and leveling buildings and houses in several small towns, leaving many without homes or livelihoods. 

A few months later a second 6.6 quake hit near the same area in central Italy Oct. 30, causing extensive damage.

In the communique, the papal almoner said the decision to shop from small farmers is an act consistent “with the magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often recalled that ‘when one doesn’t earn their bread, dignity is lost.’”

During his “shopping trips” Archbishop Krajewski was accompanied by the bishops of each of the cities he visited, including Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti; Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole F.D.P. of Ascoli Piceno; Bishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche and Bishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

In each city the bishops identified groups of farmers or producers “whose stores were at risk of closing due to damages caused by the earthquake,” the communique read, explaining that the purchases were intended by the Pope to be a sign of help and encouragement “to continue in their activities.”

Elderly Spanish priest beaten during rectory robbery

Fr. Arturo López, 77, was brutally beaten by three masked men during an assault on Wednesday at the rectory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Coslada, a city in Spain's Community of Madrid.
The three unidentified men tied up and assaulted Fr. Lopez when they entered his rectory Feb. 22 to steal valuables and money around 8:50 pm. 

The criminals used a rope to bind the priest in one of the rooms.

One of the assailants threatened and beat the priest to give them money while the other two searched the house. As the priest later reported, the assailants spoke perfect Spanish and did not seem to be foreigners.

According to El Mundo, officers of the National Police from Coslada who are investigating the assault described the attack on the parish priest as “brutal.” He had to be taken to the hospital because of injuries from the beating to his face and head.

Fr. Arturo was given stitches and underwent medical tests to see if he had suffered any brain damage. He was kept in the hospital overnight and was discharged Thursday since no complications were noted.

The assailants took more than 800 euros ($845), various keys, and the priest's cell phone. It is currently being investigated if they went into the church to take valuables.

The assailants left the rectory after about 25 minutes, leaving the priest tied up. 

However, Fr. Arturo was able to free himself from the ropes and notify the police, who found him stunned and bloodied.

Fr. López belongs to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, and has served in Coslada since 1993.

Marriage prep should be more than just a few courses, Pope tells priests

Newly married couples meet Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 9, 2015. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.On Saturday Pope Francis told a group of parish priests training on the new marriage annulment process to place strong emphasis on good preparation that isn’t limited to just a few courses, but extends even to the first few years after marriage.
“I ask myself how many of these youth who come to marriage preparation courses understand what ‘marriage,’ the sign of the union of Christ and the Church, means,” the Pope said Feb. 25.

“They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this?” he asked, and voiced his conviction that “a true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”

Part of this formation process he said, means being thorough, not “to make preparation with two or three meetings and then go forward.”

During marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take.” This support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after, he said.

Marriage, he said, “is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The love of the Trinity and Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, must therefore be “the center of marriage catechesis and evangelization.”

Whether it’s through personal or communitarian encounters, and whether they are planned or spontaneous, “never tire of showing to all, especially to spouses, (the) great mystery” of God’s love, he said.

The Pope spoke to priests participating a formation course for the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy’s See’s main court, dedicated to the new marriage annulment process, which went into effect Dec. 10, 2016. Held in Rome, the course ran from Feb. 22-25, and was closed by an audience with the Pope.

The course follows a similar one held in March 2016, but which was directed specifically toward bishops.

In his speech, Francis said priests have a twofold responsibility when it comes to marital ministry: to always bear witness to the beauty of marriage, and to be a consistent support to couples, regardless of their marital status.

He noted that priests are often “the first interlocutors” of young couples who want to get married, and are also the first ones these couples go to when problems or crisis come up, including the request for an annulment of their marriage.

Faced with so many “complex situations” affecting families today, “no one knows better than you and is in contact with the reality of the social fabric in the area,” experiencing firsthand the complexity of various situations they encounter, including valid sacramental marriages; domestic partnerships; civil unions; failed marriages and families and youth, both happy and unhappy.

“For each person and each situation,” he said, “you are called to be travel companions in order to bear witness and to support.”

The Pope stressed that a priest’s first concern is that of “bearing witness to the grace of the sacrament of marriage and the primordial good of the family” by proclaiming that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.”

This witness is also shown when accompanying young couples on their journey “with care,” showing them how to live in times of “light and darkness, in moments of joy and those in fatigue,” always showing the beauty of marriage.

Francis told the priests that while bearing witness to the beauty of marriage, they must also care for and support “those who realize the fact that their marriage is not a true sacramental marriage and want to leave this situation.”

Because of the “delicate” nature of this type work, the Pope said priests must do it “in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts in bureaucratic actions or judicial norms, but as brothers who place themselves in an attitude of listening and understanding.”

He told them to imitate “the style” of the Gospel by meeting with and listening not only to engaged or married couples, but also youth who prefer to cohabitate rather than getting married.

People in these situations “are among the poor and little ones toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her master and Lord, wants to be a mother who never abandons but who draws near and cares for them,” Francis said.

“Even these people are loved by the heart of Christ,” he said, telling priests to “have a gaze of tenderness and compassion toward them.”

This type of care and attention “is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope said, adding that the parish is the place “par excellence” for the “salus animarum (salvation of souls).”

Pope Francis then pointed to a recent speech he gave to the Rota in which he told them to implement “a true catechumenate” of future spouses which covers all stages of the sacramental path, from the time of marriage preparation, the celebration of the sacrament and the first years immediately after.

“To you pastors, indispensable collaborators of the bishops, is primarily entrusted this catechumenate,” he said, and encouraged them to implement it “regardless of the difficulties you could encounter.”

Francis closed his speech by thanking the priests for their commitment to announcing “the Gospel of the family.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would help them “to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy faithful people of God, especially the most fragile and those in need of your pastoral support.”