NEWS BRIEFS

– Tej Francis

ROME, ITALY

POPE FRANCIS: ABUSE REVELATIONS ARE PURIFYING THE CHURCH

(CNA) God is purifying his Church through the painful revelations of the abuse scandals, so do not be discouraged, Pope Francis said Thursday in a meeting with the priests of the Diocese of Rome.

“Sin disfigures us, and we experience with pain the humiliating experience of when we ourselves or one of our brother priests or bishops falls into the bottomless pits of vice, corruption or, worse still, of the crime that destroys the lives of others,” he said March 7. Speaking in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Francis told the priests of the Rome diocese that he feels with them “the unbearable pain and suffering that the wave of scandals – which the whole world’s newspapers are now full of – causes in us and in the whole ecclesial body.”

The pope’s remarks were made the same day Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon was convicted of failing to report allegations abuse by a priest of his archdiocese, and days before Cardinal George Pell will be sentenced in Australia for an abuse conviction handed down in December. The convictions are the latest developments as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

Pope Francis meets with the priests of the Diocese of Rome every year at the start of Lent. In a change from past meetings, he forwent responding to questions from the priests, opting instead to give both prepared and unprepared remarks. He also heard the confessions of several priests.

ALBANY, NEW YORK

NEW YORK BISHOPS BLAZE AGAINST LEGALIZATION IN JOINT MARIJUANA STATEMENT

(CNA) The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s 28 bishops, issued a fiery statement on Wednesday opposing plans to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. In a statement released March 6, the bishops said legalization would be disastrous, and accused the state of “encouraging destructive behavior” to raise tax revenue.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would be akin to opening a “Pandora’s Box that will have multiple deleterious effects on individuals, families, and all of society,” said the statement. “Vice is not an appropriate economic development engine for a state that prides itself as a national progressive leader,” said the bishops. “Our state motto is Excelsior (ever upward), but policies that exploit addiction instead lead us ever downward.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced in late 2018 that he intended to make the legalization of marijuana for recreational use a legislative priority for the coming year, a departure from his past views on the issue. Marijuana for medicinal use has been legal in New York since 2014, and the state legislature may consider a bill in the near future. Legalization efforts are opposed by not only the state’s bishops, but also its law enforcement, medical, and educational communities.

The bishops expressed deep concern that efforts to use the drug to raise state income could have dire consequences for society, and particularly for young marijuana users.  “Of particular concern regarding the movement toward legalization is the impact on children,” the statement said. 

“Proponents argue that usage will be restricted to age 21 and older but, as we have seen in the alcohol and tobacco industries, producers of harmful products always find a way to market their products to children.”

The bishops said that no increase in revenue would be worth the “increased teenage and childhood usage, harmful effects on developing brains, addiction, natural progression to harder drug use, increased impairment-related transportation accidents and deaths, and other potential public health and safety issues.”  “We take this issue seriously,” the bishops wrote.

ASIA, SYRIA

LEBANESE PRESS AND KURDISH SOURCES: THERE IS ALSO DALL’OGLIO AMONG THE JIHADIST HOSTAGES IN BAGHUZ

(Agenzia Fides)  There are still civilians held hostage by the militiamen of the Islamic State (Daesh) in the last pocket of territory controlled by the jihadists in the south-east of Syria. And among them, according to Kurdish sources re-launched by the Lebanese media, there is also Roman Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who disappeared in July 2013 in Raqqa, which was then the Syrian stronghold of Daesh. The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, close to the Shiite Hezbollah Party, writes that the release of Father Paolo, along with that of other Kurdish and Western hostages, is imminent.

According to the Lebanese newspaper, the negotiations for the release of Father Paolo and of other hostages have intensified in recent days, and an agreement has already been reached between the militia of Daesh and the Kurdish-Syrian forces backed by the US. One of the sources cited by Al-Akhbar reports that among the requests for the release of Dall’Oglio there is a request for a “pass” to guarantee the flight of some jihadist leaders.

On July 29, 2013 the Jesuit and Roman Islamologist Paolo Dall’Oglio, was kidnapped in Raqqa, a city in Syria then controlled by the jihadist militias of Daesh. On January 30th, the relatives of Father Paolo were received in private audience by Pope Francis. In all these years, public initiatives throughout the world have kept the attention on the fate of the Jesuit alive. Last February 13, a torchlight procession in his name was organized in Rome by the “Association of journalists, friends of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio”.

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