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Why did the floor of a Spanish monastery turn blood red once a year for almost 500 years?

The community of Trappist monks of the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in Burgos, Spain. / Photo credit: Archdiocese of Burgos

Denver Newsroom, Aug 9, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Aug. 6 in the year 953, 200 monks living at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in Burgos, Spain, were put to death, martyred by Muslim troops. From that time until the end of the 15th century, the flooring at their place of martyrdom turned red with blood once a year.

The prodigious event was repeated until a few years before the Reconquista (Reconquest) in 1492 with the final surrender of the Muslims holding out in Granada and the consolidation of Spanish territory under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as the Catholic Monarchs. 

According to some experts, the history of the monastery dates back to the fifth century, although the current residents of the convent today state that there is no historical evidence of it until the end of the ninth century.

In any case, San Pedro de Cardeña was an important Christian center for centuries and relics of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John the Evangelist — among others — were venerated there.

Like the entire area of Burgos, for decades the surroundings of the monastery were contested borderlands, where the struggles between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms took place. To mount their attacks, the Saracens also took advantage of the fighting between monarchs and Christian feudal lords.

The first Umayyad caliph of Córdoba, Abderramán III, took advantage of the disagreements between Ordoño III, the king of León, and Fernán González, the count of Castile, and launched the incursion that led to the martyrdom of the 200 Benedictine monks of San Pedro de Cardeña.

The looting of the monastery and killing of the monks out of hatred for the faith was recorded in the General Chronicle of Alfonso X the Wise, the first large-format history of Spain written directly in Castilian Spanish at the end of the 13th century.

García Fernández, the son of Fernán González, restored the monastery after it was looted. It was in the cloister where the monks were beheaded, known since then as the cloister of the martyrs, where the blood of the martyrs flowed every year until the reign of Henry IV, who died at the end of the 15th century.

His sister, Queen Isabella of Castile, was one of the most renowned pilgrims who came to San Pedro de Cardeña to honor the memory of the martyrs, as did the monarchs Felipe II, Felipe III, and Carlos II.

Popular devotion was such that in 1603, Pope Clement VIII authorized the cult through a pontifical brief, dated 1603.

El Cid and the monastery

The connection between the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña and one of the most prominent figures of the Spanish Reconquista also gives the place a special aura.

According to the Cantar de Mio Cid, (The Song of My Lord), an epic poem about the famed warrior Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (El Cid), it was the San Pedro de Cardeña monastery where El Cid left his wife Doña Jimena and his daughters when he had to go into exile in the second half of the 11th century. The abbot at the time was St. Sisebuto.

El Cid died in Valencia in 1099. His wife remained in command of the city, but the onslaught of the Muslims made it necessary for her to flee in 1102. She therefore decided to have the corpse of the mythical warrior moved from the Valencia cathedral to San Pedro de Cardeña.

El Cid’s tomb was desecrated in 1808 by Napoleon’s troops, but General Thiébault decided to place the remains of the knight in a mausoleum located on a main avenue in the city of Burgos. The remains were brought back to the monastery in 1826.

After the Spanish confiscation, in which the government nationalized the properties of the religious orders, including the convents, the remains of El Cid were transferred to the Burgos Town Hall chapel in 1842.

It was not until 1921 that the remains of El Cid  were laid to rest next to his wife in the Burgos cathedral.

At the monastery, however, there is a monolith memorializing Babieca, the faithful horse of El Cid, where tradition says the animal was buried.

Attempts to restore monastic life

Due to the confiscation, the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña was deprived of monks for 106 years. The Benedictine Order tried to restore monastic life there at the end of the 19th century without success, as they were unable to get the use of land to support the community.

Briefly, the Piarist Fathers occupied the monastery between 1888 and 1901. Four years later, some French Capuchin friars expelled from Toulouse arrived and remained there until 1921.

In 1933, a Cistercian community arrived at the place from San Isidro de Dueñas, in Palencia. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War prevented their definitive settlement there until 1942, since the site was converted into a prison camp during the conflict. In 1948, the abbey obtained the title to the property.

At present, a community of Trappist monks lives in the monastery, and each August they commemorate the martyrdom of their predecessors.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Reacting to pontifical academy, theologian says teaching of Humanae vitae can't change

St. Paul VI / public domain

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

The teaching of Humanae vitae on contraception is an instance of the ordinary and universal magisterium, and as such is irreformable, a moral theologian has said in response to a statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Father Thomas Petri, O.P., president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., noted that even critics of the teaching on contraception have “acknowledged that this was always the Church’s teaching” and that nowhere in the Church’s teaching has there been permissiveness, of any form, of contraception.

“This suggests that this has always been the teaching of the Church, so it's part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” Petri said. “So even if it's the case that any particular encyclical” such as Humanae vitae “is not infallible, the teaching that it presents is in fact irreformable, because it's part of the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church.”

In Humanae vitae, his 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth, St. Paul VI wrote that “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation — whether as an end or as a means” is “excluded,” as an unlawful means of birth control.

The Pontifical Academy

The Pontifical Academy for Life, an institution associated with the Holy See but which is not itself a magisterial body, hosted a 2021 seminar on ethics in which a participant discussed “the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases.”

A synthesis of the seminar was recently published by the Vatican Publishing House, which has given rise to questions about whether the Church’s teaching on birth control is reformable.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has defended the discussion it hosted of the permissibility of contraception, tweeting Aug. 5 that “History records by Abp. [Ferdindando] Lambruschini confirmed that Paul VI said him directly that HV were not under infallibility.”

Then in an Aug. 8 statement, the academy wrote that “many people on Twitter seem to believe that Humanae Vitae is an infallible and irreformable pronouncement against contraception.”

It noted that “when the moral theologian of the Pontifical Lateran University Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini presented Humanae Vitae in a press conference … he stated under the mandate of Paul VI — that the encylical Humanae Vitae is not to be considered part of the infallible pronouncements. Lambruschini stressed that Humanae Vitae did not express a definitive truth of faith granted by ‘infallibilitas in docendo.’”

The statement added that as Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła asked Paul VI to define Humanae vitae’s teaching as infallible. “Pope Paul VI did not do it and neither did Pope John Paul II during 26 years of his pontificate," the academy's statement said.

Father Petri’s response

Petri noted that St. John Paul II had confirmed Humanae vitae’s teaching as part of the ordinary and universal magisterium. 

“In Veritatis splendor — which the Pontifical Academy does not note — in Veritatis splendor John Paul II does say that contraception is an intrinsically evil act, so there can be no reason or purpose for contraception. Benedict XVI gave several speeches in which he spoke about contraception, and it can't be changed. What was true yesterday is true today.”

While there can be “legitimate discussions of how to present it or how to help people understand it, or how to help people who are in difficult situations, whether medically or even because of moral pressure,” the teaching itself is not a topic for debate, explained Petri, author of "Aquinas and the Theology of the Body" (Catholic University of America Press, 2016).

“There could be a real discussion about how to do that, but there can't be any sort of rollback of the teaching, because it's what’s always been taught, and that's how Catholic theology, and Catholic doctrine, works.”

“These things aren't really meant to be argued over Twitter,” he reflected. “It's not the forum to sort of put these things out there.”

Petri added that “It's not helpful to simply focus on infallibility and what is named infallible in an extraordinary way. The First Vatican Council, when it spoke about papal infallibility, was very clear that it was supposed to be an extraordinary act.”

Petri compared an infallible statement to an ecumenical council. He described it as “a very extraordinary act, and which usually only happens when the matter at issue, whether it's a doctrinal matter or a moral matter, has become so entirely embroiled in conflict … that it requires such an extraordinary act as a pope or a council declaring something infallibly.”

“That's not normally how Church teaching works — that's why the ordinary magisterium is important.”

When a pope does not intend to teach infallibly, “that doesn't mean we're supposed to ignore what he's teaching, or to act like his opinion is just one opinion among many," Petri said.

“Even if he's not intending to proclaim something infallible, especially when he's teaching things that popes have been teaching for centuries, it has a certain weight to it.” 

While one might disagree with how things are expressed, “that doesn't mean that what he's teaching is up for grabs," Petri said.

“All the more so when you're talking about a teaching which multiple popes have repeated over multiple decades. And in the case of contraception we could say centuries," he said.

"You simply can't say, ‘Well, Humanae vitae wasn’t declared infallible, Paul VI didn’t declare it infallible, therefore because it’s not infallible, it’s up for grabs.' This is not a binary.” 

A similar point was made in a 2019 article by Augusto Sarmiento.

Sarmiento wrote about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1990 instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, which discusses various levels of magisterial statements. The article appeared in “Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità,” edited by Father José Noriega and René and Isabelle Ecochard.

A professor at the Univerisity of Pamplona, Sarmiento noted that “the pope, with Humanae vitae, did not will to propose an extraordinary teaching of the Magisterium ex cathedra.”

To support this, he quoted from Lambruschini’s comments at the press conference presenting the encyclical: “However, it is always an authentic pronouncement, especially since it is part of the continuity of the ecclesiastical magisterium.” 

Sarmiento wrote: “On the nature of the authority with which the norm of Humanae vitae is proclaimed, there is no doubt that it is part of the ordinary, universal magisterium,” and that the encyclical “is a teaching of the ordinary universal Magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops that must be considered definitive.”

Humanae vitae and its precedents

In Humanae vitae St. Paul VI taught that “sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive” is thereby “intrinsically wrong.”

The pope discussed artificial birth control in the context of defining and analyzing marital love and responsible parenthood.

“The Church … in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life,” St. Paul VI wrote, adding that this doctrine has been “often expounded by the magisterium of the Church.”

He presented his statements as a reply, given “by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ,” to questions on the moral doctrine of marriage.

St. Paul VI referred especially to the teaching of Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world. 

Gaudium et spes stated that spouses “must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel … Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate.”

This statement, in turn, referred in a footnote to Casti connubii, Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical on Christian marriage, which proclaimed “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

In that encyclical Pius XI referred to “frustrating the marriage act” as a “criminal abuse," and said that “those who in exercising [the conjugal act] deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

Casti connubii also states that “Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime,” and cites St. Augustine’s interpretation of Scripture as such.

The present day

Pope Francis was asked about a re-evaluation of the Church’s doctrine on contraception, or whether the use of contraceptives may be considered, on his July 29 flight from Canada to Rome.

The pope responded that “dogma, morality, is always on a path of development, but always developing in the same direction.” He cited St. Vincent of Lerins as saying “that true doctrine, in order to move forward, to develop, must not be still, it develops … it is consolidated over time, it expands and consolidates, and becomes always more solid, but always progressing. That is why the duty of theologians is research, theological reflection. You cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front. Then it is up to the Magisterium to say, ‘No, you’ve gone too far, come back.' But theological development must be open, that’s what theologians are for. And the Magisterium must help to understand the limits.”

He referred to the acts of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s seminar, saying, “those who participated in this congress did their duty, because they have sought to move forward in doctrine, but in an ecclesial sense, not outside of it, as I said with that rule of Saint Vincent of Lérins. Then the Magisterium will say, ‘yes, it is good’ or ‘it is not good.'”

Mónica López Barahona, a board member of the academy, told ACI Prensa last month that “It’s not true that the Church or the Magisterium have changed their moral criteria regarding some questions of bioethics; not even that the Vatican has begun a process of reviewing these issues.”

López stressed that "the book is not an official declaration of the Pontifical Academy for Life on these issues" and that it does not represent "the moral criteria of all its members,” adding that “some were disconcerted when they saw the news about the publication of the book and the seminar, about which they knew nothing until that moment."

Drive-by gunshots target Denver-area Catholic church

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. / Courtesy of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

Denver, Colo., Aug 8, 2022 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

A gunman shot at a Denver-area Catholic church in separate early morning incidents Saturday and Monday. No one was hurt, but one estimate suggests the gunshots caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Parish staff stressed the need to pray for the perpetrator and emphasized that they are taking the utmost security precautions.

“We are praying for the conversion of whoever did this,” Deacon Derrick Johnson of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church told CNA Aug 8. “If there’s any opportunity to speak to that person, we’d be happy to speak with them and have a dialogue.”

Johnson spoke after two separate rounds of gunshots hit the parish church in unincorporated Adams County just north of Denver. The Adams County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

“In the early morning of Aug. 6 and 8 there were two separate incidents of shootings that hit the front doors at Assumption Parish,” Johnson recounted.

Security footage of the first incident, the deacon said, appears to show “a single motorcyclist shooting what we believe to be a pistol as he drove by.”

“These incidents happened after hours,” Johnson said. “We don’t believe they are targeting people. Just targeting the church for whatever reason.”

Photos of the church sent to CNA show damage to the church exterior, including a bullet hole in a window. Doors and doorframes also were damaged. Photos show a broken outer window above a set of double doors, with shattered glass beneath.

“The first morning we discovered three shots, two into the door and one through the stained glass in the door,” Johnson said. “Two of the bullets were recovered and given to the Adams County sheriff.”

“On Monday morning, another bullet impact was discovered, this time above the doors, impacting the protective layer of the stained glass. The projectile was also given to the sheriff’s office,” the deacon added.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Adams County, Colorado, sustained thousands of dollars in estimated damage from a pair of drive-by shootings Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, 2022. Courtesy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church

News of the shooting has not yet become widespread among parishioners, Johnson said, though the first incident took place hours before a wedding.

Johnson wanted parishioners to know that parish staff is committed to their safety.

“We are absolutely conscious of security, between our security team and ensuring that we have adequate camera coverage and lighting in front of the parish. We’ll do our best to make sure that whoever did this is prosecuted,” he told CNA.

Though the bullet fractured one outer window, it did not break through a stained-glass window behind it.

The church’s custom-fit doors were recently completed at a cost of $75,000. The deacon described Assumption as a “very, very old parish.” The parish church was first dedicated in 1912, though the structure has gone through several renovations and expansions incorporating the original building.

Johnson estimated the damage at about $75,000.

The parish church is on the same property as Assumption School, which serves about 130 students in pre-K through eighth grade. The shooting has not affected the school, as the school year has not yet begun.

“Hopefully it’s limited to a late-night incident,” Johnson said. “We will be taking the highest security precautions for the school like we always do.”

Though the parish wants the perpetrator brought to justice, the parish is praying for its attacker.

“We’re praying for whatever is going on in the life of the person who did this,” the deacon said. “The parish is here for them.”

CNA contacted the Adams County Sheriff for comment but did not receive a response by publication time Monday.

Indiana’s broad abortion ban overshadows another pro-family law passed the same day

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signs bills in Indianapolis, March 10, 2022. / Governor Eric Holcomb via Flickr (public domain)

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 8, 2022 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

The same day last week that Indiana adopted an abortion ban with limited exceptions, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law another measure the state’s Catholic conference says has the potential to help families.

Known as SB2, the legislation, which received broad bipartisan support, provides for a tax exemption for an adopted child, cuts the state’s tax on children’s diapers, caps the gas tax, and increases the adoption tax credit, the Indy Star reported.

It also creates a $45 million fund for a variety of family-related programs and initiatives, the Criterion, the newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, reported.

“The Catholic Church has a history of providing aid, comfort, and support for mothers and families,” said Angela Espada, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Criterion reported.

“It hopes that the allotted $45 million will improve the lives of Hoosiers by supporting adoption, pregnancy planning, the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants, along with supporting the needs of families with children less than 4 years old,” she said. “Additionally, there are funds to address the barriers to long-acting reversible contraception.” 

The legislation was overshadowed by the sweeping abortion ban Holcomb signed into law the same day, Aug. 5.

The law represents the first state abortion ban passed in the U.S. following the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, giving states the authority to regulate abortion.

Set to take effect Sept. 15, Indiana’s law outlaws all abortions with exceptions for abortions performed to preserve the life of the mother, as well as exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or “fatal” fetal anomaly.

The law stipulates that doctors must certify in writing to the hospital or center in which the abortion is to be performed that the abortion is necessary, under their reasonable medical judgment, to preserve the mother’s life or health, or that the unborn baby will not survive because of an anomaly. 

The Indiana Catholic Conference wrote ahead of the final vote that it supports the measure, while also highlighting the bill’s flaws.

“Most importantly, the bill needs stronger enforcement mechanisms and a continued tightening of the language around exceptions,” the Indiana Catholic Conference wrote July 27. On that point, the conference has noted that while direct attacks on unborn human life ought to be prohibited, that need not preclude medical interventions that indirectly result in a loss of unborn life when the intention is to save the life of the mother. 

Any abortion law should, however, convey the equal dignity of the mother and child, the conference said. 

Alexander Mingus, associate director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, said the conference supports the bill under the teachings of St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which urged support for laws that would limit the harm done by intrinsic moral evils such as abortion if a complete ban is not politically possible.

The new Indiana law came just days after voters in Kansas failed to approve a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state’s legislature to pass new abortion restrictions. A 2019 Kansas State Supreme Court ruling found that the state’s constitution supports a right to abortion, preventing lawmakers from passing new restrictions on abortion beyond the current 22-week limit.

Nicaraguan police place Catholic bishop, priests under house arrest

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, walks with other pilgrims to the Shrine of the Divine Child in July 2022. / Credit: Manuel Obando and Diocese Media

Matagalpa, Nicaragua, Aug 8, 2022 / 15:20 pm (CNA).

The regime of President Daniel Ortega has ordered police in Nicaragua to launch an investigation into the Catholic bishop of Matagalpa, who they have detained for allegedly trying to "organize violent groups" to destabilize the government.

Bishop Rolando José Álvarez, who was placed under house arrest and threatened with prison, has been openly critical of the abuses and human rights violations being committed by the Sandinista regime.

In a press release published Aug. 5, the Nicaraguan national police accused high-ranking leaders of the Catholic Church in Matagalpa, and Álvarez in particular, of “using the communications media and social media” to try to “organize violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, disturbing the peace and harmony of the community.”

Such actions have the "purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua and attacking the constitutional authorities," the press release continues.

The Ortega regime’s police force announced they have already started an investigation “in order to determine the criminal responsibility of the people involved.”

The statement adds that "the people under investigation shall remain in their homes."

Álvarez along with six priests and six lay people have been surrounded by dozens of riot police since Aug. 3. They have been prevented from leaving the chancery in Matagalpa since Aug. 5 when they attempted to leave to celebrate Mass.

The Ortega regime also ordered the closure of eight Catholic radio stations in the diocese beginning Aug. 1 on the grounds they haven’t had a valid operating license since 2003. However, the diocese said the bishop personally presented the proper documentation to the government regulatory agency in 2016 but never got a response.

The bishops of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM), bishops’ conferences around the world, the U.S. State Department, and the European Union have deplored these acts of persecution.

In a video posted on social media, Álvarez said during a recent homily that he doesn’t know what he is being investigated for, but that the police must "be making their own conjectures."

“Here we are gathered together and being held. We maintain our inner strength, peace in our hearts, and the joy that the Risen One gives us, the joy of the one who tells us ‘courage, it is I, do not be afraid’,” the prelate said.

He also asked the faithful not to be afraid and to keep hope alive in Christ.

“Remember dearly beloved brothers, fear paralyzes, despair entombs itself and hatred is the death of the heart. Hatred is answered with love, despair with living hope, and fear with the strength and courage that the glorious and risen Christ, the Christ of the Church, gives us,” Álvarez continued.

Finally, he said that "we entrust to the Most Holy Virgin the six priests and the six lay faithful who with us are being held in our Matagalpa chancery. "We want with our poor and limited strength to carry this cross, to renounce ourselves," said.

Ortega, who has been in power for 15 years, has been openly hostile to the Catholic Church in the country. He alleged bishops were part of an attempted coup to drive him out of office in 2018 because they supported anti-government demonstrations that his regime brutally suppressed. The Nicaraguan president has called the bishops “terrorists” and “devils in cassocks.”

According to a report titled “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018–2022),” compiled by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, in less than four years the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests.

On Aug. 6, unidentified vandals stole the main switch to the cathedral’s electrical control system, leaving the cathedral and surrounding grounds without power.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis wishes ‘hope in the risen Christ’ to victims of Cuba oil fire, explosions

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2022 / 11:21 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday he is spiritually close to those hurt or killed in a fire at an oil facility in Matanzas, a city on the northwestern shore of Cuba.

The fire, which began with an Aug. 5 lightning strike, has set off multiple explosions, leaving at least one person dead and 125 injured, the Washington Post reported.

According to state media, almost 5,000 people have been evacuated from the region. The Washington Post also said 17 firefighters are missing.

Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mining said the situation became worse Aug. 7 with wind. At least two tanks have exploded or collapsed and a third tank is ablaze, according to reports.

“The Holy Father is closely following the news of the unfortunate accident that has caused a fire and several explosions at the Matanzas supertanker base,” says an Aug. 8 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Pope Francis assures [the victims] of his spiritual closeness to the Cuban people and to all the families of those affected; and prays to the Lord to give them strength in this moment of pain and to sustain the work of firefighting and rescuing,” the letter continued. “With these sentiments, he cordially imparts to them the comforting apostolic blessing, as a pledge of hope in the risen Christ.”

Cuba is experiencing an energy crisis, causing frequent electrical blackouts and leading some residents to repeat the anti-government protests of last summer.

The island nation is also facing a severe fuel shortage.

German bishop, accused of abuse, found to have helped wanted pedophile priests escape to Latin America

Bishop Emil Stehle / Screenshot / YouTube / BR24

CNA Newsroom, Aug 8, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

A German prelate who served as bishop in Ecuador is not only accused of having sexually abused minors in several countries. As director of a German aid organization he also helped pedophile priests wanted by authorities escape prosecution, according to an independent investigation published Monday.

The late Bishop Emil Stehle (1926-2017) — known in Latin America as Emilio Lorenzo Stehle — has been accused of sexual abuse in 16 cases, a statement by the German Bishops' Conference said on Aug. 8.

Furthermore, Stehle, the head of Adveniat, the Church in Germany's aid organization for Latin America, was found to have helped priests evade authorities by facilitating their escape to Latin American countries. The investigation found that he also provided the alleged perpetrators with financial support, using money from the German Bishops' Conference.

Lawyer and mediator Bettina Janssen prepared the 148-page-report on behalf of the Association of German Dioceses, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner.

The report lists 16 allegations and indications of sexual abuse against Stehle.

"The described offenses spanned his time as a priest in Bogotá (Colombia) [in the 1950s], as Adveniat managing director in Essen [1972-1984], and later as auxiliary bishop of Quito [1983-1986] and as bishop of Santo Domingo [1987-2002] in Ecuador," the bishops' conference statement said.

Allegations against Stehle are not new. CNA Deutsch reported on abuse accusations against Stehle and his purported assistance in helping pedophile priests from Germany and other countries escape to Latin America in September 2021 and June 2022

In addition to the abuse cases so far documented, the new report's author said there could be more. Janssen called for further "efforts, together with the relevant Latin American dioceses, to reach out to possible victims. To obtain a complete picture, investigators should further analyze to what extent Stehle's abuses were known to church authorities — and what consequences they took against them."

Stehle ensured that several priests accused of abuse could remain undercover in Latin America, the German Bishops' Conference said on Aug. 8.

The German bishops also said the investigation was ongoing. There would "not be a conclusion," they noted; instead, there would be "consequences, the details of which still need to be clarified." 

Father Martin Maier, S.J., the current chief executive of Adveniat, said, "We are grateful that this investigation has been carried out. It is part of the truth we must face as a church in Germany and worldwide. We owe that to the victims of sexualized violence and those who support our work."

Adveniat was committed to a "position of absolutely zero tolerance towards the crime of sexual abuse" and stood "on the side of those affected in Germany and Latin America."

Stehle died in 2017 at the age of 80, having spent his retirement years in Germany. 

Cardinal Tomko, oldest living cardinal, dead at 98

Cardinal Jozef Tomko in 2018 at a shrine on Mount Zvir, above the village of Litmanová, Slovakia. / Sirocan69 via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Rome Newsroom, Aug 8, 2022 / 04:53 am (CNA).

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died early Monday morning in Rome at the age of 98. At the time of his death, the Slovakian-born cardinal was the world’s oldest living member of the College of Cardinals.

Tomko died at 5:00 a.m. Aug. 8 in his apartment, where he was under the care of a dedicated nurse after hospitalization on June 25 for a cervical spine injury, according to Vatican News. He had returned home from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Aug. 6.

The Slovak bishops’ conference invited people to pray for Cardinal Tomko in a message announcing his death on Aug. 8.

The conference said more information about the cardinal’s funeral in Rome and his burial at St. Elizabeth Cathedral in Košice, Slovakia, will be announced soon.

Tomko was a member of the College of Cardinals for over 37 years after St. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in the consistory of May 1985.

A confidant of John Paul II, Tomko had been secretary general of the Synod of Bishops for almost six years at the time he was created cardinal.

Two days later, on May 27, 1985, he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He served in that position until his retirement in 2001 at the age of 77.

For the following six years, Tomko served as president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. In this position, he attended several international events as Vatican envoy.

Tomko was born in the small village of Udavské, Czechoslovakia, in the northeast part of what is now known as Slovakia.

After beginning his studies for the priesthood in Bratislava in 1943, he was sent to study at the Pontifical Lateran University and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from which he received doctorates in theology, canon law, and social sciences.

He was ordained a priest in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome in 1949. As a priest, he continued his studies, did pastoral work, and later served as vice rector and rector of the Pontifical College Nepomucenum, a theological seminary for Czech men.

Tomko was also co-founder of the Slovak Institute of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Rome.

From 1962 he served as an assistant in the doctrinal office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He headed the same office from 1966. During that time, he was chosen as one of the special secretaries for the first synodal assembly of 1967.

He was appointed under-secretary of the Congregation for Bishops at the end of 1974.

After naming Tomko secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II consecrated him a bishop in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on Sept. 15, 1979.

In the 1980s, the Slovak prepared and oversaw three ordinary general synods, a particular synod of the bishops of the Netherlands, and an extraordinary synod on the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.

Tomko was also active in the area of ecumenism on an international level. 

Archie Battersbee, 12, dies after being taken off life support against his parents’ wishes

Hollie Dance (center left) and Paul Battersbee (center right)), the mother and father of Archie Battersbee, speak to the media as they leave the Royal Courts of Justice on June 29, 2022 in London, England. Archie's parents ultimately lost their legal fight to keep their son on life support. He died on Aug. 6, 2022. / Carl Court/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 7, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Archie Battersbee, the 12-year-old British boy whose family waged an unsuccessful legal fight to stop his doctors from disconnecting him from a ventilator, died Saturday.

“Can I just say I’m the proudest mum in the world — such a beautiful little boy, and he fought right until the very end,” his mother, Hollie Dance, told reporters outside the Royal London Hospital, where Archie died, the New York Times reported. “And I’m so proud to be his mum.”

Archie had been in a coma on a ventilator since April when he was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck. According to news reports, his family suspects he may have been taking part in a social media challenge.

Archie’s doctors at Royal London Hospital had maintained that the boy, whose heart was still beating, was “very likely” brain-stem dead, but a conclusive test was never performed. A UK High Court judge granted the doctors' request to perform the test, but the test — required by the UK's Code of Practice — was not carried out because doctors determined there was a danger it could produce a false negative result.

His family, which opposed the brain stem test because they believed it to be too dangerous, argued that Archie needed more time to recover to whatever extent possible.

The family presented video evidence they said showed Archie crying and gripping his mother's hand. In a June 13 ruling, the High Court judge said the evidence was unconvincing. She ordered that doctors remove the boy from the ventilator, saying the available medical evidence showed that Archie was brain dead as of May 31. An appeals court subsequently upheld the decision.

Last week, Archie’s parents exhausted their legal options when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to intervene in the case.

"It was the last thing, wasn't it? And again our country has failed a 12-year-old child," Dance said, according to the BBC.

Catholic bioethics experts condemned the decision by the hospital to take Archie off of life support. Before Archie’s death, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, based in the UK, released a statement saying, “It seems extraordinary that questions of life and death should be matters of a balance of probability rather than determination beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Baptized in the hospital

The bioethics center issued a statement following the announcement of Archie's death.

“The court battle over Archie Battersbee’s care is the latest example of the dying of children becoming complicated by unresolved conflict between parents and hospital authorities. It seems clear that there are serious problems with the current clinical, interpersonal, ethical, and legal approach to these situations,” the statement said.

“The tragic case of Archie Battersbee must lead to reform so that such conflicts can be averted in the future,” the center said.  

“Our last thoughts and our prayers are for Archie’s family, and for Archie himself. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace,” the statement concluded.

In court testimony, a family spokeswoman described Archie's family as "vaguely Christian" but not church-goers prior to his brain injury. Archie, however, was attracted to Christianity because he saw mixed martial artists praying before they entered the ring, the spokeswoman testified.

"Archie had saved up for and then begun wearing a small cross and a St Christopher’s ring in the two years before the accident," the June 13 High Court ruling states.

"Archie had been speaking about being baptised and wanted his mother to take him to a church service at Christmas. This led to the family having Archie christened as he lay unconscious. Archie’s mother, brother and sister were christened then on Easter Sunday at the hospital," the ruling states.

Pope Francis: Put your trust in God and his care for you

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus address Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2022 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Hold fast to trust in God and stay alert to his presence in your life, Pope Francis said during his weekly Angelus address on Sunday.

“Let us walk without fear, in the certainty that the Lord always accompanies us. And let us stay awake, lest it happen to us that we fall asleep while the Lord is passing by,” he said Aug. 7.

The pope spoke about letting go of worry and anxiety before reciting the Angelus, a Marian prayer, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“At times we feel imprisoned by a feeling of distrust and anxiety,” Francis said. “It is the fear of failure, of not being acknowledged and loved, the fear of not being able to realize our plans, of never being happy, and so on.”

Fear, he added, leads us to “struggle to find solutions, to find a space in which to thrive, to accumulate goods and wealth, to obtain security; and how do we end up? We end up living anxiously and constantly worrying.”

Francis pointed to the day’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, in which, he said, “Jesus reassures us: Do not be afraid.”

“Trust in the Father who wants to give you all that you truly need. He has already given you his Son, his Kingdom, and he will always accompany you with his providence, taking care of you every day. Do not be afraid — this is the certainty that your hearts should be attached to,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus, the pope said, makes two fundamental exhortations to his disciples: to “not be afraid,” and to “be ready.”

“There is no need to worry and fret for our lives are firmly in God’s hands,” he said. “But knowing that the Lord watches over us with love does not entitle us to slumber, to let ourselves succumb to laziness.”

“On the contrary, we must be alert, vigilant,” he continued. “Indeed, to love means being attentive to the other, being aware of his or her needs, being willing to listen and welcome, being ready.”

Vigilance also extends to our responsibility over the goods God has entrusted to us, he said, pointing to life, faith, family, relationships, work, our home, and creation.

“We have received so many things. Let us try to ask ourselves: Do we take care of this inheritance the Lord has left us? Do we safeguard its beauty or do we use things only for ourselves and for our immediate convenience?” he said. “We have to think a little about this — are we guardians of the creation that has been given to us?”

“St. Augustine said, ‘I am afraid that the Lord passes by and I do not notice;’ of being asleep and not noticing that the Lord passes by,” Francis said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us, who welcomed the Lord’s visit and readily and generously said, ‘Here I am.’”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis said he was glad that the first ships carrying grain had been allowed to leave the ports of Ukraine since the outbreak of war in February.

“This step demonstrates that it is possible to dialogue and to reach concrete results for everyone’s benefit,” he said. “Therefore, this event also presents itself as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that, following in this direction, there might be an end to combat and that a just and lasting peace might be reached.”

Francis also expressed his sorrow for the Polish pilgrims who died or were injured in a bus crash in Croatia on Saturday.