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Pope Francis appoints new bishop of US Virgin Islands

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Mgsr. Jerome Feudjio on Tuesday to lead the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Originally from Cameroon, Feudjio has served as a priest of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ diocese for more than 30 years.

Commenting on Feudjio’s March 2 appointment, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the apostolic administrator of St. Thomas diocese, said: “Bishop-Elect Jerome is no stranger to the people of the diocese. His long history of service and pastoral dedication to the people of this community of faith are well known and widely respected,” 

Feudjio, 65, currently serves as the vicar general of the Diocese of St. Thomas and rector of its Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul

The Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was established in 1977 and is the sole suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Washington. The diocese is made up of 30,000 Catholics across the islands of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island.

Feudjio first arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1988 after Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who at the time was a coadjutor bishop of St. Thomas, invited him to work as a campus minister in the Saints Peter and Paul School. 

Two years later, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas and appointed as parochial vicar of the cathedral. He taught French and religion at the Catholic school and went on to serve in multiple positions within the diocese, including as director of vocations, finance officer, administrator, and chancellor.

Born in Cameroon in 1955, Feudjio entered religious life at the age of 17 as a postulant for the Congregation of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart (SCJ). He attended their Saint Apostles Seminary in Otele, Cameroon, from 1972 to 1975, as well as the major seminary in the capital city of Yaoundé from 1975 to 1979.

While still in formation in 1980, Feudjio traveled to the United States, where he met the then Fr. Seán O’Malley, who invited him to stay and study in Washington, D.C.

Feudjio completed his studies in philosophy and theology in the Archdiocese of Washington at Oblate College, and in 1987 joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, making a temporary religious profession.

During his time in the U.S., Feudjio completed a graduate program at Southern Illinois University in the Administration of Justice Program, through which he interned at a local transitional house that helped former inmates readjust to society. 

In 2004, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., who served as bishop of St. Thomas from 1999 to 2007, asked Feudjio to return to Southern Illinois University to pursue further graduate studies in Rehabilitation Administration.

Feudjio has served as rector of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in the U.S. Virgin Islands since 2008.

As bishop of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Feudjio will succeed Bishop Herbert Bevard, who retired in September after he was hospitalized and airlifted to the U.S. mainland for medical treatment.

“Regrettably, I have experienced some new and unanticipated medical conditions that unfortunately preclude my ability to continue to maintain my position in the Diocese of St. Thomas,” Bevard wrote in a letter to the diocese on Sept. 18.

“I have loved serving the People of God; the clergy, religious, laity, and the entire Virgin Islands community in the Diocese of St. Thomas and will treasure the fond memories that we share together. It is this same love and concern for them, recognizing my own limitations, that now compel me to make this request,” he said.

Bevard, 75, has remained in North Carolina for ongoing medical treatment. He led the Diocese of St. Thomas for 12 years.

Pope Francis appointed the then Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington to serve as the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of St. Thomas until the new bishop is installed.

“I readily join the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands today in warmly welcoming Pope Francis’ appointment of Msgr. Jerome Feudjio as the sixth Bishop of this local Church,” Cardinal Gregory said.

“He now begins a new chapter in his own life and in all of your lives as well. Please keep him in your prayers as he transitions into his new office as I am certain he will hold all of you securely in his daily prayers from this day forward.”

Benedict XVI addresses resignation conspiracy theories, Iraq, and Biden in new interview

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2021 / 02:30 am (CNA).- Benedict XVI addressed conspiracy theories about his resignation as pope, Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq, and Joe Biden in an interview with an Italian newspaper published on Monday.

The pope emeritus told Corriere della Sera that he stood by his decision despite criticism from his friends in an interview released on March 1, a day after the eighth anniversary of the end of his pontificate.

"It was a difficult decision. But I made it in full consciousness, and I think I did the right thing,” the 93-year-old former pope told the journalist Massimo Franco during a private visit.  

“Some of my friends who are a bit ‘fanatical’ are still angry, they didn’t want to accept my choice. I think of the conspiracy theories that followed it: some said it was because of the Vatileaks scandal, some said it was because of a conspiracy of the gay lobby, some said it was because of the case of the conservative Lefebvrian theologian Richard Williamson.” 

“They do not want to believe in a choice made consciously. But my conscience is fine.”

He also underlined that there is only one pope -- Francis -- rather than two.

Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013. His resignation went into effect on Feb. 28, 2013, when he became the first pope in almost 600 years to step down.

His almost eight-year-long pontificate was overshadowed by the publication of confidential papal documents, known as the Vatileaks scandal, leaked by his butler. 

The Italian media speculated about the existence of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican before Benedict XVI’s resignation and Pope Francis commented that “so much is written about the gay lobby” months after his election in 2013.

In 2009, Benedict lifted the excommunication of four SSPX bishops, including Williamson. Shortly afterward, Swedish television broadcast an interview with Williamson that led to the English bishop’s conviction for Holocaust denial by a German court.

The German pope wrote a letter to the world’s bishops in which he acknowledged that the controversy could have been avoided if Vatican officials had researched Williamson’s statements on the internet.

In the interview, Benedict also said that he was praying for the success of Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq this week.

He said: “Unfortunately it falls at a very difficult time that also makes it a dangerous trip: for security reasons and for COVID. And then there is the unstable Iraqi situation. I will accompany Francis with my prayers.”

According to the Italian newspaper, Benedict also commented on U.S. President Joe Biden, saying “It is true, he is Catholic and observant. And personally he is against abortion,” but “as president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the line of the Democratic Party ... And on gender policy, we still don’t really understand what his position is.”

Apostolic nuncio in Iraq tests positive for COVID-19 five days before papal trip

Denver Newsroom, Feb 28, 2021 / 12:50 pm (CNA).- The apostolic nunciature in Iraq reported on Sunday, Feb. 28 that the Nuncio Mitja Leskovar, has tested positive for COVID less than a week before Pope Francis trip to the country.

"The Apostolic Nuncio has recently tested positive to the COVID 19 virus. His symptoms are very light and from self-isolation, continues to work for the preparation of the Apostolic trip," tweeted on Sunday Fr. Ervin Lengyel, secretary of the Nunciature in Baghdad.

Archbishop Leskovar, 51, was born in Slovenia and was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq on May 2020 by Pope Francis.

The Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to Iraq will take place from March 5th to 8th.
 

Pope Francis prays for children suffering from rare diseases

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed Sunday for children suffering from rare diseases that they may feel “the caress of God’s love and tenderness.”

“Today is World Rare Disease Day,” Pope Francis said from the window of the Apostolic Palace Feb. 28 as he waved to people holding banners and cheering in St. Peter’s Square.

“I greet the members of some associations involved in this field, who have come to the piazza,” he said. “In the case of rare diseases, the solidarity network between family members, fostered by these associations, is more important than ever. It helps to not feel alone and to exchange experience and advice.”

There are more than 6,000 diseases that are classified as rare of which 70% begin in childhood, according to research recently published in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

The pope said that he encourages initiatives that support research of rare diseases and care to those who suffer from them.

“I express my closeness to the sick, to families, but especially to children. Be near to sick children, children suffering, pray for them and make them feel the caress of God's love and tenderness,” he said.

“We pray for all the people who have these rare diseases, especially for the children who suffer,” Francis said.

February 28 marks Rare Disease Day, a date first established in 2008 by the European Organization for Rare Diseases to raise awareness for those who suffer from uncommon illnesses.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect for the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, also published a message for Rare Disease Day.

“People living with a rare disease are among the most vulnerable groups in society,” Cardinal Turkson wrote.

“Most of these diseases have no cure and are usually chronic, progressive, degenerative and disabling; they are heterogeneous, predominantly occur in children and require costly treatments.”

The cardinal highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges patients with rare diseases face with “limitations, delays and sometimes even interruption and denial of treatment, medication, diagnostic tests, rehabilitation therapies.”

“Often, as Pope Francis points out: To the most 'vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner. This is the result of political decisions, resource  management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good,’” he said.

Turkson urged policymakers and institutions to guarantee the “right to health for the entire population, by promoting international cooperation, knowledge-sharing and more sustainable and resilient health systems that do not forget the needs of  the most vulnerable and leave no one behind.”

“It is essential to promote a culture of care that is grounded in the promotion of the dignity of  every human person, solidarity with the poor and the defenseless, the common good and the protection of creation,” he said.

“Only by ensuring equitable and inclusive access to care and health care for the most vulnerable can we build a more humane society, where no one feels alone, abandoned or excluded.”

The cardinal wrote that he was prayerfully entrusting all those affected by rare diseases and their families to Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick.

“Dear brothers and sisters, during this time of Lent, let us in our charity speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters. This is a time to cultivate hope and to love those who are suffering, abandoned and distressed,” he said.

Pope Francis: The Lord does not permit darkness to have the last word

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that it is important to remember when facing a difficult trial that the “Lord is risen and does not permit darkness to have the last word.”

“At times we go through moments of darkness in our personal, family or social life, and of fear that there is no way out. We feel frightened before great enigmas such as illness, the suffering of the innocent, or the mystery of death,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Feb. 28.

“We need a different outlook, a light that illuminates the mystery of life in depth and … helps us to interpret history beginning with his paschal victory,” the pope said from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Speaking to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to experience an encounter with Jesus so that “illuminated by his light, we might take it and make it shine everywhere.”

“Igniting little lights in people’s hearts; being little lamps of the Gospel that bear a bit of love and hope: this is the  mission of a Christian,” he said.

The pope pointed to the Gospel account of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain shortly after he had announced that he would be put to death in Jerusalem.

“He is transfigured before them. His face radiant and his robes shining, an anticipation of the image of the Risen One, offer to those frightened men the light, the light of hope, the light to pass through the darkness: death will not be the end of everything, because it will open to the glory of the Resurrection,” he said.

“As the Apostle Peter exclaimed, it is good to pause with the Lord on the mountain, to experience this ‘preview’ of light in the heart of Lent. It is a call to remember, especially when  we pass through a difficult trial -- and so many of you know what it is to go through a difficult trial -- that the Lord is risen and does not permit darkness to have the last word.”

Pope Francis said that in the journey of faith it is common to stumble when “encountering the scandal of the cross and the demands of the Gospel, which calls us to spend our life in service and to lose it in love, rather than preserve it.”

The pope warned against “spiritual laziness,” explaining that the Christian life is not about just experiencing “beautiful spiritual feelings” in prayer.

“Jesus himself brings us back to the valley, amidst our brothers and sisters and into daily life,” Pope Francis said.

“Praying never means avoiding the difficulties of life,” he added.

After praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked for prayers for schoolgirls who were abducted from their school in Nigeria earlier this week.

“I join my voice to that of the Bishops of Nigeria to condemn the vile kidnapping of 317 girls, taken away from their school, in Jangebe, in the northwest of the country,” the pope said.

“I pray for these girls, that they will soon be able to retun home. ... Let us pray to Our Lady to protect them.”

The pope also expressed his closeness to children suffering from rare diseases, adding that he hopes that they will “feel the caress of God’s love and tenderness.”

“Let us pray to Mary Most Holy, that she may help us to welcome the light of Christ with wonder,  to safeguard it and share it,” he said.

Pope Francis says seeing a psychiatrist helped him with anxiety when he was younger

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has said that seeing a psychiatrist in Argentina helped him with anxiety when he was a younger priest in an interview published in an Argentine newspaper Saturday.

The pope spoke with an Argentine journalist about his physical and mental health. In the excerpt of the transcript provided by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Pope Francis said that he has developed ways of dealing with moments of anxiety, such as listening to music by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The interview, which took place in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Feb. 16, 2019, was published in Spanish on Feb. 27.

In the conversation, Pope Francis looked back at how therapy aided his struggle with anxiety when he served as the Jesuit provincial in Argentina.

“Being provincial of the Jesuits, in the terrible days of the dictatorship, in which I had to take people in hiding to get them out of the country and thus save their lives, I had to handle situations that I did not know how to deal with,” Francis said.

During this time, he said that he consulted a psychiatrist once a week for about six months.

“Throughout those six months, she helped me position myself in terms of a way to handle the fears of that time. Imagine what it was like to take a person hidden in the car - only covered by a blanket - and go through three military checkpoints in the Campo de Mayo area. The tension it generated in me was enormous,” Pope Francis said.

“The treatment with the psychiatrist also helped me to locate myself and learn to manage my anxiety and avoid being rushed when making decisions. The decision making process is always complex. And the advice and observations that she gave me was very helpful. ... Her teachings are still very useful to me today.”

Pope Francis said that his anxiety has been “tamed,” compared to what he experienced when he was younger, which he described as “anxious neurosis” and “wanting to do everything now.”

The pope also said that he has learned different ways of dealing with anxieties.

“You have to know how to brake,” he said. “When I am faced with a situation or I have to face a problem that causes me anxiety, I cut it short.”

“I have different methods of doing it. One of them is listening to Bach. It calms me down and helps me analyze problems in a better way. I confess that over the years I have managed to put a barrier to the entrance of anxiety in my spirit. It would be dangerous and harmful for me to make decisions under a state of anxiety,” the pope said.

“It would be equally harmful to make decisions dominated by anguish and sadness. That is why I say that the person must be attentive to neurosis,” he added.

Pope Francis said that he believes that it is also important for priests to have an understanding of psychology for their pastoral ministry.

Since the interview with the pope took place in 2019, restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted access to mental health services around the world, according to the World Health Organization, at a time when anxiety and depression are rising.

“I'm convinced that every priest must know human psychology,” Pope Francis said. “There are those who know it from the experience of the years, but the study of psychology is necessary for a priest.”

The pope recalled that reading the book “Be Glad You’re Neurotic” by the American psychiatrist Louis E. Bisch was very interesting and “made me laugh out loud.”

It was not the first time that the pope had revealed his prior experience with seeing a psychiatrist at the age of 42. Pope Francis also discussed it in an interview in 2017 with French sociologist Dominique Wolton.

In the La Nacion interview, Pope Francis also talked about the origin of his lung condition, which was brought on by a flu epidemic when he was a 21-year-old seminarian.

“It was 1957. I was in my second year of seminary ... That winter there had been a strong flu epidemic that affected many of the seminarians. Among them was me. But the truth is that my case evolved in a more torpid way. … Upon viewing the X-rays, the specialist found three cysts in the upper lobe of the right lung. There was also a bilateral pleural effusion that caused me pain and shortness of breath,” he said.

After his recovery from the operation to remove part of the affected lobe, he said that he never felt any limitation in his activities.

Pope Francis said: “As the doctors have explained to me, the right lung expanded and covered the entire ipsilateral hemithorax. And the expansion has been so complete that, if he is not advised of the history, only a first-rate pulmonologist can detect the lack of the excised lobe.”

The article also quoted Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who said that the issue of Bergoglio’s lung came up during the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.

“When the figure of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires began to emerge as the new possible pope, they began to move to stop God's plan that was about to come to fruition. Someone who was supporting another “papabile” cardinal, in effect, spread the rumor in Santa Marta that Bergoglio was ill because he was missing a lung,” Maradiaga said according to La Nacion.

“It was at this point that I took courage. I spoke to other cardinals and said, 'OK, I'm going to go ask the archbishop of Buenos Aires if these things are really true. ' When I went to see him, I apologized for the question that I was about to ask him. Cardinal Bergoglio was very surprised, but confirmed that apart from a little sciatica and a small operation on his right lung to remove a cyst when he was young, he did not have any major health problems.”

The final questions in the 2019 interview with the pope related to death. Pope Francis responded that he thinks of death, but is not afraid of it. When asked how he imagines his own death, the pope replied:

“Being a pope, whether in office or emeritus. And in Rome. I am not going back to Argentina.”

What changes may be coming to the College of Cardinals in 2021?

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2021 / 06:37 pm (CNA).- When Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako turns 80 on Feb. 27, the cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave will drop to 127, seven more than the limit of 120 set by Paul VI and confirmed by John Paul II.



In 2021, five more cardinals will turn 80, and thus age out of voting in the conclave: Cardinals Wilfrid Fox Napier, George Pell, Maurice Piat, Beniamino Stella, and Angelo Scola.



This means that by the end of the year, cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave will be down to 122, prompting questions of whether Pope Francis will appoint more.



During his pontificate, Pope Francis strongly reshaped the College of Cardinals. In seven years, he has summoned seven consistories (one per year) and created 101 new cardinals, 79 of whom are eligible to vote in a conclave and 22 of whom are not, because they are above the age of 80. To put this in perspective, St. John Paul II summoned nine consistories in 27 years of his pontificate, an average of one every three years. 



A conclave now would be composed of 73 cardinals created by Pope Francis, 39 created by Benedict XVI, and 16 created by John Paul II. 



Many observers in the Roman Curia believe that, taking into consideration Pope Francis’ modus operandi and the ongoing generational shift within the Curia, it is likely that the pontiff will choose to expand the College of Cardinals to 130, and give the red biretta to the new prefects of the Vatican dicasteries.



Cardinal Robert Sarah's replacement– Pope Francis accepted his resignation on Feb. 21 – will likely be a non-cardinal in need of a red hat. 



Cardinal Beniamino Stella, 79, will leave the Congregation for the Clergy when he turns 80 next August. 



Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, is already 77 and will soon retire. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, is 76.  Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is 76 too, while Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, is 77. 



The president of the Vatican City State administration, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, turned 78 last October.



This means that the pope could have six new prefects to appoint in the Roman Curia, all positions traditionally run by cardinals.



This, plus the ongoing reform and restructuring of the Curia, will give Pope Francis the opportunity to expand the College of Cardinals, thus having a greater influence on who his successor will be.

 

Who might be Cardinal Sarah's successor?

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2021 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- After Robert Cardinal Sarah's retirement as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, the big question around the Vatican is who will take his place.

Informed sources say that Pope Francis would be looking at three possible options.

The first would be that Pope Francis would raise Archbishop Arthur Roche, 70, from the congregation's secretary to its prefect.

Archbishop Roche was appointed Secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Benedict XVI in 2012. Before, he was president of the British International Commission on Liturgy from 2002 to 2012. He also served as auxiliary bishop of Westminster from 2001 to 2002, coadjutor Bishop of Leeds from 2002 to 2004, and Bishop of Leeds from 2004 to 2012.

During Pope Francis' pontificate, he has been a go-between Pope Francis and Cardinal Sarah in liturgical issues. He was entrusted with writing a commentary to the motu proprio Magnum Principium, which shifted the responsibility of translating liturgical texts to bishops' regional and national conferences. The comment came out along with the publication of the motu proprio.

In 2019, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Roche as a member of the team to examine the appeals on delicta graviora, the gravest crimes dealt by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which includes the sexual abuse of minors.

The second option is Bishop Claudio Maniago of Castellaneta. Maniago, 62, has been president of the Italian Bishops Conference's Commission on liturgy since 2015. In that position, he oversaw the new translation into Italian of the Roman Missal, which included a new version of the Our Father.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Maniago as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and in 2016.

The third option would be Bishop Vittorio Viola of Tortona. A member of the Order of Friars Minor, Viola, 55, has been a bishop since 2014.

Pope Francis picked Viola as bishop, raising him from his position of president of the Assisi Caritas. He had also been the Custodian of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi. He got to know Pope Francis during the pope's visit to Assisi on Oct. 4, 2013, when he sat next to him during a lunch with the poor.

Viola was ordained a priest by Bishop Luca Brandolini, one of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini's closest collaborators.

Viola is also a good friend of Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, who was secretary of the Congregation for the Divine worship from 2003 to 2005.

Pope Francis reportedly appreciated how Bishop Viola handled the parishes' re-organization in Tortona, and he showed strong decision-making skills. Bishop Viola was among the candidates to take over the position of Archbishop of Genoa. Pope Francis opted for a Conventual Franciscan in Genoa, Fr. Marco Tasca. But rumors insist that the pope had already decided to call Viola to the Vatican.

Vatican abuse trial: Witnesses say allegations about youth seminary were ignored

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Witnesses at the fifth hearing in a trial for alleged abuse and cover-up at a Vatican youth seminary testified on Wednesday to an unhealthy culture of ridicule and abuse of power.

The witnesses also alleged that reports of sexual abuse were ignored or dismissed by authority figures, including the cardinal in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Three former students at the Pius X pre-seminary testified before the city state’s court on Feb. 24 that the environment was “unhealthy,” indicating that taunts of a sexual nature were common and that they had witnessed one of the accused grope the genitals of other students.

The three witnesses also alleged that reports of abuse were known by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, who dismissed them as “false and calumny.” It was reported in the course of the hearing that Comastri may have blocked the removal of the pre-seminary’s then rector, one of the defendants.

Located inside Vatican City State, the Pius X pre-seminary is a residence for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.

The pre-seminary is run by a religious group, the Opera Don Folci, which is overseen by the Diocese of Como in northern Italy. 

The defendants in the trial are 28-year-old Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, a former student at the pre-seminary, and 72-year-old Fr. Enrico Radice, the seminary’s former rector.

Martinelli has been charged with using violence and his position of authority to commit sexual abuse against a younger student. Radice has been charged with impeding investigations into the abuse allegations against Martinelli.

Martinelli has defended his innocence of the charges, calling the accusations against him “unfounded” and intended to “strike” at the pre-seminary.

Radice has maintained that he was never told about abuse by Martinelli by anyone, and has accused the alleged victim and another alleged witness of making up the story for “economic interests.”

Martinelli, who was not a cleric at the time of the alleged abuse, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Como in 2017.

The alleged victim, identified as L.G., was born in 1993 and was 13 at the time the alleged abuse began, turning 18 about a year before it ended.

In testimony on Feb. 24, witnesses said that Martinelli was “protected” by the ex-rector and given roles of responsibility, bypassing even two other seminary faculty who were priests.

“The rector had allowed Martinelli to feel he was already a priest from the beginning,” according to one witness, who left the pre-seminary after a month, due to what he called “an exhausting experience” because of an environment of gossip and taunts about one’s physical appearance or “effeminate behaviors.”

The three witnesses said that they did not have direct knowledge of sexual abuse against L.G. as described in the charges, but testified that they had seen Martinelli engage in inappropriate behaviors such as sexual advances and momentary genital touching of boys other than the alleged victim L.G.

The Pius X pre-seminary was described by the former students as an environment with “psychological pressures,” where it was common to hear “homosexual jokes” and other lewd comments. Martinelli was described as having a “dominant role, very strong,” and a “homosexual demeanor.”

L.G. was described by one witness as “extremely credible,” but a bit delicate because of a difficult family situation.

One witness testified that Martinelli and L.G. seemed to hate each other and never speak, but that Martinelli also gave L.G. and another student special favors, positing that Martinelli was motivated by fear of what they could reveal about him. This other former student was also scheduled to testify on Feb. 24 but did not present himself at the hearing.

One witness recalled having seen Martinelli touch the genitals of another student, “like an implicit request for sexual intercourse.” This student refused the advance and afterward “fell out of favor” with Martinelli. He became “marginalized” and was psychologically pressured to leave the pre-seminary, which he eventually did.

This alleged victim was also scheduled to testify in the Feb. 24 hearing, but had been excused by the court for an unidentified reason.

All three witnesses spoke about knowledge on the part of superiors about inappropriate behaviors. One said that he was “very sure” that the seminary authorities were informed of the abuse accusations, that “Radice knew but did nothing,” and that attempts at making complaints to him fell on deaf ears.

One witness also claimed to have sent an anonymous letter to Pope Francis two years after leaving the pre-seminary about what he had seen there and stated that L.G. had once asked him to deliver a letter to the pope for him, which he did not do because he “didn’t feel like it and there was no opportunity.”

Fr. Pierre Paul, a priest and the director of the Capella Giulia, a choir of St. Peter’s Basilica, testified on Feb. 24, saying that L.G. had confided in him.

“He never explicitly told me what was wrong but it was understood that they were problems of the affective-sexual sphere,” Paul said.

Paul made a report to the Commission for the Protection of Minors, part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in 2017. He said Wednesday that he had wanted to make a report earlier but had been stopped by L.G.

Thursday morning, the court of the Vatican City State’s again convened for the questioning of the Bishop Oscar Cantoni of Como, who was installed in the diocese in 2016 and ordained Martinelli a priest in 2017.

Bishop Diego Coletti, the bishop emeritus of Como who led the diocese from 2006 to 2016, presented a medical note to be excused from questioning and was not present.

Cantoni testified on Feb. 25 that before ordaining Martinelli to the priesthood, he had spoken with the rector of the Pius X pre-seminary and the rector of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome, which Martinelli attended for his priestly studies.

Both, according to Cantoni, had told him that Martinelli “had made a positive path” and was ready for ordination.

“All the people I had asked for an opinion on Martinelli, who had had anything to do with him after the [transitional] diaconate,” said there had been nothing wrong in his behavior, Cantoni said.

Cantoni admitted to there having been, between September 2006 and June 2012, signals from priests speaking about “sexually inappropriate conduct” on Martinelli’s part. But he said these accusations dated back to before Martinelli was a cleric and therefore were outside the existing norms for sexual abuse of a minor by clergy.

“Since he has been in Como, first as a deacon and then as a priest, there has not been a report. It was a transitory homosexual tendency linked to adolescence,” the bishop said.

Bishop Cantoni also added that since becoming a priest, no one has ever issued a complaint to him about Martinelli.

It was revealed in the course of the hearing that there had been some question about whose jurisdiction the Pius X pre-seminary fell under, since it is located on Vatican property, but managed by the Opera Don Folci, which is located in the Diocese of Como.

Cantoni said he asked for clarification on this question from Cardinal Comastri, who said he was not responsible as archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and vicar general for the Vatican City State.

The bishop said that since “we lived in ambiguity,” he asked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, who said that “there was no pact between the Vatican and Como.”

“I was able to clarify that the ultimate responsibility lies with the Diocese of Como,” Cantoni said.

The Diocese of Como is currently investigating the Opera Don Folci, focusing primarily on economic and pedagogical matters. The investigation has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

L.G., the alleged victim, will take the witness stand at the next hearing, scheduled for March 17. On March 18, the court will inspect the pre-seminary. Another hearing date has been set for April 14.

Pope Francis’ new doctor is a specialist in aging

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Wednesday named a specialist in aging to be his personal doctor, after his previous physician died earlier this year.

Roberto Bernabei, 69, is from Florence, Italy, and is a professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

He is also director of the School of Specialization in Geriatrics at the same university.

In the past, he was president of the Italian Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics, and also a member of the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing.

Bernabei is one of eight children of the well-known Italian director, producer, and journalist Ettore Bernabei, who died in 2016. He is married and has two daughters.

The personal physician of Pope Francis died in January from health complications related to the coronavirus.

The 78-year-old Fabrizio Soccorsi, who was being treated for cancer, died at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. Pope Francis attended his funeral at the Vatican on Jan. 26.

The pope had named Soccorsi, an expert in hepatology, the digestive system, and immunology, as his personal doctor in August 2015.

As Francis’ physician, he often traveled with him on his international trips.

Pope Francis, who turned 84 in December, will be traveling to Iraq for four days next month.