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Holy Father: Interreligious Dialogue Built on Openness

“You show that dialogue between believers of different religions is a necessary condition for contributing to peace in the world.”

The post Holy Father: Interreligious Dialogue Built on Openness appeared first on ZENIT - English.

African Churches: Pope Urges Fostering of Coexistence

OAIC Represents 60 Million Members of Various Christian Denominations

The post African Churches: Pope Urges Fostering of Coexistence appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Ex-Vatican diplomat found guilty of child porn charges

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2018 / 06:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the close of his civil trial in the Vatican, former Holy See diplomat Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella was found guilty of possessing and distributing child pornography and given a five-year prison sentence.

The priest was also asked to pay a fine of 5,000 euro. The penitentiary where he will serve his prison term is unknown.

Capella, 51, a former Vatican diplomat, was recalled from the U.S. nunciature in Washington, D.C. last September after the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a diplomat.

His June 23 sentence came after the priest admitted his guilt in the trial’s opening session the day before, saying he committed his crimes during a period of “personal crisis” and weakness after being transferred to Washington D.C.

During the trial, Capella admitted to opening an account on Tumblr, where he obtained and exchanged lewd images and videos of children online. Some 40-55 images were found downloaded onto his cell phone, computer and a cloud storage device.

The images were divided into two primary categories, one for images from Japanese comics, and the other for images of children aged 14-17. At least one video showed a child depicted in an explicit sex act with an adult.

At the start of Saturday’s hearing, Vatican Promoter of Justice, Gian Piero Milano, asked that Capella be jailed for 5 years and nine months, paying a fine of 10,000 euro since he “knowingly and willingly” acquired “huge quantities” of pornographic images involving children, shared them and downloaded them to his devices.

The images of the comics, Milano said, were worse than other images found, since they were hand drawn and thought out with intent and creativity.

However, Capella’s lawyer asked that the sentence be reduced to the minimum, arguing that the priest was psychologically unstable due a personal crisis at the time his crimes began, and that Vatican law does not specify what the term “huge quantities” means.

The final sentence of 5 years and a fine of 5,000 euro brought the two-day trial to a close.

In his closing remarks before receiving the sentence, Capella said the errors he made “are evident” and happened in the context of a “period of fragility.”

“I am very sorry,” he said, “because my weakness has shamed the Church, my diocese, the Holy See, and my family.”

Capella said he viewed his crime as “a bump in the road of my priestly life,” and voiced hope that his case would help to others in the future.

Originally from Capri, Capella was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan and in 1993 was asked by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to enter the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 2004, after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he was sent to the apostolic nunciature in India, and three years later, in 2007, was transferred to the nunciature in Hong Kong. He was then transferred back to the Vatican in 2011, and worked in the Secretariat of State's office for Relations with the States.

In June 2016 he was asked to move to Washington D.C., and was upset by the decision, but said nothing. Capella began using Tumblr shortly after his arrival to the U.S. in July 2016, to look at memes, and eventually started viewing pornography and child pornography.

The U.S. State department flagged Capella's activity and informed the Vatican of a possible violation Aug. 21, 2017.

In September of that year, Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for the priest, who was then recalled to the Vatican. Police in Ontario said he had accessed, possessed, and distributed child pornography while visiting Windsor over the 2016 Christmas holiday.

Prior to his trial, Capella had been held in a Vatican jail cell since April 9, 2018, and was indicted by the Holy See June 9.

Former Holy See Diplomat Convicted of Child Pornography

Served as Councilor at Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC

The post Former Holy See Diplomat Convicted of Child Pornography appeared first on ZENIT - English.

During trial, former Vatican diplomat admits viewing child pornography

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the start of his Vatican City trial Friday, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former diplomat for the Holy See, admitted to charges of the possession and distribution of child pornography while working in the U.S.

Capella, 51, a former Vatican diplomat, was recalled from the U.S. nunciature in Washington, D.C. last September after the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a diplomat.

The first hearing in the civil trial was held the afternoon of June 22. Present alongside Capella were his psychologist, Tommaso Parisi; the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, Roberto Zannotti; and judges Giuseppe Della Torre, Venerando Marano, and Carlo Bonzano.

In his testimony, Capella outlined the history of his diplomatic service to the Holy See and admitted his guilt, saying his crimes were the result of a “personal crisis” stemming from his transfer to Washington D.C.

Originally from Capri, Capella was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan and in 1993 was asked by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to enter the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 2004, after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he was sent to the apostolic nunciature in India, and three years later, in 2007, was transferred to the nunciature in Hong Kong.

Capella was then transferred back too the Vatican in 2011, and worked in the Secretariat of State's office for Relations with the States.

In his testimony, Capella said he was happy there and enjoyed his work, and that prior to his time in Washington D.C., he had never viewed pornography or expressed interest in that type of content. But when he received a call June 30, 2016, asking him to move to D.C., Capella said he was unhappy with the move, but did not say anything.

“Unfortunately out of respect to the hierarchy, out of the sense of duty, I did not create problems. Instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer,” he said during the trial.

After arriving to the U.S., Capella said he had no enthusiasm for his work. The first four months, he said, were “bland,” and he felt “empty” and “useless.”

Problems began to arise, Capella said, when he started looking for funny memes and pictures of animals online to relieve his boredom. Referring to the use of pornography, he said “this kind of morbidness was never part of my priestly life” before this time of desolation.

When questioned by the Vatican's prosecutor and lead judge about how this boredom led to the use of child pornography, Capella said he had started to use the micro-blogging site Tumblr July 23, 2016, to find the amusing images, which led to a slow slide into pornographic images.

This eventually turned into child porn, Capella said, explaining that he began using Tumblr's chat function to exchange images, and had “vulgar” conversations with other unmarried persons.

The U.S. State department flagged Capella's activity and informed the Vatican of a possible violation Aug. 21, 2017.

In September of that year, Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for the priest, who was then recalled to the Vatican. Police in Ontario said he had accessed, possessed, and distributed child pornography while visiting Windsor over the 2016 Christmas holiday.

Msgr. Capella has been held in a Vatican jail cell since April 9, 2018, and was indicted by the Holy See June 9.

In his own testimony during the hearing, Parisi said he met Capella after the priest had come back to the Vatican in October 2017, and that the priest had specifically asked for his services.

Capella had trouble sleeping when he first came back, Parisi said, explaining that he prescribed medication to help the priest sleep. The two have held counseling session twice a week since the priest came back to Rome.

According to Parisi, Capella is “aware of his role” in the crimes he committed, and has admitted his errors.

Gianluca Gauzzi, a computer engineer who works for the Vatican Gendarme, said that during the investigation he looked through three cell phones, two USB drives, and several hard drives.

In addition to the images he found on these, Gauzzi said he found additional images on a cloud storage which had been deleted from other devices, totaling in 40-55 images in all.

Gauzzi said he divided the images into two primary categories, one for images from Japanese comics, and the other for images of children aged 14-17. At least one video showed a child depicted in an explicit sex act with an adult.

The images, Gauzzi said, had been exchanged in chats.

Capella's trial will resume the morning of June 23.

Give space peace a chance, Holy See says

Vienna, Austria, Jun 22, 2018 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- After U.S. President Donald Trump called Monday for a new military branch referred to as the “space force,” the Holy See has encouraged a unified, peaceful approach to space exploration.

“The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.

“The potential for development through space technology is immense and that the best way to make use of this potential is through international cooperation,” he said, in a June 21 statement to United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Brother Guy is also the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and led the Holy See’s Delegation at UNISPACE+50, a conference which took place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from June 18-21.

UNOOSA described the purpose of the symposium as to “consider the future course of global space cooperation for the benefit of humankind.”

The conference occurred shortly after President Trump directed Pentagon officials to move toward establishing a “space force” in support of national security. He said the branch presence would create jobs and that the regulation of space traffic management should not fall to other countries.

"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he announced at a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

“There’s no place like space,” Trump added.

The sixth branch of military would have to be approved by U.S. Congress before it was established. President Trump also challenged rich Americans to pursue private, commercial space industry on U.S. soil.

Brother Consolmagno encouraged a different approach to space study and exploration. “The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” he said in remarks at the conference.

“It would be a most dangerous and alarming development, and one that could impact every single man and woman on Earth, if outer space were to become another theatre of armed conflict, just as the land, sea and air before it.”

“When the Earth is viewed from space, the atmosphere is the only border that matters, he said. “In seeing the Earth from space, we realize that our own borders are insignificant in comparison. The Earth’s atmosphere is a global environment that needs to be protected by a global vision of this limited, shared natural resource and must be utilized for the benefit of all humankind,” he added.

Consolmagno said the benefits of space exploration, and the data from space research, should be publicly available. Space travel, he continued, should be made more affordable, and viewed as a benefit to mankind and the planet.

“We need to reflect on how we can transform the space economy from one of very expensive space services and products available to a few, to one that harnesses the abundance of space-derived data and services for the good of all, creating opportunities to engage more actors and opening up new markets for space-derived data and services to meet the needs of the poor in a financially sustainable way.”

Trial begins for ex-Vatican diplomat accused of distributing child porn

IMAGE: CNS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, accused of possessing and distributing child pornography, admitted his guilt to a Vatican court and said he had never engaged in such behavior before his assignment in the U.S. capital.

"This kind of morbidness was never a part of my priestly life," Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella told a courtroom June 22.

Vatican City State's criminal court issued an indictment June 9 against the prelate, who has been held in a jail cell in the Vatican police barracks since April 9.

Msgr. Capella is accused of having and exchanging with others "a large quantity" of child pornography; the quantity is such that the charges are considered "aggravated" by the Vatican City court.

The U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of Msgr. Capella's possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images. The 50-year-old Italian monsignor had been working in Washington just over a year when he was recalled to the Vatican.

On Sept. 28, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Msgr. Capella on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Recounting his diplomatic career at the Vatican, the Italian prelate told the court that after several years in India, Hong Kong and the Vatican Secretariat of State, he was unhappy about his assignment to the nunciature in Washington.

He said that "out of respect to the hierarchy, out of sense of duty and to not create problems, instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer."

The monsignor told the court that he felt "empty" and "useless" in his first four months at the Washington nunciature and initially used the internet for news and funny images.

In April 2016, Msgr. Capella started using the social microblogging site Tumblr to search for images when he started to see pornographic images. He said this led to conversations on the site's chat feature to engage in lewd conversations and exchange more perverse child pornographic images.

Gianluca Gauzzi, deputy commissioner of the Vatican police and a computer engineer, later testified that 40-55 photos, videos and Japanese comics depicting adult-child relationships were found or recovered from cellphones, USB drives and hard drives belonging to Msgr. Capella.

One video uncovered from the prelate's cellphone, Gauzzi told the courtroom, depicted sexual acts between a child and an adult.

Tommaso Parisi, a psychiatrist, told the courtroom he began treating Msgr. Capella in October and that the prelate has been cooperative and responded well to treatment twice a week.

Msgr. Capella was born in Carpi, Italy, and ordained to the priesthood in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Milan. After studying at the Vatican diplomatic academy in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 2004. He was assigned to the Washington nunciature in the summer of 2016.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the tribunal of Vatican City State, announced that the trial will continue June 23.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis: Jerusalem must be protected from political disputes

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis stressed Friday the important role the Eastern Catholic Churches play in spreading the Gospel given that many of them are concentrated in the Holy Land, and said Jerusalem in particular should be protected from tensions and political disputes.

“The Oriental Catholic Churches, as living witnesses to their apostolic origins, are called in a special way to protect and pass on a spark of Pentecostal fire,” the pope said according to prepared remarks June 22. “They are called daily to discover anew their own prophetic presence in all those places where they dwell as pilgrims.”

This, he said, begins with Jerusalem, “whose identity and particular vocation needs to be safeguarded beyond different tensions and political disputes.”

Pope Francis spoke at the Vatican's Consistory Hall to members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, who are in Rome for their 91st plenary assembly, which this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of their founding.

The organization unites funding agencies from countries worldwide in order to provide services such as houses of worship and study, scholarships, and social and health care facilities to struggling areas.

Christians, though small in number in the area, are primarily called to this task, and must draw strength from the Holy Spirit “for their mission of witness,” he said, adding that in today's context, this mission “is more urgent than ever before.”

Francis then prayed that holy places such as Jerusalem, “where God’s plan was fulfilled in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” would be the birth place of “a renewed spirit of strength to inspire Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East to embrace their special vocation and to offer an account of their faith and their hope.”

He voiced hope that the Eastern Catholic Churches would not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel in settings “that are often even more secularized than in the West, where they come as immigrants or refugees.”

The pope also prayed that they would be welcomed on both a practical and ecclesial level, “as they seek to preserve and enrich the patrimony of their various traditions.”

Thanks to organizations such as ROACO, members of the Eastern Churches, he said, “can bear witness to us, whose hearts are often dulled, that it is still worth living and suffering for the Gospel, even as a minority, or the object of persecution, for the Gospel is the joy and the life of men and women of every age.”

The pope said the organization's landmark anniversary is a testament to the help they have given to Christians throughout the Middle East through the various initiatives they lead.

These projects, he said, allow Eastern Catholic Churches to thrive not only in their native lands, but also in the increasing diaspora, enabling them to continue bearing witness to the Gospel despite being “severely tested” by persecution.

This persecution, he said, has arisen “first by the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and then, more recently, by forms of allegedly religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, to say nothing of apparently interminable conflicts, especially in the Middle East.”

Solidarity shown by organizations such as ROACO, he said, have helped to ensure the continued existence of the Eastern Churches at risk of extinction, and have allowed these churches to continue spreading the Gospel.

Pope Francis said the work of ROACO has also helped him to continue his mission of “pursuing possible paths to the visible unity of all Christians,” and stressed that Christians who are members of Eastern Churches, though distant, “are no less loved, and certainly not forgotten.”

“With your help,” he said in closing, “they are always listened to and helped to continue their journey as the Church of the Risen Christ, amid every challenge, and every spiritual and material suffering, in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe.”

Francis' comments on Jerusalem come after the United States on May 14 opened an embassy in the city, making the U.S. the only country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since the state was established in 1948.

Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries but the US have embassies in Tel Aviv. Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, then, was met with fierce backlash not only from international interlocutors, but also by the Vatican.

After Trump announced the change last December, Pope Francis expressed his “deep concern” and issued an appeal to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

Pope Francis also urged the necessity of maintaining the status quo in his meeting with Theophilos III, patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, in October 2017, in which the two discussed the patriarch’s concern for the Christian community amid aggression by Jewish settlers.

“Any kind of violence, discrimination or displays of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshipers, or places of worship, must be firmly rejected,” the pope said, adding that “the Holy City, whose status quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all.”

Update: As immigration woes rise, lawmakers can't agree on solutions

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jason Miller, Franciscan Action Network

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bipartisan disagreement on how to fix the country's immigration system led to failure once again as lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned down one immigration bill June 21 and postponed a vote on a second proposal, which also has a slim opportunity of passing.

Each side blamed the other for the failure to advance the first piece of legislation, which did not clear the initial hurdle of passing in the House of Representatives.

The remaining proposal, seen as a "compromise" bill, seeks to find a way to help youth brought to the country illegally as minors and a $25 million advance for a wall along the border with Mexico, a major campaign and yet-unfulfilled promise made by President Donald Trump. Though Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, he is now asking Congress for U.S. taxpayer money for the structure.

"It's not a compromise. It may be a compromise with the devil, but it's not a compromise with the Democrats," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, of the remaining bill.

Though House Democrats voiced opposition to both bills, some Republicans, too, disagreed within their ranks.

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, of Texas, said in a statement released by his office June 21 that he opposed money for the border wall, saying it was "an expensive and ineffective fourth-century border security tool that takes private property away from hundreds of Texans." He also expressed concern about taking away something from one immigration program in exchange for helping another.

The remaining proposal seeks to do away with family-based migration, which allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain family members for a visa, but at the expense of providing a legal path for the youth brought into the country as minors, popularly known as "Dreamers."

As lawmakers retreated to salvage what they could and to haggle with others before the June 22 vote, a short distance away, Catholic groups joined other faith organizations in speaking out on Capitol Hill during a June 21 demonstration organized by Faith in Action against the detention of children at the border who have been separated from their parents.

Religious leaders -- including priests and women and men religious, the Franciscan Action Network, members of the Sisters of Mercy, the Columbans and others -- surrounded a group of children wrapped in aluminum insulation blankets in a building at the Capitol and called for prayer and fasting to bring an end to the misery of separated families on the border. The insulation blanket was like those handed out to children in detention centers at the border.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network also issued a press release voicing support for a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing both measures and asked Catholics to contact their representatives in Congress. In the June 18 letter to House members, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, expressed concern with the compromise measure's cuts to family-based immigration, as well as the "harmful" changes to the asylum system and its lack of protections for unaccompanied children .

"Without such changes to these measures, we would be compelled to oppose it," he said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.