World News

In brief

Merrillville, Indiana

‘This is for all the kids’: innocent priest is assaulted

A byzantine Catholic priest was attacked last week in the sacristy of his church. Fr Basil Hutsko was alone in St Michael’s, Merrillville, after finishing the morning liturgy. The attacker jumped on him from behind, choking him and slamming his head on the ground. Before losing consciousness, Fr Hutsko heard the attacker say, “This is for all the kids!” – a reference to clerical sex abuse scandals in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Fr Basil, who is in his 60s and not suspected of any abuse, suffered concussion. His attacker, who was wearing gloves and left no fingerprints, has not been found. “He’s a very dedicated priest and hardworking and in good standing. It’s just a random [attack] on an innocent priest,” said fellow priest Fr Thomas Loya.


Cardinal Wuerl’s name removed from school

The diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School is to be renamed the North Catholic High School amid allegations that the cardinal mishandled sexual abuse claims against priests. The diocese said the cardinal had requested that his name be removed.

The decision came after mounting public pressure for the removal of his name, which included a petition and culminated in vandals spray painting over the school’s sign. A grand jury report released this month claimed that, during Cardinal Wuerl’s 18 years as Bishop of Pittsburgh, he reassigned priests accused of abuse to other parishes. He denies the allegations.

Washington, DC

US bishops respond

American bishops have begun to respond to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s allegations about Theodore McCarrick. While Cardinals Wuerl, Tobin and Cupich have queried Viganò’s claims, other bishops have suggested he should be taken seriously. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US bishops’ conference, said the statement deserves answers.

Bishop Robert Morlino said he was “deeply convinced of [Viganò’s] honesty … and impeccable integrity”. Bishop David Konderta said the statement was “a good place to begin the investigations that must happen”. Bishop Robert Barron said that Viganò would have been on his “short list” of people worth talking to if one were investigating the McCarrick case.


Cardinal says some abuse victims should be ‘ashamed’

A newly created Mexican cardinal has bucked the trend of senior clerics expressing their horror at sex ab­use in the Church. Cardinal Sergio Obeso Riv­era, Archbishop Emeritus of Xalapa, in Veracruz, Mexico, said last week that some accusers of priests should be ashamed. Some acc­usations are true, he said. “But the evil of many is the consolation of fools, because sometimes those who accuse men of the Church should [be careful] because they have long tails that are easily stepped on.” The 86-year-old cardinal declined to talk about the findings of a grand jury report about abuse in Pennsylvania. “I’m happy to talk about nice things, not about problematic things,” he said.


The Church is growing in Venezuela, says seminarian

A seminarian in Venezuela has said that despite the devastation of an economic crisis, “trust in God and in the Church has grown” throughout the country. Juan Pablo Hernández told the press agency ACI Prensa that many people who did not used to go to Mass were “looking for God in the midst of the precariousness … The Church always extends a hand.” Hernández, who is studying in Spain, said he was looking forward to returning to Venezuela to give people “the joy and hope of Jesus Christ so that they can keep their heads above water”.

Buenos Aires

Three churches vandalised

Three churches in Buenos Aires have been attacked by pro-abortion activists weeks after Argentina’s senate rejected a bill liberalising abortion. The churches, all in the neighbourhood of Almagro, were splattered with red paint. Coathangers and angry slogans were left at the gates. An image of the Virgin Mary was also desecrated. Priests of the sanctuary of Jesús Sacramentado released a statement saying the attack would not divert their mission. “When you come at night, with your face hidden, to paint and offend you will find in us … a forgiveness and a strength that nobody can take away from us, which is the joy of following Jesus,” they said.


Pope Francis asks Ireland for forgiveness

Pope Francis has asked forgiveness for bishops who “remained silent” about abuse in the Church. The Pope was speaking ahead of a Mass in Phoenix Park, Dublin, attended by 300,000 or so Catholics. It was the culmination of his two-day trip to the country. He begged forgiveness for a variety of crimes, including those related to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the separation of babies from their unmarried mothers.


English bishop appeals to Pope for an extraordinary synod

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has written to Pope Francis asking him to convene an extraordinary meeting of the synod of bishops in the wake of abuse scandals. Bishop Egan said recent revelations had filled him with “deep sorrow”. He proposed a synod on the “life and ministry of clergy” and suggested it could be preceded by a congress attended by bishops but run by lay people with expertise in safeguarding. The synod itself, he wrote, could be devoted to the “identity of being a priest/bishop, to devising guidance on lifestyle and supports for celibacy, to proposing a rule of life for priests/bishops” and to establishing better ways to make priests and bishops accountable.

Nghe An province

Catholic jailed

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a Cath­ol­ic human rights act­ivist to 20 years’ imp­risonment for seeking “to overthrow the people’s government”. As Lê Đình Lượng was standing trial, 17 priests concelebrated a Mass in his home parish in Vĩnh Hòa.


Bishops praise release of 800 prisoners

Bishops in the Ivory Coast have welcomed an amnesty granted to 800 political prisoners by President Alassane Ouattara. The prisoners ­– including former first lady Simone Gbagbo – were allegedly involved in violence following a 2010 election that left 3,000 dead. Bish­op Antoine Koné of Odienné, president of the bishops’ commission on social teach­ing, said the amnesty “strongly contributes to forgiveness and reconciliation … which are useful for stability, development, the wellbeing of the population and the growth of Ivory Coast”.


Philippines priest goes into hiding to escape death squad

A 63-year-old priest in the Philippines has gone into hiding after a visit from what he believes were hired hitmen. Fr Amado Picardal, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs, said motorcycle-riding men had been seen at a monastery he visits and had asked for his whereabouts.

“I have left my hermitage in the mountain and transferred to a more secure location to continue my life as a hermit far away out of reach from the death squad,” he said. Earlier this year Fr Picardal cycled across the country to bring attention to police killings. He has also helped provide sanctuary to former members of death squads who may testify against Duterte.