Pope Francis has paid a surprise visit to a community helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution.
Continuing his Year of Mercy practice of dedicating one Friday a month to meet people facing special struggles, the Pope visited the house operated by the John XXIII Community in north-east Rome.
The community members, the Vatican said, were “20 women liberated from the slavery of the prostitution racket. Six of them come from Romania, four from Albania, seven from Nigeria and one each from Tunisia, Italy and Ukraine.”
The women’s average age is 30, said a Vatican press statement. “All of them have endured serious physical violence” and are now being protected.
Pope Francis’s visit, the Vatican said, is another call to combat human trafficking, a reality the Pope has described as “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ”. The Pope’s “Mercy Friday” visits are part of his personal observance of the Holy Year of Mercy. While leaders of the communities and structures he is visiting are given some advance notice, there is no publicity and no open press availability. Usually, the Vatican releases a few photographs and sometimes a short video clip.
Since January, the Pope has visited a home for the aged and a home for people in a persistent vegetative state; a community for recovering drug addicts; a refugee centre near Rome and a refugee camp in Greece; a L’Arche community; and a home for sick and aged priests.
Catholics urge eBay to stop sale of sacred relics
An Ohio man is calling for eBay to stop the sale of first-class relics on the site after seeing the bone of a saint being listed for $3,600.
Ryan Scheel, founder and editor of Catholic resource site uCatholic, has launched a petition for eBay to ban “listings of relics containing the mortal remains of the saints”.
It is eBay’s policy that the sale of human body parts, other than human scalp hair, is prohibited, but Scheel said he went on to find “pages and pages” of first-class relics listed, and could find no way of reporting it to the auction site. Scheel, from Cleveland, told EWTN News: “The issue here seems like one of enforcement, and hopefully not ill-will or religious insensitivity.”
The auction site does allow the sale of second- and third-class relics, or first-class relics of objects such as the cross or the shroud of Turin. Scheel added: “eBay should also forbid this out of common respect for the Catholic faith.”
The Code of Canon Law 1190 states it is “absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics”, whether or not they are human remains.
The petition is available at http://ucatholic.com/ebay.
Extra soldiers guard Lourdes
Catholics flocked to Lourdes for the feast of the Assumption on Monday under heavy security amid fears of a terrorist attack.
Armed soldiers and police patrolled the town and sanctuary itself while a helicopter circled overhead. In addition to a heightened security presence, with forces totalling 500, visitors underwent bag checks and had to travel through reduced access points.