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Saginaw bishop dies after battle with lung cancer

Saginaw, Mich., Oct 16, 2018 / 11:37 am (CNA).- Bishop Joseph Cistone died in his home Tuesday morning, the Diocese of Saginaw has reported.

Local officials told reporters they received a 911 call from the bishop’s home Tuesday morning, adding that first-responders found the bishop dead upon their arrival. The diocese said in a short statement that the bishop had died in his home during the night.

Cistone, 69, announced Feb. 1 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, after undergoing tests for a persistent cough he’d experienced for months.

“The good news is that, since I have never been a smoker, it is a form of lung cancer which is treatable and potentially curable,” Cistone wrote in a February letter to his priests.

He announced at that time that he would undergo a treatment plan involving both chemotherapy and radiation. On Oct. 1 the diocese announced that the cancer had spread to other parts of Cistone's body, and that he had begun an aggressive course of chemotherapy.

Diocesan officials said that the bishop was scheduled to undergo a cancer-related medical procedure today.

Cistone was the sixth bishop of the Saginaw diocese, and was appointed there in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Originally from Pennsylvania, Cistone was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1975, where he also served as auxiliary bishop from 2004-2009.

In March Cistone’s home was raided by police, along with the diocesan chancery and cathedral rectory. Saginaw County’s assistant prosecutor at the time criticized the diocese for failing to cooperate in police investigations.

Police said the raid was executing a search warrant believed to be related to allegations of sexual abuse made against two priests of the diocese. One of those priests, Fr. Robert DeLand, will face a criminal trial next year.

Cistone’s Funeral Mass will be celebrated Oct. 23 at Saginaw's Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption. Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit will preside. The homily will be given by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington.

 

This story was updated Oct. 17 with funeral information.

 

 

Thousands gather in L.A. archdiocese to celebrate St. Oscar Romero

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered in the cathedral on Sunday to celebrate as Oscar Romero was canonized in Rome.

St. Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 14, together with six other new saints. That same day, an estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles for a Mass and celebrations.

Romero, who was the archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s, had been a major voice in defense of human rights for the Salvadorian people, especially during the early stages of the country’s civil war.

Before the liturgy Sunday, Salvadorians performed traditional dancing, while clips of Romero’s recorded homilies and speeches could be heard over the loudspeakers.

The inside the Cathedral was decorated with images and photographs of the newly minted saint, including a picture of Romero during one of his famous radio broadcasts and an image of the 250,000 mourners who attended his funeral at San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Mass was celebrated, in Spanish, by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar. The homily was given by Deacon Ricardo Villacorta, a Salvadorian immigrant who left the country during its civil war.

Saint Oscar Romero was shot while celebrating Mass in March, 1980, during the country’s escalating civil war. Romero was an outspoken critic of political injustice in the country and of the violence affecting the lives of ordinary Salvadorians. 

In a homily the day before he was martyred, Romero admonished soldiers to follow God’s law over the orders of their superiors.

“This was a very brave act: He told soldiers they have to act from their morals, and not just follow directions from their superiors,” said Rich Villacorta, son of Deacon Villacorta and an archdiocesan employee, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Doris Benavides, associate director of media relations for the archdiocese, told CNA that a

majority of the attendees were Salvadorian. She said that after Mass many participants reflected about the difficult years of violence in their home country and spoke of their closeness to the new saint.

“Very touching,” she said. “I think it was one of the most joyous, happy Masses I’ve seen…even when they were reminiscing and talking about the past they were really happy, happy now that they have a saint that…many of them knew, many of them touched.”

The Archdiocese has a large community of Salvadorians, about 200,000 people, said Benavides, noting that some of these people sought refuge in United States during the civil war, had worked with Romero during his time of ministry, and had even received the sacraments from the new saint.

“These are people who were the poor,” she said. “At that time, even when the Church was going through many phases and difficult times [of the war], they felt the presence of their Archbishop.”

Benavides said that Catholic Charities of Los Angeles continued to welcome refugees from El Salvador, and several other countries experiencing political turmoil. She said that although their reasons for seeking asylum may be different, these people had access to legal, housing, and financial help through the help of the archdiocese.

“The war today is hunger, poverty, and organized crime. So people are running away from the country still. They are seeking asylum again, for other reasons.”

Washington archdiocese releases the names of 28 accused clergy

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, the D.C. archdiocese has released the names of 28 former clergy of the archdiocese who had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1948.

Three priests of religious orders who had previously served in archdiocesan parishes or schools were also included in the release.

The posting of the names on the archdiocesan website Oct. 15 marks the first significant act by Cardinal Wuerl as interim administrator of the archdiocese which he led until Friday, and is the culmination of an internal review of archdiocesan files first ordered by Wuerl in 2017.

“This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness,” said Cardinal Wuerl. He also noted that there had not been a credible allegation of abuse of minors against a Washington priest in nearly twenty years.

“Our strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering, but it is also important to note that to our knowledge there has not been an incident of abuse of a minor by a priest of the archdiocese in almost two decades. There is also no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor.”

A press release by the archdiocese underscored the existing safeguarding policies in place in Washington, which include an annual, independently audited report on its child protection work posted on the archdiocesan website and in the Catholic Standard newspaper.  

Kim Viti Fiorentino, Chancellor and General Counsel for the archdiocese, said that while survivors of abuse should remain the first concern of everyone, it was also important that Catholics in the capital’s archdiocese understood the efforts being made to ensure that “there is no safer place for a young person than in an Archdiocese of Washington parish or school.”

The Archdiocese of Washington adopted its first a written child protection policy in 1986, with a Case Review Board operating since 1993. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, the archdiocese has also had a Child Protection Advisory Board with a majority of lay experts as members since 2002.

While the release of the names of credibly accused clergy comes at the end of a year-long process of review, it is final authorization by Cardinal Wuerl as archdiocesan administrator instead of archbishop makes for a conclusion few would have foreseen only months ago.

Ordinarily when a diocese is between bishops and under the care of an administrator the principle of nihil innovator  - nothing new - applies, though in this case Cardinal Wuerl was not so much innovating as bringing to a close work he had already begun.

 

This article has been udated to reflect a clarification by the Archdiocese of Washington made after publication.

Pittsburgh Diocese begins years-long parish consolidation process

Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An interim Mass and confession schedule went into effect Oct. 15 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as the six-county diocese moves to condense its parishes into groups, with the eventual goal of creating new multi-site parishes.

Bishop David Zubik announced in May that the 188 parishes of the Pittsburgh Diocese would be combined into 57 multi-parish groups. After parishioners from each former parish build relationships with each other, each group will become a new parish between 2020 and 2023. Parish groups have been assigned a designation of A, B, or C, with the goal of forming a new parish within two, three, or five years respectively.

A team of clergy, led by a pastor and including parochial vicars, parish chaplains, and deacons, will serve the needs of each parish group during the transition, with retired priests assisting as they are able. The number of Masses available each weekend will depend on the number of priests assigned to each group, since no one priest may celebrate more than three Masses per Sunday according to canon law.

Though Bishop Zubik has not yet specified which church buildings will remain open and which will close, the parish groupings include recommendations for the total number of buildings and priests the group should share. Each new parish could eventually consist of multiple church buildings, but the clergy leaders of each individual group will be ones to make that recommendation to the diocese.

The Pittsburgh Diocese last went through a major restructuring during 1992-94, when the diocese shrank from 333 parishes to 218.

The current consolidation plan is a response to declining Mass attendance overall and the financial struggles of some parishes. Materials provided by the diocese show Mass attendance down nearly 40 percent across the board since 2000.

In addition, the diocese had 338 parish priests in active ministry in 2000, compared with 211 in 2016 and 178 today. The diocese estimates that with priestly retirements and an average of four ordinations per year, the diocese will have just 112 priests by 2025.

The purpose of this restructuring, spokesman Father Nicholas Vaskov said in a statement, is “transitioning from maintenance into ministry and mission”: a shift from pouring resources into church buildings that may not be having success and putting those resources toward ministry and evangelization.

A five-year diocesan planning initiative called “On Mission for the Church Alive!” began in April 2015 with a year of prayer for the whole diocese. Since the second year of the program, over 300 parish consolidation meetings have been held and more than 30,000 religious, clergy and laity have participated and offered input.

The diocese used a list of 21 criteria developed after the meetings to create the parish groups. The criteria specified, among other things, that the parish groups should not exceed one priest per 2,400 Sunday Mass attendees, and that the groupings must allow enough space for new Sunday Mass attendees, and anticipate sustainable growth for the next 20 years. In addition, parishes in dire financial need would not be grouped with other struggling parishes, and nor would affluent parishes be grouped together, unless a sound alternative financial plan is put forward.

The current plan to consolidate was conceived prior to the Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report that uncovered sexual abuse allegations against 300 Pennsylvania priests - including 99 from Pittsburgh - dating back to 1947.

Bishop Zubik told CNA in May that he hopes that this consolidation of communities will be an effective tool for evangelization, generating excitement within the Church and strengthening resources to be used for outreach programs.

“By consolidating the resources of parishes in a grouping, what we’ll do is make sure every parish has all of the programs that it needs to be a parish so every parish will have a religious education program, every parish will have some association with a Catholic school, every parish will have an organized program for reaching out to the poor,” Bishop Zubik said.



Correction 10/16: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the diocese's last major reorganization was between 1989-98 instead of 1992-94 . It has been corrected. 

 

Trump set to pick Catholic lawyer as next White House counsel

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen a Catholic lawyer, Pat Cipollone, to replace White House counsel Donald McGhan. In addition to his professional work, Cipollone serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2004.

According to a Washington Post report published Oct. 13, Cipollone has been informally advising President Trump’s personal lawyers on Robert Müller’s special counsel probe into alleged Russian interference in the last election since June.

While Cipollone’s name has been connected with the position since August, Axios first reported the president’s pick Oct. 13, citing four unnamed government sources familiar with the decision. A White House spokesperson would not confirm the appointment.

When asked to confirm the selection on Saturday, President Trump told reporters that “Pat’s a great guy. I don’t want to say [who has been selected], but he’s a great guy. He’s very talented and he’s a very good man, but I don’t want to say.”

Cipollone is currently a litigation partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, a Washington-based law firm. He specializes in commercial litigation, antitrust and trade regulation, and healthcare fraud.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Cipollone served in the Department of Justice as a counsel to then Attorney-General William P. Barr. Prior to joining his current firm, he worked at the well-known D.C. law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Following a security clearance review, Cipollone could begin his new job within a week, according to the Washington Post. As White House counsel, Cipollone would advise the president, the Executive Office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues involving the executive branch.

Donald McGhan announced in August that he would leave the White House’s top legal post after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone attended Fordham University before earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1991. Cipollone previously served on the Board of Visitors for the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, serving as a counselor to the Dean of the law school. 

Fox News television host Laura Ingraham wrote in a 2007 book that conversations with Cipollone had led her to consider a conversion to the Catholic faith. She also wrote that Cipollone eventually became her godfather.

If his appointment is confirmed, Cipollone will join the list of Catholics in prominent U.S. legal positions. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.