JESUS' TOMB: After nine months of restoration work the tomb where Jesus is believed to be have been interred has been re-opened to the public.
About 50 scientists and restoration experts have been working to reinforce the masonry and conserve the site, located in Jerusalem’s Old City at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations share custody of the church, though they have often fought over control.
The project cost $5.3 million.The shrine was last rebuilt in 1810.
PLEA TO TRUMP: The United States mustn’t cut foreign aid while conflicts, famines and a worldwide refugee crisis rage, Catholic leaders are insisting in the wake of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to foreign assistance.
“We’re just extremely concerned that the resources won’t be there to respond to those really critical humanitarian needs,” Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services.
Trump’s proposed budget increases defence spending and immigration enforcement, but includes cutting the International Affairs budget by 29 per cent. Congressional leaders were sent a letter signed by 106 faith leaders supporting the department’s budget.
EXORCISTS WANTED: There is an alarming increase in demonic activity being reported by those who work in exorcism ministry, said the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and demand for exorcists is outpacing supply.
Fr. Vincent Lampert, who has been an exorcist since 2005, said he sees an increasing number of people involved in Satanic rituals. “The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it,” Lampert said. He pointed to rampant pornography, illegal drugs use and the occult.
Actual demonic possessions are rare, however. “I’ve only seen three possessions in the last three years, but there is also infestation, vexation and obsession,” Lampert said. The International Association of Exorcists has about 400 members around the world.
CAIRO VISIT: Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from Egypt’s president and top religious leaders to visit Cairo April 28-29.
The visit will be the Pope’s 18th trip abroad in his four years as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the second pope to visit Egypt after St. John Paul II in 2000.
ABUSE AWARD: The Archdiocese of Edmonton has been awarded a three-year accreditation by the international abuse risk management company Praesidium in recognition of achieving the highest standards in abuse prevention. Since 2010, the archdiocese has worked with the U.S.-based Praesidium to promote safe environments in its parishes and institutions. Approximately 12,000 priests, deacons, seminarians, staff and lay volunteers in the archdiocese have received training in abuse awareness and prevention.
DEATH PENALTY: The Church in the Philippines continues to oppose the death penalty that’s expected to be reinstated. The bill to reinstate it after 11 years passed the Philippine House on March 7 and is expected to be approved by the Senate. This latest version specifically targets drug crimes.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, lamented that the lower House “has given its consent for the state to kill.”
“We, your bishops, are overcome with grief, but we are not defeated nor shall we be silenced,” Villegas said. “In the midst of Lent we prepare to celebrate the triumph of life over death, and while we grieve that the lower House has voted for death, our faith assures us that life will triumph,” he said.
So far in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” more than 7,000 people have been killed in both police operations and unexplained killings of alleged drug offenders. Currently, drug offenses carry sentences ranging from 12 years to life in prison, along with fines.
MIGRANT CAMPAIGN: The Mexican bishops have launched a #elmigranteesundon (the migrant is a gift) campaign on social media to show their dissatisfaction with the immigration policy of U.S. President Donald Trump. Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, auxiliary bishop of Monterrey, called on Mexicans “to protect the dignity of migrants not just with economic resources, but also with time and actions they can take within their different spheres.”
The bishop warned that Trump’s immigration policy, especially its deportations, will cause families and communities to be separated.
HOME CONDEMNED: In separate homilies delivered March 12, two Irish archbishops condemned the actions of the Mother and Baby home in the Galway town where graves containing the remains of 796 infants and children were found earlier this month.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin called for a full investigation into practices at the Tuam home which was run by the Bon Secours order of nuns. The children reportedly died of natural causes between 1925 and 1961.
“It is not something that can be wallpapered over or interpreted by clever spin-doctors,” he said.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam also call for a wider investigation by the Commission of Inquiry that confirmed the deaths and apologized “for the hurt caused by the failings of the Church.”
SNAPCHAT SHARES: A Catholic high school in California can put car washes and other fundraising on the back burner for a while. The private school has stepped into a $24 million (US) windfall thanks to a $15,000 investment it made a few years ago with Snap Inc., the company that developed the messaging app Snapchat.
“The school’s investment in Snap has matured and given us a significant boost,” Simon Chiu, president of St. Francis High School in Mountain View said in a letter to parents posted on its website that announced the news it sold 1.4 million shares when Snap Inc. went public March 2.
The “significant boost” will be used for financial aid, professional development, teacher training and funding of school programs.
The idea to invest in the app came from parent and venture capitalist Barry Eggers, who convinced members of the school’s investment fund to join his company, Lightspeed, in making an investment with Snap Inc.
VATICAN RESIGNATION: One of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has quit over what she described as resistance from the Church’s governing body, the Roman Curia, against implementing recommendations.
Marie Collins, who joined the commission when it was established in 2014, said: "The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world is unacceptable."
"It is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults," she said in an editorial published March 1 by the National Catholic Reporter.
Pope Francis created the commission to advise him with recommendations on best practices for protecting minors and vulnerable adults in the church. "However, despite the Holy Father approving all the recommendations made to him by the commission, there have been constant setbacks," Collins said in a statement.
"This has been directly due to the resistance by some members of the Vatican Curia to the work of the commission. The lack of cooperation, particularly by the dicastery most closely involved in dealing with cases of abuse, has been shameful," she said.
Collins said the commission's template of safeguarding guidelines was never sent out to the world's bishops' conferences for helping them craft or improve their own policies, nor was a recommended judicial section implemented, despite papal approval.