Regensburger Domspatzen performing May 18, 2013. Father Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is accused of turning a blind eye to abuse during his time running the prestigious choir. Photo by JouWatch via Flickr []

Choir school abuse, famine relief, officials charged: News and Notes

  • July 25, 2017

News and notes from around the Catholic world as collected by The Catholic Register.

CHOIR SCHOOL ABUSE: More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator.

Former students of the Domspatzen choir school, which had been run for decades by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of retired Pope Benedict XVI, reported that the physical, emotional and even sexual abuse made life there like “a prison, hell and a concentration camp,” said Ulrich Weber, the lawyer leading the investigation of claims of abuse that first arose in 2010.

A “culture of silence” among church leaders and members allowed such abuse to continue for decades, Weber said in the report released July 19.

The investigation found that at least 547 former members of the Regensburg Domspatzen boys choir were subjected to some form of abuse. Of those victims, 67 students were victims of sexual violence.

The 440-page report, which spanned the years between 1945 and the early 1990s, found highly plausible accusations against 49 members of the church of inflicting the abuse, with nine of them accused of being sexual abusive.

Ratzinger, who led the boys’ choir between 1964 and 1994, apologized in 2010 to victims at his former school, even though he said he had been unaware of the alleged incidents.

In the report, Weber sharply criticized Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was bishop of Regensburg from 2002 until 2012.

FAMINE RELIEF: An interfaith donation blitz on behalf of 20 million people threatened with famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen has resulted in $3.8 million headed overseas in the name of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Between March 17 and June 30 Canadians gave $2.5 million to Development and Peace, of which $1.3 million is eligible for matching funds from the Government of Canada’s Famine Relief Fund. Add up the matched and unmatched funds and it comes to $3.8 million.

Development and Peace efforts got a boost on June 7 when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joined forces with Muslims, Jews and others to launch Pray, Give, Speak Out, a campaign to raise as much money as possible before a June 30 deadline for matching funds.

OFFICIALS CHARGED: Two former top Vatican hospital officials have been charged with embezzling more than 420,000 euros for ”completely non-institutional ends.”

Giuseppe Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Massimo Spina, the former treasurer, are accused of an illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation to pay Gianantonio Bandera, an Italian contractor, to refurbish an apartment belonging to Vatican City State. The apartment was used as the residence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

The indictment said Profiti and Spina used the money “to benefit Gianantonio Bandera’s company.” Payments were made to contractor between November 2013 and May 2014.

PELL FACES ABUSE CHARGES: Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest rasnking officials at the Vatican, is scheduled to appear in an Australian court July 18 to face sexual abuse charges.

“I’m looking forward finally to having my day in court,” the 76-year-old Australian cardinal said June 29. “I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Pope Francis has granted Pell a leave of absence from his position as the Vatican’s treasurer so that he can work on his defence.

Without giving specifics about the number of charges or the incidents, police said Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offenses from multiple complainants.

QUEBEC HIKES FUNDS: Quebec churches will collect $12 million this year from the provincial government’s Quebec Religious Heritage Corporation, a $2-million increase over 2016.

The extra money from the government will be split among 64 church buildings, two organs and five works of art. The biggest winner is Christ Church Anglican, which gets $500,000 to help with restoration of its bell tower. Montreal’s Mary Queen of the World Basilica collects $400,000 for the restoration of a surrounding wall. The Visitation Church in Montreal gets $340,000 for its interior.

RADIO DIRECTOR: Radio Maria Canada has appointed Fr. Charles Michael Grech as director to continue the work of producing Canadian Catholic programming in English and Italian for the online radio platform.

Grech took over over from Fr. Augusto Menichelli on July 1.

“I am thrilled to work with the volunteers and staff who earnestly put all their energy to ensure the station runs smoothly and provides our listeners with a needed ministry,” said Grech. “Spreading hope and the Gospel is more important than ever.”

Radio Maria Canada (, part of World Family of Radio Maria, was founded in 1995.

PRIEST DEFROCKED: Pope Francis has defrocked an Italian priest who was found guilty of child sex abuse, three years after overturning predecessor Benedict XVI’s decision to do the same after allegations against the priest first came to light.

Mauro Inzoli, 67, was initially defrocked in 2012 after he was accused of abusing minors, but Francis reversed that decision in 2014, ordering the priest to stay away from children and retire to “a life of prayer and humble discretion.” The Diocese of Crema released a statement June 28 saying the Pope had made a “definitive ruling” that Inzoli should be dismissed from clerical duties.

CONGO VIOLENCE: More than 3,300 people have been killed in Congo’s Kasai region in fighting between the army and rebels since October, according to a report from Catholic leaders in the region.

Church sources also said that 20 villages had been destroyed, half of them by government troops.

In all, 3,383 people died in clashes in the region, the June 20 statement said. The number contrasts with UN reports that have put the number of dead at about 400. The UN announced June 23 it was launching an investigation into the killings and reported atrocities.

The office of the papal nuncio in Kinshasa sent a note to the Vatican’s Fides news agency stating that two bishops have been forced to flee the violence. As well, 60 parishes, 34 religious houses and 141 schools were closed or damaged, and 31 Catholic health facilities were also affected.

The violence was triggered by the death of a local leader at the hands of police in Kasai in August.

SOUTH SUDAN AID: A month after security concerns forced postponement of a papal trip to war-torn South Sudan, Pope Francis has pledged about $650,000 (Cdn) in aid.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, health care and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” initiative.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Peter Turkson said.

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