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Legionaires 'relieved' by Vatican visitation

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Although news of a Vatican inquest rarely brings comfort to its target, several sources close to the Legionaries of Christ, both in the United States and in Rome, say the dominant reaction within the embattled religious order to the announcement of a Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation has been relief.

“Collectively, we’re thrilled this is happening,” one Legionary priest told NCR. “Our view is, the sooner the better.”

Facing mounting calls for either a major overhaul of the order or its outright suppression, these sources said, at least some Legionaries have come to see an independent Vatican investigation as the lone “exit strategy” from their recent woes, potentially allowing the order to move forward despite being forced to admit serious misconduct by its founder, and despite a long history of denying that misconduct.
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Vatican orders visitation of Legionaires of Christ

Vatican orders visitation of Legionaries of Christ

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican has ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order's late founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.
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tThe announcement of the unusual investigation was posted on the Web site of the Legionaries of Christ March 31, along with the text of a letter informing the Legionaries of the pope's decision.

Condemned by pope, witchcraft a reality in Africa

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In Angola yesterday, Benedict XVI stressed social issues readily familiar to Western audiences, such as poverty, war, and human rights. Today, however, the pope turned to another burning concern across much of Africa, albeit one that can seem exotic to foreign ears: Witchcraft.

Many Africans, the pope said, “are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment, they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers.”

Benedict called upon Catholics to “to proclaim that Christ has triumphed over death and all those occult powers.”

The pope made the remarks during a Mass for bishops, priests, religious and catechists at São Paulo Church in Luanda, the Angolan capital.

For many in the Western world, “witchcraft” may seem a benign form of New Age spirituality; the chaplain’s handbook for the U.S. military recognizes “Wicca,” a modern form of witchcraft, as a legitimate religious practice.

Across Africa, however, things look very different. The working assumption is that magical powers are real, but they’re demonic – a conviction that can have devastating consequences.

Accent on 'peace, fraternity' sets tone for Angola

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Pope Benedict XVI is notoriously a study in contrast with his extroverted predecessor, John Paul II. One vintage John Paul touch was to play his own biography, as a son of Poland whose youth straddled the Nazi occupation and the rise of Communism, like a musical instrument. That's something Benedict has long been reluctant to do, even though his own experience under the Nazis was, in many ways, equally dramatic.

Today in Angola, however, Benedict XVI had what can only be described as a "John Paul moment."

Aware that he was speaking to a country that experienced a civil war from independence in 1975 to 2002, leaving an estimated 500,000 people dead, Benedict reached into his own past to connect.

"I come from a country where peace and fraternity are dear to the hearts of all its people -- in particular those, like myself, who have known war and division between family members from the same nation, as a result of inhuman and destructive ideologies. Under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, [they] caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people," he said during an arrival ceremony at the Luanda airport.

Pope: African Catholics can transform society

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Yaoundè, Cameroon
In Cameroon today, Benedict XVI seemed infected with an ad extra spirit, concentrating on how the gospel message can transform the broader culture. He delivered a largely outward-looking message during his open-air Mass before an enthusiastic crowd of 40,000 at a downtown sports stadium in Yaoundè, then visiting the Cardinal Paul Emile Léger Rehabilitation Centre to express solidarity with a group of disabled and ill people.

Pope to Muslims: 'Religion rejects all violence'

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Yaoundè, Cameroon
For a sound-bite sense of the point Pope Benedict XVI wanted to make in his meeting with 22 African Muslims, think of it this way: A shorter version of Regensburg, without the poke in the eye.

Regensburg, of course, refers to the pope’s famous 2006 address at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, in which he took up the relationship between reason and faith. Reason shorn of faith, he suggested, becomes skepticism and nihilism, which is the typical pathology of the West; faith divorced from reason, meanwhile, becomes fundamentalism and intolerance, which one sees in some currents in the Islamic world.

That carefully reasoned argument, however, was overshadowed by how the pope began. He opened the Regensburg address with a citation from a 14th century Byzantine emperor, to the effect that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, “brought things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” That line triggered a firestorm of protest in the Islamic world, and in some ways the Vatican has been in damage-control mode ever since.

Pope demands halt to sexual, financial scandals

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Yaoundè, Cameroon
On a day in which his focus turned largely to the inner life of the church, Pope Benedict XVI indirectly, yet unmistakably, demanded a halt to financial and sexual scandals that have recently tarnished the image of Catholicism in Africa, a continent that is otherwise perhaps the most compelling “good news” story for the church in the world in light of dramatic 20th century growth.

Speaking to the bishops of Cameroon, the pope called for greater oversight of priests and religious.

“I urge you to be especially vigilant regarding the faithfulness of priests and consecrated persons to the commitments made at their ordination or entry into religious life,” Benedict told the bishops in a meeting in Christ the King Church in Tsinga, outside the national capital of Yaoundè.

“The authenticity of their witness requires that there be no dichotomy between what they teach and the way they live each day,” the pope said.

While welcoming the bumper crop of candidates for the priesthood in Cameroon, the pope urged bishops to exercise “serious discernment” to ensure that future priests are “mature and balanced men.”

Cameroon bishop backs pope on condoms

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Seen through Western eyes, the Catholic church in Africa often presents an intriguing mix of deep conservatism on some issues – especially sexual morality – and remarkably progressive views on other matters, such as economic justice, peace, and the environment. Cameroon’s Bishop George Nkubo, who heads the mostly English-speaking Kumbo diocese in the country’s northwest, illustrates that mix. Commenting on day one of Pope Benedict XVI’s first voyage to Africa, Nkubo strongly backed the pope’s line on condoms and AIDS, insisting that in his rural diocese, the easy availability of condoms encourages promiscuity and a false sense of invulnerability. Only personal conversion, he argued, including sexual self-discipline, offers a long-term solution to the AIDS crisis. Yet in almost the same breath, Nkubo called upon the church in Cameroon, and across Africa, to be more outspoken in its ‘option for the poor’ and its resistance to oppression. He also said that any bishop who does not offer concrete witness to solidarity with the poor is ‘failing in his duties.’Nkubo was among the bishops on hand to greet Benedict XVI this afternoon in Yaoundè, Cameroon’s capital.

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July 18-31, 2014

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