1. On Cloudy Day, Pope Extols the Bright Civic Lights in Latvia.

By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, September 25, 2018, Pg. A6

In a daylong visit to Latvia on Monday, Pope Francis recalled the past suffering of Latvians, who preserved their faith during decades of Nazi and Soviet occupation, even as he cautioned against the return of isolationist sentiments that are re-emerging throughout Europe.

Thousands of faithful attended the rain-drenched Mass at Latvia’s most important Catholic shrine, a highly anticipated event in a four-day trip to the Baltics. The basilica’s venerated icon of the Mother of God was moved outdoors for the event, which was held in a square created when Pope John Paul II visited Aglona in 1993, when Latvia was a fledgling republic.

Meeting with older adults in St. James’s Cathedral in Riga, the capital, later in the morning, the pope acknowledged that some had experienced “the horror of war, then political repression, persecution and exile.”

“Neither the Nazi regime nor the Soviet regime could extinguish the faith in your hearts,” he said. “You fought the good fight. You ran the race. You kept the faith.”


2. China’s Aim in Vatican Deal: A Vise on Christians.

By Ian Johnson, The New York Times, September 25, 2018, Pg. A1

Over the last two years, China’s estimated 60 million Christians have felt the power of a newly assertive government eager to bring their faith to heel.

The authorities have demolished hundreds of Protestant churches, knocking crosses off steeples and evicting congregations. Roman Catholics have faced similar measures, but the government took a different approach this past weekend, striking a diplomatic deal that Vatican officials said was a historic breakthrough — the first formal acknowledgment by Beijing of the pope’s authority in Catholic churches in China.

Beijing’s goal in the agreement, however, appears to be the same as with the church demolitions: greater control over the rapid spread of Christianity, which gained a permanent presence in China in the 16th century.

“We’re at a turning point,” said Ying Fuk-tsang, the director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “The administration feels that the government had been too lax in the past and now wants to increase the pressure.”

Under the agreement signed on Saturday, Pope Francis recognized the legitimacy of seven bishops appointed by Beijing in exchange for a say in how future Chinese bishops are named.

The ruling Communist Party sees the compromise with the Vatican as a step toward eliminating the underground churches where Chinese Catholics who refuse to recognize the party’s authority have worshiped for generations. With the pope now recognizing all bishops and clergy members in the official Catholic churches approved and controlled by the party, the underground church may have no reason to exist.


3. Report finds over 3,600 sex abuse cases within Germany’s Catholic Church.

By Luisa Beck and Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, September 25, 2018, Pg A9

A report to be released Tuesday documents the sexual abuse of more than 3,600 people by 1,670 clergy members within Germany’s Catholic Church over a period of 68 years — and even those numbers probably underestimate the scale of the problem, the authors say. 

Abuse of that magnitude constitutes one of the largest Catholic Church scandals in Europe. But at the same time, it is not altogether surprising to many church watchers. Evidence of widespread abuse and its coverup has been found in every jurisdiction that has launched an investigation. Australia, Chile and several U.S. states are part of the growing list. 

The German report, commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference and conducted by researchers from three German universities, provides a snapshot not only of abuse but of the trauma and isolation faced by victims long afterward. 


4. After Summer of Revelations, Cardinal Wuerl Faces Tattered Legacy, Future in the Balance.

By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, September 24, 2018

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, his angular face gaunt with fatigue and strain, returned to the pulpit at the close of a Sunday Mass in early September and offered a plea for forgiveness, and a call to spiritual renewal.

“Any successful purification of our Church is going to require an engagement of the bishops working with our lay people,” Cardinal Wuerl told parishioners at the Church of the Annunciation in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 2.

But his remarks were cut short, as a man stood up and called out sharply, “Shame on you!”

The painful scene was a reminder that Cardinal Wuerl’s moral credibility may be irreparably damaged in the wake of the removal of his disgraced predecessor, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after allegations surfaced June 20 that he had abused a minor in the 1970s, with subsequent revelations that at least three other allegations involving adult seminarians and a priest had been brought forward in the early 2000s. Cardinal Wuerl said he had no previous knowledge of the accusations which didn’t involve the Washington archdiocese, but media commentators dismissed his explanation, citing long-standing rumors as well as online documents from a psychologist who heard from seminarians about McCarrick’s misbehavior.

Skepticism has steadily spread, as a tumultuous summer brought more scandalous accusations, and a chorus of calls for the Washington archbishop’s resignation even from his priests. Now, Cardinal Wuerl, 77, is expected to meet Pope Francis soon where he will raise the subject of his resignation for the second time this summer. As all bishops are required to do, he submitted his resignation upon turning 75.