THE SILENT MONKS WHO WILL BE THE STARS OF 2007
Priests ‘stole thousands’ from charity
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January 5, 2007 £1 (Republic of Ireland €1.50)
The bishop who is defying the Vatican to run for president
ACATHOLIC -RUN charity for disabled children in India is in crisis after two priests allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from it. Fr Gali Arulraj, who was director of the British aid agency Enable in India, is in hiding with his nephew – another priest, Fr Vatakili Paulinraj – following reports that both men had been stealing cash to buy houses for Fr Arulraj’s mistresses and children. Enable’s trustees – all Catholics –are now desperately assuring donors that any money they give will be spent helping the handicapped children who, in the words of the local Catholic bishop, have been “abandoned” by the two rogue priests. The charity’s trustees fear the priests could take yet more funds through the illegal sale of Enable’s valuable assets. Indian police are currently investigating the two priests, who have spent some time in custody but are now free on conditional bail while charges are being drawn up. The police informed Enable that Fr Arulraj had attempted to bribe officials. “We think he offered something in the region of £12,000 to £15,000 to local police and local authorities to avoid prison,” said Colin Harte, Enable’s general secretary. “He has been able to get
away with it so far. We want to appeal to the Indian authorities to take proper action. Indian justice is at stake here. “If the authorities don’t punish Arulraj, it could have repercussions beyond that of justice for the children; the confidence of other agencies working in India and other developing countries could be badly affected.” In a letter to Enable supporters, Bishop Pudhota Chinniah Balaswamy, the outgoing bishop of Nellore, said he was “shocked” by Fr Arulraj’s actions. “His subsequent decision to abandon a good number of children in order to protect his own interests also pains me greatly,” he said. “I am sure that we can jointly rectify the defects and restore the heavy damages.” Fr Arulraj is understood to have embezzled Enable’s funds though his own “partner” organisation, the Dayananda Nilayam Society for Social Development (DNSSD). In April last year Enable became aware of what it described on its website as a “serious problem with Fr Arulraj” after the priest refused access to the group’s accounts. Fr Paulinraj, who was secretary and treasurer of the DNSSD, resigned unexpectedly on May 25. Six days later Enable asked Fr Arulraj to step down from his position immediately on suspicion of financial
irregularities. In June Mr Harte made an emergency trip to India, staying in Ongole, southern India. While there he visited the Enable Centre for Disabled Children and found it had been closed and locked up. He learned that children arriving for the beginning of the academic year had been turned away. It also emerged that Fr Arulraj had written to donors in Britain asking for money to be sent to him directly. From his hiding place, Fr Arulraj sent letters to police accusing Enable chiefs of stealing funds and other serious crimes. “This was despicable of him,” said Mr Harte. “He hoped it would distract from the investigation against him.” Local Superintendent Mr N Balasubramaniam had assured Mr Harte that Fr Arulraj and his nephew would be brought to justice before Christmas. However, as The Catholic Herald went to press, charges had still not been filed. Enable chairwoman Alison Davis, voted Catholic Woman of the Year in 2002, said that she was “extremely saddened” by Fr Arulraj’s betrayal. “We understand that he has several mistresses and we believe he has been buying houses for them with Enable money,” she said. “He has betrayed us but more importantly he has betrayed the children that we are trying to help.”
Retired Paraguayan bishop Fernando Lugo Méndez talks during a political meeting in the capital Asunción on December 27 Photo: Empics
APARAGUAYAN bishop is preparing to defy the Vatican by standing in the country’s next presidential election. On Christmas Day Bishop Fernando Lugo Méndez announced his decision to renounce the priesthood in order to run as a presidential candidate in Paraguay’s 2008 election, despite a letter of warning from Rome. According to a recent opinion poll, he is likely to win by a substantial margin. The Paraguayan newspaper La Ultima Hora reported that when he announced his decision the bishop said: “It pains me because I renounce so many of the privileges of my Church which I love but I rejoice because as of today my great cathedral will be the
whole country.” Bishop Lugo Méndez is said to have renounced the priesthood without asking for formal permission from the Vatican, only sending a direct letter to Pope Benedict XVI. While the Vatican has remained silent on the subject of Bishop Lugo Méndez’s public decision, a letter had been sent to him before his announcement. He had received this public admonition, dated December 20, which came from the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. It said that the retired bishop was breaking Canon Law by entering into public life as a politician. If Bishop Lugo Méndez continued to promote himself as a political candidate he
would incur the canonical penalty of suspension as a first sanction, which would prohibit him from any public exercise of the priesthood. Cardinal Re wrote in his letter: “In the name of Christ, I exhort you to seriously consider your behaviour and the ramifications it may have for both you and the Church and I trust in your common sense and your faithfulness to the vocation you have received.” Bishop Ignacio Gogorza, the head of the bishops’ conference of Paraguay, said that Bishop Lugo Méndez had “left” the Church on bad terms, exposing himself to the risk of excommunication. “This will be the case if the Vatican considers it necessary, but as of yet nothing has happened,” Bishop
Gogorza said. “He has received a suspension, but he continues being a bishop.” St Pedro, the former bishop’s diocese, is the poorest in Paraguay. He served as bishop there from 1994 to 2005, when he resigned abruptly. According to a recent poll conducted by ABC Color , one of Paraguay’s largest papers, 47.2 per cent of the public would vote for Bishop Lugo Méndez, compared to 33.7 per cent who would vote for Paraguay’s president Nicanor Duarte Frutos. Latin American politics has seen a shift towards religion in the past months. A recent continent-wide survey showed that 71 per cent of Latin Americans trusted the Church and only 18 per cent trusted political parties.
Pope picks up the phone in defence of the Old Rite
POPEBENEDICTXVI has spoken by telephone to a number of French bishops to persuade them to accept a wider use of the Tridentine Mass, it has been claimed. The Pontiff brought French bishops who oppose the Tridentine Mass “to a reluctant but decisive change of view”, according to the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), an organisation of Old Rite priests that the Pope strongly supports. It is widely expected that a papal document will soon be released to allow priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass –using the pre-Vatican II 1962 Latin Missal –without the explicit permission of the local bishop, though probably only in the low-key setting of a
“private” celebration. The document, which will be released motu proprio , or on the Pope’s own initiative, has caused concern among bishops in France, where traditionalist groups are particularly active. But efforts by the French episcopate to “torpedo” the initiative have failed, according to Videre Petrum , the FSSP’s British newsletter. “It is said that the mild but persuasive words of Pope Benedict, who personally spoke by telephone to many of the most intransigent enemies of tradition among the bishops of France, worked a sort of miracle, and brought them to a reluctant but decisive change of view, or at least to a recognition of the limits of disobedience,” the newsletter said. Cardinal Jorge Medina
Estevez, a former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said last month that the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei commission had discussed the document and would pass on its conclusions to the Pope. The cardinal added that he did not expect the commission, set up in 1988 to oversee Vatican relations with traditionalists, to discuss the document any further. Commentators say priests will be allowed to celebrate the Tridentine Rite without permission at “private Masses” that would be nevertheless be open to the public. The proposed reform would put pressure on the bishops of England and Wales to adopt a more welcoming stance towards the FSSP, which currently has only two priests based in London.
Rambo actor returns to Church
Troops at risk, says Guthrie
Britainʼs most senior Catholic soldier has accused the Government of taking ʻcompletely unacceptableʼ risks with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. P2
‘We need God’
The exclusion of God from society is making people sick with anxiety, the Archbishop of Westminster has said. P3
An English bishop has joined critics of the execution of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. P3
Pope defends right
Benedict XVI has defended the Churchʼs right to speak out on political questions in a wide-ranging speech to the Roman Curia. P5
THEACTOR Sylvester Stallone has returned to the Church and brought his two most famous characters –Rocky and Rambo –with him. Mr Stallone’s change of heart started when his daughter
Sophia was born with a serious heart condition. “When my daughter was born sick, and I realised I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God’s hands, his omnipotence, his allforgivingness,” he told the Catholic News Service. His rediscovered faith informs his latest film, Rocky Balboa . “[Rocky]’s coming in there this way, buoyant, being pushed by a different kind of energy –Jesus energy,” he explained. “At the end of the movie, he points his finger up and shows respect [to Jesus].”
The actor is now working on Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra , the latest in the popular, but notoriously violent, Rambo series. “It’s also a Christian movie,” Mr Stallone insisted. “Rambo is a borderline atheist. His job is to bring a group of Christians upriver into a very hostile territory, and they’re there to bring the word of God and medicine and dentistry to these natives. “They get captured, and ... he starts getting influenced by their faith in the face of such incredible odds. I think it may work.”
‘That’s what they mean by the rocky road to salvation’
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On your bike, Sister!
reach out to
off from the
Now young people are hearing the Gospel
message that is so vital to their lives.
“We need to encourage the young people to
respond to God’s call,” one Sister told ACN.
Would you be willing to help Sisters to get
on their bike and proclaim the Good News?
A gift of just £30 from 30 people will make
all the difference. (*Name changed)
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