RNS News Briefs
Sex abuse survivors slam Pope Francis’ picks for crisis panels
By JOSEPHINE MCKENNA
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis’ decision to appoint two U.S. priests to key positions aimed at tackling the Vatican’s sex abuse crisis drew an angry response from abuse victims.
In the shake-up the Rev. Robert Geisinger, a canon lawyer previously based in Chicago, was named chief prosecutor responsible for abuse cases. He replaces his U.S. colleague, the Rev. Robert Oliver, who was named to the Vatican’s anti-abuse commission, created by Francis last year.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who organized the pope’s first meeting with victims of abuse from England, Ireland and Germany at the Vatican in July, has now been confirmed as president of that commission.
Oliver, a Boston priest and canon lawyer, worked on the explosive abuse crisis in his own archdiocese before being appointed as the Vatican’s promoter of justice last year. He is expected to work with O’Malley as he seeks to add new members to the commission from Asia and Africa.
The appointment of both Geisinger and Oliver was slammed by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which claimed both had failed to do enough to stop abuse while they were in the U.S.
Oliver’s appointment to O’Malley’s commission provoked an angry response from abuse victims who said the pope needed to adopt far “bolder measures.”
“The pope has just promoted a priest from Boston with a disappointing track record,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director, in a statement.
“For a pontiff who shows boldness in other areas, when it comes to abuse, he moves very slowly and timidly. Bolder measures are needed.”
Geisinger comes from the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus and has been serving in Rome since 2001 as the chief in-house canonical adviser to the Jesuit superior general in Rome.
His role will be similar to a prosecuting attorney, charged with investigating canon law offences, including clerical abuse allegations, and monitoring procedures adopted by bishops’ conferences.
Vatican: Pope Francis not under threat from Islamic State militants
By JOSEPHINE MCKENNA
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis faces no specific threat from Islamic State militants and will not be adding extra security measures on his one-day trip to Albania next week, the Vatican said Sept 15.
The Vatican’s chief spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said despite recent “worrying” events that had shocked the world, there was no specific threat to the 77-year-old pontiff as he prepared for his official visit to the majority Muslim country on Sept. 21.
Lombardi said Francis would use the same open-topped vehicle he uses to greet crowds in St. Peter’s Square when he travels to the Albanian capital, Tirana.
“There is no reason to change the pope’s itinerary,” Lombardi said. “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”
Lombardi’s low-key approach reflects the Vatican’s overall handling of Francis’ security on trips outside the Vatican, including downplaying concerns that Francis was a target for organized crime bosses during recent trips to the heart of Italy’s Mafia country.
Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See, Habeeb Al Sadr, warned there was no doubt the pope was one of the prime targets for Islamic State militants. Italian media have also published unconfirmed reports that Albanian security services were concerned about the pontiff’s safety.
“We know very well how these terrorists think,” Al Sadr told the daily Il Mattino. “Their objectives are known. I would not exclude (the possibility) that ISIS will come to strike him.”
Francis is scheduled to travel to Tirana for an intense day of activities that includes celebrating Mass in Mother Teresa Square and meeting Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in a bid to build greater interfaith dialogue.
“There is no particular reason for concern,” Lombardi added. “Of course we are all worried over news about ISIS and the situation in the Middle East, but there are no risks or specific threats.”
Lombardi said Francis wanted to visit Albania to highlight the rebirth of Christianity and martyrs who died for their faith under communist rule, and to bring attention to how Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims were working together to govern the country.
St. John Paul II was the first pope to travel to Albania in 1993, and Lombardi said he re-established the Catholic hierarchy by ordaining four bishops during his voyage.