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THURSDAY             June 4, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 108

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Events Today in Church History

     For events throughout the centuries that are memorable in Church history today, click on TIME CAPSULES: ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

Historical Events in Church Annals for June 4:

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service



      WASHINGTON, DC ( - The US State Department issued a new report on Tuesday that says the Vatican may have helped Nazis and their allies escape justice after World War Two, saying Vatican resistance to opening records leads to that conclusion.

      Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat oversaw the preparation of the 180-page report that says the US discovered evidence in its classified archives that "senior officials" of the Holy See knowingly used gold stolen from national treasuries and from Holocaust victims to hide Croatian Nazi allies in Italy and help them escape Europe after World War Two.

      The report says no evidence was found that Pope Pius XII knew of the matter, but added that Vatican refusals to open secret archives prevent a definitive answer. The Vatican has refused to open the archives, including on two separate occasions this year when asked by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during meetings with Pope John Paul II in Rome, because they contain sensitive material related to sacramental matters.

      The fascist Ustasha party held power in Croatia during World War Two and murdered at least 700,000 people in concentration camps. The US report says the Vatican "was aware of the killing campaign" but nevertheless "remained supportive" of the Ustasha regime. It adds that the Ustasha had about $80 million in gold, gathered from throughout Europe by the Nazis and routed through secret Swiss bank accounts, at the end of the war.

      In 1944, the Ustasha government began using the money to help senior Ustasha officials flee Croatia to Italy. The report describes the Vatican's College of San Girolamo degli Illirici in Rome as a "center of Ustasha covert activity and a Croatian underground that helped Ustasha refugees and war criminals escape Europe after the war." It also says Father Krunoslav Stefano Dragonovic, who was an Ustasha colonel, led the effort, hiding many Ustashi officials at the college provided them with false identity cards and helping them emigrate illegally to South America.


      PALM BEACH, Florida ( - Bishop Joseph Keith Symons resigned as bishop of Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday after admitting he sexually molested five boys almost 40 years ago.

      Bishop Robert Lynch of the nearby St. Petersburg Diocese was named apostolic administrator of Palm Beach until Pope John Paul II appoints a successor. The current scandal began in recent weeks when a now middle-aged man told his parish priest that he had been molested by Bishop Symons, 65, when he was 13 years old. Bishop Lynch told reporters that Symons had now entered counseling at an undisclosed location and had assured him that he not molested anyone in at least 25 years. The bishop said he wants to believe Symons, but added that pedophiles are often in denial of their actions.

      Bishop Lynch said Bishop Symons had told another priest of his actions at the time, and was told to abstain from alcohol and remain chaste. Bishop Lynch said he did not blame that priest for not forcing Symons to seek help. "Pedophilia wasn't even in the psychological manuals when this abuse happened," Bishop Lynch said. "The old theory was make a good confession and sin no more. We never realized it was a disease."

      Bishop Symons' resignation is the first in the United States by a bishop for pedophilia, but two other bishops have resigned for sexual misconduct in the past decade. Former Santa Fe Archbishop Robert Sanchez resigned after admitting to having had sex with five women and Atlanta Archbishop Eugene Marino left after saying he had a two-year affair with a woman.

      In a related story, the Archdiocese of Boston paid millions to settle claims by alleged victims of a priest accused of sexually molesting dozens of children, the Boston Herald reported on Wednesday.

      The newspaper said the out-of-court settlements, as reported by lawyers for the accusers, range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to less than $50,000. Father John Geoghan, 62, is now retired, but has been accused of molesting more than 50 children over a period of three decades at five parishes. While the plaintiffs had agreed to keep the agreements secret, the Herald said lawyers told them the total cost could reach as high as $10 million, including accusers still filing claims.

      The archdiocese admitted no wrongdoing in any of the cases, but Cardinal Bernard Law apologized in the archdiocesan newspaper on behalf of the Church to sexual abuse victims for being molested by accused priests, saying: "With all my heart I beg forgiveness."


      KIEV ( - Leaders of Ukraine's Orthodox Church on Wednesday called the visit to the country by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano "Catholic expansionism," even as Ukrainian officials said religious tensions remain to high to contemplate a visit by Pope John Paul II.

      The cardinal met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss a possible papal visit and the return of property to Catholics that was confiscated during the Soviet era and given to the Orthodox Church. After Soviet dictator Josef Stalin banned Catholicism in 1946 thousands of priests and laymen were exiled to Siberia but church members continued services in forests and private homes to avoid arrest. After the Soviet collapse in 1991, Catholics and Orthodox have feuded over the return of the property, including churches, as well as the activity of Catholics in perceived Orthodox regions.

      Kuchma's spokesman, Olexander Maydannyk, said remaining tensions prevent any papal visit in the near term. "When this visit will take place, if at all, is too early to say," he said. "Such a visit by the Pope to a country like Ukraine would take long preparation," Maydannyk said. "The Pope takes a very balanced position and doesn't want to upset relations between religions (in Ukraine)." Maydannyk said Ukraine had handed back 1300 properties to the Catholic Church since 1991. "We have given back more to the Catholics than any other confession," he said. He added Kuchma would soon appoint an ambassador to the Vatican to strengthen ties.


      JAKARTA, Indonesia ( - Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili joined leading Indonesian opposition figures on Tuesday in calling on the public to stop condemning former Indonesian President Suharto.

      The 1996 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize said it would be unethical for the country to go on condemning its own former leader, pointing out that Suharto would not have stayed as long as he did but for the support of others holding political power.

      Leaders of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Muslim organization in the country, and the Indonesian Democratic Party have both pleaded for compassion and for the nation to stop haunting the fallen president. In recent weeks, the number of vocal critics of Suharto and his family have been lodging their protests, especially over their lucrative wealth.

      The bishop also called for the removal of elements of the former regime under Suharto's protege, President B.J. Habibie, and added his call for a referendum on East Timor's future. The Indonesian Commission for Human Rights also urged the present government to allow the East Timorese to decide the status of the territory for themselves.

      President Habibie turned away the request, saying mainly Catholic East Timor is integral to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. "There is no need for a referendum. It is Indonesia. And they will enjoy, as the others in Indonesia, the same values and quality of life," Habibie told CNN. "East Timor is an integrated part of the Republic of Indonesia," he said. "We have done more in the last 20 years than the former colonial master has done in the last 400 years." Indonesia invaded the former Portugese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year, in a move not recognized by the United Nations. An active resistance movement continues to fight for Timorese freedom.

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site. CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

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June 4, 1998 volume 9, no. 108   DAILY CATHOLIC