Category Archives: News and Views

Catholics invited to make pilgrimage in Dante’s footsteps in anniversary year

A guide to Dante’s Walk, a 235-mile route from Ravenna to Florence in Italy. / Terre di Mezzo.

Ravenna, Italy, Nov 11, 2021 / 04:20 am (CNA).

The poet Dante famously traveled through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in his masterpiece the “Divine Comedy.” Now, Catholics have a chance to follow in his footsteps — his earthly ones, that is.

Dante’s Walk is a 235-mile route that takes pilgrims from the Byzantine splendor of the city of Ravenna, northern Italy, to the Renaissance magnificence of Florence — and back again.

The pilgrim path’s 20 stages are set out in detail in a new Italian guidebook, written by Marcello Bezzi, Silvia Rossetti, and Massimiliano Venturelli, coinciding with the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death.

“Ravenna and Florence are, in fact, the two symbolic cities of Dante, of his youth, his formation, his political life, and his death,” Venturelli told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.

“It is precisely in these two cities that the deep soul of the poet is contained. We can still breathe it in some alleys and places that have remained intact over the centuries.”

“And it is in these two cities that we wanted to build two city itineraries, thanks to which it is possible to visit and admire the places that characterized the life and formation of Dante Alighieri.”

Pilgrims begin at Dante’s tomb in Ravenna, where the poet died in 1321. They then set out on foot, mountain bike, or even horseback for the next stop in Pontevico, a municipality in the province of Lombardy.

In the following days, they pass through countryside teeming with medieval villages and castles, before arriving at Dante’s House Museum in Florence, the city where the poet was born in around 1265.

The house is close to the church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi, where Dante first saw Beatrice Portinari, widely identified as the muse who inspired his 1294 work “La Vita Nuova” and guided the poet through Paradise in the third and final part of the “Divine Comedy.”

Pilgrims then turn back towards Ravenna, taking a different country route.

Dante portrait by Domenico di Michelino. .  Jim Forest (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Dante portrait by Domenico di Michelino. . Jim Forest (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The association Il Cammino di Dante recommends that travelers prepare carefully for the journey. It encourages pilgrims to book accommodation three weeks before departure and two months ahead in the peak months of July and August.

It advises hikers to carry a backpack weighing no more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds), including a sleeping bag, camping mat, utility knife, sunscreen, water, and energy bars.

A “Year of Dante,” which lasts throughout 2021, was launched in Ravenna on Sept. 5, 2020, in the presence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The year is being marked by events throughout Italy.

Pope Francis said on Oct. 10, 2020, that the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death should inspire people to rediscover the “Divine Comedy.”

Speaking to a delegation from the Archdiocese of Ravenna-Cervia, the pope announced that he was preparing “a more extensive reflection” on the leading poet of the late Middle Ages to be released in 2021.

The pope said he hoped that teenagers, in particular, would engage with the “Divine Comedy,” widely regarded as the greatest poem in the Italian language.

He said: “It may seem, at times, as if these seven centuries have opened up an unbridgeable distance between us, men and women of the postmodern and secularized age, and him, the extraordinary exponent of a golden age of European civilization. And yet something tells us that it is not the case.”

“Teenagers, for instance — even those of today — if they have the opportunity to encounter Dante’s poetry in a way that is accessible to them, find, on the one hand, inevitably, a great distance from the author and his world, and yet, not the other, they perceive a surprising resonance.”

The Vatican City State Mint issued a color collector coin featuring Dante last month.

Asked to name the highlights of Dante’s Walk, Venturelli said: “Certainly not to be missed are the stages passing through the Casentino [valley], and I refer to Campaldino, Poppi, Porciano, Romena and the Hermitage of Camaldoli, inextricably linked to Dante’s life from 1289 onwards.”

Raymond Arroyo’s ‘The Spider Who Saved Christmas’ book tour announced

Raymond Arroyo Christmas tour 2021 / Sophia Institute Press

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 8, 2021 / 18:09 pm (CNA).

EWTN host Raymond Arroyo is scheduled to begin a book-signing tour in Tampa, Florida, Nov. 13 to promote his new children’s book, “The Spider Who Saved Christmas.”

Raymond Arroyo Christmas tour 2021. Sophia Institute Press
Raymond Arroyo Christmas tour 2021. Sophia Institute Press

A New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Barnes & Noble bestseller, the book, illustrated by Randy Gallego, tells the forgotten legend of how Christmas tinsel was first spun. According to the book’s publisher, Sophia Institute Press, “This endearing retelling of the Nativity and flight into Egypt provides readers with an intimate and suspenseful look at the Holy Family and invites them to enter into the narrative like never before.”

Arroyo, host of EWTN’s “The World Over” news program since 1996 and a frequent contributor to Fox News, will appear at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 11802 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa at 5 p.m. EST.

His book tour also includes stops in Mesa, Arizona (Nov. 22); The Villages, Florida (Dec. 4); Dallas (Dec. 5); New Orleans (Dec. 11), and Houston (Dec. 18.)

Arroyo’s previous books include his bestselling biography of EWTN founder Mother Angelica, “Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles,” and the Will Wilder adventure series.

Virginia youth leader arrested on sexual battery charges

null / Carl Ballou / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 7, 2021 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

A child’s tip led police to arrest a Catholic youth leader in McLean, Virginia, on nine counts of aggravated sexual battery on Nov. 1.

Antonio Pérez-Alcalá, 75, is accused of sexually assaulting minors while serving as a local leader for Secular Institute Stabat Mater, a program dedicated to the “formation of young people toward integrating the spiritual with the secular” through Ignatian spiritual exercises with Marian devotion. Authorities say Pérez-Alcalá ran the group from his home until a child revealed to an adult that he was sexually assaulted by a leader there.

Since the investigation began, police say they have identified at least one other victim, authorities said. 

“Juveniles attended private mentoring sessions, often in Perez-Alcala’s bedroom,” according to Fairfax County Police. “The victim was sexually assaulted during the private sessions.”

While executing a search warrant Monday evening, officials seized items including tech devices, photographs, and a crucifix.

According to police, Pérez-Alcalá has held positions in the local community with access to youth since the mid-1990s. He also worked with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington from 1994 to 2008.

“This is the first time the Diocese has been made aware of complaints or allegations against Mr. Pérez-Alcalá,” the diocese said in a statement.

In addition to volunteering at Good Shepherd Parish, All Saints Parish, and St. Veronica Parish, Pérez-Alcalá also served as the diocesan Hispanic youth director before retiring in 2008, the diocese said.

As an employee and volunteer, Pérez-Alcalá agreed to routine criminal background checks and received training on the prevention and reporting of abuse, the diocese added. 

The diocese said Secular Institute Stabat Mater is a “non-diocesan Catholic entity that serves the Hispanic community throughout the Diocese.”

Both the diocese and police detectives request that anyone with further information contact officials, either at the Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3, or the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131. 

Loyola Marymount student restarts pro-life group after Planned Parenthood fundraiser

Students, Jesuits, and faculty taking part in the rosary rally held on LMU’s campus in response to the university’s refusal to cancel the Women in Politics club’s Planned Parenthood fundraiser. / Photo courtesy of Megan Glaudini

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 6, 2021 / 17:26 pm (CNA).

When Loyola Marymount University student Megan Glaudini heard that her university was not stopping an on campus fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, she felt “convicted” that she needed to do something. 

“Upon hearing about the Planned Parenthood fundraiser on campus, originally, I was just completely disgusted and embarrassed and, and disappointed that the university would allow this to happen,” she told CNA in a phone call Nov. 6.

“I took a while to kind of discern what I really wanted to do, what kind of action would even make a difference, and I really felt convicted and like I needed to do something,” she said.

That “something” turned out to be resurrecting the long time, inactive pro life group, and planning a rosary rally before the Planned Parenthood fundraiser.

After meeting with an official in the university and many meetings, phone calls, and emails with students, Glaudini decided, “two days before the event,” to resurrect the campus ministry’s VITA program. 

VITA, a latin word meaning “life,” is the “respect life” student group at LMU.

Leading VITA along with her friend, Andrew DiCrisi, Glaudini planned a rosary on the corner of Lincoln and LMU Drive on campus. 

Glaudini, a Junior theology major at LMU, told CNA the purpose of the rosary was to “emphasize the spreading of love.” Some groups on campus were making things political, she said, but her intent was to stand up for “human dignity and the right to life.”

“I just feel like it’s my job here on this earth and especially on this campus to uphold the dignity and the values of my faith,” she said. “And that’s exactly what I thought I would be doing if we created this group and we’re able to pray this rosary together.”

The student group, Women in Politics, hosted the fundraiser Nov. 5 in Roski Dining Hall. The club described the event on an online university calendar as “an opportunity for us to raise money for a cause we really care about and have fun at the same time!”

In a Nov. 3 statement, the university told CNA that it is neither sponsoring nor endorsing the event.

Glaudini’s rosary rally pulled in over 20 people including faculty, Jesuit priests on campus, and students. 

She told CNA that “everyone was just very grateful that we had put this on because here on campus, it feels like the Catholic population is just diminishing and with that goes our values and our dignity.” 

“The professors and some of the professional staff really told me how refreshed they felt after what we have created because they felt like Catholic students wouldn’t care on campus that this Planned Parenthood fundraiser was happening, but we proved them wrong,” she said.

Glaudini said that the students who took part in the rosary rally were “so thankful” that they found other people on campus with like-minded values. 

After the on-campus fundraiser was originally announced, it triggered a petition drive by an organization called RenewLMU that called on University President Timothy Law Snyder to cancel the event, which he did not. The group describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”

Loyola Marymount graduate Samantha Stephenson, who led the petition drive for RenewLMU, told CNA: “A Catholic university should honor and defend the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, at the heart of which is the principle of human dignity.”

The petition garnered approximately 1,800 people signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

The Catholic school’s fundraising event received a lot of media attention, to which the school responded on Friday before the event took place:

“The event being held this evening by Women in Politics, an independent student organization, is neither sponsored nor endorsed by LMU. The university does not support, nor does it fundraise, for Planned Parenthood. LMU regrets the concerns this situation has caused our community members and Catholic partners. The university remains firmly committed to its Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount values. Moving forward, LMU is reexamining and revising its policies and practices regarding student-organized activities to ensure stronger alignment with our mission.”

In a statement published in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles newspaper, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles responded to the event before it took place.

“I am deeply disappointed that this abortion fundraising event is going forward as scheduled, although I acknowledge the university’s statement that it does not support Planned Parenthood and its pledge to review its procedures for future events.”

“As I expressed in my conversations with Loyola Marymount officials, respect for the sanctity and dignity of all human life is central to Catholic identity and must be a core commitment in Catholic higher education. I am hopeful that the conversation we have begun will continue,” the archbishop continued.

In addition to attending the Los Angeles March For Life Jan. 22, Glaudini told CNA that she is making plans for the VITA club to be more active on campus and is interested in hosting more rosaries in the future.

Gualdini said she hopes to get a meeting with the President, Timothy Snyder, because she feels like “we’re due for a conversation.”

“But we have been thinking about throwing our own fundraiser for emergency pregnancy centers and also adoption centers, so that’s something that we’ve been talking about,” she said.

Guernsey scraps proposal for discrimination law that could have led to Catholic schools’ closure

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth. / null

Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, Nov 5, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic schools in Guernsey will be permitted to appoint only Catholics as head teachers following a vote on Nov. 3 rejecting a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance.

Leaders in Guernsey instead voted in favor of an amendment that would maintain the status quo on the island, meaning that a Catholic school can require its head teacher to be Catholics. 

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, whose territory includes Guernsey, said in a statement reported Friday that he was “very grateful” that local officials were cooperative in hearing the concerns of the diocese.

“This decision enables parents to confidently continue to choose Catholic schools for their children and to benefit from the legacy of partnership with the States of Guernsey which has been in place for 150 years,” said Egan.

Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, is a British Crown Dependency. Approximately 63,000 people live on the island, which has three Catholic churches. 

In October, it was announced that the States of Guernsey, the island’s parliament, would be considering a new policy titled “Discrimination Ordinance: Grounds of (i) Religion or Belief and (ii) Sexual Orientation” that would prohibit discrimination in hiring on the basis of religion, belief, or sexual orientation. 

Had the policy been passed by States of Guernsey, it would have gone into effect for “senior leadership positions in religious/faith schools” in 2026. 

In a show of ecumenism, leaders from the Methodist and Anglican ecclesial communities voiced their support for Catholic schools and their right to appoint Catholic leaders.

Tim Barker, Anglican Dean of Guernsey, along with Superintendent Minister of the Methodist Church Howard Stringer, sent an open letter to the deputies defending the “long-standing importance the Roman Catholic Church places on its schools and its commitment to high quality education for all.” 

“Central to that commitment is a profound belief that Catholic schools should be led by Catholics,” they said. 

While the two Protestant leaders were supportive of the concept of eliminating discrimination, they called for “appropriate and proportionate” exceptions to the proposals for groups such as churches and religious schools. 

“We simply urge you, and your fellow deputies, to recognise that, for the Roman Catholic Church, it is essential that the exception is extended ‘to allow religion or belief to be taken into account in the recruitment to senior leadership positions in religious schools’,” said Barker and Stringer. 

The Catholic Church has previously clashed with lawmakers in Guernsey over moves to introduce assisted suicide and liberalize abortion laws.

FSSP priest Father James Jackson facing federal child pornography charges

Father James Jackson, FSSP, delivers the homily at the funeral Mass for slain Boulder police officer Eric Talley on March 29, 2021, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado / Screenshot of FSSP YouTube video

CNA Staff, Nov 4, 2021 / 20:09 pm (CNA).

Federal authorities have filed additional child pornography charges against Father James W. Jackson, who was arrested Oct. 30 after Rhode Island investigators allegedly found hundreds of explicit sexual images on an external hard drive in his rectory office.

Jackson, 66, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Providence and previously pastored a Traditional Latin Rite parish in Littleton, Colorado. 

Jackson made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence via teleconference Wednesday on a federal criminal complaint charging him with distributing child pornography, and possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography.

He was released on an unsecured bond Wednesday with electronic monitoring, and was allowed to return to his home state of Kansas to live with a relative while waiting for the charges to be adjudicated.

It was disclosed in federal court that Jackson has COVID-19 and won’t return to Kansas until he recovers, Providence television station WPRI reported. He is scheduled to be arraigned on state child pornography charges Nov. 15.

Distributing child pornography is punishable by a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, with a minimum mandatory term of incarceration of five years. Possessing and accessing with intent to view child pornography is punishable by up to 20 years of incarceration.

A forensic analyst with the Rhode Island State Police found “hundreds of image and video files depicting [child sexual abuse material]” during an on-scene forensic preview of a two-terabyte external hard drive located in an office area adjacent to Jackson’s bedroom, according to an affidavit filed in support of the federal charges. 

“These image and video files depicted prepubescent females, including infants and toddlers, engaged in sexual acts,” the affidavit states.

The warrant stemmed from a state task force investigation that identified a computer or other device “sharing files of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network,” the affidavit states. Investigators traced the device to St. Mary’s rectory, according to the affidavit.

Peer-to-peer networks “are designed to facilitate the sharing of electronic files between participating members over the Internet,” the affidavit states.

“To become a member of a peer-to-peer network, a computer user installs file-sharing software on a computer which creates a ‘sharing folder,’ into which may be placed any electronic files available for other members on the network to copy,” the court document states. 

“The user also gains the ability to copy any electronic files into his/her ‘sharing folder’ from other network members,” the affidavit states. “A single peer-to-peer network may consist of thousands of interconnected computers, and the electronic files available on that network are all stored on the individual members’ computers rather than on a central host computer.”

The state task force’s investigation revealed that an Internet subscriber geolocated to St. Mary’s rectory shared child sexual abuse material via the peer-to-peer network on four occasions between Sept. 4 and Oct. 17, 2021, according to the affidavit.

Jackson was present at the rectory when investigators arrived to execute the search warrant, the affidavit states. The priest “was given his Miranda rights and asked to speak with an attorney after learning that detectives were there to investigate offenses related to child pornography,” the affidavit states.

Jackson was charged Oct. 30 by state authorities with possession of child pornography, transfer of child pornography, and child erotica prohibited, according to the Rhode Island State Police.

In Rhode Island, the charge of “child erotica prohibited” is defined as the production, possession, display, or distribution of “any visual portrayals of minors who are partially clothed, where the visual portrayals are used for the specific purpose of sexual gratification or sexual arousal from viewing the visual portrayals.”

Jackson has not made any public comment about the charges against him. Once it learned of Jackson’s arrest the Diocese of Providence moved quickly to strip him of his position as pastor of St. Mary’s restrict him from public ministry. 

News of Jackson’s arrest has shaken the relatively close-knit FSSP community. 

Prior to his Aug. 1 arrival in Providence, Jackson spent 15 years at the FSSP apostolate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado. Jackson is the author of “Nothing Superfluous,” a book about “​​the rich theological meaning behind the art, architecture, words and gestures of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Rite of St. Gregory the Great.”

Dave Counts, a St. Mary’s parishioner, described experiencing a “rollercoaster” of reactions to Jackson’s arrest.

Counts told CNA that he has spoken to many people who know Jackson better than he does who insist the popular priest is innocent of the charges. Counts also said that he has a degree in computer science and understands how easily computers can be hacked to plant incriminating evidence against someone.

On the other hand, he added, the information contained in the affidavit is deeply disturbing.

“And either way, as a Catholic I will be praying for our church. I will be praying for Father Jackson, because either way it’s horrendous, right?” said Counts, 38.

“If he was framed it’s the most horrendous thing you could do to a priest, really. It’s a complete character assassination to the point where even if his name is [cleared], he probably will never fully recover,” he said. “And if it’s true, then it’s one of the most horrendous things he could do.”

Meanwhile, supporters of Jackson have donated tens of thousands of dollars on his behalf.

The traditionalist Catholic media organization Restoring the Faith Media started an online fundraiser “to help discover what actually happened with Fr. James Jackson, FSSP.” Comments on the fundraiser include testimonies to Jackson’s piety, as well as prayers for Jackson.

“We have known Fr. Jackson for MANY years and he was a spiritual advisor for many of those. A crime of this or any sort is inconceivable for our dear priest and friend,” one comment reads.

“Praying for your proof of innocence, exoneration and restoration of your stellar reputation,” another supporter wrote.

According to Restoring the Faith Media, at least 50% of funds raised will go toward “forensic computing and private investigation,” and the remainder will go to his legal defense. 

The organization’s “TRUTH for Fr. James Jackson, FSSP” fundraiser raised more than $50,000 in the first five hours after its launch. The four largest donations, totaling $16,000, were all from anonymous donors. 

An earlier fundraiser on the GoFundMe platform raised $60,000 before GoFundMe removed it from its website. According to an email from Restoring the Faith Media, GoFundMe did not provide a reason for the campaign’s removal.