Gingrich, nominee for U.S. ambassador to Vatican, testifies at hearing
WASHINGTON — Callista Gingrich testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations July 18 for her confirmation hearing as President Donald Trump's nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Gingrich, 51, affirmed the administration's commitment to protecting human rights and religious freedom and responded to questions about refugees and the environment. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, presided, introducing Gingrich and referencing her involvement with the Catholic Church. He noted that Gingrich was the organist for her local parish, St. John's Catholic Church, in her hometown of Whitehall, Wis., and has been a longtime member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He marked her almost three decades of experience as a congressional staffer and subsequent work as president of Gingrich Productions, a company that produces documentaries, books, newsletters, and other materials related to history and public policy.
USCCB: Retain open internet 'by strongest legal authority available'
WASHINGTON — In comments delivered July 17 to the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the FCC to use "the strongest legal authority available" to "retain open internet regulations." The current regulations, adopted in 2015 by a Democratic-majority FCC, treat the internet as a utility. A prior FCC effort to regulate the internet as a communication service didn't stand up to judicial scrutiny. The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. The USCCB is "concerned that the FCC is contemplating eliminating current regulations limiting the manner by which the companies controlling the infrastructure connect people to the internet," said USCCB assistant general counsel Katherine Grincewich.
Catholic, Lutheran leaders lament refugee entry cap being reached
WASHINGTON — Amid a federal judge ordering the government to broaden the exemptions to the immigration travel ban partially upheld by the Supreme Court, Catholic and Lutheran leaders lamented that the immigration cap had been reached for refugees without such exemptions for the 2017 fiscal year. The federal government suspended travel July 12 for refugee immigrants without close family connections after confirming that 50,000 refugees — the limit imposed by President Donald Trump in an executive order March 6 — had arrived on U.S. soil. Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration, stated, "Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation."
Facebook restores Catholic pages after removal
WASHINGTON — Catholic Facebook pages whose sponsors reported had been suddenly removed late July 17 were restored just over 24 hours later. Twenty-one Brazilian-based Catholic Facebook pages, such as a Papa Francisco Brazil page, as well as four English sites, couldn't publish content July 18 due to Facebook silently taking down their sites. Millions of followers were affected, according to ChurchPOP, a Christian Culture brand website. "All pages have now been restored. This incident was triggered accidentally by a spam detection tool. We sincerely apologize for the issue this has caused." a Facebook spokesperson wrote Catholic News Service in an email July 19.
Regensburg choir investigation finds more than 500 boys were abused
VATICAN CITY — More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator. Former students of the Domspatzen choir reported that the physical, emotional and even sexual abuse at the school made life there like "a prison, hell and a concentration camp," said Ulrich Weber, the lawyer leading the investigation of claims of abuse at the choir and two associated boarding schools. A "culture of silence" among Church leaders and members allowed such abuse to continue for decades, Weber said as he presented the final report on his findings at a news conference in Regensburg July 18. The investigation, commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg, found that at least 547 former members of the Regensburg Domspatzen boys choir in Germany were subjected to some form of abuse, according to Vatican Radio. Of those victims, 67 students were victims of sexual violence, the radio stated. The 440-page report, which spanned the years between 1945 and the early 1990s, found highly plausible accusations against 49 members of the Church of inflicting the abuse, with nine of them accused of being sexual abusive.
Two priests kidnapped in troubled Congo province
ARU, Congo — Armed men kidnapped two Catholic priests in the troubled North Kivu province. Congo's bishops have asked security agencies to try to rescue the priests, who served at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Bunyuka. Sgt. Philip Longwa, a police officer in Beni, said gunmen attacked the parish compound about 10 p.m. July 16. Longwa told Catholic News Service the kidnapped priests were Fathers Jean-Pierre Akilimali and Charles Kipasa. He said the gunmen also attacked a nearby convent and looted property. The attackers also stole two Toyota sport utility vehicles and two motorcycles. The vehicles were abandoned in the village of Kavasewe, not far from Virunga National Park.
Trial begins for ex-Vatican officials accused of stealing hospital funds
VATICAN CITY — Two former top Vatican hospital officials appeared before a Vatican court for a pretrial hearing on allegations of embezzlement. Giuseppe Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Massimo Spina, the former treasurer, appeared with their lawyers before Vatican magistrates July 18 in a nearly two-hour preliminary hearing, led by the presiding Vatican judge, Paolo Papanti-Pelletier. A court clerk read the charges, which the Vatican had made public July 13: Profiti, 55, and Spina, 57, were accused of an illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation to pay Gianantonio Bandera, an Italian contractor, to refurbish an apartment belonging to Vatican City State. The apartment was used as the residence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state. The indictment said Profiti and Spina extracted more than 420,000 euros for "completely non-institutional ends" by using the money to refurbish Vatican property in order "to benefit Gianantonio Bandera's company."
— Catholic News Service