Thursday, January 17, 2019

“We choose Alfie Evans, who died in England on April 28, just before his second birthday (it would have been on May 9), as our “Person of the Year.” We choose him to represent all children who suffer from neglect, hard-heartedness, and sexual abuse — all forms of lack of love.” —from the Editorial of the January 2019 issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, which announces our choices as the “Top Ten” People of the Year 2018

Our Top Ten People of the Year 2018

Each year in January, we choose Inside the Vatican’s “Top Ten People of the Year.”

The people may have been “in the news” or they may be leading “hidden lives.”

But one common thread is that all are “witnesses,” through their words and lives, to the “hope of the promise” that God exists and will come to save His people, that in fact He has come and brought His salvation.

We have this hope, this faith, as a precious gift, and must never lose it, no matter what darkness may envelope us or what evil may threaten us.

Many have suffered for their fidelity to the Church and to the faith, from the martyr-Popes of the first centuries to the “ordinary” mothers and fathers of our time, who lay down their lives daily for their children.

All of them should be remembered.

Here is the list of our “Top Ten People” of 2018 (to subscribe to the magazine, where this list appears in the current January issue, click here):

1. Alfie Evans of Liverpool, England. We choose Alfie Evans, who died in England on April 28, just before his second birthday (it would have been on May 9), as our “Person of the Year.”

We choose him to represent all children who suffer from neglect, hard-heartedness, and sexual abuse — all forms of lack of love.

2. Obianuju Ekeocha, a Nigerian pro-life activist, tireless defender of the right to life.

3. Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, diligent worker on behalf of all victims of war and all refugees.

4. Father Andrzej Halemba, a Polish missionary who has dedicated his life to missionary work, and is a worthy representative of all missionaries who go out bearing the message of the Gospel.

5. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, of Tanzania, outstanding in his courageous defense of Christian morality in Africa today.

6. Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, of Utrecht, Holland, who is holding fast to the faith once handed down in modern Western Europe in the face many and powerful opponents.

7. Cardinal Joseph Zen, the aging but still fiery retired Archbishop of Hong Kong, who loves both China and the Christian faith, and seeks a peaceful, faith-filled future for his nation.

8. Fr. Jacques Philippe, a humble French priest who is increasingly becoming known worldwide as a spiritual writer and “the apostle of allowing God’s love to act deeply within each of us.”

9. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a German theologian close to Emeritus Pope Benedict, has begun in recent months to speak out in a clear and measured way in the defense of the faith.

10. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Italian archbishop, now retired, who served as Papal Nuncio in the United States from 2011 to 2016. His decision to speak out against a “culture of cover-up” in the Church was dramatic. Without him, the meeting in February in Rome on the abuse crisis might never have been convened.

The underlying theme: that we in the Church must take up again our duty to protect the souls and bodies of our children as a sacred trust.

And that is what all these “witnesses” have done.

(1) Alfie Evans, son of Thomas Evans and Kate James, died on April 28 after his parents were forbidden to take the baby out of England to seek other care (Pope Francis had agreed to receive him in the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome).

(2) Even as the West contracepts and aborts itself out of existence, it has its sights set on Africa — whence the title of a remarkable 2018 book written by a remarkable Nigerian woman named Obianuju Ekeocha: Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism in the Twenty-first Century. Ekeocha, 38, is the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to promoting the African values of the sanctity of life, beauty of marriage, blessings of motherhood and the dignity of family life.

In her book, she poses the question, “How does practically sterilizing the poorest women in the world give them control over famine, drought, disease, and poverty?” She writes, “It does not make them more educated or more employable. It does not supply food or safe drinking water. It does not make African women happier or more satisfied in their marriages.”

It doesn’t seem to matter what Africa wants or needs. Africa’s “betters” have chosen for it goals of indoctrinating children on sexuality from preschool, legalizing prostitution, promoting acceptance of homosexuality — any policy that will help detach sexuality from marriage and children.

Ekeocha answers these assaults against African values with African women’s voices, advising African government officials, UN delegates, and ambassadors on pro-family issues, and co-authored pro-life declarations with several African Catholic bishops’ conferences.

Obianuju (“Uju”) was born in southeast Nigeria, the youngest of six children, and left for the U.K. in 2006, at age 26. She works as a specialist biomedical scientist in hematology, holding a Masters degree in biomedical science from the University of East London and a Bachelors degree in microbiology from the University of Nigeria.

“What keeps me going is my faith in God and the love of the gospel,” says Uju. “I will keep persevering even in the face of hardship because this is an urgent and commonsense message to everyone that Africans keep what is best about us, which is our love for family, for life and our appreciation of marriage.”

(3) His Eminence Mario Zenari, Cardinal, Apostolic Nuncio to the Church in Syria Church, born January 5, 1946 in Verona, Italy, is now 73. He received his episcopal consecration on September 25, 1999, from Cardinal Angelo Sodano. On December 30, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the nuncio to Syria where he was stationed during the onslaught of the Syrian Civil War that broke out in 2011. Pope Francis on October 9, 2016 announced that he would create Zenari a cardinal on November 19, 2016 in the papal consistory, citing his work for the “beloved and martyred Syria.”

(4) Reverend Father Andrzej Halemba was born on November 19, 1954 in Chełm Śląski, Silesia, Poland and ordained for the Archdiocese of Katowice, Poland on April 3, 1980. A meeting with the Senegalese Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum from Dakar during Pope John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 had an enormous impact on his decision to become a missionary. The African cardinal caught the young seminarian’s attention by his directness, openness and wonderful sense of humor. Cardinal Thiandoum began to encourage Fr. Halemba to undertake missionary work.

After thorough preparations, Fr. Andrzej spent 10 years in Zambia, beginning in 1983, and served on the Mambwe Mission in the Mbala Diocese (now Kasama). For two of these years, he worked on a translation of the New Testament into the language of the Mambwe people. In 1994, Fr. Andrzej published a Mambwe-English dictionary. In 2005, he published a collection of folk tales and proverbs in the Mambwe and English languages. These publications have preserved many aspects of Mambwe tradition from oblivion.

Currently, Fr. Halemba is working for the international organization Aid to the Church in Need based in Königstein, Germany. From 2006 to 2010 he was in charge of aid for English and Portuguese speaking countries of Africa.

(5) The African nation of Tanzania has a growing economy, but recent surveys have found that more than 75 percent of the country’s population have in the last year suffered food shortages. The country has one of the highest percentages of malnourished citizens in the world. Yet the courageous Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, 74, has asked the government of Tanzania to reject any foreign aid that is conditioned on accepting Western cultural norms regarding homosexuality.

During a November harvest Mass in Dar es Salaam, Pengo said that “it is better to die of hunger than to receive aid and be compelled to do things that are contrary to God’s desire.”

Pengo, ordained in 1971, obtained a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in 1977. He was consecrated bishop in 1983 and made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Since 2007, he has been the president of SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

(6) In Utrecht, Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of the city since 2008 and Primate of the Netherlands, has launched an appeal: that the Church, the Roman magisterium, create a document on the theme of Gender. “It’s urgent,” the prelate told ACIstampa, “because the pressure both nationally and internationally, pushed by big agencies, is becoming stronger and stronger.”

The theory of gender sees the body as something extrinsic to human nature, which does not participate in the dignity of the person as such. For the Church, the cardinal explains, biological sex in line with the human body is intrinsic to human nature. “It is evident that the theory of gender is… pervading the whole of society, influencing almost all fields of thought, including medical ethics, and changing the way we feel and perceive ourselves. This is why it is very urgent to present the true vision of man in this world,” the cardinal said.

(7) Hong Kong’s retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, 86, has been described as the “new conscience of Hong Kong” for his defense of human rights, political freedom, and religious liberty in the face of criticism from China’s atheistic communist government. In 2018, the cardinal flew to Rome himself to hand-deliver a letter to the Pope opposing the Vatican’s rapprochement with the mainland, in which the Church agreed to let its government appoint Catholic bishops, with the Pope giving final approval.

Joseph Zen was born in Shanghai to Catholic parents, Vincent Zen and Margaret Tseu. He studied in a Catholic schools before fleeing to Hong Kong to escape Communist rule at the end of the Chinese Civil War. After entering the Salesians’ Hong Kong novitiate, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1961. Zen became the Provincial Superior of Salesians from 1978-1983.

He was appointed the coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong in 1996 by Pope John Paul II, and Bishop in 2002. Pope Benedict made him a cardinal in 2006.

(8) Fr. Jacques Philippe, a humble priest from France, has quietly become the well-known author of what many are calling “spiritual classics of our time,” with over a million copies in print. Fr. Philippe, author of Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Thirsting for Prayer, and In the School of the Holy Spirit, among several others, is first and foremost an apostle of prayer, and that because he is an apostle of allowing God’s love to act in each of us.

“Now God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and His presence, being the presence of the living God, is active, life-giving, healing, and sanctifying,” he says in another of his little spiritual classics, Time for God. “One can’t stand in front of a fire without being warmed, or stay in the sun without being tanned, and in remaining in God’s presence and letting him act in the depths of our being, we are doing what really counts.”

Yet this quiet apostle of prayer did not discover his calling to religious life until he was almost 30. He graduated college with a degree in mathematics and devoted the next several years of his life to teaching and scientific research; then, in 1976, he met the then recently-founded Community of the Beatitudes and answered the Lord’s call to follow Him through this vocation. He immersed himself in the study of Hebrew and the Jewish roots of Christianity in Nazareth and Jerusalem. In 1981, he went to Rome to study, was ordained in 1985, and began his work as a spiritual director, in the formation of priests of his Community.

(9) Cardinal Gerhard Müller, 71, stepped down from his post as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office — in 2017, yet he has continued to distinguish himself since he left the CDF by remaining a vital public voice defending the integrity of Church teaching and its essential link with morality of life.

He had been appointed to the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI, his personal friend, in 2012, after being the bishop of Regensburg, Germany for 10 years. At that time, Müller said he hoped to halt the “growing polarization between traditionalists and progressives [which] is threatening the unity of the Church and generating strong tensions among its members… We need to find a new and fundamental unity in the Church and individual countries. Unity in Christ, not a unity produced according to a program and later invoked by a partisan speaker.”

Müller was born in Mainz, West Germany. He studied philosophy and theology, receiving his Doctorate of Divinity for his thesis on the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was ordained in February 1978 and served in 3 parishes; in 1986, he was appointed to the Chair of dogmatic theology of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he remains an honorary professor. Pope John Paul II appointed him as Bishop of Regensburg in October 2002.

At an ordination Mass in September, 2018, Müller touched on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, noting “the root of this evil is not clericalism, whatever that might be, but rejection of the truth and moral licentiousness.”

He continued: “The corruption of doctrine always brings with it, and manifests itself in, the corruption of morals. This grave sin without remorse against the holiness of the Church is the result of the relativization of the Church’s dogmatic foundations. This is the real reason behind the shock and disappointment of millions of believing Catholics.”

(10) Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò of Italy. On September 13, 2018, a headline in the UK’s Catholic Herald proclaimed: “Archbishop Vigano has sparked a revolution no one can control.” Although it remains to be seen whether it constitutes a true “revolution,” the Italian archbishop’s “open letter” accusing Pope Francis of essentially ignoring warnings of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s now infamous record of sexual abuse of altar boys and seminarians, and instead allowing McCarrick to continue to enjoy prestige and influence in the Church, certainly caused a firestorm that continues to burn.

Letters from Readers

A number of readers responded to my Letter #1 of 2019, mailed yesterday, which contained the text of Archbishop Vigano’s open letter to former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Here are some of those responses.


Amen and Amen. Very good letter. Thanks for passing it on to us with commentary.

John and Beth


I think that Vigano’s letter was spot on and brotherly if it had been a private correspondence between 2 brother bishops. The fact that he wanted to make it public turns me off. That inspires resentment in the one addressed while private heart to heart might do good. Sorry but I think Vigano is “grandstanding”


I was glad to hear from you again! I have come to rely on your reflections as a voice of compassion and reason often found lacking in these times of turmoil. Today’s letter is no different. May all of us take Cardinal McCarrick’s transgressions to prayer and for the sake of his immortal soul, beg our Lady to intervene while there is yet time.




I like this very much. Agree with all of it.

However, I have reservations about one thing. Why was Vigano’s letter a public call for a public confession? This letter should have been privately passed to McCarrick. I question Vigano’s judgement and his heart? I would say to him, “Enough grandstanding.” He has had his say before God and the world. It’s time to go to prayer and to leave all of this in Jesus’s hands.

In His service,


Good piece. Great point about how abusers are usually broken, hurting folks before they hurt others. Glad your back publishing emails again. Your balanced insights have been missed and are needed by me and the Church.


Very glad to see you back. I just renewed my subscription to Inside The Vatican and made a small donation to thank you for all you do. I hope to be able to do more, because you provide a great service, and I know that you and your staff work very hard to provide information as well as hope in these very challenging, but interesting times. Happy New Year! We’re all on the road together.



So happy to see a letter from you! Missed your notes. I always appreciate your insight pertaining to our faith. May God continue to bless you and your work. We faithful Catholics have much to pray for and make atonement for what our church is going through right now. We will not despair nor turn our backs on our beloved faith for if we do, then what else do we have to turn to?

I have had this thought since the beginning of Advent that has stayed with me every day to let me draw closer to Him; to unite myself with Him more deeply. I don’t know how to do it except to ask Him as a little child and wait for His response. I know He hears me and is giving me my hearts desire by the calmness and stillness my soul is feeling

Our church will get through this crisis even though at times things look bleak. We must remember and encourage one another to stand strong for “the gates of hell will not prevail.” One, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church!

May the most Holy Spirit continue to guide us in our journeys!


Cecilia (Ceal)

Philadelphia Archdiocese


(to be continued)

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