Baby Doc: Will he show up in Haitian court?

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, shown in 2011 waving from a hotel balcony, has been ordered to court for a hearing on whether he will face charges for human rights abuses during his brutal 15-year dictatorship. (CNS photo/Retuers)

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, shown in 2011 waving from a hotel balcony, has been ordered to court for a hearing on whether he will face charges for human rights abuses during his brutal 15-year dictatorship. (CNS photo/Retuers)

It’s still uncertain whether former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier will appear in a Haitian court tomorrow as ordered.

A judge issued the order Feb. 21 after the 61-year-old ex-dictator failed to show up in court again. Tomorrow’s hearing will determine if he should face charges for human rights abuses during his 15-year regime.

The order has fueled hope among human rights advocates and victims of brutality during Duvalier’s tenure, 1971-1986. They say it’s time that Duvalier faces justice.

The Inter Press Service news agency offers a summary of the case here.

Among average Haitians, the case has garnered scant attention. The country’s lagging recovery from the 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic and tropical storms that destroyed much of last year’s harvest are bigger concerns.

Duvalier became Haiti’s leader after his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, died in 1971, 14 years after seizing power and instituting restrictions on people’s movements while strengthening the country’s military force to enforce his edicts.

The U.S. supported the Duvaliers throughout their reign except for a short period. Last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Duvalier’s fate is in the hands of “the government and people” of Haiti.

UPDATED: Reuters and other news agencies reported that Duvalier appeared in court. He told Appeal Court Judge Jean-Joseph Lebrun that individual government officials “had their own authority” to act. Several people who claimed to be victims of brutality under Duvalier’s rule were satisfied that he had finally appeared in court. As the hearing continued hundreds of Duvalier supporters wearing black and red, symbolizing the old regime, shouted “Long live Duvalier.”

Pope Benedict: I am not abandoning the church

Pope greets crowd as he arrives to lead final Angelus at Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict greets the crowd in St. Peter’s Square as he arrives to lead his final Angelus at the Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — In one of his last public appearances, Pope Benedict XVI told an overflow crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that his upcoming retirement does not mean he is abandoning the church, but that he will be serving it in a new way, through prayer and meditation.

At noon the pope appeared at his window in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus, a papal Sunday ritual that will not be repeated until after the election of a new pope.

Despite the blustery weather, turnout was several times the usual for such occasions — easily over 150,000, with some estimates as high as a quarter of a million. The crowd filled the Square except where prevented by barricades, and spilled out into the Via della Conciliazione. Many groups held signs expressing gratitude and affection — “You are not alone,” one read — and national flags from countries as far away as Brazil.

“Prayer doesn’t mean isolating one’s self from the world and its contradictions,” the pope said, “prayer leads one back to the path, to action.

“Christian existence,” he said, “consists in a continuous climbing of the mountain for an encounter with God, in order to descend again bearing the love and strength derived from it, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with the same love of God.”

If the relevance to his Feb. 28 resignation was not already clear, the Pope made the connection explicit:

I feel that this word of God is directed in particular to me, in this moment of my life. The Lord calls me to “climb the mountain,” to dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the church, on the contrary, if God asks this of me it is precisely so that I may continue to serve (the church) with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so till now, but in a way more suited to my age and strength.

Speaking these words, Pope Benedict was interrupted twice by applause, and afterwards received an ovation 30 seconds long. He smiled broadly, thanked the crowd, and added: “Let us thank God for the bit of sun he has granted us.”

The long goodbye — in St. Peter’s Square

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Selling copies of the Italian Catholic daily, Avvenire, in front of St. Peter’s Square.
(CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Italian authorities estimated that perhaps as many as 200,000 people turned out for Pope Benedict’s last public Angelus address today with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The square was already full when I squeezed my way in at 11:15, almost an hour before the pope was scheduled to appear.

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Damien McDonnell came to Rome with family and friends for the Year of Faith and to say goodbye to the pope. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

There were flags from dozens of countries as well as hand-made signs saying “You are not alone” and giant banners saying “Thank you, Holy Father.”

The pope was interrupted a number of times by spontaneous applause, cheers and chants of “Long live the pope!”

Damien McDonnell from the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin in Ireland was leading a six-person family pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the Year of Faith. He was one of several people who talked to CNS about this historic moment.

This is a blessing for us that we were able to come and say goodbye. (Pope Benedict’s) writings are so phenomenal and my first thought (upon hearing he was resigning) was ‘Please don’t stop writing!’ His work is so important for us and the for the church today…The next pope needs to be, to an extent, conservative, to say it like it is and not be indecisive, afraid to make decisions. Pope Benedict wasn’t afraid to make decisions and the new pope needs to  follow the same line.

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Hrvoje Mravak is in Rome studying for the priesthood. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Hrvoje Mravak from Croatia is studying theology in Rome as he pursues a vocation with the Society of Jesus.

I am very grateful to the pope for what he has done. He is a great theologian who always highlighted the importance of prayer. I like his humility and, in his mind, his resigning is the best thing for the church. We are praying for him and the new pope. (The new pope) should adhere to doctrine, of course, he should be open to the many cultures in the world, be a man of prayer, a good communicator, and humble and spiritual.

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The Aguirre family from San Francisco took off work to be able to say goodbye. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The Aguirre family (one brother and two sisters) from Our Lady of Mercy parish in Daly City near San Francisco took off work to come to Rome for the pope’s last week as the head of the universal church. Balthazar said the thing he will miss most about Pope Benedict is how he was able to be “the rock: solid, strong and unwavering and yet kind and compassionate and loving at the same time.”

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US pilgrims hold the flag in St. Peter’s Square after Pope Benedict’s last Sunday Angelus. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Maria Rosario Aguirre said:

He’s stepping down not because he doesn’t love us, but because he is aware of his age and is prepared to hand the job down to another younger person. I think (his retirement) will be a second vocation for him. He will have a hidden life that won’t be public, but his prayers will be a great help to the whole world. We won’t see him, but he will still have a real presence and impact.

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The pope addressed an estimated 200,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for his last public Angelus. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz).

Simone Rascioni of the Diocese of Rome said she thought the pope’s request for prayers from the faithful “was very beautiful. He’s like a father asking his children for support.”

During his pontificate, he gave  me serenity. I saw him as being a very peaceful person, a man of truth who guides people along a clear path with — as a German — his logical  rationale. He was able to be so sure of himself because he is a man of prayer, knowing that God was behind him.

When asked about the furor in the Italian press over claims of corruption and scandal within the Vatican, Simone said:

We are all human and people can make mistakes. Instead of criticizing, we need to pray, that’s the responsibility of a person of faith. It doesn’t mean deny or hide from the mistakes, but criticism only destroys. We need to see the truth and build anew starting with prayer. Pope Benedict is an example of this when he asked forgiveness (for the sexual abuse of children by clergy). We also have to remember and recognize there are lots of very good people in the church. Nobody notices or thanks them, the only thing that makes the news is when someone makes a mistake.

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Mexican pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz).

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Religious sisters proudly wave their nations’ flags in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz).

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An empty papal apartment window. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz).

Deploring ‘gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander’

VATICAN CITY — Vatican officials released a pair of unusual statements Saturday condemning some press coverage of the papal transition.

A communiqué from the Secretariat of State called “deplorable” the “widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” intended to exert “pressures on the election of the pope.”

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, delivered an editorial on Vatican Radio lamenting “pressures and considerations that are foreign to the spirit with which the church would like to live this period of waiting and preparation”:

There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another.

Neither statement specified the news stories in question, but Father Lombardi’s editorial referred to distortions by “those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives.”

Articles in the Italian press this week have portrayed a Vatican divided among political factions, with some officials supposedly subject to blackmail, and have suggested a link between bureaucratic infighting and Pope Benedict’s historic decision to step down Feb. 28.

The stories refer to a confidential internal report on the so-called “Vatileaks” of confidential documents last year, but there is no reason to believe that any journalist has had access to the contents of that report.

Whoever the sources of these stories may be, if they are seeking to discredit particular electors in the upcoming conclave, their targets are presumably among those cardinals who work in the Vatican itself.

Pope thanks Curia for helping ‘carry the burden’ of papacy

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI thanked members of the Roman Curia “for these eight years during which you have helped me carry the burden of the Petrine ministry with great competence, affection, love and faith.”

The pope make his remarks this morning at the end of his annual Lenten retreat with his top collaborators. Since last Sunday evening, the pope and Vatican officials had been gathered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace for prayer, eucharistic adoration and 17 meditations offered by Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

File photo: Pope Benedict XVI prays during last year's retreat. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

File photo: Pope Benedict XVI prays during last year’s retreat. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

The pope said that while his close collaboration with the Curia officials would end, their “spiritual closeness” would remain, as would “a profound communion in prayer.”

“With this certainty, let us move forward, certain of the victory of God, certain of truth, beauty and love,” he said.

Vatican Radio said Cardinal Ravasi ended the retreat by telling the pope that other members of the Curia wanted him to express their affection for him and some “told me to ask forgiveness for the ways we were unable to support you in your ministry.”

The cardinal said it was most appropriate, though, simply “to thank you for your teaching and your ministry.”

Cardinal Ravasi said the pope’s ministry will continue in a different form, with what the cardinal described as the pope’s “hiding” or withdrawal from public life.

Pope at Angelus: Unusual days for me and the church

Pope Benedict greets the crowd before beginning Angelus today. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict greets the crowd before beginning Angelus today. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — In his first Angelus address since announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers and mentioned how unusual a period it is for him and for the church, but he did not explicitly talk to pilgrims about his resignation.

Addressing Spanish speakers, he said, “My heartfelt thanks … for your prayers and affection in these days. Continue to pray for me and the next pope.”

And he told Polish speakers, “Thank you for your prayerful support and spiritual closeness in these days that are so unusual for the church and for me.”

According to the Vatican, more than 50,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square for the midday opportunity to pray with the pope and listen to his reflections. Rome’s mayor and members of the city council were there, too.

Before leading the prayer, Pope Benedict commented on the beginning of Lent and today’s Gospel reading about the temptation of Jesus.

He said Lent is a time for Catholics to renew their spiritual lives and turn to God, “renouncing pride and selfishness to live in love.”

Making God the center of one’s life, he said, requires “spiritual battle” because the devil doesn’t want people to be holy.

The Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, he said, shows just how “subtle” the devil can be: he does not try to trick Jesus directly into evil, but tempts him with “a false good.”

The good news, he said, is that Jesus — through his incarnation, death and resurrection — already had defeated the devil. “Therefore, we are not afraid to take up the battle against evil; what is important is that we do so with him, with Christ, the victor.”

The recitation of the Angelus with the pope on Sundays and feast days is an event requiring no reservations and no tickets. For many Roman families, attending the prayer is a normal part of a Sunday or holiday stroll.

But today was different. In fact, by 10 a.m., officers from a variety of Italian and Rome police forces, paramedics and even garbage collectors had deployed along the broad avenue leading to St. Peter’s Square and along the square’s perimeter.

An hour before the Angelus, thousands of people were already in the square. The young staked out places by sitting on the cold cobblestones. Others previewed their banners for the press: “You are Peter. Stay.” “Thank you, Holy Father. We love you very much.” “Thanks. Wherever you go (we’ll be) always with you.”

Acknowledging English speakers in the crowd, the pope said, “Thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days.”

And he told Italian speakers, “Thank you for coming in such large numbers. This, too, is a sign of the affection and spiritual closeness you’re showing me.”

Pope Benedict asked all the groups for special prayers for him and members of the Roman Curia as they begin their weeklong Lenten retreat this evening.

Anticipating the conclave — literally

VATICAN CITY — Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed this morning that top cardinals and canon lawyers at the Vatican are studying the possibility of beginning the conclave to elect a new pope before March 15.

But only the cardinals can announce the exact date the conclave will begin, he told reporters this morning.

Under the rules established in the apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” on the vacancy of the papacy and the election of a pope, cardinals in Rome “must wait 15 full days for those who are absent” before they can enter into a conclave and begin the process of electing a new pope.

However, Pope Benedict XVI has scheduled a farewell meeting with cardinals the morning of Feb. 28 — just before he leaves office — and many of the world’s cardinals are expected to be present.

In addition, the fact that Pope Benedict announced his resignation Feb. 11 has given the cardinals plenty of time to make their arrangements to get to Rome. Therefore, the question has arisen: Does the 15-day rule apply if all the cardinals are in Rome before that?

Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi addresses media about pope's impending resignation

Father Lombardi (CNS/Paul Haring)

“One could interpret the constitution in a way, precisely, that would say there is no longer a reason to wait,” Father Lombardi said.

The rules also say: “Should doubts arise concerning the prescriptions contained in this constitution, or concerning the manner of putting them into effect, I decree that all power of issuing a judgment in this regard belongs to the College of Cardinals, to which I grant the faculty of interpreting doubtful or controverted points.”

The spokesman said, “The situation is a bit different” than it would be with the death of a pope, which would be the normal situation addressed by “Universi Dominici Gregis.”

It is possible, he said, that Pope Benedict will intervene and rewrite the rules, “but at this point I would move” more along the path of the cardinals determining what is and is not possible for them to do under the rules as they are.

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