Pope Francis is rebuked for words on sex abuse crisis

Pope Francis reaches from the popemobile for a child that is brought to him, during a parade in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.All times local:

3:45 p.m.

The pope’s praise for U.S. bishops for what he called their “generous commitment'” to helping victims of clergy sex abuse has drawn an angry rebuke from advocates who say the bishops acted only under the threat of lawsuits.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said bishops had displayed “cowardice and callousness” in response to victims who came forward. The group said they “hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals” instead of fully confronting the scope of the problem within the church.

Anne Barrett Doyle is co-director of BishopAccountability.org, an advocacy group that collects records on abusive priests from around the world. She calls the pope’s remarks “distressing and quite off-base.”

Addressing church leaders in a prayer service at the Washington cathedral, Francis said bishops had faced the crisis “without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”

Under enormous public pressure, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pledged to oust any guilty clergy from church work or from the priesthood altogether.

Hundreds of priests were removed from ministry, and bishops made multimillion-dollar settlements with victims. Dioceses conducted background checks of priests and workers and put in place other safeguards.

3:30 p.m.

More than 2,000 men and women who are studying to become Roman Catholic priests and nuns are gathered inside the nation’s largest Catholic church, where they will be greeted by Pope Francis.

The pope will then celebrate a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he will elevate an 18th-century Franciscan friar to sainthood. The canonization Mass is the first in the United States.

The seminarians and novices are from around the U.S. and were invited to attend the Mass.

Thirty-one-year-old Patrick Finn of Bath, Maine, is studying for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Boston. He says, “It’s pretty amazing, just getting a chance to be with the Holy Father. He’s such a people person and an amazing representative of the church.”

3:20 p.m.

The thundering sound of a 21-gun salute in the distance was expected, but ultimately was missing from Pope Francis’ White House welcome ceremony.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the gun salute was scrapped in deference to the pope’s humility.

At his regular reporters’ briefing, Earnest spoke of the “dissonance in welcoming a professed man of peace to the White House by the repeated firing of weapons.” He says the slightly more subdued ceremony was the “most appropriate” welcome. Earnest adds that the White House decided to eliminate the gun salute in consultation with Vatican officials.

A 21-gun salute was part of the White House ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

3 p.m.

A girl who was handed up to Pope Francis during his parade in Washington shared a message about immigration.

Alicia Flores of La Hermandad, an immigration advocacy group, says the girl is 5-year-old Sophie Cruz.

Sophie got beyond a barricade and approached the popemobile Wednesday morning, carrying a T-shirt bearing a message about the status of immigrant parents of children born in the United States. She also carried a letter addressed to the pope that bore her name and address in suburban Los Angeles.

Sophie shied back when a bodyguard came near. But when the pope gestured to her, she allowed the bodyguard to pick her up and bring her forward for a papal kiss and blessing. A guard passed the shirt and message into the popemobile.

2 p.m.

Pope Francis is telling U.S. bishops there is no place for “harsh and divisive” rhetoric in their ministry, indicating he wants to see a change in tone after years of culture wars.

The pope is encouraging them to build relationships with anyone, no matter that person’s views on church teaching, and to do so with compassion.

He said in remarks to bishops Wednesday: “It’s not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake.”

In recent years, the American bishops have dedicated increasing resources to opposing abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception. As leaders of the nation’s largest denomination, they have become torchbearers for religious conservatives on these issues.

The bishops said they had to take up these fights because society and governments were increasingly accepting immoral policies.

But since the earliest months of his papacy, Francis has said the church had become too focused on divisive social issues and should instead focus on mercy.

1:50 p.m.

Being speaker of the House has its privileges. So does being a former speaker.

Most members of Congress are limited to one guest in the visitors’ gallery when Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress. House Speaker John Boehner will have five, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Calista.

Like Boehner, Gingrich is Catholic.

Boehner’s wife, Debbie Boehner, will be in the gallery, along with the speaker’s childhood friend, Jerry Vanden Eyden. They attended Catholic school together.

Boehner will also host Teo Nowakowski, the mother of longtime chief of staff, Paula Nowakowski, who died in 2010.

After the pope’s address, he is expected to make a brief appearance on the West Front of the Capitol. Boehner’s office says the speaker will have 50 guests from his southern Ohio district in a reserved area, as well as Catholic school students from the District of Columbia.

1:40 p.m.

Pope Francis is encouraging U.S. bishops in their ministry to immigrants, praising them for taking up their cause and urging them to welcome even more foreigners coming across the border.

Francis praised the bishops for defending the rights of migrants, helping them to prosper and keeping their faith alive. He said in his remarks Wednesday: “Do not be afraid to welcome them … I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its church.”

U.S. bishops have been demanding a more welcoming policy toward immigrants in the country and hoping Francis’ visit will counter a divisive issue in the presidential campaign.

Tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have surged across the border as violence has flared in the region. Many have been held in detention centers that the U.S. bishops and immigrant-rights advocates have decried as inhumane and ineffective.

1:30 p.m.

The pope apologized to bishops at St. Matthew’s for not being to greet each one individually.

After the pope’s sermon, some of the bishops stood and greeted him. The men removed their red caps before shaking his hand or kissing his ring. The pope could be seen talking to those greeting him while the rest of the church stood in silence.

But after about 10 minutes of that, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the pope had a quick word, and Wuerl took to the microphone to say the pope had asked him to apologize for not having time to greet all of the bishops. The pope tapped his watch and smiled. The bishops and others clapped and chuckled.

1:15 p.m.

In a single sentence, Pope Francis has shown how he transcends the ideological polarities of U.S. politics.

In his address to bishops, the pope spoke out against abortion, an issue close to the heart of Republicans, and against environmental devastation, a surefire applause line for Democrats. He spoke on behalf of immigrants, too, and pushed a few other hot buttons. All in one sentence.

He said: “The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters.”

Such positions will be placed in front of Congress on Thursday when Francis addresses lawmakers. Each position is a potential applause line, but not for everyone who will be there.

12:40 p.m.

Pope Francis has praised U.S. bishops for their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Speaking before the bishops Wednesday at a worship service in Washington, Francis lauded them for what he called their “generous commitment to bring healing to victims.” He praised them for having courage and acting, as he saw it, “without fear of self-criticism.”

The clergy sex abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. in 2002 and turned into the biggest crisis in the history of the American church.

Under enormous public pressure, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pledged to oust any guilty clergy from church work and enact safeguards for children.

However, the scandal persists, and victims say the bishops still haven’t fully accounted for sheltering abusers. This year, three bishops resigned in crises over their failures to protect children.

12:30 p.m.

Pope Francis has issued special greetings to the Jewish community in the U.S. for Yom Kippur.

He did so at the start of his remarks to U.S. bishops.

Speaking in Italian, Francis said: “May the Lord bless them with peace and may they continue with a life of holiness.”

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews. They spend the day repenting and atoning for any sins.

12:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama has given Pope Francis gifts symbolizing peace and service to the needy.

Gift exchanges are customary between U.S. officials and foreign dignitaries.

Obama gave Francis a sculpture of an ascending dove that incorporates original material from the Statue of Liberty, regarded as a beacon of hope and freedom. The sculpture’s pedestal is made of wood from the White House grounds and includes a personalized inscription. The White House did not provide text of the inscription.

Obama also gave the pope a key from the Maryland home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who dedicated herself to serving the needy. She was the first native-born American to become a saint; this year marks the 40th anniversary of her canonization. The key dates to 1809 and was presented on a marble slab from the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

For his part, Francis gave Obama a bronze bas-relief of the medallion of the World Meeting of Families, the big Catholic rally in Philadelphia that was the original reason for his U.S. visit.

The medallion features the meeting logo: A liberty bell embossed with the image of a family.

Francis visits Philadelphia later this week to close out the rally.

The sculpture given to the pope incorporates an original armature bar from the Statue of Liberty, preserved during its centennial restoration.

Noon

Among those in the audience for Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington will be members of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Sonia Sotomayor are attending Wednesday’s mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. All three are Catholics.

Members of the high court also will attend the pontiff’s address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday, although which justices are to be there hasn’t yet been announced. Six of the nine justices are Catholic, also including Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

11:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has moved from the pageantry of the White House, and the public spectacle of his popemobile procession, to the rituals of his church. He’s at the Cathedral of St. Matthew for prayers with U.S. bishops and remarks to those assembled.

The cathedral is best known as the site where Washington mourned the death of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. He is memorialized with a marble plaque in the cathedral floor at the site of the 35th president’s funeral.

The parish dates to 1840 as the fourth Catholic church established in the District of Columbia.

11:30 a.m.

460x (24)Francis is delighting an adoring crowd with his popemobile procession in Washington.

The pope is moving slowly past throngs lining his route from the White House, waving from an outfitted Jeep that is open on the sides.

At one point, a young girl carrying a yellow banner got outside the police barricade holding the crowds back and tried to approach the popemobile. She shied back when a bodyguard came near to pick her up and bring her to Francis. But then the pope gestured to her to come to him, and she allowed the bodyguard to pick her up and bring her to Francis for a papal kiss and blessing.

The pope also paused twice to have babies brought to him, and he kissed them on the head.

It’s his first encounter with the American public, after his invitation-only event on the White House South Lawn.

The pope is proceeding to the Cathedral of St. Matthew where he is meeting with American bishops.

 

11 a.m.

The pope draws an amazingly diverse crowd.

Sedelta Oosahwee, a Native American from Oklahoma, stood next to Alexander Kurien, a native of India, during the ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. They were drawn by the same message: the need for people to care for one another. And the pope delivered, as far as they were concerned.

Ossahwee says she didn’t get any sleep Tuesday night but it was worth it to see the pope. She says, “His message of taking care of each other, taking care of the environment and taking care of those who are less fortunate is a message we all need to hear and it resonates very deeply with me.”

Kurien is a pastor with the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church and says the pope lets the poor know there is someone who cares.

10:40 a.m.

Bishops are gathering at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, where they will pray with Pope Francis. The cathedral holds about 1,000 people, and about 300 US bishops are expected to attend. The pope is expected to pray in Latin and speak to the bishops in Italian.

The cathedral is best known as the site where Washington mourned the death of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. He is memorialized with a marble plaque in the cathedral floor at the site of the 35th president’s funeral.

The parish dates to 1840 as the fourth Catholic church established in the District of Columbia.

10:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis are meeting privately in the Oval Office.

Their meeting followed an elaborate welcome ceremony for Francis on the South Lawn of the White House that took place under sunny, blue skies in front of some 15,000 onlookers.

After the ceremony, Obama led Francis into the White House. They reappeared on a balcony and waved to the throngs huddled on the lawn and walked along the colonnade and past the famed Rose Garden on the way to the president’s office.

Each leader addressed the contentious climate change issue in brief remarks to the crowd. It’s one of several issues on which they agree and a likely topic of discussion in their meeting.

Another likely topic is the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Francis act11 a.m.

The pope draws an amazingly diverse crowd.

Sedelta Oosahwee, a Native American from Oklahoma, stood next to Alexander Kurien, a native of India, during the ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. They were drawn by the same message: the need for people to care for one another. And the pope delivered, as far as they were concerned.

Ossahwee says she didn’t get any sleep Tuesday night but it was worth it to see the pope. She says, “His message of taking care of each other, taking care of the environment and taking care of those who are less fortunate is a message we all need to hear and it resonates very deeply with me.”

Kurien is a pastor with the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church and says the pope lets the poor know there is someone who cares.

10:40 a.m.

Bishops are gathering at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, where they will pray with Pope Francis. The cathedral holds about 1,000 people, and about 300 US bishops are expected to attend. The pope is expected to pray in Latin and speak to the bishops in Italian.

The cathedral is best known as the site where Washington mourned the death of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. He is memorialized with a marble plaque in the cathedral floor at the site of the 35th president’s funeral.

The parish dates to 1840 as the fourth Catholic church established in the District of Columbia.

10:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis are meeting privately in the Oval Office.

Their meeting followed an elaborate welcome ceremony for Francis on the South Lawn of the White House that took place under sunny, blue skies in front of some 15,000 onlookers.

After the ceremony, Obama led Francis into the White House. They reappeared on a balcony and waved to the throngs huddled on the lawn and walked along the colonnade and past the famed Rose Garden on the way to the president’s office.

Each leader addressed the contentious climate change issue in brief remarks to the crowd. It’s one of several issues on which they agree and a likely topic of discussion in their meeting.

Another likely topic is the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Francis acted as something of a go-between for the longtime foes.

10 a.m.

Pope Francis is encouraging U.S. bishops to continue to defend religious liberty in America in a message that will be welcomed by conservatives fighting for conscience exemptions on gay marriage and the Obama administration’s health care mandate.

Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House with President Barack Obama at his side, Francis said religious liberty is “one of America’s most precious possessions.”

He says everyone in America is called to “preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

Religious freedom has become a rallying cry for opponents of gay marriage in the U.S. who don’t want to recognize same-sex spouses in their charities, schools, hospitals and businesses.

The issue is a major point of tension between Obama and the U.S. bishops.

10 a.m.

Some eager to see Pope Francis parade through the nation’s capital have traveled great distances for the opportunity.

Adele Flores lives in Manila and traveled to Washington just to see the pope. When the pope visited the Philippines the crowds were too thick and she didn’t catch a glimpse.

Flores says: “When he passed by, even though I didn’t see him, I felt him.” And she says: “You hope by getting a glimpse that a little bit of his holiness will rub off on you.”

9:45 a.m.

The pope says climate change is an urgent problem that “can no longer be left to a future generation.”

Francis waded into that hot-button political issue in remarks at the White House, where President Barack Obama and a crowd of thousands welcomed him.

The pope praised Obama for focusing on the environment and the need to cut air pollution, calling it “encouraging.”

Francis cast climate change as a peril to what he called our “common home” in a speech that also called for safeguarding religious liberty and rejecting discrimination.

On climate change, he says time remains to make changes that are needed but also warns that “we are living at a critical moment of history.”

Climate change is one of several issues on which the pope and the president agree, though Republicans in Congress have blocked many of Obama’s efforts to address the issue by law.

Francis is on his first visit to the U.S.

9:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama is commending Pope Francis for “shaking us out of complacency” and giving people confidence to pursue a world that is more loving, just and free.

Obama is speaking at a crowded welcome ceremony for the pope on the South Lawn of the White House. The president says the excitement surrounding the pope’s visit must be attributed not only to his role as head of the Catholic Church, but also Francis’ humility and generosity of spirit.

Obama is singling out the pope’s call for focusing on the poor and the marginalized, including refugees fleeing war and immigrants in search of a better life. He’s also highlighting the pope’s call for protecting the planet and supporting communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The president is thanking the pope for his support for efforts to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

9:20 a.m.

The Obamas and a crowd of thousands are welcoming the pope to the White House.

After lingering with young people outside the Vatican’s diplomatic mission, Francis arrived at the White House for a welcome on the South Lawn heralded by the call of bugles and snappy salutes. Under sunny skies, the crowd of invited guests, military personnel and officials gathered for remarks by President Barack Obama and the pope. The president and his wife, Michelle, greeted him when he emerged from his Fiat, his modest vehicle of choice.

9 a.m.

Before leaving for the White House, Pope Francis took his time greeting schoolchildren outside the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Washington where he spent the night.

The children hugged him, took picture and waved Holy See flags. They were dressed to the nines, some in school uniforms. The pope lingered in conversation with some, and patted heads.

Aside from his bodyguards, Francis is accompanied by Monsignor Mark Miles, his trusty English translator, but he didn’t seem to need his services.

Francis greeted the kids before getting into his car to travel to the White House for his meeting with President Barack Obama.

8:50 a.m.

Minutes before Pope Francis was to arrive at the White House, President Barack Obama tweeted a welcome message to him.

Here’s what Obama’s tweet says: “Welcome to the White House, Pontifex!” – that’s the pope’s Vatican Twitter feed.

Obama says that Francis’ “messages of love, hope and peace have inspired us all.”

Obama went to a military airport in Maryland to greet the pope for his U.S. arrival Tuesday.

8:40 a.m.

Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious leaders are at the White House to help welcome Pope Francis.

But some Jews are missing out on the excitement.

Francis’ visit to the White House coincides with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. They spend the day repenting and atoning for any sins.

The holiday began at sundown Tuesday and ends at sundown Wednesday – hours after the pope will have left the White House.

The White House says the invitation-only crowd of some 15,000 also includes people who don’t lead religious groups or aren’t connected with faith-based organizations but who just have “a great regard for the pope and his message.”

Observant Jews can participate in some of the pope’s other events in the nation’s capital, such as his address at the Capitol on Thursday.

8:30 a.m.

Raeann Meier and Mary Darnell are among the lucky ones to land tickets for Thursday’s papal mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Meier, who’s from Round Hill, Virginia, won a pair of tickets in her church lottery and is bringing fellow parishioner Darnell.

Meier says of Francis: “There is just no pope like this one.” She says “Jesus hung out with the dregs – the tax collectors, the prostitutes” and “that’s the way this pope is.”

7:50 a.m.

An elaborate welcoming ceremony full of American pomp and pageantry awaits Pope Francis when he goes to the White House.

The pope is scheduled to arrive by motorcade at about 9 a.m., his car pulling slowly up the South Lawn driveway to a red carpet, where President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will be waiting to greet him.

In front of an estimated 15,000 people who were invited by the White House to witness the historic moment, Obama will then lead Francis to a dais decked out with even more red carpet and red, white and blue bunting, and ringed by military color guards. The Vatican and American national anthems will play. Obama will deliver a welcome address to the pope, followed by the pope’s address.

Francis will also receive a thunderous 21-gun salute.

7:05 a.m.

The morning light is just hitting the streets surrounding the National Mall in Washington, and already there’s a buzz of pope-related activity.

People hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during a late morning parade are lining up for a coveted spot along the route.

Police and the Secret Service are enforcing road closures in the area and directing foot traffic.

The parade is the only nonticketed event during the pope’s visit to the capital, and a big crowd is expected.

___

6:30 a.m.

As a head of state, Pope Francis officially is in the U.S. on what’s known as a “state visit.”

But the formal ceremony Wednesday morning on the White House South Lawn will be slightly different from most state arrival ceremonies.

For one thing, President Barack Obama and Francis will not review the troops, as presidents do with other visiting leaders. That’s because the pontiff controls no armed forces.

Nor will Francis return to the White House in the evening as the guest at a lavish state dinner, one of the highlights of most state visits.

That’s largely because of Francis’ busy schedule.

The pope is spending the rest of the day with Roman Catholic bishops and other church officials and celebrating Mass at Catholic University.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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