Signs of the Times

Capuchins Elect Mountain Climber to Head Order

Representatives of the Capuchins overwhelmingly elected the Swiss provincial superior, Mauro Johri, to head the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin for the next six years. The 59-year-old friar replaces John Corriveau, O.F.M.Cap., a Canadian, who is leaving as Capuchin minister-general after serving the maximum tenure of two six-year terms. More than 170 representatives of the religious order took part in the voting on Sept. 4 during their three-week general chapter in Rome. Father Johri garnered 157 of 173 votes in the final election round.

Born in the Swiss canton of Grison in 1947, Father Johri entered the Capuchin novitiate when he was 17 years old. After being ordained a priest in 1972, he completed his doctorate in theology at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland. He taught religion at a public school and later taught dogmatic and fundamental theology at the University of Lugano in southern Switzerland. He also served as president of the Swiss bishops’ conference commission on pastoral planning and as superior of the Capuchins’ Italian region of Switzerland. In 1995 he became provincial of the Swiss Capuchin province and was re-elected to the post in 2005. He was also president of the Union of Religious Superiors of Switzerland. Father Johri is fluent in Italian, German, French and the dialect Ladin and is also a climbing enthusiast.


In his acceptance speech on Sept. 4, he thanked his fellow Capuchins for choosing him as their leader on the rope as we climb together to the peak on this journey of giving their lives to God. He said that as an international brotherhood and community, the Capuchins have to reach into our pockets in order to be ready and willing to share the goods we have received with one another.

New Religious Order Founded to Evangelize the Deaf

The Rev. Thomas Coughlin’s lifelong dream to start a religious community where sign language is the primary means of expression at both the eucharistic table and the dinner table is finally becoming a reality. Deaf since birth, Father Coughlin has founded the new order, the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate. The priest of the Diocese of Honolulu was one of five men who made their first profession of vows on Aug. 27 at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, Calif.

Necessity is the mother of invention, Father Coughlin told The Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Honolulu Diocese, in an interview by e-mail. I saw how badly we need a religious community of deaf priests and brothers dedicated to a deeper spiritual life and the deaf apostolate in the language of signs and the deaf culture milieu.

The five men pronounced their vows before Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of Oakland, Calif., who formally recognized the new community in 2004. Father Coughlin will remain a diocesan priest until he makes his final vows in a few years. The other four men are in various stages of preparation for the priesthood. The religious community also has two novices.

John Paul I Cause Almost Ready for Vatican

As the 28th anniversary of Pope John Paul I’s brief pontificate approached, one of the priests working on the cause for his canonization said the paperwork would be sent to the Vatican by the end of the year. Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice, Italy, was elected on Aug. 26, 1978, to succeed Pope Paul VI. As Pope John Paul I, he served just over a month, dying on Sept. 28. The diocesan phase of his cause for sainthood formally opened in 2003 in his home diocese of Belluno and Feltre, Italy. Vatican Radio reported that Msgr. Giorgio Lise, vice postulator of the cause, said on Aug. 17 that 170 witnesses already had been interviewed about the late pope’s life and ministry, and that the last remaining interviews would be conducted by early November. A formal biography and the witnesses’ testimony will be sent to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes by the end of the year, he said.

Former Cleveland Diocesan Official Indicted

The former chief finance and legal officer of the Diocese of Cleveland was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 16 in connection with an alleged kickback scheme that authorities say netted him nearly $785,000. Joseph F. Smith, now finance director for the Diocese of Columbus, was named in a 23-count indictment. Smith’s friend and former Cleveland diocesan employee Anton Zgoznik was charged with 15 counts in the indictment. The indictment alleges that the men conspired to defraud and obtain money from the Cleveland Diocese and then tried to cover their actions by falsifying tax returns and other documents. Both Smith, 50, and Zgoznik, 39, are charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, obstruction of tax laws and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. Smith, who lives in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, also is charged with money laundering and filing false personal income tax returns. Zgoznik also faces charges of aiding and assisting preparation of a false corporate income tax document and returns.

Abbot of South Carolina’s Mepkin Abbey Dies at 57

Francis Kline, O.C.S.O., abbot of Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, S.C., died on Aug. 27 at age 57 after a three-year battle with lymphoma. A memorial service was scheduled for Aug. 31 at the Trappist abbey. A Juilliard-trained organist, Father Kline had led the Mepkin Abbey since 1980, four years after his ordination. Under his leadership, the abbey, built on the site of an 18th-century rice plantation, became a sought-after place of contemplation and education for people of all faiths seeking temporary retreat from the world. Through his work with environmental activists and the Cooper River Forum, Father Kline also assured that more than 3,000 acres owned by the monastery would be forever protected from commercial development. Born Joseph Paul Kline III in Philadelphia, he attended the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School and St. Joseph Preparatory School in Philadelphia. At 15, Father Kline performed his first public organ concert. During his final year at Juilliard School in New York in 1970-71, he presented the complete organ works of J. S. Bach in 14 recitals, an accomplishment that earned a profile in The New York Times.

Prosecutor Will Not Proceed Against Bishop

An Irish prosecutor will not proceed with charges of child abuse against retired Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway, Ireland, said a brief statement from the Irish Catholic Communications Office.

In November, 79-year-old Bishop Casey was accused by a woman of having abused her as a child. At the time of the accusation he was serving as a curate in Hayward’s Heath, England, and according to church guidelines he was immediately suspended from clerical duties. The complainant, a woman from Limerick, Ireland, who now lives in England, had made similar allegations against other clerics; those claims subsequently were found to be unsubstantiated. Bishop Casey was one of the most popular members of the Irish church because of his work for justice in Ireland, Britain and the third world. But in 1992 he fled Ireland after it was revealed he had fathered a child with an American woman, with whom he had an affair dating back to his time as bishop of Kerry, 1969-76.

Bishop Casey spent six years of his self-exile serving as a missionary in Ecuador before taking up his post as a curate in Hayward’s Heath in 1998. In January, he returned to Ireland to retire in the parish of Shanaglish, County Galway, but because of the allegations against him he was barred from celebrating Mass in public. He will be able to return to priestly duties in Shanaglish when an internal church inquiry is complete, although it is unknown how long that could take.

Priest in China Assists H.I.V./AIDS Victims

When the Rev. Joseph Zhang, a Catholic priest from China’s Liaoning Province, was ordained a priest in 1992, he believed education was the most important service he could provide. That changed after a visit in 2003 to a Catholic center in Bangkok, Thailand, where Father Zhang witnessed the treatment of people living with H.I.V. and AIDS and learned about the pandemic. Now I think serving people is the most important, he says. Without serving other people, our faith is not complete. With backing from Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Social Service Center of the Diocese of Liaoning now assists people affected by H.I.V. and AIDS, offering counseling, support groups, financial support for health services and home visits. Father Zhang says many Catholics in his diocese initially questioned whether the work was church business. He pointed to the Bible for an explanation. At Jesus’ time, it was the lepers. At our time, it is the people with H.I.V. and AIDS. If Jesus were alive today, he certainly would do something. A Unaids report in 2006 estimates that 0.1 percent of China’s adults between the ages of 15 and 49 were infected with H.I.V. Although the rate of prevalence of H.I.V. in China does not approach the rates of Asia’s worst affected nations, the report warns that it has been increasing recently in China.

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