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CNA Staff, Apr 7, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has welcomed the acquittal of Cardinal George Pell by Australia’s High Court.
Pell was freed from prison Tuesday after the High Court decided unanimously to overturn his conviction for child sex offenses.
Fisher, who succeeded Pell as Archbishop of Sydney in 2014, said in a statement April 7: “The cardinal has always maintained his innocence and today’s decision confirms his conviction was wrong.”
He continued: “I am pleased that the cardinal will now be released and I ask that the pursuit of him that brought us to this point now cease.”
“This has not just been a trial of Cardinal Pell, but also of our legal system and culture. The cardinal’s vindication today invites broader reflection on our system of justice, our commitment to the presumption of innocence, and our treatment of high-profile figures accused of crimes.”
The archbishop acknowledged that clerical abuse had fueled anger at the Church. He said Catholic leaders could only restore trust by seeking justice for abuse survivors and safeguarding the vulnerable.
“Some will struggle with today’s decision,” he said. “Cases like these can reopen the wounds of survivors of abuse so that they feel like they are on trial too. But justice for victims is never served by the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of anyone. I hope and pray that the finality of the legal processes will bring some closure and healing to all affected.”
Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne called for prayers for both Pell and his accuser, identified through the courts as “J”.
“I want to firstly acknowledge ’J’, who brought forward his story of abuse for examination in the courts of law,” he said in an April 7 statement. “This is a right we value and honor.”
“I also acknowledge Cardinal Pell who has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout. Rightly, he has been afforded the full possibilities of the judicial system. This decision means the cardinal has been wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and he is now free to live his life peaceably within the community.”
Archbishop Comensoli said he would re-dedicate himself and his archdiocese to listening to abuse victims, protecting young people and encouraging faithful clergy.
“Let us pray for ‘J’ and his family; pray for Cardinal Pell and his family; pray and work for survivors of abuse; and build a Church that is centered on God’s love for each person, with a special care and concern for the weakest, the most vulnerable, the most hurt,” the archbishop said.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked to comment on the High Court verdict while holding a press conference on the coronavirus.
"The High Court, the highest court in the land, has made its decision and it must be respected," he said.
Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, the state in which Pell was tried, said he had no comment on the High Court’s decision.
“But I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse: 'I see you. I hear you. I believe you',” he said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who visited Pell in jail and supported him throughout his legal ordeal, said: "Today's just a day to let the High Court judgment speak for itself.”
Andrew Bolt, a Sky News host and columnist, described Pell’s conviction in 2018 as “the greatest miscarriage of justice in Australian history.”
Bolt, an outspoken critic of the case against Pell, said: “A lot of people today should be ashamed of their role in the persecution, the witch hunting and the jailing -- for 404 days -- of an innocent man.”
He continued: “The charges were inherently implausible and yet they were believed. And voices that spoke against this conviction were hounded down. It is a disgrace.”
He added: “There was a witch hunt in this country and we need to look at why that happened.”
CNA Staff, Apr 7, 2020 / 01:01 am (CNA).- Recovering from coronavirus, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is encouraging Catholics in a message for Holy Week to “become part of the story.”
“My sisters and brothers...we can be assured that this Holy Week will be one like we have never celebrated before,” Aymond said in his video message, posted on Facebook.
“With the coronavirus and all the ramifications, and the crosses and the crisis and the challenges this has caused, it will be a very different Holy Week,” he said.
But one thing never changes, Aymond added - Holy Week is a time for Catholics to immerse themselves even more deeply in prayer and “being (not) a spectator watching Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection, but being a part of that story as it unfolds.”
Two weeks ago, on March 23, Aymond announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus and that he was in self-quarantine with mild symptoms. He was the first known U.S. bishop to test positive for the virus that has become a global pandemic.
On April 1, the archdiocese gave a brief update on its Facebook page, announcing that while the bishop remained self-quarantined at home he “continues to make good progress. He is feeling much better, and his fever is consistently reducing. His hope and prayer is to be able to celebrate the liturgies of the Holy Triduum and Easter,” services which will be televised and livestreamed.
“He thanks everyone for their prayers and assures all of his continued prayers for our community. In the midst of his recovery, he has not forgotten that the community is suffering and he remains close in prayer to all who are sick, those who care for the sick, those who are grieving, and those who are suffering with fear and anxiety,” the archdiocese’s update added.
The archbishop also continued to post video messages to his Facebook page during his recovery, updating Catholics on the latest coronavirus guidelines and encouraging them in prayer and faith.
In his Holy Week message, he invited Catholics to become part of the story during Holy Week by choosing one of the Gospel narratives on Christ’s passion, death and resurrection prayerfully and slowly, and to immerse themselves in the story by choosing a character and looking at the scenes through their perspective.
“Perhaps sitting at the Last Supper, you can become one of the apostles,” Aymond said. “Perhaps you will be able to look at Peter as he is in the garden watching Jesus pray.”
“Perhaps we can become like Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, or like John standing next to her, or Veronica wiping his face as he is bleeding, or the women of Jerusalem as they are crying...or perhaps we can be Joseph of Arimathea, asking for the body of Jesus so that we can bury it in a very sacred way,” he added.
“If we do that, my sisters and brothers, we are not spectators of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we become part of the story. And it is important that we always become part of the story to see God’s love and fidelity, but in a special way as we go through the coronavirus crisis,” he said.
The archbishop also encouraged Catholics to unite “our sufferings, our questions, our loneliness, our uncertainty about the future” to Christ’s sufferings this Holy Week.
In a previous video message, Aymond also asked that all churches in his dioceses ring their bells at 6 p.m. every day, as a reminder to Catholics to pray for healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the coronavirus.
“May the sound of the bells remind us to lift our prayers to God for many in this time of crisis, and in a special way for our health care workers who risk their lives for our protection. May our daily bells and prayer give worship to our God,” he said.
Villavicencio, Colombia, Apr 7, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Óscar Urbina, suspended 15 priests of his archdiocese from ministry who have been accused of sexual abuse. Other jurisdictions in the country have removed four other priests.
Archbishop Óscar Urbina of Villavicencio told Colombian media that the accused priests represent 15% of the city’s priests.
The priests are accused of committing sexual abuse in Colombia, Italy and the United States, Caracol Radio reported.
Fr. Carlos Villabón, communications director and chancellor for the archdiocese of Villavicencio, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that the 15 priests were suspended while a canonical investigation proceeds at the Vatican.
“On March 16, 2020 these 15 priests were notified after a preliminary investigation was carried out. They are neither convicted nor acquitted by this suspension, only asked to relinquish their parish duties, cease celebrating the Eucharist and cease their ministerial service while the complete investigation is conducted,” the priest explained.
The results of the preliminary investigation “are now being sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, and there they will determine the gravity of the facts and what the Church calls a penal canonical process will be conducted,” Villabón said.
“It’s unknown how much time the canonical process will take, but the idea is that it proceed as quickly as possible, considering that in Italy and in many parts of the world there’s a quarantine because of the coronavirus,” the communications director added.
Caracol Radio published a list of the 19 priests, but Villabón told ACI Prensa that the archdiocese would neither confirm nor deny the names reported.
“According to a witness under protection by the prosecutor’s office, the 19 priests apparently formed a network of abusers, Caracol Radio reported.
In an April 3 statement, the archdiocese of Villavicencio announced that an accusation was received Feb. 14, 2020 concerning “acts against sexual morality by some priests of this archdiocese.”
“Having as a priority the alleged victim, we expressed to him our deep pain and solidarity and have offered him psychological and spiritual accompaniment. We reaffirm our commitment to act with clarity and transparency for his good and that of the Church,” the statement said.
Following the protocols of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Minors, once the abuse was reported, the regional prosecutor’s office was notified and “we made ourselves completely available to cooperate in the investigations taking place in this case,” the statement said.
The archdiocese said that it has taken steps “to eradicate the terrible evil of abuse within and outside our institution. We ask to be informed of any situations where one of our members has finally betrayed his vocation of service and dedication to the Lord and the community.”
A version of this story was first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2020 / 10:20 pm (CNA).- The High Court of Australia ordered the acquittal of Cardinal George Pell on Tuesday.
While Pell’s criminal trials in Australia are now at an end, the same accusations which saw him first convicted, then denied appeal, then acquitted, must now be addressed by the Church’s own legal process. That canonical process, on hold while the Australian justice system ran its course, can now begin.
While many of Pell’s supporters might consider any further legal ordeal for the cardinal to be unnecessary, even cruel, Vatican efforts to restore faith in its ability to handle accusations of sexual abuse fully and fairly – no exceptions – mean that there will have to be some kind of canonical process.
The necessity for some canonical process to formally address the accusations against Pell does not, however, mean it need be lengthy. While the pope alone is competent to determine how a case against a cardinal proceeds, in practice Francis is almost sure to depute the process to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – something provided for in the motu proprio Sacromentorum sanctitatis tutela. Unless there is pressing evidence on both sides of the case, the CDF rarely convenes a full trial- especially when the matter has received a full litigation in a secular court.
The decision the CDF will face is how, and if, to proceed with the preliminary investigation.
As a first step, the CDF will have to determine if the accusations against Pell rise to the level of “a semblance of truth,” that is they are not “manifestly false or frivolous.”
Following the High Court’s decision, which repeatedly pointed out the lack of any supporting evidence for the accusations of Pell’s lone accuser, it is entirely possible that the CDF could chose to rule that the accusations against Pell do not meet even this most basic criterion and dismiss the charges out of hand, as the Victoria police did with several of the more obviously false allegations collected by its open-ended investigation into Pell.
This would have the benefit of sending the most emphatic message possible that Rome views the accusations against Pell as absurd, and by implication his original conviction a farce. But, it could also represent something of a setback for the Vatican’s aim to be seen to give every accusation a formal examination.
A more likely way ahead may be for the Congregation to open a preliminary investigation, the bulk of which would likely consist of the court documents from Pell’s trial and appeals. This investigation could then conclude, as the High Court did, that there is simply no evidence to support the charges against Pell, and a considerable diversity of evidence arguing for his innocence.
Under the legal terms of Pell’s appeal, the High Court could only consider the “reasonableness” of the jury’s decision to convict in the light of the standard of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. But nothing prevents the CDF from examining the same evidence and pronouncing that it positively establishes Pell’s innocence and dismissing the case at the pre-trial phase.
Another option, one which would be seen to follow the canonical process to the full, would allow Pell’s sole accuser to present his accusations and testimony directly to officials from the CDF, assuming he is willing. The CDF would also take depositions from Pell and from as many of the witnesses at the trial as possible – all of whom appeared in Pell’s favor – before proceeding to issue a decision.
Whatever process is followed, almost no one expects a canonical court in Rome to find Pell guilty, given the overwhelming evidence he has now presented in his own defense.
Victoria Court of Appeal judge Mark Weinberg noted, in his opinion dissenting from the decision to uphold Pell’s conviction, that the cardinal had been made to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt; an inverted burden of proof many observers feel he cleared.
Throughout Pell’s three-year legal battle, Rome has remained studiously non-committal about the cardinal’s case.
At each stage of proceedings, the Vatican press office released no more than flat acknowledgments of the case’s progress, noting that Pell had a right to exhaust every appeal, and expressing faith that the Australian justice system would run its course.
That course has now been run.
Whatever statements are released in Rome welcoming the end of Pell’s legal battle while underscoring the Church’s commitment to child protection, the real measure of the Vatican’s opinion on the case will come from the speed, nature, and verdict of the canonical process which must now follow.
For Cardinal Pell, it likely cannot come soon enough.
CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2020 / 07:12 pm (CNA).- After his conviction for child sexual abuse was overturned Tuesday by Australia’s High Court, Cardinal George Pell has released a statement expressing gratitude to his family, friends, and legal team, and noting that he does not bear resentment toward his accuser.
“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” Pell said April 7, according to a statement published by the Archdiocese of Sydney.
“This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision,” Pell added. “I look forward to reading the Judgment reasons for the decision in detail.”
“I hold no ill will to my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.”
“The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all,” the cardinal added.
Pell is expected to be released from prison April 7.
Pell was convicted in 2018 of five counts of child sexual abuse. He was alleged to have sexually assaulted two choir boys while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Pell’s attorneys called the allegation “simply impossible,” but after a hung jury in a first trial, he was convicted in a second.
While Pell was, for many, the face of Catholicism in Australia, and was much maligned after an Australian government enquiry revealed decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and other institutions, Pell insisted that his ordeal should have been limited to the allegations against him.
“My trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of peadeophilia in the Church.”
“The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes and I did not.”
Pell’s statement expressed “thanks for all the prayers and thousands of letters of support.”
“I want to thank in particular my family for their love and support and what they had to go through; my small team of advisors; those who spoke up for me and suffered as a result; and all my friends and supports here and overseas.”
“Also my deepest thanks and gratitude to my entire legal team for their unwavering resolve to see justice prevail, to throw light on manufactured obscurity and to reveal the truth.”
The Australian High Court granted Pell’s petition for special leave to appeal on April 7. In the decision, the seven justices unanimously found that there was “no evidence” to support the accuser’s narrative beyond his own perceived credibility by the jury, and that, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence,” the jury could not have avoided reasonable doubt about Pell’s innocence.
“Plainly they did,” the justices concluded.
“Making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury,” the High Court said, “there is a significant possibility in relation to [the] charges... that an innocent person has been convicted.”
The decision markes an end to a process which began in 2013, when police in Victoria opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes committed by Pell, despite there being no accusations or criminal complaints against him at that time.
The following year, in 2014, senior police officers in Victoria discussed via internal email how developments in the Pell investigation could be used to deflect media scrutiny and criticism from an unfolding corruption scandal in the force.
The operation was given a more formal footing the following year and charges were announced in 2017. Pell repeatedly denied all the accusations and left Rome for Melbourne insisting that he would clear his name in court.
During pre-trial committal hearings, several of the accusations, related to his time as a priest in the town of Ballarat, were dropped by prosecutors owing to lack of evidence.
In 2018, Pell arrived in court to face the first of what was originally meant to be two trials. That trial proceeded to a deadlock under a court-ordered media blackout in the early autumn of 2018. A five week retrial, also subject to blanket reporting restrictions, convicted Pell in December of that year, and Pell was sentenced to six years in prison.
The second trial collapsed before it could begin when, in January last year, prosecutors conceded they did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Pell’s initial appeal of the verdict was rejected in 2019 by a court in the Australian state of Victoria, before the case went to the High Court which quashed the conviction.
Throughout his trial Pell has maintained his innocence, telling friends that he was committed to living his time in prison - much of it spent in solitary confinement - as a monastic retreat.
“He sees himself as living a time of purgatory for the sins of the Church, and he’s embracing it as that,” one close friend of Pell told CNA last year.
Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2020 / 06:25 pm (CNA).- After an ordeal that began nearly four years ago, and more than 13 months of imprisonment, Cardinal George Pell is expected to be released from prison imminently, after his conviction for five alleged counts of sexual abuse was overturned unanimously Tuesday by Australia’s High Court.
Pell is expected to be released from prison within two hours.
The court ordered that "the appellant's convictions be quashed and judgments of acquittal be entered in their place," in its April 7 decision.
“The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place,” the court said in a judgment summary April 7.
After a March hearing at the High Court in Canberra, which Pell was not permitted to attend, the cardinal will soon be released from HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security facility southwest of Melbourne. Pell is expected to celebrate with a private Mass of thanksgiving, the first he will celebrate since his incarceration in February 2019.
At issue in the appeal was whether the jury that convicted Pell in December 2018 of sexually abusing two choristers could have plausibly found Pell guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, having heard the case presented by the prosecutors and the defense mounted by Pell’s lawyers.
The High Court found the appellate court that heard Pell’s appeal last year “failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”
With regard to the jury, “The Court held that, on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant's evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents,” the judgment summary explained.
The Court’s April 7 summary release added that “The unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses was inconsistent with the complainant's account, and described: (i) the applicant's practice of greeting congregants on or near the Cathedral steps after Sunday solemn Mass; (ii) the established and historical Catholic church practice that required that the applicant, as an archbishop, always be accompanied when robed in the Cathedral; and (iii) the continuous traffic in and out of the priests' sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended Sunday solemn Mass.”
In their appeal, Pell’s attorney argued that the conviction should have been overturned because it was based upon uncorroborated testimony of only one complainant.
That complainant said that he and another choir boy were sexually abused by Pell after Sunday Mass while the cardinal was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.
According to the complainant, Pell exposed himself and forced the two teenage choir boys to commit sex acts upon him, while the cardinal was fully vested in his Sunday Mass garb, almost immediately after Mass in the priests’ sacristy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The complainant also said that Pell fondled him in a corridor in 1997.
"The assumption that a group of choristers, including adults, might have been so preoccupied with making their way to the robing room as to fail to notice the extraordinary sight of the Archbishop of Melbourne dressed 'in his full regalia' advancing through the procession and pinning a 13 year old boy to the wall, is a large one," the High Court said in its decision.
The other apparent victim died in 2014, and was unable to testify in the proceedings. In 2001 he denied to his mother that any abuse occurred while he was a member of the choir.
Pell was convicted in 2018, in the second trial concerning the allegations. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
After the conviction, the cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he had been required to serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole. Pell was to be eligible for release in October 2022.
Pell, 78, has maintained his innocence. His defence has insisted that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, “simply impossible.”
The conviction has divided opinion in Australia and internationally. The cardinal’s defenders have contended that the sacristy abuse allegations are not possible given the high traffic after Mass and the obstructing nature of the Mass vestments.
The cardinal has been incarcerated in HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security prison southwest of Melbourne that holds some notorious crime bosses.
The cardinal is now expected to face a canonical proceeding in Rome, overseen by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Shortly after the High Court announced its decision Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane released a statement on behalf of the Australian bishops' confernece saying that the news "will be welcomed by many, including those who have believed in the Cardinal’s innocence throughout this lengthy process."
But, Coleridge said, the result "does not change the Church’s unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of sexual abuse."
"The safety of children remains supremely important not only for the bishops, but for the entire Catholic community," the archbishop said.
This story is developing and is being updated.
CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday allowed some surgical abortions and medication abortions to continue during the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) crisis. The decision was made in relation to a state-ordered halt to elective abortion procedures in Ohio for the duration of the pandemic.
Ohio had ordered a halt on surgical abortions as “non-essential” medical procedures during the new coronavirus crisis, before a district court in Ohio on March 30 put a temporary restraining order on that policy.
The court allowed for surgical abortions to continue in the state, but on a case-by-case basis. If abortions could not be safely postponed or conducted via chemical prescription, then they could occur, the court said.
On Monday, the Sixth Circuit declined the state’s appeal of the decision, saying it lacked jurisdiction, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
As the district court’s restraining order allowed abortions on a case-by-case basis and did not allow for a wholesale continuation of all surgical abortions, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit wrote that “we are not persuaded” that the court’s order “threatens to inflict irretrievable harms or consequences before it expires.”
Ohio’s health department had ordered a stop to elective abortions, among other non-essential medical procedures, during the new coronavirus pandemic in order to preserve health care personnel and resources to treat the growing pandemic.
“While all Ohioans are being asked to make sacrifices in order to preserve innocent lives, the larger medical community is sacrificing the most: not only their time, but their equipment, their private practices, and potentially their own lives,” stated Stephanie Ranade Krider, Vice President of Ohio Right to Life, on Monday.
Also on Monday, a federal judge in Oklahoma blocked that state’s restrictions on elective abortions during the coronavirus outbreak from going into effect, CBS News reported.
Judge Charles Goodwin of the Western District of Oklahoma issued a temporary restraining order on the state’s act to stop non-emergency abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the state can take lawful “emergency measures” during the new coronavirus crisis, Judge Goodwin wrote, such actions should not be “a plain, palpable invasion of rights,” including of “access to abortion.”
He concluded that the state “acted in an ‘unreasonable,’ ‘arbitrary,’ and ‘oppressive’ way—and imposed an ‘undue burden’ on abortion access—in imposing requirements that effectively deny a right of access to abortion.” Regarding its ban on medication abortions, Goodwin said its “minor” contribution to public health is “outweighed by the intrusion on Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
On March 31, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay on a district court ruling, regarding Texas’ act to stop abortions except in cases where the mother’s health or life was at stake.
A district court had enjoined the state’s order from going into effect, but the Fifth Circuit put a temporary stay on that ruling to have more time to consider the case. The Texas order is back in effect for now.
CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic landlord made the decision March 30 to waive April’s rent for all of his 200 tenants, in the hopes of giving them one less thing to worry about amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"I told them not to worry, not to panic, we're going through some very tough times with this monster disease," Brooklyn landlord Mario Salerno told EWTN News Nightly.
"My Catholic faith brought it upon me to make this decision. I pray every day, and when I have extra time, when I'm in quarantine, I pray and I ask the good Lord to please conquer this vicious virus.”
Salerno, 59, owns a mechanic shop, gas station, and an auto body shop as well as 80 apartments in Brooklyn. Many of his tenants have lost their jobs, he said.
"I wanted them to have some peace of mind, not worrying about where their next dollar was. As a human, I felt a lot more comfortable making sure they had food on their table, which several of them didn't, and I felt very honored to tell them that."
Salerno said he’s not overly concerned about the loss of his income— and more concerned about the human lives residing under his roofs. The financial losses are irrelevant to the value of a human life, and “I value people's lives," he said.
“At the end of my journey, when I go and meet the dear Lord and the dear master, I want to ask Him before he could ask me: 'Was I good? How was my faith?'" he said.
Salerno posted notices on all his buildings that April’s rent would be waived. Since then, many of his tenants have approached him offering to help to pump gas at his station, mop his buildings, and offer other help.
Salerno said he has encouraged his tenants to take care of their neighbors first. He said some are still working, and are willing to pay him rent, and he has encouraged them to put their rent money toward food instead.
"We need the good Lord. He can conquer this; we need to pray,” Salerno said.
Almost ten million people in the U.S have filed for unemployment insurance in the last two weeks, a period representing the most catastrophic job loss since the Great Depression. Economists have estimated that national unemployment rate is now roughly 13%, higher than it has been since the 1930s.