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Vatican News

Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of “criminality” involved in recent Vatican financial scandals.

Speaking in an interview with Associated Press Monday, the cardinal, who led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2017, said that he regretted that his efforts to bring tough mechanisms for financial transparency and accountability had been vindicated by the details of recent scandals.

Pell told AP that he knew, from the time Pope Francis put him in charge of a key part of his curial reform agenda, that the Vatican finances were “a bit of a mess.”

But, the cardinal said, he “never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved.”

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Pell said.

Until 2017, Pell led an effort called for by Pope Francis to bring order and accountability to the Vatican’s finances, which have long lacked centralized procedures, controls, or oversight, claiming at one point to have discovered hundreds of millions of euros being kept “off books” from the ordinary Vatican accounts.

Pell’s reforming efforts met with institutional resistance from some curial officials and departments, most notably Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who at the time of Pell’s tenure at the Secretariat for the Economy, was sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

CNA has also reported that Pell and Becciu clashed repeatedly over financial affairs, including the use of Swiss banks to provide financing for different investments allegedly obscured from Vatican balance sheets, including the controversial purchase of a London building.

Since at least 2018, Vatican criminal investigators have been reviewing a web of investments and transactions at the Secretariat of State involving a network of businessmen and curial officials linked to investments related to the London property deal.

So far, one of brokers of the deal has been arrested, and several Vatican officials have had their offices and homes raided.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals, and has denied subsequent media reports that he used Church funds to benefit family members, or that he had attempted to influence the outcome of a sex abuse trial against Cardinal Pell in Australia, which resulted in Pell taking a leave of absence from his curial post in 2017.

Speaking to AP on Monday, Pell said of the allegations against Becciu that “I hope for the sake of the Church, there’s nothing in it.”

“In fact — I say that quite sincerely — because some Australian people, my own family, said to me: ’Well, if the Mafia is going after you or somebody else is going after you, that’s one thing. It’s a little bit worse if it comes from within the Church.”

“But I think we will find out, whether there is or there isn’t,” said Pell. “Certainly, the party’s not over.”

An October AP report said the allegations against Becciu “appeared more an effort to discredit Becciu and distract attention from the shortcomings of the Vatican prosecutors' primary investigation into a London real estate venture.”

Last week, police found hundreds of thousands of euros in cash hidden in two homes of Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State until his suspension, together with four other employees, last year. CNA has previously reported his links to the London deal, including to the broker arrested for allegedly extorting the Vatican.

On Monday, Pell told AP that the rolling series of financial scandals appeared to show criminal behavior, but that a full Vatican trial could eventually establish the whole truth. “It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said.

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” said Pell. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that his original reforming agenda was necessary.

Pell said his efforts had been “sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”


Statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal begins pilgrimage around Italy

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal began Friday a pilgrimage to parishes throughout Italy, marking the 190th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine Labouré in France.

After Mass at the regional seminary Collegio Leoniano in Rome, the statue was carried in procession to the nearby Church of San Gioacchino in Prati on the evening of Nov. 27.



Throughout December, the statue will go from parish to parish in Rome, stopping at 15 different churches.

Afterward, if coronavirus restrictions permit, it will be brought to parishes throughout Italy, ending on Nov. 22, 2021, on the island of Sardinia.

One of the stops on the route will be the Church of St. Anne, which sits just inside the Vatican walls.

The traveling statue is an evangelization initiative by the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission. It said in a statement that the year-long Marian pilgrimage would help to proclaim the merciful love of God at a time “marked by strong tensions on every continent.” 



Pope Francis blessed the statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal in a meeting with a delegation of Vincentians Nov. 11.

“The members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, faithful to the Word of God, inspired by the charism which calls them to serve God in the person of the poor and encouraged by this initiative of the Blessed Mother to go on pilgrimage, want to remind us that the Blessed Mother continues to invite men and women to approach the foot of the altar,” the Vincentians’ statement said.



The Vincentians were originally founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 to preach missions to the poor. Today Vincentians regularly say Mass and hear confessions at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in the heart of Paris.

St. Catherine Labouré was a novice with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul when she received three apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, a vision of Christ present in the Eucharist, and a mystical encounter in which St. Vincent de Paul showed her his heart.

This year marks the 190th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine. 

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine in 1830. The Virgin Mary appeared to her as the Immaculate Conception, standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands and crushing a serpent underfoot.

“A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck,’” the saint recalled.



In their statement, the Vincentians noted that the world is “deeply troubled” and poverty is spreading due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“After 190 years, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal continues to watch over humankind and comes, as a pilgrim, to visit and meet with the members of the Christian communities spread throughout Italy. Thus, Mary fulfills the promise of love that is contained in her message: I will remain with you, trust and do not be discouraged,” they said.


Immaculate Conception: Pope Francis cancels traditional act of veneration due to pandemic

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will not visit Rome’s Piazza di Spagna this year for the traditional veneration of Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception due to the pandemic.

Instead, Francis will mark the feast day with “an act of private devotion, entrusting the city of Rome, its inhabitants and the many sick people in every part of the world to Our Lady,” Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni said.

It will be the first time since 1953 that the pope has not offered the traditional veneration of the statue of the Immaculate Conception on the Dec. 8 feast. Bruni said that Francis would not go to the square in order to avoid people gathering and transmitting the virus. 

The statue of the Immaculate Conception, next to Piazza di Spagna, sits atop a nearly 40-foot high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, three years after Pope Pius IX promulgated a decree defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. 

Since 1953, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day, in honor of the city of Rome. Pope Pius XII was the first to do so, walking nearly two miles on foot from the Vatican.

Rome’s firefighters are usually in attendance at the prayer, in honor of their role at the 1857 inauguration of the statue. The mayor of Rome and other officials also attend.

In past years, Pope Francis left floral wreaths for the Virgin Mary, one of which was placed on the outstretched arm of the statue by firefighters. The pope also offered an original prayer for the feast day.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a national holiday in Italy and crowds usually gather at the square to witness the veneration.

As is customary for Marian solemnities, Pope Francis will still lead the Angelus prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Vatican’s papal Christmas liturgies will take place this year without the presence of the public.


Canadian Catholic bishop resigns at age of 64 ‘for the good of the Church’

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis accepted Sunday the resignation of a Canadian Catholic bishop at the age of 64.

The Holy See press office said that the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Bourgon of Hearst-Moosonee on Nov. 29.

It added that the pope had named Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa-Cornwall as apostolic administrator of the diocese in Northern Ontario, which was formed after two dioceses merged in 2018.

Bourgon announced the pope’s acceptance of his resignation in a Nov. 29 letter to his flock. 

Recalling his ordination as the bishop of the Diocese of Hearst in 2016, he said that for the past four years he had “tried to be among you as a good shepherd.”

He wrote: “There have been some successes and, for that, I thank God. There have also been limitations and difficulties. For these I am sorry for my inability to resolve these problems.”

Radio-Canada reported Nov. 29 that Bourgon faced criticism following the dismissal of two priests facing charges of fraud. It added that following protests by parishioners, who believed the priests to be innocent of wrongdoing, Pope Francis mandated a visitation by Bishop Serge Poitras of Timmins, Ontario.

In his letter, Bourgon said that Poitras had made a pastoral visit to the diocese at the request of the Vatican Congregation of Bishops.

Bourgon said that “in obedience to and in communion with the Holy Father, but more importantly for the good of the Church, on November 16, 2020, I presented my resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Hearst Moosonee.”

He noted that the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall would soon welcome a successor to Prendergast, who is 76 years old, who would oversee Hearst-Moosonee diocese.

“I feel certain that you will welcome Bishop Prendergast as a new gift that the Lord sends to you,” he wrote.

Bourgon was born on March 10, 1956, and grew up in Creighton Mine, Ontario. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 8, 1981, in the Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie. In 2012, he was named vicar general of the diocese.

Pope Francis named him bishop of Hearst and apostolic administrator of Moosonee diocese on Feb. 2, 2016. He was ordained bishop by Prendergast at Assumption Cathedral, Hearst, on April 25, 2016.

Bourgon was named the first bishop of the newly merged Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee on Dec. 3, 2018. According to its website, the diocese has 25 parishes and 13 missions, comprising around 27,080 Catholics. 

Concluding his letter, the bishop wrote: “I thank the Holy Father for his leadership, example and his witness to the truth. I will miss you, dearest Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee but, as you can imagine, I will carry in my heart an indelible impression of you as the ‘local Church’ to which the Lord has bound me, and for which every day I shall pray.”

This report has been updated to include Radio-Canada’s report on parishioners’ protests against the dismissal of two priests in the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee.


Pope Francis briefed on Lebanon’s ‘bitter economic crisis’ by Maronite patriarch

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis met with Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch at the Vatican this weekend and told the pope of the challenges facing Lebanon as it experiences political instability and a “bitter economic crisis.”

During the Nov. 28 meeting, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, invited Pope Francis to visit Lebanon and briefed him on the local Church’s efforts to respond to growing humanitarian needs due to the economic and political crisis that preceded the devastating explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4.

A statement from the Maronite Patriarchate said that Cardinal Rai “presented the risks and challenges facing Lebanon in light of the regional developments and the internal political crisis, especially the formation of the government.”

Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s ex-prime minister who was forced to resign last year after mass protests against government corruption, is once again attempting to form a cabinet as prime minister after the man nominated in August resigned in September after failing to form a government.

The patriarch told the pope that the country’s instability has “caused a bitter economic crisis, which increased the poverty rate and caused the exodus of population.”

He also said that government authorities had shown “no solidarity or responsibility” for the explosion in Beirut’s port, which destroyed part of the capital. The blast killed nearly 200 people, injured 600 others, and caused more than $4 billion dollars in damage.

More than half of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, and tens of thousands of Lebanese people have lost their jobs as a result of the explosion.

Cardinal Rai told the pope that Catholics in Lebanon had formed a charitable network called “Al Karma” to meet the needs of children suffering from poverty. The network’s motto is “No family dies of hunger or feels left alone.”

He also expressed gratitude for the work of volunteers, engineers, doctors, and businessmen who have helped affected families to begin to restore their homes. 

Rai was in Rome for the consistory of cardinals Nov. 28 and was present at the papal Mass the following day. He said that he felt his meeting with the pope was “very productive”.

Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the people of Lebanon and said that they are continuously in his prayers, the patriarchate said.


Pope Francis tells Orthodox leader: I am confident we will achieve full unity

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Monday that he is confident that Catholics and Orthodox Christians will attain full communion.

In a message to Bartholomew I on the Feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis praised the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s efforts to promote Christian unity.

“We can thank God that relations between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have grown much over the past century, even as we continue to yearn for the goal of the restoration of full communion expressed through participation at the same Eucharistic altar,” he wrote. 

“Although obstacles remain, I am confident that by walking together in mutual love and pursuing theological dialogue, we will reach that goal.”

The pope sends a message each year on Nov. 30 to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is regarded as the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle and “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Pope Francis recalled his recent meeting with Bartholomew I, at an international meeting for peace in Rome on Oct. 20.

“Together with the challenges posed by the current pandemic, war continues to afflict many parts of the world, while new armed conflicts emerge to steal the lives of countless men and women,” he wrote. 

“Undoubtedly all initiatives taken by national and international entities aimed at promoting peace are useful and necessary, yet conflict and violence will never cease until all people reach a deeper awareness that they have a mutual responsibility as brothers and sisters.” 

“In light of this, the Christian Churches, together with other religious traditions, have a primary duty to offer an example of dialogue, mutual respect and practical cooperation.”

The pope praised the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for seeking Christian unity “before the Catholic Church and other Churches engaged themselves in dialogue.”

He cited an encyclical letter issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1920, which said that Churches could heal divisions if they placed love “before everything else in their judgment of the others and in relation towards each other.”

The Holy See press office said Nov. 30 that a Vatican delegation had made the customary visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul on the Feast of St. Andrew. 

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, led the delegation, which included the pontifical council’s secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell, and undersecretary, Msgr. Andrea Palmieri. They were joined by Archbishop Paul F. Russell, the U.S.-born Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey.

They attended a Divine Liturgy presided over by the Bartholomew I at St. George’s Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the Divine Liturgy, Koch read the pope’s message and presented the Ecumenical Patriarch with a signed copy.

In his message, the pope said that his hope for full communion was “based on our common faith in Jesus Christ, sent by God the Father to gather all people into one body, and the cornerstone of the one and holy Church, God’s holy temple, in which all of us are living stones, each according to our own particular charism or ministry bestowed by the Holy Spirit.”

He concluded: “With these sentiments, I renew my warmest best wishes for the Feast of St. Andrew, and exchange with Your All Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord.”


Pope Francis asks for prayer for Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked people to pray for Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the United Nations has said that “a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding.”

A communique from the Holy See Press Office Nov. 27 stated that the pope was following the news coming from Ethiopia and asked for prayer for this country. Weeks of violence in the Tigray region have led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians and forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes toward Sudan.

“The Holy Father, in inviting prayer for this country, makes an appeal to the parties in conflict to stop the violence, to safeguard the life, especially of civilians, and to restore peace to the populations,” Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said in the statement.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Nov. 28 that government forces had ceased military operations in the Tigray region, and the Ethiopian state broadcaster reported that the region was under control of the government. But multiple international news outlets have been unable to independently verify these claims due to the communications blackout in the region.

Reuters reported later that night that Tigrayan rebel forces said that they will continue fighting the Ethiopian government, and the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea stated Nov. 29 that six explosions were heard overnight in Asmara, advising caution due to the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.

In the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, the regional government is run by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The group once dominated the ruling coalition of Ethiopia but felt marginalized by Prime Minister Abiy’s political changes after he took office in 2018. He dissolved the ruling coalition and merged its ethnicity-based regional parties into a single party, the Prosperity Party, which the TPLF refused to join.

Tigrayan leaders have said they were unfairly targeted by political purges and allegations of corruption. They have argued that Abiy’s postponement of national elections due to coronavirus have ended his mandate as a legitimate leader, BBC News reports.

On Nov. 4 Abiy announced a military offensive in response to an alleged attack on a military base in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. The violent clashes that followed led to a serious humanitarian situation.

The spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch,  warned Nov. 17 that “a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan.”

Baloch said that the UN was also in negotiations with the federal and regional authorities to get humanitarian access to the Tigray region. An estimated 40,000 refugees have crossed from Ethiopia into Sudan, according to the UN.

The conflict has prompted fears of regional destabilization as well as instability, and even civil war, within Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa.

Ethiopia’s Catholic bishops have called for an end to the violence and the start of peaceful dialogue in the Tigray region.

“Conflict between brotherly people does not help anyone. Instead, it destroys lives of innocent people and it is an act that will turn our country into a failure and (create) extreme poverty,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa said in a Nov. 9 statement from Ethiopian bishops’ conference.

During his Angelus address on Nov. 8 Pope Francis appealed for peace in Ethiopia.

The pope said: "While I urge that the temptation of an armed conflict be rejected, I invite everyone to prayer and to fraternal respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful resolution to the disagreements."


Pope Francis: 'Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God'

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2020 / 05:40 am (CNA).- On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis recommended a traditional Advent prayer to invite God to draw close during this new liturgical year.

“Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica  Nov. 29.

“Let us make the traditional Advent prayer our own: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ … We can say it at the beginning of each day and repeat it often, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every important or difficult moment of our lives: ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’” the pope said in his homily.

Pope Francis stressed that Advent is both a time of  “God’s closeness and our watchfulness”.

“It is important to remain watchful, because one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a  thousand things and not to notice God. Saint Augustine said: ‘Timeo Iesum transeuntem’ (I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed). Drawn by our own interests … and distracted  by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential. That is why today the Lord repeats: ‘To all, I say: be watchful,’” he said.

“Having to be watchful, however, means it is now night. Yes, we are not living in broad daylight, but awaiting the dawn, amid darkness and weariness. The light of day will come when we shall be with the Lord. Let us not lose heart: the light of day will come, the shadows of night will be dispelled,  and the Lord, who died for us on the cross, will arise to be our judge. Being watchful in expectation of his coming means not letting ourselves be overcome by discouragement. It is to live in hope.”

The pope offered Mass on Sunday morning with 11 of the new cardinals created at the ordinary public consistory this weekend.

In his homily, he warned of the dangers of mediocrity, lukewarmness, and indifference in the Christian life.

“Without making an effort to love God daily and awaiting the newness he constantly brings, we become mediocre,  lukewarm, worldly. And this slowly eats away at our faith, for faith is the very opposite of mediocrity:  it is ardent desire for God, a bold effort to change, the courage to love, constant progress,” he said.

“Faith is not water that extinguishes flames, it is fire that burns; it is not a tranquilizer for people under stress, it is a love story for people in love. That is why Jesus above all else detests lukewarmness.”

Pope Francis said that prayer and charity are antidotes to mediocrity and indifference.

“Prayer rouses us from the tepidity of a purely horizontal existence and makes us lift our gaze to higher things; it makes us attuned to the Lord. Prayer allows God to be close to us; it frees us from our loneliness and gives us hope,” he said.

“Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be Christians without praying.”

The pope quoted the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Advent: “Grant [us] … the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”

“Jesus is coming, and the road to meet him is clearly marked: it passes through works of charity,” he said.

“Charity is the beating heart of the Christian: just as one cannot live without a heartbeat, so one cannot be a Christian without charity.”

Following the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ,’ he said.

The pope invited everyone to live this season of hope and preparation with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer.

“The situation we are experiencing, marked by the pandemic, generates concern, fear and despair in many; there is the risk of falling into pessimism ... How should we react to all this? Today's Psalm recommends to us: ‘Our soul awaits the Lord: He is our help and our shield. It is in Him that our hearts rejoice,’” he said.

“Advent is an incessant call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate end, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said.

“May Mary Most Holy, the woman of the expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year, and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus’ disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter. And what is that task? To render an account for the hope that is in us."


Pope Francis to new cardinals: May the cross and resurrection always be your goal

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals Saturday, urging them to remain vigilant lest they lose sight of their goal of the cross and resurrection.

“All of us love Jesus, all of us want to follow him, yet we must always be vigilant to remain on the road,” Pope Francis said at the consistory Nov. 28.

“Jerusalem always lies ahead of us. The cross and the resurrection are … always the goal of our journey,” he said in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the seventh consistory of his pontificate, Pope Francis created cardinals from Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Among them is Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who became the first African American cardinal in the Church’s history. He received the titular church of St. Mary Immaculate in Grottarossa.



Archbishop Celestino Aós Braco of Santiago, Chile; Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy; and Fra Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi also joined the College of Cardinals.

Pope Francis placed a red hat on each cardinal’s head and said: “To the glory of almighty God and the honor of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of the Holy Roman Church.”

Each of the newly elevated cardinals received a ring, and was assigned a titular church, tying them to the Diocese of Rome.



In his homily, the pope warned the new cardinals of the temptation to follow a different road than the road to Calvary.

“The road of those who, perhaps even without  realizing it, ‘use’ the Lord for their own advancement,” he said. “Those who – as Saint Paul says – look to  their own interests and not those of Christ.”

“The scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ‘eminence,’” Francis said, warning them of the “many kinds of corruption in the priestly life.”

Pope Francis encouraged the cardinals to reread St. Augustine’s sermon number 46, calling it a “magnificent sermon on shepherds.”

“Only the Lord, through his cross and resurrection, can save his straying friends who risk getting lost,” he said.



Nine of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and thereby eligible to vote in a future conclave. Among them are Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, who became secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in September, and the Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who was named prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in October.

The cardinals who participated in the consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica all wore face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two cardinal-designates were unable to attend the consistory because of travel restrictions. Cardinal-designate Cornelius Sim, the Apostolic Vicar of Brunei, and Cardinal-designate Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, in the Philippines followed the consistory via video link and will each receive a biretta, cardinal’s ring and title connected with a Roman parish from their apostolic nuncio “at another time to be determined.”



Italian Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, received a red hat in St. Peter’s Basilica while wearing his Franciscan habit. Cantalamessa, who has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, told CNA Nov. 19 that Pope Francis had permitted him to become a cardinal without being ordained a bishop. Aged 86, he will not be eligible to vote in a future conclave.



Three others who received the red hats are unable to vote in conclaves: Emeritus Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico; Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer Emeritus to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva; and Msgr. Enrico Feroci, parish priest of Santa Maria del Divino Amore at Castel di Leva, Rome.

Pope Francis and the 11 new cardinals present in Rome paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery following the consistory. Each new cardinal was introduced to the pope emeritus, who gave them a blessing after together singing the Salve Regina, according to the Holy See Press Office.



With this consistory, the number of voting cardinals comes to 128, and the number of non-voters to 101 for a total of 229 cardinals.


Swiss court orders full access to records for Vatican financial investigation

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Vatican investigators have been granted full access to Swiss banking documentation related to long-time Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso. The newly announced decision by a Swiss federal court is the latest development in the ongoing financial scandal surrounding the purchase of a London building by the Secretariat of State in 2018.

According to Huffington Post, the decision was issued on Oct. 13 but only published this week. The documents to be turned over to the Vatican include financial records of the company to Az Swiss & Partners. Az Swiss owns Sogenel Capital Holding, the company Crasso founded after leaving Credit Suisse in 2014.

Although the company sought to block full access to its records by Vatican investigators, Swiss judges ruled that “when foreign authorities ask for information to reconstruct criminal asset flows, it is generally considered that they need the entirety of the relative documentation, in order to clarify which persons or legal entities are involved.”

Vatican prosecutors have been working with Swiss authorities since filing letters rogatory in December last year. Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

CNA has previously reported that, in response to the Holy See’s request for cooperation in its investigation into Vatican finances, Swiss authorities have frozen tens of millions of euros in bank accounts and sent banking documents and records to Vatican prosecutors.

Crasso, a former banker at Credit Suisse, has been a long-time financial advisor to the Vatican, including introducing the Secretariat of State to the businessman Raffaele Mincione, through whom the secretariat went on to invest hundreds of millions of euros and purchase the London building at 60, Sloane Avenue, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018.

Huffington Post reported on Nov. 27 that the Swiss decision also quoted the Vatican’s original rogatory request as citing "investment schemes that are neither transparent nor compliant with normal real estate investment practices," pointing back to the controversial London deal.

Specifically, Vatican investors noted that the pledging of Vatican funds on deposit in Swiss banks, including Peter’s Pence, to secure hundreds of millions of euros in loans from the same banks “represents strong circumstantial evidence that it represented a ploy to avoid making [the transactions] visible.”

Prosecutors contend that the use of liquid assets as collateral to secure loans from the banks for investments, instead of investing Vatican money directly, appears designed to shield the investments from detection and scrutiny.

In November last year, CNA reported on a similar instance in 2015, when then sostituto at the Secretariat of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu allegedly attempted to disguise $200 million loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.

CNA also reported that the attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell.

Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”

Crasso’s Centurion Global Fund, in which the Secretariat of State was the largest investor, is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were “no secret.” 

In an Oct. 4 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing “confidential” accounts for Becciu’s family.

Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers. 

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions “step by step.”

According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.”


Pope Francis: Avoid the temptation of seeking ‘utopia’ in this world

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- In a video message to a Catholic social doctrine conference on Thursday, Pope Francis said that remembering our baptism and the promise of eternal life can help us avoid the temptation to seek “utopia” in this world.

In the message released Nov. 26, he described a positive attitude in which believers are immersed in society yet live their baptism in the light of a future life with God.

“This attitude helps us to overcome the temptation of utopia, to reduce the proclamation of the Gospel to a simple sociological horizon or to get involved in the ‘marketing’ of various economic theories or political factions,” the pope said.

His video message was sent to participants in a Nov. 26-29 online “Festival of Social Doctrine.” The Italian event is in its 10th edition, with this year’s theme being “Memory of the Future.”

The goal of the festival is to be a “leaven in society” and “to create a place of discussion among Catholics engaged in work, in society and in public responsibility” who want to promote the common good.

Referring to the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen gentium,” Pope Francis said that “living the memory of the future means making a commitment to ensure that the Church, the great people of God, can constitute on earth the beginning and the seed of the kingdom of God.”

Christians have received “Life in Baptism,” he said, explaining that it is a gift which calls us to communion with God, with others, and with creation.

Communion with God and others requires charity and “the intimacy of prayer in the presence of the Lord,” he explained.

“And,” he continued, “the Life received as a gift is the same life as Christ, and we cannot live as believers in the world except by manifesting his very life in us.”

He warned listeners about a kind of nostalgia “which blocks creativity and makes us rigid and ideological people even in the social, political and ecclesial sphere.”

Memory instead links us to love and experience and is one of the deepest dimensions of the human person, Pope Francis said. 

“This is why the dynamic of Christians is not that of nostalgically holding onto the past, but rather of accessing the eternal memory of the Father; and this is possible by living a life of charity,” he commented.

Living “in the world with the strength and creativity of the life of God in us” is the way “we will be able to fascinate the hearts and the gaze of people to the Gospel of Jesus, we will help make projects of a new inclusive economy, and politics capable of fruitful love,” the pope said.


Vatican dicastery urges youngsters to share wisdom of elderly people facing Christmas alone

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- A Vatican dicastery launched a new campaign Friday urging young people to share wisdom gleaned from the elderly facing Christmas alone because of the pandemic.

In a press statement released Nov. 27, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said that Christmas presented youngsters with the chance to “receive a special gift” from elderly people.

“Today, in the difficult circumstances of a Christmas still overshadowed by the pandemic, we are proposing that young people post on social media a memory, a piece of advice, or a ‘gift of wisdom’ they have received from one of the elderly people with whom they have formed a bond in recent months,” the dicastery said.

The Vatican department, which was formed in 2016 from a merger of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family, said it had decided to launch the new campaign following the success of a similar initiative in July.

The dicastery invited young people all over the world “to do something that shows kindness and affection for older people who may feel lonely,” after Pope Francis urged Catholics to “send a hug” to the elderly who had not seen their loved ones for months.  

It said: “Following the success of our campaign, ‘The elderly are your grandparents,’ in which we collected virtual hugs sent by many young people to both their own grandparents and to ‘adopted grandparents,’ the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life now invites boys and girls from all over the world to send a message to the elderly and to receive in return the gift of their wisdom.”

The dicastery encouraged participants in the new campaign to use the social media hashtag #aGiftOfWisdom and said it would promote the best posts on its Twitter account, @laityfamilylife.

“Unfortunately, in many cases, because of the health regulations in force, visiting can only take place remotely, via telephone, video calls, and messaging. But it is possible to participate in this campaign by posting the wise words of grandparents and the elderly on social media using the hashtag #aGiftOfWisdom,” the dicastery said.


Supreme Court overturns NY church restrictions, Brooklyn bishop says religion 'essential' during pandemic

CNA Staff, Nov 26, 2020 / 01:23 pm (CNA).-  

The Supreme Court said Wednesday night that NY state restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic are a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free religious exercise. After the ruling the Bishop of Brooklyn, whose diocese was a plaintiff in the suit, said that religious worship should be considered an essential during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion in a Wednesday night decision, which temporarily bars restrictions on religious worship that were enacted Oct. 6 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The court’s ruling is temporary, as lawsuits filed by the Diocese of Brooklyn and by Orthodox Jewish synagogues in New York will continue, though the Supreme Court’s Nov. 26 decision is likely to weigh heavily in the outcome of those cases.

The state’s restrictions forbade the attendance of more than 10 people at religious services in state designated “red zones, and 25 people in “orange zones.”

“In a red zone, while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as ‘essential’ may admit as many people as they wish. And the list of ‘essential’ businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities,’ the Court’s majority opinion found.

“These categorizations lead to troubling results,” the decision added.

“Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue,” the court wrote.

“...even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the decision concluded.

The 5-4 decision found newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett deciding with the majority, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberal judges in dissent.

In a statement Thursday, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said he is “gratified by the decision of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, who have recognized the clear First Amendment violation and urgent need for relief in this case.”

“I am proud to be leading the Diocese of Brooklyn and fighting for our sacred and constitutional right to worship.”

““Our churches have not been the cause of any outbreaks. We have taken our legal battle this far because we should be considered essential, for what could be more essential than safely gathering in prayer in a time of pandemic.”

 


Pope Francis encourages Argentine women opposing legal abortion

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has written a note to women in his homeland who asked him to help make known their opposition to a bill to legalize abortion introduced to the legislature by Argentina’s president last week.

Eight women signed a Nov. 18 letter to Pope Francis expressing fear that the abortion bill targets poor women and asking him “to help us by making our voice heard.”

The Argentine daily La Nacion published Nov. 24 the full letter of the women, together with the pope’s Nov. 22 response, which was sent through the national deputy for the City of Buenos Aires, Victoria Morales Gorleri.

In the handwritten note, Pope Francis said that abortion “is not a primarily religious issue but one of human ethics, prior to any religious confession.”

“Is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hitman to solve a problem?” he said.

He expressed his gratitude for their letter and said they were women “who know what life is.”

“The country is proud to have such women,” he added. “Please tell them for me that I admire their work and their testimony; that I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they do, and that they keep going,” he said.

Fulfilling a presidential campaign promise, Argentine president Alberto Fernández introduced a bill to legalize abortion into the country’s legislature Nov. 17. The bill is expected to be debated in December.

In their letter to Pope Francis, the Argentine women, who come from three shanty towns in Buenos Aires, said that the introduction of the bill “once again puts us on the alarm about the future of our families.” 

They noted that they began to meet in 2018 amid a national debate to legalize abortion. The women organized demonstrations, made statements to congress, and conducted surveys among their neighbors with results of “more than 80%” opposing abortion.

“Today we are women who work side by side to take care of the lives of many neighbors: the baby that is in gestation and her mother, as well as the one who was born is among us and needs help,” they said.

The women told Pope Francis about being filled with “cold terror” after the abortion bill was introduced to the legislature last week, “just thinking that this project is aimed at adolescents in our neighborhoods.”

“Not so much because in the villa [shanty town] culture abortion is thought of as a solution to an unexpected pregnancy (Your Holiness knows well our way of assuming motherhood between aunts, grandmothers and neighbors),” the women wrote, “but because [the law] is oriented to cultivate the idea that abortion is one more possibility within the range of contraceptive methods and that even the main users must be poor women.”

“This is why we turn to Your Holiness,” they said, “with the desire to ask you to help us express to public opinion that we feel imprisoned in a situation where our own family, our adolescent daughters and future generations are compromised with the idea that our life is the unwanted one and that we do not have the right to have children because we are poor.”

Fernández said Nov. 22 that he hoped Pope Francis would not be angry because of his introduction of the bill to legalize abortion. 

Speaking to the Argentine television program Corea del Centro, Fernández, a Catholic, argued that he had to introduce the bill to solve “a public health problem in Argentina.”

The president’s reference to a public health crisis seemed to refer to unsubstantiated claims from abortion advocates in the country, who claim that women in Argentina die frequently from so-called “clandestine” or unsafe illegal abortions in the country. In a Nov. 12 interview, Bishop Alberto Bochatey, who heads the Argentine bishops’ conference healthcare ministry, challenged those assertions.

When asked if the pope would be angry about the initiative, Fernández replied: “I hope not, because he knows how much I admire him, how much I value him and I hope he understands that I have to solve a public health problem in Argentina.”


Pope Francis: ‘The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit’

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Catholics risk going astray if they neglect the four essential characteristics of Church life, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

In his address Nov. 25, the pope said that the four fundamental qualities were present in the early Church as described in the Book of Acts. They were listening to the apostles’ teaching, the safeguarding of mutual communion, the breaking of the bread, and prayer.

“Any situation needs to be evaluated in the light of these four coordinates. Whatever is not part of these coordinates lacks ecclesiality, it is not ecclesial,” he said. 

“It is God who creates the Church, not the clamour of works. The Church is not a market; the Church is not a group of businesspeople who go forward with a new business. The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to us to gather us together.” 

In his audience address, the pope continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began in May. Speaking via livestream from the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions, he noted that the first Christians did not neglect prayer, even though they were “on the move.”

“The image of the early Community of Jerusalem is the point of reference for every other Christian experience. Luke writes in the Book of Acts: ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (2:42). The community persevered in prayer,” he explained.

“We find here four essential characteristics of ecclesial life: listening to the apostles’ teaching, first; second, the safeguarding of mutual communion; third, the breaking of the bread; and fourth, prayer.” 

He continued: “They remind us that the Church’s existence has meaning if it remains firmly united to Christ, that is, in community, in His Word, in the Eucharist and in prayer -- the way we unite ourselves to Christ.”

“Preaching and catechesis bear witness to the words and actions of the Teacher; the constant quest for fraternal communion shields us from selfishness and particularisms; the breaking of the bread fulfils the sacrament of Jesus’ presence among us. He will never be absent -- particularly in the Eucharist, He is there. He lives and walks with us. And lastly, prayer, which is the space of dialogue with the Father, through Christ in the Holy Spirit.”

The pope added: “Everything in the Church that grows outside of these ‘coordinates’ lacks a foundation. To discern a situation, we need to ask ourselves about these four coordinates: how in this situation these four coordinates are present -– the preaching, the constant search for fraternal communion, charity, the breaking of the bread (that is, the Eucharistic life), and prayer.” 

Speaking off the cuff, the pope said it pained him when he encountered communities that neglected the four authentic hallmarks of the Church.

“At times, I feel tremendous sadness when I see a community that has good will, but takes the wrong road because it thinks that the Church is built up in meetings, as if it were a political party,” he said. 

“‘But, the majority, the minority, what do they think about this, that and the other… And this is like a synod, the synodal path that we must take…’ I ask myself: ‘But where is the Holy Spirit there? Where is prayer? Where is communitarian love? Where is the Eucharist?’” 

“Without these four coordinates, the Church becomes a human society, a political party -- majority, minority -- changes are made as if it were a company, according to majority or minority… But the Holy Spirit is not there. And the presence of the Holy Spirit is precisely guaranteed by these four coordinates.”

The four coordinates can be used to judge whether a situation is truly ecclesial, he said. If any of the coordinates is lacking, then the Holy Spirit will also be absent. 

“If this is lacking, the Holy Spirit is lacking, and if the Holy Spirit is lacking, we are a beautiful organization, humanitarian, doing good things, good, good… even an ecclesial party, let’s put it that way. But it is not the Church,” he said. 

“It is for this reason that the Church does not grow with these things: it does not grow through proselytism, as any other company, it grows by attraction. And who provokes attraction? The Holy Spirit.” 

“Let us never forget Benedict XVI’s words: ‘The Church does not grow through proselytizing, she grows by attraction.’ If the Holy Spirit is lacking, who is the one who attracts [people] to Jesus, the Church is not there. There might be a beautiful friendship club, good, with good intentions, but not the Church, not synodality.”

Pope Francis noted that in the Acts of the Apostles, prayer gatherings were a “powerful driving force of evangelization.”

He said: “The members of the first community -- although this always applies, even to us today -- sensed that the narrative of the encounter with Jesus did not stop at the moment of the Ascension, but continued in their life. In recounting what the Lord said and did -- listening to the Word -- in praying to enter into communion with Him, everything became alive.”

Like the first Christians, believers today can also be inspired by the Holy Spirit in prayer, the pope added.

“And every Christian who is not afraid to devote time to prayer can make his or her own the words of the Apostle Paul, who says this: ‘the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).”

“Prayer makes you aware of this. Only in the silence of adoration do we experience the whole truth of these words. And we must recapture this sense of adoration. To adore, to adore God, to adore Jesus, to adore the Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Spirit: to adore. In silence.” 

“The prayer of adoration is that prayer that makes us recognize God as the beginning and the end of all of History. And this prayer is the living flame of the Spirit that gives strength to witness and to mission.”