Vatican Connections: November 21, 2014

VatiConnections

The Vatican bank has repatriated twenty three million euros that were frozen for more than three years, by Italian authorities.

The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, announced the repatriation of the money in a statement released November 18. The funds were unblocked in 2011 but was not repatriated because “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved.”

Since 2011 the Vatican has implemented new policies in line with the European Union’s anti-money laundering measures. Those policies were approved by the MONEYVAL committee of the council of Europe.

In 2010 the Vatican bank moved 23 million euro from its treasury funds into an Italian bank account. According to Italian financial authorities it was unclear where the money came from and to whom it belonged. Vatican officials maintained the lack of information was due to a clerical error. Italian financial police seized the money as part of an anti-money laundering operation.

**

The theme of the next synod on the family has been set and new document on family issues will be sent to bishops around the world before the end of the year.

The theme of the 2015 synod is “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.” Four Cardinals will serve as synod presidents: Andre Vignt Trois of Paris, Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil and Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.

The council agreed to send a the preparatory document for the next synod to bishops around the world along with “a series of points that may assist in its reception and analysis”

Vatican Connections: October 31, 2014

VatiConnections

Things are returning to a normal pace at the Vatican after the end of the extraordinary synod. Pope Francis kept a full schedule this week, which included his daily masses, a meeting with members of popular movements from around the world (non-religious movements that advocate for worker’s rights, indigenous land rights, fair wages, and access to housing) and he unveiled a bronze bust of a his predecessor. At that unveiling he also said the so-called “big bang theory” is not incompatible with faith. This sparked a media frenzy, quickly quelled when Catholic scholars pointed out that it was indeed a Catholic priest who first developed the big bang theory.

Another memorable quote was delivered during the pope’s talk to the members of popular movements. He said “we see with sadness that [these three things] are increasingly unattainable for most people: land, roof, and work. It’s strange but when I talk about these things, some people feel the pope is communist.” Pope Francis went on to say that these three things are actually at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. This leads to an interesting point: how many people actually know what is in the Church’s social doctrine? For those who are curious, the compendium of social doctrine of the Church can be found here.

Other notable events this week: a new batch of consultors have been named to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

 

Vatican Connections: October 24, 2014

Turkey

With the Synod of Bishops wrapped up this week was rather quiet at the Vatican. One surprise did arrive: the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Turkey at the end of November.

He will fly to Ankara on November 28, where he will meet with government officials. From there he continues on to Istanbul where he will stop at the Haiga Sofia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (known as the “Blue Mosque”). While in Istanbul Pope Francis will take part in an ecumenical prayer service and celebrate a Divine Liturgy. In between he will meet privately with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

In a talk to the Orientale Lumen Foundation the pope said his visit to Turkey and his meeting there with Patriarch Bartholmew is a sign of hte profound ties that unite Rome and Constantinople, and the mutual desire to overcome the obstacles that separate the two churches.

Also this week the Vatican released the schedule of liturgical celebrations that the Pope Francis will take part in during the month of November:

November 1 – Solemnity of All Saints

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Rome’s Verano cemetery

November 2 – All Souls

Pope Francis will hold a prayer service in the Vatican Grottoes to remember all the faithful departed

November 3

Pope Francis will preside at a Mass to remember all the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year

November 23 – Solemnity of Christ the King

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10:30 am in St. Peter’s square to canonize six new saints:

Giovanni Antonio Farina

Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family

Ludovico da Casoria

Nicola da Longobardi

Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart

Amato Ronconi

 

Vatican Connections: Friday, October 10 – 2014


The first week of the Synod on the family has wrapped up in Rome. Participants have moved from general working sessions into small group sessions where they will go over the issues discussed “in aula” and work towards creating a unified document that can be presented to Pope Francis.

While there has been unity among the Synod participants on some issues, there remain divisions on the issues of sacraments for divorced and (civilly) remarried Catholics, homosexuals – specifically welcoming them in parishes, and the annulment process.

There seems to have been agreement among synod fathers that church doctrine on marriage and divorce cannot change, but a new pastoral approach is needed because people are suffering. As well, it was recognized that no two cases are the same and treating each case in the exact same way is not pastorally effective. Of course there are prelates who remain steadfastly opposed to any discussion about what could be done differently when it comes to this issue.

Other issues that came up with week: the knowledge and use of natural family planning. One French couple gave a witness talk speaking about the benefits of NFP, although it has had mixed results for them.

The synod also focused on the situation in the middle east. On Friday members of the synod issued a message of solidarity for all families suffering the effects of war and violence, especially those in Iraq and Syria.

Next week the synod participants will spend the bulk of the week working in small groups. They will have the opportunity to delve deeper into the various issues presented, and undoubtedly have face to face discussions with those members who hold different views on the issues.

Vatican Connections: Friday September 12, 2014

The third season of Vatican Connections has kicked off on our network, and just in time too! There were some notable Episcopal moves in the last couple of weeks, some late breaking announcements, and some surprises. You can hear all about those in this week’s edition of Vatican Connections.

One event that came by surprise, was the news that the head of Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) will meet with Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on September 21. The Vatican and the  SSPX have been in talks for years, trying to find a way for the society to once again be recognized by Rome as a religious order. Those talks have been handled by the Ecclesia Dei commision at the CDF.

The announcement of the September 21st meeting was not much of a surprise to insiders, but to the average church watcher it appeared as though the talks had broken down in 2013.

Just before Pope Benedict XVI retired in 2013, the vice president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, Cardinal Augustine Di Noia sent a rather bluntly worded letter to the St. Pius X leadership saying, essentially that the dialogue was at a stalemate over the issue of Vatican II. The letter ended up published by the French newspaper Le Figaro.  Cardinal DiNoia said “something new must be injected” into the talks in order to move forward. After the election of Pope Francis, Bishop Bernard Fellay gave a homily in Kansas City in which he publicly outlined his issues with various statements made by Pope Francis.

External appearances can be deceiving, however. Louis Tofari, the spokesperson for the U.S. District of the Society of Pius X told Salt + Light in a phone interview that the dialogue between the Vatican the SSPX never came to an end, although since 2013 there have been only informal meetings. “It is the society’s wish to continue discussions with the Holy See,” Tofari said, adding that the society’s three bishops “re-affirmed their attachment to the Holy See” in a statement read at the 25th anniversary of their Episcopal ordination.

Tofari said because SSPX maintains it’s attachment to the Holy See and the pope, the group believes solidly that “everything must come from the Holy Father…it is his duty to resolve this.” However, he said the society does not have the same relationship with Pope Francis that they had with Pope Benedict XVI. Tofari pointed out the society had worked with Pope Benedict XVI since he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “We’re waiting to see if Pope Francis will interact with us,” he said.

The meeting between Cardinal Muller and Bishop Fellay will be an informal opportunity for the two men to meet. Tofari said the society does not know what will be discussed, or if details of the meeting will be released afterwards.

***

Some late breaking developments out of the Vatican:

Pope Francis will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on November 25. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Shultz, made the announcement Friday morning and the Vatican immediately confirmed it.

The pope will travel to Strasbourg and back on the same day. His trip will not be considered an apostolic visit to France.

***

As promised on this week’s program here some links that might come in handy:

If you’re ever interested in getting a papal blessing for someone’s birthday, ordination, or wedding, you can order on-line directly from the Papal Almoner’s office. visit elemosineria.va  Be advised, you must order the blessing at least one month in advance. 

Finally, Pope Francis took part in a Google Hangout with kids from across five continents. If you’re so inclined, you can watch the full video, about 20 minutes long, on the Scholas Occurrentes youtube channel. Pope Francis speaks in Spanish throughout, the children ask questions in various languages, and there are some English subtitles.

Vatican Connections: August 29, 2014

With the pope’s one major summer trip over and done with, attention can now return to what we could call “housekeeping” matters: appointing new bishops to dioceses that have been awaiting appointments, and filling up the papal agenda for this fall.

This week Pope Francis named the new Archbishop of Madrid, Spain. Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela turned 75 in 2011.  During World Youth Day Madrid 2011 Cardinal Rouco Varela delivered his resignation letter directly to Pope Benedict XVI. The appointment of a successor, like many others, was delayed.

After much speculation by Vatican watchers, the cardinal’s sucessor was finally made public: Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, currently leading the Archdiocese of Valencia, will move to Spain’s capital. That left an opening in Valencia, a vibrant, seaside diocese brimming with vocations. In an unexpected move, the pope moved Cardinal Antonio Cañizarez Llovera from the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship to his home diocese of Valencia.

Cañizarez Llovera’s time in the Roman Curia was undoubtedly coming to an end – he was one of the few curial officials who had not been permanently confirmed in his job by Pope Francis. However, forgetting that this pope has no qualms about breaking unwritten “rules”, most believed Cañizarez Llovera would be named to Madrid.

Quashing any notion that the appointment was some sort of punishment or humiliation, the cardinal told Vatican Insider, a vatican news web site run by the Italian paper La Stampa, “It was my wish. I said to Francis: I want to have the odor of sheep. I asked to go back to a diocese, to whichever diocese he wanted to send me.” The cardinal comes from Utiel, a town in the autonomous region of Valencia and sees the appointment as a welcome homecoming.

***

On the North American side there is one major appointment expected soon: the replacement for Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, 77.

The cardinal submitted his resignation in 2012 when he turned 75. This year when he revealed that he was once again dealing with cancer, the Vatican informed that a replacement would be surfaced quickly for Chicago.

Cardinal George  was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and suffered a relapse in 2012. Earlier this year he revealed the cancer was once again showing signs of activity and he would under go a more aggressive round of chemotherapy. This week the archdiocese announced the cardinal had cancelled a scheduled trip to Rome in October in order to undergo treatment as part of a clinical trial run by the University of Chicago.

 

 

 

 

Vatican Connections: Friday, August 8, 2014

Most of the 80,000 Iraqi Christians forced out of their villages in recent days and weeks have taken refuge around the churches in Ain Kawa, a Christian neighbourhood of Erbil, according to aid officials in Iraq.

A member of the Sant’Egidio Community in Iraq reported to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association that Christian churches are working together in Erbil to create and “emergency unit” in order to provide urgent care for displaced Christians.

Pope Francis renewed his call for peace, this time asking all Christians to pray for peace. On Friday he appointed Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his special envoy to Iraq. The cardinal will travel to Iraq to meet Church and government officials as well as Christians displaced from their homes.

Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Cardinal Filoni will travel to the Iraqi Kurdistan region where most Christians have taken refuge.

Cardinal Filoni was the Vatican Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq from 2001 to 2006. He was the only diplomat who remained in Iraq during the 2003 U.S. -led invasion.

In an interview with Vatican Radio Cardinal Filoni said it would not be easy to organize his trip because the region he intends to visit is not easy to reach. He said his first goal is to show the pope’s solidarity with Iraqi Christians.

No date has been set for his visit to Iraq but Fr. Lombardi said Cardinal Filoni would not be joining Pope Francis on his up coming trip to Korea August 13 to 16.

***

As the Vatican gears up for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October, one Vatican department is bearing the fruit of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments sent a circular letter to episcopal conferences around the world about the Sign of Peace during the Mass.

Nine years after the Synod, during which bishops questioned whether the sign of peace should be moved within the liturgy, the congregation determined the sign of peace should stay where it is.

However, it should be carried out simply. If for some reason “it is forseen that it will not take place properly” it can be omitted.  The congregation also said the priest should not leave the altar in order to exchange the sign of peace with the congregation, and there should not be any special music selected or played specifically for the exchange of peace.

 

 

Vatican Connections: August 2, 2015

Last summer Pope Francis was sending millions of young people into a frenzy at World Youth Day Rio. This summer he will be attending the Asian Youth Day in Daejon, Korea, It will be the first time a pope has attended this Asian youth event.

In truth, Asian Youth Day will be one part of a packed itinerary. Only two of the pope’s 11 scheduled public events are related to the youth event. His other activities include a beatification Mass in Seoul, and visits to two shrines dedicated to Korean Martyrs.

Upon arrival in Seoul, Pope Francis will have the usual protocol visits, meeting with Korean President Park Geunhye and civil authorities, as well as the Korean bishops

His first full day in Korea will have him celebrating Mass at the World Cup stadium in Daejeon and meet with Asian youth at Solmoe Sanctuary, the shrine dedicated to St. Andrew Kim. The shrine marks the site where St. Andrew Kim was born lived until he was seven years old. His remains are buried in the nearby Cathedral.

On August 16 the pope will celebrate a Mass at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Gate where he will beatify Paul Yun Ji Chung.

Chung was a young man from a noble Korean family who discovered Catholicism around 1783 and catechized his family. In 1790 the bishop of Beijing banned Asian Catholics from using Confucian ancestral rites. Chung and his cousin burned the family’s ancestral tablets so they could not be used again. When Chung’s mother died, he gave her a Catholic funeral.

News of the Catholic funeral reached the Royal Court. Chung and his cousin were arrested and interrogated but refused to renounce their faith. They were sentenced to death and beheaded. It was nine days before the family received the bodies for burial, but the blood stains were still fresh and there was no decomposition. The faithful soaked handkerchiefs in the still-fresh blood. Reportedly, people who came into contact with these handkerchiefs were miraculously healed.

Chung and 123 companions will be beatified by the pope.

To close Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Haemi Castle which was the backdrop of the 1864 Donghak Rebellion.

On the final day of the visit Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass for Peace and Reconciliation at Seoul’s Meyongdong Cathedral.

 

Vatican Connections: July 25, 2014

Several weeks ago Pope Francis, while giving a homily in Cassano allo Ionio, declared that members of the Mafia are not in communion with God, “they are excommunicated”.

Outside of Italy the homily got attention because it was so unexpected and didn’t really make sense. For Italians in the south, the declaration was long overdue. Priests have been killed in the southern Italy for standing up to parishioners who are involved in organized crime, for not giving in to their “requests”, for preaching forcefully against everything the mafia represents, and for working to keep youth from being sucked into the mob by community pressure and promise of wealth.

This week’s “Vatican Letter” from Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden looks at the complicated relationship between the Church and the Mafia in southern Italy. :

Catholic mask: Italian bishops try to reveal truth behind mafia’s faith

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The godfather who stands up for a child’s baptism one day and spends the rest of the week running a brutal crime ring unfortunately is not the stuff of movies.

In southern Italy, the Mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta and other organized criminal gangs still cloak themselves in symbols of Catholicism, and the region’s bishops have had enough.

It’s not that the bishops have just begun to act — they have been coordinating their anti-mafia work since the 1970s — but they have seen just how deeply tied the mafia is to local Catholic cultural expressions and how essential those fake religious ties are to the continued thriving of mafia relationships.

The bishops of Calabria met in late July to discuss ways to cut those ties and make it clear to people in their region that hanging onto a holy card or applauding when a statue of Mary is carried past does not make a criminal Catholic.

One possibility they are considering is petitioning the Vatican for an exemption from canon law that would allow them to ban godfathers, godmothers and confirmation sponsors completely.

It was not a coincidence that the blockbuster film series based on the book by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola was called “The Godfather.”

Archbishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of Reggio Calabria asked the Vatican months ago if he could suspend for 10 years the naming of godfathers in his archdiocese.

“There are two problems,” he told Vatican Radio July 1. “There is the use of religious symbols and even a sacrament to present a ‘clean’ face to society, but there is also the concrete fact that being a godfather at a baptism or sponsor at confirmation forms a bond between families.”

While that can be a good thing, the archbishop said that “the ‘Ndrangheta is built on the foundation of collaboration and strict bonds between families,” and serving as a godfather “extends the family’s bonds, allowing them to better dominate more territory.”

In an interview a week later with SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, he said some parents “put off baptism for years — even until adolescence or beyond — because they are waiting for the godfather to get out of prison.”

Father Enzo Gabrieli, spokesman for the president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, said the bishops of the 12 dioceses in the region all agree on the need for “re-evangelization” about the role of godparents and sponsors, but the situation varies so much from one diocese to another that concrete measures also should vary.

The choice, he said, is to “either suspend the naming of godfathers for a time or concentrate completely on education.”

In his Archdiocese of Cosenza-Bisignano, Father Gabrieli told Catholic News Service, the biggest problem with godparents and sponsors is that friends and relatives tend to be chosen as a sign of affection with little or no awareness that their role is to assist the growth in faith of the baptized or confirmed.

For Father Gabrieli, like for the region’s bishops, the solution lies not simply in condemning gangsters, but in helping Christians live their faith seriously and coherently.

Pope Francis made headlines June 21 when he visited Calabria and said, “Those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated!”

Using the term “excommunicated” got people’s attention, but it was not Pope Francis’ first condemnation of the mafia and organized crime.

In March, almost exactly a year after the solemn inauguration of his ministry, Pope Francis met in a Rome church with mafia victims. In addition to listening to them and praying for them, he used the occasion to address mafiosi: “Men and women of the mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil. We pray for you. Convert, I ask on my knees! It is for your own good.”

“Convert,” he said. “There is still time not to end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.”

The need for local bishops to take concrete steps to educate their people and purify church practices became evident soon after Pope Francis visited Calabria: In what media described as a threat to boycott Mass, mafia members jailed in Locri asked their chaplain why they should bother going to Mass if they are excommunicated; and scandal erupted in early July when participants in a Marian procession bowed — with a statue of Mary — in front of the house of a presumed mafia boss.

The bishop of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi, where the bowing incident took place, banned all religious processions for the time being. The bishop of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea banned a procession scheduled for July 16 in Vibo Valentia after local law enforcement officials notified the parish that men suspected of having mafia ties were among those scheduled to carry the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Archbishop Salvatore Nunnari of Cosenza-Bisignano, president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, suggested a two-year stop to all processions to give church leaders time to ensure future processions would be strictly Catholic.

The bishops’ conference of Calabria, led by Archbishop Nunnari, will publish joint pastoral guidelines in October, Father Gabrieli said, but each bishop also is expected to issue his own rules for ending the mafia’s access to public expressions of faith. Unless, of course, they are ready to repent.


Photo courtesy of CNS

Vatican Connections: July 19, 2014

The  Church could play a significant role in tackling youth unemployment in Europe, according to a noted banker and economist.

Mohammad Yunnus, known for establishing the micro-credit Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, made the suggestion at a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The conference, called The Global Common Good: Towards a More Inclusive Economy” brought together economists and bankers from around the world.

Yunnus said the current economic system “is comparable to a machine that feeds itself continually sucking the lifeblood from the wide base of humanity to transport it up high towards a restricted elite.” He said moral responsibility has no space in a company’s annual financial report, and Economics schools don’t tackle such issues with their students.

While charity is a worthy concept, it is an unsustainable model according to Yunnus. Instead a new model is needed that is a mix between the for-profit business model and the charity model. In this alternate business model money “does its job, and comes back [into the business] and can be re-used infinately through independent businesses that are self sustaining.”

The current economic system is also “an insult to the human being” and the current level of youth unemployment, which seems to have been accepted “as if it was predestined by God…do we not insult God by accepting this destiny?” He said special funds for social enterprises have been created in Bangladesh specifically for unemployed young people, who are now reaping the rewards of this type of support.  He said the same approach could be used in Europe.  “The Church could easily create funds for social enterprises with the aim of solving the problem of youth unemployment in Europe.”

The creation of funds for social business enterprises would mean more options for helping people in need, and less likelihood those people would remain dependent on assistance.

Yunnus was one of 65 participating in the conference, including Bank of England Chancellor Mark Carney, US Economist Jeffrey Sachs, World Bank director Bertrand Badre, and Oxfam International Director Winnie Byanyima.