Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis the Director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Dr. Moira McQueen to the International Theological Commission, Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X visits the Vatican, we look at a Salt + Light premiere and CNS talks to Brother Guy Condsolmagno about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
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
Traditionally in Rome once the last wisps of fresh air are sucked out of the atmosphere by the July heat and humidity, the city vacates and the Vatican essentially shuts down. Not this summer.
Bishops who cover abuse
The second week of July delivered a plate full of news-worthy Vatican events. On July 6 the pope met with six people who had been abused by clergy as children. Not only did he ask for forgiveness, but during his homily he said bishops who fail to report abuse the appropriate authorities will face consequences. Now the question being asked is: when will we see that statement backed up with concrete guidelines or changes to cannon law?
In December, when Cardinal Sean O’Malley announced the creation of the commission to journalists at the Vatican, he said one of the areas the commission would focus on would be compliance and non-compliance of Bishops. As of early July, the commission was still finalizing its own statutes and identifying experts who should be added to the commission. As yet the commission does not have any members from Latin America or Asia. Drafting regulations regarding Bishops’ roles in reporting abuse would, at this point, would be pointless if those rules do not reflect reality across the globe. Don’t expect the commission to turn its attention to the matter of bishops before its membership is finalized.
Next up was the presentation of the Vatican financial summary for the year. The real financial news came mid-week with the announcement of a new president for the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) and some restructuring of various Vatican financial offices.
Ernst Von Freyburg, who was appointed in 2013 just days before Pope Benedict XVI ended his papacy, is stepping down as head of the bank. He is being replaced by Jean Baptiste de Franssu. Von Freyburg was not prepared to be the full time director of the Vatican Bank. His successor will be based in Rome and dedicate himself to the bank full time. IOR has also closed thousands of accounts belonging to people who do not have direct ties to the Vatican anymore. With this housecleaning, IOR will refocus it’s work and become more of a “neighbourhood savings and loan” (without the loan aspect).
As was announced several weeks ago, the Secretariat for the Economy will have a Project Management office. That office will be run by Danny Casey, former business manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney and World Youth Day Sydney. The secretariat will also assume the “Ordinary Section” of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (known by its Italian acronym APSA). That means the secretariat will deal with matters related to employees and employment at the Holy See, keep track of income and expense and prepare a budget every year, and over see the financial functions of Vatican offices and departments.
APSA will refocus its work to managing the buildings and assets of the Holy See and acting as the treasury of the Holy See. In the short term APSA will also focus on building relationships with other central banks.
The Secretariat for the Economy has also set up a “technical committee” to study the Vatican’s Pension Fund. In a press conference Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy, said Vatican employees pensions are secure for the next 20 years at least, but new statutes are needed to ensure long term viability of the fund.
A committee was also appointed to “propose reforms” to the Vatican media and communications structures. The global consulting firm Mackinsey & Co was contracted in December 2013 to review the current state of the Vatican’s various communication and media offices. The new 11 member committee will look at the final report from that assessment and propose ways to implement change.
Heading the committee is Lord Christopher Patten, former chair of the BBC Trust and the person who was brought in to coordinate Pope Benedict XVI visit to the UK in 2010. Lord Patten is also the Chancellor of Oxford University and served as the last Governor of Hong Kong. The rest of the committee is made up of Catholic media experts from around the world, including the American Greg Erlandson, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Vatican in term so it’s media and communication operations is not the infrastructure but the organization. No other state has the state Television and Radio stations separated into two completely different entities. The accreditation process for journalists can be head-ache inducing. Videographers and Photographers deal with one office, while the producers they work with must deal with en entirely different office in a different department.
These new structures and process should pave the way towards smoother, user-friendly operations at the Vatican. However, those inside who are accustomed to the age old Roman ways of hiring, organizing and working, will no doubt find themselves outside their comfort zones.
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A major press conference was held at the Vatican today by His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Economy. The press conference was held to announce major reforms within both the financial and communications entities of the Vatican, as well as announce the new leadership of these entities. It is part of a growing theme of transparency and openness being promoted by the Vatican following the election of Pope Francis last year, something Cardinal Pell stressed from the outset of today’s event.
The press conference focused on four particular areas of reform: the Vatican Patrimony Administration – APSA, the Vatican’s pension fund, Vatican media as well as IOR, the Vatican Bank. Speaking first on APSA, which manages “properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function,” Cardinal Pell announced a formal division of what is essentially the Vatican’s central bank.
Shifting then to the Vatican’s pension fund, the Cardinal introduced Joseph Zahra, Deputy Coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy. Zahra noted that despite the troubles facing many pension funds today, the Vatican’s was secure and stable. He said that a committee would integrate the entire administrative structure of the pension fund into the new financial structure of the Vatican over the coming months.
Cardinal Pell then spoke of reform within the Vatican’s communications structure, announcing that a committee had been formed to look into ways for Vatican media to reach more Catholics around the world. He noted the Vatican would put a major emphasis on new modes of communication through new media, touting the success of the Pope App and the Papal Twitter account. He announced that Lord Christopher Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University, a former British M.P., former governor of Hong Kong and former Chairman of the BBC Trust would head the committee.
Lastly, Cardinal Pell spoke on the Institute of Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank as well as IOR. Here he deferred to Ernst von Freyberg, the outgoing President of the Supervisory Council of IOR. Von Freyberg confirmed that as we reported, all accounts at the Vatican bank had been investigated and those which needed to be, were dealt with appropriately. He did however speak positively regarding the situation of accounts at the bank.
Finally, Cardinal Pell introduced Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, Member of the Council for the Economy as the incoming President of the Supervisory Council of IOR. The new president spoke graciously of the work of Mr. von Freyberg as well as that of that staff of IOR. Cardinal Pell finished by announcing the expansion of the composition of the superintendents of the bank. Among them, His Eminence Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, as well as half a dozen lay members. They include: Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, Mr. Clemens Boersig, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Deutsche Bank Foundation, Prof. Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Sir Michael Hintze, a British businessman, philanthropist and former Australian army officer who has over 30 years’ experience in global financial markets as well as two member who have yet to be named.
In Vatican City this morning, the Institute of Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank, released its 2013 financial statements. The release of the documents on the part of the bank is an effort to increase the degree of transparency with which the institution operates. The report noted that profits at the bank were significantly down from 86.6 million Euros in 2012 to 2.9 million Euros last year. The press release from the bank stated that the dramatic decrease in net profits were due to “extraordinary expenses; losses related to propriety investments in externally managed investment funds committed to in 2012 and early 2013; and the fluctuation in the value of the IOR’s gold reserves.” It was also announced that the there would soon be a restructuring of leadership at the bank. Tomorrow His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Economy, will hold a press conference to announce new members for the supervisory board of the bank, as well as name a replacement for Ernst von Freyberg, President of the Supervisory Council for the IOR. Vatican Radio’s German section had opportunity to speak to von Freyberg about the details of the report.
The Holy See also released an annual budget report from 2013. The budget for the Holy See, which includes the Roman Curia and Vatican communications outlets, saw a deficit of 24.4 million Euros. The majority of this was attributed to aforementioned losses in Vatican investments in gold. Despite those loses, a strong performance by the Vatican City State helped make up loses associated with other departments such as the Roman Curia, leaving the Vatican’s overall financial situation in the black 8.5 million Euros.
Also in Vatican City this morning, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications released version 2.0 of the Pope App. The new version of the highly popular mobile application for smart phones and tablet devices was presented and shown to Pope Francis this morning who expressed his gratitude to all of those responsible for the world done on the project. Powered by the Vatican’s news aggregate news.va, the updated application is available in five languages and provides users with the latest Papal news in a new and simplified format. Other features include the Papal Twitter feed, news stories, live streaming of Vatican events, archived images and video, all of which can be easily shared through the application to a wide variety of platforms. The Pope App is now available for download on both the Apple App Store as well as Google Play.
On Sunday, the community of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic train derailment that killed 47 people and cause significant damage to the town. A special midnight mass was celebrated at St. Agnes parish to mark the occasion followed by a candle-lit procession at 1:15am to mark the moment of the disaster. A Sunday morning mass was also celebrated at the church by His Grace Archbishop Luc Cyr, Archbishop of Sherbrooke. In addition to the hundreds of people both in and outside the church, mass was also attended by Governor General David Johnston, and Quebec Premiere Philippe Couillard. In his sermon, the Archbishop encouraged people to continue as one, to continue to rebuild and find confidence in one another. Following mass, a large granite plaque was unveiled outside the church listing the names of all the victims of the tragedy. To conclude the unveiling, a number of people laid flowers to honor those who had fallen.
At the Vatican today, His Holiness Pope Francis met with His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Cilicia. Meeting in the Apostolic, the Holy Father commended the Catholicos on his commitment to the cause of Christian unity. He also thanked him for his significant contributions to the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Francis said that Aram I who is based in Lebanon speaks for “a part of the Christian world that is irrevocably marked by a history of trials and sufferings courageously accepted for the love of God. The Armenian Apostolic Church has had to become a pilgrim people; it has experienced in a singular way what it means to journey towards the Kingdom of God. The history of emigration, persecutions and the martyrdom experienced by so many of the faithful has inflicted deep wounds on the hearts of all Armenians.” Their meeting concluded with a special prayer service in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel before going their separate ways.
Also today, Pope Francis named new members to the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, replacing the current all-Italian panel. The new members of the committee are: Juan C. Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School from the United States, Maria Bianca Farina a high-ranking administrator within the Italian postal system’s investment and insurance divisions, Marc Odendall a Swiss philanthropist with extensive experience in international commerce and Joseph Yubaraj Pillay the chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers of the Republic of Singapore and of Tiger Airways Holdings. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State has also promoted Tommaso Di Ruzza, an Italian to become the agency’s “ad interim” vice-director. He formerly worked for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as well as an assistant at the financial authority. His Holiness Pope Emeristus Benedict XVI established the Financial Intelligence Authority in 2010 to monitor the financial activities of the Vatican, to ensure that they conformed to international norms.
This year marks two decades since the Rwandan Genocide. Catholic News Service spoke to a Catholic relief worker who highlighted the effects of this terrible event on a new generation of Rwandans.
Remember to tune-in this weekend for Salt and Light’s audio podcast, the Salt and Light Hour. This weekend Deacon Pedro speaks with Theology of the Body for Teens author Jason Evert who says that Saint John Paul II is a Saint because of his five loves. Fr. Tom Rosica offers a reflection for the Solemnity of Pentecost and we meet singer/songwriter and hip-hop artist Joe Melendrez. The Salt and Light Hour is our weekly audio podcast heard on various radio stations across North America and online at www.saltandlighttv.org/radio
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