Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience and Archbishop Blase Cupich is installed as the Archbishop of Chicago.
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Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience and Archbishop Blase Cupich is installed as the Archbishop of Chicago.
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.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience where he asks the world to come together to irradiate Ebola and the CCCB releases a new document on ecumenism.
Today on Perspectives, tragedy strikes Canada’s capital of Ottawa, Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience and the feast of St. John Paul II.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis beatifies Paul VI, the closing of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, a look at the various documents and speeches coming out of the meetings, we talk to a number of bishops after the Synod and a Consistory is held to name two new saints as well as look at the problems in the Middle East.
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. :
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.