Vatican City, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - An appeal from the Holy See's "bank" to recover millions of dollars frozen by Italian authorities in September has been declined. The Vatican expressed its "amazement" that the bank, known as the Institute of Religious Works, and its directors are still under investigation for allegedly not conforming to European anti-money laundering standards.
In September, authorities froze 23 million Euro (over $31 million) due to possible violations of Italian laws regarding disclosure. The original investigation concerned a pair of transactions between Vatican accounts in Italy and Germany that were blocked under suspicion of money laundering.
According to the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano, which quickly published an article highlighting the transparency of the Vatican bank’s operations, the situation was based on a "misunderstanding."
The case continued with Vatican bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and director general Paolo Cipriani being called into court for questioning. Both claimed no wrongdoing and pointed to internal transfer orders as the source of the problem.
According to Italian media reports, authorities are now investigating several large deposits and withdrawals from the bank’s Italian branches in which the sources and destinations of hundreds of thousands of dollars is not clear.
In spite of the continuing investigations, the bank made an appeal to regain control of the frozen sum. But, as Italian media reported on Oct. 20, Rome's "Re-examination Court" upheld the freeze.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed his "amazement" at the court’s decision. He said the Holy See believes the matter involves a conflict of interpretations.
"The directors of the IOR," he said, "are certain they will very soon be able clarify the question with the competent authorities."
The bank’s head, Gotti Tedeschi, is a respected professor of finance strategy and business ethics, and has an extensive background in public and private banking.
He was appointed by Benedict XVI a year ago and has been working to bring the Vatican's banking operations up to European regulations standards. One of his goals has been to get the Vatican bank on the "white list" for banks that comply with anti-money laundering regulations.
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ahead of World Mission Sunday, the priest heading a papal society for the spread of the faith has said all Catholics are missionaries and should renew their commitment to proclaiming the Gospel. A credible witness of the faith requires a “profound” personal and communal conversion, he commented.
“As Catholics, we have a wonderful responsibility, by reason of our baptism, to bring about change for the good in our world,” commented Fr. Timothy Lehane Barret, SVD. To accomplish this, he said, Catholics must become aware of the need for conversion beginning with ourselves.
Fr. Barret is secretary general of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. His letter published, by Agenzia Fides, often cited Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 6 message for the Oct. 24 observance of World Mission Sunday.
That message, Fr. Barret said, encourages dioceses, parishes, religious orders, and the whole “People of God” to give a greater missionary character to pastoral activity.
“The Holy Father says that each one of us should enrich our lives by an ever-greater awareness of God’s unconditional love for us and its experience, which transforms our lives,” the priest explained. “Then through us, our ever more divided societies can be changed into an ecclesial communion.”
The encounter with the love of God “transforms our existence” so that we can live in communion with God and among ourselves, Pope Benedict said in his message.
“Today people are searching for something different in the everyday confusion of our world and many of them want to ‘see Jesus’,” Fr. Barret explained. However, the Pope has taught that giving witness to these people cannot be done credibly without “a profound personal, communal, and pastoral conversion.”
Pope Benedict has asked for an “integral renewal’ and an openness to missionary cooperation among the Churches to proclaim the Gospel in the heart of “every person, every people, culture, race, nationality, in every place.”
Fr. Barret thanked those cooperating with World Mission Sunday, saying his travels through Zambia have given him firsthand experience of the gratitude of missionaries and the need of poor churches.
“(W)e are missionary by reason of our baptism; we are all missionaries and together we can make a difference,” he wrote.
“Know that your kindness, generosity and prayers truly make a difference and it is greatly appreciated… Our local churches throughout the world could not survive without your support,” he added, asking for generous giving despite economic difficulties.
He urged prayer, meditation on scripture and study of the faith to help increase awareness of God’s unconditional love “for all of us.”
Barcelona, Spain, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) -
Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona has called on Catholics in his diocese to give a warm welcome to Pope Benedict XVI during his upcoming visit.
The Pope will visit Spain Nov. 6 -7 and will dedicate the Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona.
The cardinal encouraged Catholics to line streets on the evening of Nov. 6 and the morning of Nov. 7 when the Pope will travel by motorcade through the streets of the city.
The Holy Father’s popemobile will wind through downtown Barcelona and circle through the streets surrounding the church so that as many people as possible will be able to greet him. Outside the church some 36,000 chairs will be set up, along with large television screens, for those who have tickets to attend the ceremony.
Cardinal Sistach encouraged those who do not have tickets to line the streets to greet the Pope as he passes by.
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The need for more interfaith dialogue and greater Christian-Muslim understanding has been a key theme in the month-long meeting of bishops at the Vatican to discuss the Middle East.
The special Synod for Bishops for the Middle East is winding down. It will conclude with a celebration of Mass by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 24.
Participants seem increasingly concerned about the growth of extremist forms of “political Islam” in the region.
Bishops and other experts to address the synod have sought to draw a sharp distinction between "moderate" Muslims and “extremists” who support a radical and political version of Islam.
But for Christians on the ground in Muslim-run countries, such distinctions are often hard to maintain.
Jordanian Father Raymond Moussalli, Protosyncellus of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans said the Church in his country, Iraq, is under attack.
“There is a deliberate campaign to drive Christians out of the country.”
Father Mousalli said the agenda is not limited to Iraq. There is evidence of this strategy in all parts of the region.
“There are satanic plans by fundamentalist extremist groups that are not only against Iraqi Christians in Iraq, but Christians throughout the Middle East."
Marco Impagliazzo, a history professor at the University for Foreigners of Perugia, Italy and president of the Community of Sant'Egidio said Christians are essential to preserving authentic Arabic culture.
Without Christians there will be little support for moderate elements within Islam. “Without then,” he explained, "Islam would be more alone and fundamentalist. Christians present a form of resistance to an Islamisizing 'totalitarianism'. Their permanence in the Middle East is in the general interest of the societies and of Islam."
Impagliazzo said that Muslim majorities in the Middle East must begin to respect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities. In addition, Muslims must demonstrate in more concrete ways “a social and cultural consensus that expresses the will to live all together."
In his Oct. 18 report on the progress of the synod, Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Alexandria of the Copts warned of the “real threat” of an increasingly confident "political Islam."
Summarizing many of the remarks made by synod delegates, he said there is increasing pressure throughout the region from extremist groups who want to “to impose an Islamic way of life on all citizens, sometimes by violence.”
He said that there are basic elements in the Muslim community in the Middle East. The “fundamentalists” or extremists are the minority, he said. Those he described as “peaceful traditionalists” make up the majority. These Muslims, he said, see their Islamic faith as “the supreme standard and have no problem living serenely with non-Muslims.” There is also an “elite” in Muslim society who are “moderates open to others,” he said.
The patriarch urged more grassroots leadership in building cooperation and ties with Muslims of good will. "A primary place needs to be given to the dialogue of life, which gives an eloquent, silent testimony and is sometimes the only means to proclaim the Kingdom of God,” he said.
Christians and Muslims, he said, "must know one another better." In order to do that, he said, “prejudices inherited from the history of conflicts and controversies, on both sides," must "be carefully faced, clarified and corrected.”
Patriarch Naguib ended his report on a hopeful, if uncertain note.
"We shall emphasize what we have in common, in particular on the spiritual and moral level,” he said, adding: “religion is a builder of unity and harmony and an expression of communion among persons and with God."
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - Various organizations in Mexico are urging President Felipe Calderon to call for a national debate on adoption by same-sex couples.
Common Sense, an association consisting of 50 organizations, called on officials “to convene a national forum in order to discuss the basis for Mexico’s new adoption law and how the will of the majority of Mexicans who reject same-sex adoption will be respected.”
Enrique Perez Ocejo, a spokesman for Common Sense, said the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing adoption by same-sex couples was a step backwards for democracy in the country. He noted that the wishes of a small minority trumped the will of the majority of Mexicans who do not want children be used for “social experiments.”
“The country’s Supreme Court refused to prioritize the well being of children up for adoption by not taking into account the risk factors for these children,” he warned.
Ocejo pointed to a study by Charlotte Patterson, sponsored of the American Psychological Association, which showed that a boy or girl raised or adopted in a same-sex household can manifest identity problems, psycho-emotional development issues, as well as difficulties with cognitive and motor skills.
“It’s just common sense that the father be a man and the mother a woman,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, will celebrate a Liturgy of Thanksgiving for the successful rescue of the 33 miners who were trapped at the San Jose mine.
The liturgy will take place Oct. 25 at the National Shrine of Maipu. The 33 miners as well as the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera will be present at the ecumenical celebration.
The Chilean Bishops’ Conference issued a press release explaining that the liturgy will be an opportunity to show “gratitude to the Lord for the happy end to Operation San Lorenzo” and to offer prayers “for the intentions of the miners and their families.”
The bishops invited all who live in or near the country's capital city of Santiago to take part in the liturgy. They also encouraged those who cannot attend to join in prayer from their homes or communities.
The 33 miners from the San Jose mine were rescued on Oct. 13 after spending 69 days trapped below ground when the mine collapsed.
London, England, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - Speculating about the future of Anglicanism, a Catholic Church observer in England says that Anglo-Catholics have recognized their battle is “lost.” However, Pope Benedict’s appreciation of their tradition and his establishment of a special church structure for them will help restore their patrimony to the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, acting through the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” established the Anglican Ordinariate in October 2009 to help Anglicans who wish to become Catholic while preserving many of their unique traditions.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that senior Catholic Church figures in England expect the new jurisdiction to accommodate “thousands” of converts. The Anglican church of St. Peter in Folkestone has declared its intention to become Catholic, as has the Anglican Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, chairman of the Anglican group Forward in Faith.
Strife in the Anglican Communion has resulted from differences on theological and moral matters such as the ordination of women bishops and sexual ethics.
Damian Thompson, a Catholic commentator for the Telegraph, remarked that Bishop Broadhurst thought the Anglican tradition called Anglo-Catholicism was worth fighting for.
“Now he knows that the battle is lost,” he claimed.
Thompson voiced his suspicion that the future of the Anglican Ordinariate is not with prelates such as Broadhurst but rather with younger Anglo-Catholic clergy and “thousands of committed lay people” who are already used to worshiping at a church that suits and not at their local parish.
“The important thing is that they believe that the intellectual case for traditional Anglo-Catholicism is no longer tenable. The High Church wing of the (Church of England) has moved in a liberal protestant direction: it has reached an accommodation with women priests and will do so with women bishops, too.”
By contrast, Thompson continued, the election of Pope Benedict XVI and his visit to England has helped “tip the balance.” The Pontiff appreciates the achievements of Anglo-Catholicism and believes that the best Anglo-Catholic worship retains elements of Catholic patrimony that will be “restored” to the Western Church.
Thompson wrote that he cannot foresee the Church of England allowing more than a few church buildings to leave, but large Anglo-Catholic congregations are likely to split over the possibility of entering into communion with Rome.
While Anglican converts will face obstacles from “philistine RC liberals,” he cited a Catholic priest who said these Anglicans should consider who they have on their side:
“The Pope. Blessed John Henry Newman. And the Holy Spirit.”
Thompson said he was “more and more convinced” that the Apostolic Constitution will bear fruit in “new, evangelistic parish communities” that will challenge “sluggish mediocrity” among some Catholics.
“No wonder so many younger, orthodox, cradle Catholics are excited by the Ordinariate mission,” he concluded.
CNA STAFF, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - Persistent questions about abortion funding in President Obama's Affordable Care Act arose again on Oct. 20 in a telephone press conference hosted by the bill's supporters at Catholics United. Heated discussion ensued between the organization's executive director Chris Korzen, and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee over a controversial ad campaign targeting a Democrat who supported the bill.
Representative Steve Driehaus (D – Ohio) previously filed a complaint to the state's election commission due to a proposed billboard campaign by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. He claimed that the campaign would have illegally misrepresented his voting record by stating that “Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer funded abortion.” With a full hearing by the state's election commission scheduled for October 28, SBA List has filed its own lawsuit, alleging that Ohio's regulations of electoral advertising violate their right to free speech.
On Wednesday, Korzen accused the SBA List of “lying” to voters. The Catholics United leader reiterated his group's position that the bill “maintains current restrictions prohibiting taxpayer funds for abortions,” alongside the executive order of President Obama intended to prevent such funding.
But Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said Korzen's defenses of the bill ignored a series of omissions and loopholes that exist alongside those “current restrictions.”
By those alternate routes –such as federal funding for community health centers and payment of premiums for plans that include abortion-- Johnson said that the Affordable Care Act clearly authorized abortion funding.
While some participants in the telephone conference challenged his assertive participation, Johnson noted that he represented “over 300,000 readers” of his organization's National Right to Life News.
NRLC's director referred all participants in the conference call to the 23-page affidavit he filed with the Ohio Elections Commission on October 11, in support of the SBA List. He stated that the document, available on his organization's website, exhaustively vindicated the SBA List's attack on Driehaus.
That affidavit incorporated the objections of both the General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and its Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. The secretariat stated in April 2010 that the Affordable Care Act both “uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions,” and offers other funds that “can be used for elective abortions.”
The general counsel has similarly maintained that President Obama's executive order is selective and limited in its restrictions on abortion funding.
A group supporting Driehaus and his legal challenge, Democrats For Life of America, also stated on October 15 that it had filed an affidavit with the Ohio Elections Commission, although it had not made the document available as of Wednesday evening. A federal judge is expected to rule on SBA List's counter-suit this week, to determine the constitutionality of Ohio's laws on political advertising.
Austin, Texas, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - The possible innocence of an executed Texas man has renewed the debate on the death penalty in the state with the most executions in the United States.
Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 after being convicted of the murder of his three toddler daughters by setting his house on fire
Experts have questioned the arson investigation in the case that led to his conviction and eventual execution. Now, Willingham’s stepmother and cousin have asked a court to declare he was wrongfully convicted.
However, Willingham’s ex-wife Stacy Kuykendall has said that before his execution Willingham confessed to her that he killed their daughters “and watched while their tiny bodies burned.”
Texas has executed the most inmates in the country since the U.S. Supreme Court ended its moratorium on the punishment in 1976. Willingham’s family lawyers are asking that other convictions reliant on similar evidence be reopened.
Dave Atwood, founder of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and author of the book “Detour to Death Row,” spoke to CNA about the case and the death penalty debate.
Willingham “may be innocent,” he said, noting that his coalition has not taken a definite position on the case. However, it is supporting the court inquiry and the investigation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
The case should bolster efforts to abolish the death penalty in the U.S., Atwood believes.
“More and more people are opposing the death penalty in Texas. Death sentences and executions are both dropping.”
He attributed this drop to the prominence of cases of innocent people sent to death row, improved legal defense for the poor, the sentencing option of life without parole, and citizen education.
“Texas is the number one executing state in the nation with 436 executions to date,” Atwood said. “Texas politicians have always denied that an innocent person has ever been executed in the state. We know that this is not true.”
Atwood’s coalition aims to educate Texas citizens, particularly Catholics, about the death penalty with the hope that they will oppose it. The organization promotes the alternative punishment of life without parole. The coalition believes this alternative protects society from dangerous felons while upholding the sanctity of life.
Andrew Rivas, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, is also monitoring the Willingham case. He called Texas “ground zero” for the nationwide debate over the future of the death penalty.
“We’ve got a serious road to cross to get to that point where we can have a definitive dialogue on the death penalty,” he told CNA in an interview.
Rivas previously worked on the staff of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on criminal justice issues and the bishops’ campaign to end the death penalty. Drawing on this experience, he said that revisiting individual executions is “a very difficult proposition.”
“No prosecutor in the U.S. has ever admitted to making a mistake when executing somebody.”
He suggested that for the purposes of persuasion the better path for death penalty abolitionists is not to focus on individual cases but rather on the “inherent flaws in the system.”
Otherwise, he said, “almost every single time, it becomes about that person and case rather than the overall system.”
The Texas bishops have not taken a position on the Willingham case. Rivas described it as “a tough situation.” The relevant forensic evidence was “strongly disputed” but it was still difficult to arrive at the point of judging a person to be “definitively innocent,” he said.
Public sentiment in Texas still runs strongly in favor of capital punishment -- including among Catholics.
Rivas recalled working to prevent the passage of “Jessica’s Law,” in 2007. The law toughened penalties for child sexual abuse and authorized use of death penalty for certain sex crimes against children. Talking to legislators was “like talking to a brick wall,” he said. In the end, only a handful voted against it.
“Here in Texas, it’s not a partisan issue. Everybody needs education on this issue and needs to know what the Church teaches.
“Our teaching is that life is a precious gift from God. We’re made in God’s image,” Rivas explained. “No matter what we do, the dignity and beauty of this gift is never diminished. Our position is that life should always be protected, whenever possible.”
Rivas added that the Texas bishops’ efforts are focused on starting a dialogue to “help change people’s minds, even people who sit in our pews.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 21, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops from the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro issued a statement on Oct. 18 encouraging the faithful to vote for candidates who defend life from conception until natural death.
Coming just two weeks before the Oct. 31 presidential runoff election, the bishops said that “because of her universality, the Catholic Church does not have its own party or candidate.” However, the prelates emphasized that the Church “urges now more than ever that voters elect those who respect ethical principles and the criteria of Catholic morality as laid out in the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
The bishops explained that “in particular, those who have defended and defend the value of life from conception to natural death and who defend the family in its natural form should be elected.” They also rejected the idea that abortion be considered “an issue of public health.”
The October 18 presidential runoff will give voters the chance to choose between Dilma Rousseff and José Serra. In 2007 and 2009, Rousseff voiced her support for the legalized abortion, but she has recently attempted to change her position in order to keep from slipping in the polls.