Andrea Gagliarducci

Andrea Gagliarducci

Andrea Gagliarducci is an Italian journalist for Catholic News Agency and Vatican analyst for ACI Stampa. He is a contributor to the National Catholic Register.

Articles by Andrea Gagliarducci

What is behind the acquittal of two former Vatican officials?

Feb 16, 2020 / 00:00 am

An Italian appeal court gave its verdict in a criminal case against two former officials of the Holy See’s Institute for the Works of Religion — often mistakenly styled the “Vatican Bank” — earlier this month: Not guilty. The IOR’s ormer director and vice-director  respectively , Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, were acquitted of money laundering, because “the fact does not subsist” — that’s technical Italian legalese that means there was not crime. The media generally ignored the verdict, but it is an important one. First, it clears Cipriani and Tulli . Second, it shows that the Holy See worked well in terms of anti-money laundering proceedings. The trial began in 2010, after the Italian prosecutor ordered the preventive seizure of a €23 million transfer by the IOR  between two of its accounts in the so-called “correspondent banks.” – that are, banks of different countries that use accounts of correspondence to settle the accounts. According to the prosecutor, the IOR did not provide one of the recipients of the transfer, the Credito Artigiano, the information required for due diligence, specifically: the identification of the account’s owner and the source of the funds. The Italian anti-money laundering law at the time considered the IOR an entity coming from a non-European jurisdiction, and so “not equivalent” to the Italian anti-money laundering system. In 2011, the Holy See issued its first Vatican anti-money laundering law, n. 127. Following promulgation of  the law, the Italian prosecutor withdrew the  hold on the €23 million transfer. The reason for lifting the hold was that Italian law says such freezes are to be lifted “when conditions of applicability are missing, also because of supervening facts,” i.e. events that transpire after a judgment becomes final, or developments that occur subsequent to judgment. . That is what appears to have happened here. However, the adoption of a general law could not on its own be enough to meet the due diligence requirements. Why, then, the decision to  lift the freeze? Could it be considered a message to the Vatican authorities? In the meantime, the Holy See had initiated a reform of its anti-money laundering system. This led to the replacement of Law 127, following some perplexities raised by the Council of Europe’s financial monitor, Moneyval. The enactment of a revised anti-money laundering law in Jan. 2012 signalled the transition from a first phase marked by the need to provide concrete solutions to bilateral problems between Italy and the Holy See, to a second phase characterized by the establishment of a long term framework with international recognition. The issuance of another new law (n. 18) in 2013, and the strengthening of the Financial Intelligence Authority, were both part of this new phase. The message given by the developments in theVatican’s anti-money laundering laws is clear: The Holy See issued new norms based on commitments undertaken in the international arena, rather than under the impetus of bilateral issues. After the reforms, the IOR is overseen by the Financial Intelligence Authority, which is a Vatican body. In 2013, the Holy See’s Financial Intelligence Authority and the Italian Unit for Financial Information signed a memorandum of understanding. In 2014, the money seized in 2010 was repatriated. When the funds were repatriated, the IOR underscored that “the repatriation of funds came into effect also because the Holy See in 2013 introduced a sound anti-money laundering system.” Despite the repatriation of the funds, the trial against Cipriani and Tulli went forward. Italian prosecutor looked at  155 operations collected under  seven different charges. Beyond the infamous €23 million, the  prosecutor’s investigation focused on several money transfers: €220,000  transferred by a certain Giacomo Ottonelllo; €100,000 moved by Giuseppina Mantese; €120,000 transferred by the Little Apostoles of Charity; €66,133 transferred by Antonio D’Ortenzio; €70,000 by former IOR director Lelio Scaletti, recently deceased; €100,000 by Lucia Fatello; €250,000 from the Jesuit-run magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. In 2017, the two IOR top officials, Cipriani and Tulli, were found guilty on three of nine counts at the first instance trial. They were acquitted on six of nine counts. News reports at the time, however, focused on the novelty of the situation: for the first time, two senior officials of the so-called Vatican bank had been sentenced because of a violation of the anti-money laundering law. It is worth mentioning that the three counts on which Cipriani and Tulli were convicted were minor charges regarding technical issues. The appeal court confirmed the acquittals and prescribed the other, minor, technical charges. This means, effectively, that Cipriani and Tulli have been cleared of all charges. It is noteworthy that a good part of the transfer under scrutiny dealt with a religious congregation, a magazine owned by a religious congregation (Jesuits), and a former Vatican official. While the trial went on, Cipriani and Tulli had resigned and faced a “Kafka-esque” process, since in the meantime, everything had been cleared, and the funds were repatriated. While all that was happening, , a new season of Vatican finances began. External consultants characterized this new season. There are many pending issues, though. Could the problem of the funds be solved before? Did the Credito Artigiano act transparently, or was the bank anyhow conditioned by the historical context of the years 2009 – 2010, that is, intense pressure from Italy? And on what grounds, precisely, were the transfers frozen in the first place, since all the IOR account holders were  ecclesiastical subjects? It is also food for thought that the “zero tolerance” policy  against so-called lay account holders would be instituted only after 2013. The appeal verdict clarified that there was no reason for freezing the transfers. In addition to that, the not guilty verdict also shows that the Vatican financial system worked well even before the anti-money laundering law. Issued in 2012, the first  Moneyval report on the Holy See and Vatican City State , stressed that “the internal procedures established by the IOR went, to some extent, beyond the requirements set out by the Law before the amendments and additions introduced in January 2012.” The verdict finally clarifies a complex situation involving  relations between the IOR and the Italian banks. The relations normalized when the Vatican Financial Information Authority signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Italian Unit for Financial Information and the Bank of Italy. The theme of bilateral relations between the Vatican and the Italian Republic can open a broader discussion. The memoranda of understanding they reached signaled the international credibility of the Holy See. Italy signed the memoranda because the Holy See had garnered credit. The Holy See developed institutional, rather than preferential, relations with Italy. The recent institutional crisis that led to the searches and seizures of documents in the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority jeopardized the Holy See’s international credibility. Egmont Group, the group that gathers the unit for financial information from all over the world, unplugged the Vatican from its secure network of exchange of intelligence information. The Holy See could get back to the network only when the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority signed an unusual memorandum with the Vatican tribunal, which could indicate that the system did not work correctly.Otherwise, why another protocol?

Amazonian Synod, what if the key is not celibacy?

Feb 4, 2020 / 00:00 am

Recent reports claiming some basis in a leaked draft of the post-Amazonian synod exhortation raised fresh and further fears Pope Francis may  bow to some sort of "Amazonian exception" to the norm requiring that only men be ordained to the priesthood in the Latin Church. If Francis does that, or anything like similar, it would be against his own publicly stated position regarding the norm. Breaking priestly celibacy requirement, however, might not be Pope Francis' real goal. The "anticipation" of the text was launched by the Catholic traditionalist web site Corrispondenza Romana. The article said that the post-Synod exhortation included paragraph 111 of the final document of the Synod, in its entirety. These lines were particularly concerning. We propose – the Synod fathers stressed – that criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region.  In reality, no final draft of the post-synod exhortation is yet in circulation. Preparatory documents and early, partial drafts have been floating around, though they do not say a lot about the final document. The final document could be ready and refined by mid-February and sent out to the interested bishops only three days before its publication. All of this is still rumor and gossip. Nothing is certain.  The final document is awaited with a certain anxiety, mainly because there the perceived risk it might break Catholic teaching. The ghosts of the past do not help. An exemplary case is that of Humanae vitae, Paul VI's encyclical on the regulation of birth.  Pius XII had created a commission on the regulation of birth, and John XXIII and Paul VII confirmed the approach. On October 29, 1964, Cardinal Leo Suenens took the floor during the discussion of Gaudium at Spes at the Second Vatican Council, and asked for an opening on birth regulation.  The progressive wing behaved like a real lobby and brought significant pressure to bear, including media pressure. When the Pontifical Commission ended its work, Paul VI asked a small group of theologians to study the issue further.  Media pressure increased. In April 1967, a document backing some artificial means of birth regulation was contemporarily published in the daily newspaper Le Monde, the British magazine The Tablet, and the US National Catholic Reporter. According to the document, 70 members of the Pontifical Commission expressed themselves in favor of the contraceptive pill. The publication of the document was designed to show theologians as favorable to the possibility. Only years later, Bernardo Colombo, a member of the Commission, revealed that the paper "was only one out of 12 reports presented to the Holy See."  Humanae vitae is  not the only case. The media pressure on the possible theological changes became so unbearable that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued in 1990 the instruction Donum Veritatis on the vocation of theologians. The instruction stressed that, in case of difficulties in understanding the magisterium, the theologian had "the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented." The theologian had to do that in "an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties." However, the instruction read, the "theologian should avoid turning to the 'mass media,' but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth." The media pressure on Church issues never diminished. Benedict XVI faced the question in the letter he addressed to the bishops on the remission of the excommunication to four Lefevbrist bishops on March 12, 2009. In his letter to Galatians, St. Paul wrote: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." Benedict XVI commented that he always thought of the St. Paul's words as a "rhetorical excess," but he came, in the end, to understand that "sad to say, this 'biting and devouring' also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom." After Pope Francis' election, media pressure on several issues intensified. Part of the reason for this increased intensity of focus can be found in Pope Francis' very pragmatic approach. Pope Francis seems to have no intention to change the doctrine, but he is open to new solutions. This could be the case with celibacy — a discipline with strong theological underpinnings, rather than a doctrine properly understood — though Pope Francis has often said he does not like the idea of  changing the norm. All of these precedents might justify the exaggerated attention conservative circles put on the outcomes of the Amazonian Synod.  However, doctrinal issues seem not to be at the center of the Papal preoccupations for the post-Synod exhortation.  Pope Francis mentioned the pan-Amazonian Synod in the traditional new year's speech to the diplomatic corps. This tends to suggest the document’s purpose will rather be that of making a political impact, rather than a doctrinal one. The effect would be comparable to that of Laudato si’. Not by chance, his “ecological” encyclical is the only Papal document Francis gives to non-Christian heads of State.  This political impact must be read through the Latin American perspective. Pope Francis is steeped in the notion of pueblo, "people." A 2014 paper by professor Loris Zanatta, "A populist Pope," underscored that Pope Francis' way of thinking and governing is an organic outgrowth of roots in Argentinian populism.  Zanatta explained that "people, according to Pope Francis, are good and virtuous. Poverty bestows on them an inner moral superiority" and that Pope Francis thinks "that wisdom, solidarity, values of the Gospel are preserved in inner-city neighborhoods. It is there that Christian society is found, the deposit of faith."  To Pope Francis – Zanatta then argues – "that pueblo is not a sum of individualism. It is rather a community that transcends individuals, a living body animated by an ancient and natural faith, in which individuals are completely diluted. Being this, the pueblo is the Chosen People that is keeping an identity in danger." Zanatta goes on to explain that "it is not for nothing that identity" is the other pillar of [Pope Francis’]populism," and "every institution or human constitution must bow to this identity, in order not to lose the legitimacy which pueblo bestows." The notion of people must be combined with the topic of the Latin American continentalism. The idea of continentalism was promoted by Methol Ferré, an Uruguayan philosopher who inspired Pope Francis' thought. Continentalism re-launches Simon Bolivar's dream of a Latin American continent whose people together will give rise to a new protagonism of that land.  The Pan-Amazonian Synod must be read together with the Pope's decision to celebrate the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama, where Simon Bolivar launched his project. The 2019 WYD was a WYD for Latin America, aimed at giving new inspiration to the youth of the continent.  Following this rationale, Pope Francis wanted the pan-Amazonian Synod to solicit a collective response on a shared topic to put together the native Latin Americans and those who colonized the continent, according to the notion of miscegenation that Pope Francis often reminds.  This is one set of reasons we might not do well to expect doctrinal changes from the post-Synod document, but rather a push to the Latin American continent to become a "theology source." This is the "Amazonian exception" that Pope Francis wants to promote as part of his promotion of the theologies of the outward bounds.  There is a deeply anti-institutional thought behind this rationale, though Latin American theology has never been anti-Roman. Pope Francis does not aim at questioning the foundations of the faith. On the other hand, there are people with a specific agenda who are attempting to do so, even merely proposing an ambiguous formula that can afterward be interpreted as theological opening.  The issue is not the doctrine. The problem is the vision of the Church. Pope Francis provided his view in the four principles outlined in the Evangelii Gaudium: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; the whole is greater than the part.  Pope Francis bases his work toward the continental Latin American dream on these principles. It is an enormous task. Pope Francis aims at creating a unitary mixture that could take into consideration concrete situations and put together different people and countries to give life to the great dream of Simon Bolivar.     

Pope Francis, what is his project for the Church in Italy?

Jan 30, 2020 / 00:00 am

The selection of new bishops has been a central topic of discussion during the meetings of the C6 Council of Cardinals, tasked with drafting the reform of the Roman Curia. A new procedure being used to select a successor to the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, could be a trial run for a new method.  On Jan. 14, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, turned 77 and ended the twoyear prorogation of his mandate Pope Francis granted him. There will be no  further extension of his mandate. On Jan. 23, the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, , was in Genoa to deliver a lecture on “Pastoral Conversion in Pope Francis’ teaching.” It was expected that the nuncio would give some clue on who the next archbishop of Genoa would be. It was not so. Archbishop Tscherrig confirmed that Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Bagnasco’s resignation, and he then informed the audience of the Pope’s intentionto follow a new procedure for choosing the next shepherd for the Church in Genoa.  According to standard – and long-established – procedure, the Apostolic Nuncio conducts the consultations before the appointment of a new bishop. The Nuncio sends questionnaires and letters to priests, lay people involved in the Church’s activity, and other interested people, in order to draft a profile of the possible bishops-elect. After this process, the Nuncio sends to the Congregation of Bishops a set of three potential candidates, and this set of three is then submitted to the Pope. The Pope can choose any person he wants, also outside of the set of three. In Genoa, however, Pope Francis is using a different method this time. He sent a circular letter to the priests of the archdiocese, asking them to draft a reflection on the state of the Church in Genoa and to suggest their own short list of  three possible new archbishops.  It is the first time this procedure takes place. It is yet to be seen whether Pope Francis will use it according to circumstances or if he will institutionalize the new method in the Curia reform. Cardinal Bagnasco's succession is particularly crucial since it will begin a "domino" effect on the Italian dioceses.  At the moment, Cardinal Bagnasco is the president of the Council of European Bishops' Conference. Above all, he served as president of the Italian Bishops Conference from 2007 to the beginning of 2018.  The appointment of the president of the Italian Bishops Conference is different from any other selection of the kind of the world. As the Pope is considered the primate of Italy in his capacity as bishop of Rome, the Pope himself appoints the president.  At the beginning of the pontificate, Pope Francis asked for a more democratic way to elect the president. The Italian bishops, after several discussions, decided that the president had to be appointed by the Pope anyway.  The "no" to the appointment of the president was not the only negative response the Italian Bishops gave to the Pope.  Pope Francis even asked the Italian Bishops to study a plan for the reduction of the 226 Italian dioceses (225 plus the Military Ordinariate). The bishops said that they were examining the issue, but there were no concrete outcomes. Pope Francis took over the issue personally in 2019.  The 2019 shift was carefully prepared.  In 2017, Pope Francis appointed new bishops for some of the Italian dioceses with less than 100,000 faithful: Trivento and Sulmona Valva, Melfi-Rapolla-Venosa, Teano-Calvi, Fidenza, Gubbio, Pinerolo, and Casale Monferrato.  In 2018, the Pope appointed the new bishop of Camerino-San Severino Marche, a small diocese with less than 60,000 faithful.  In 2019, the Pope began the reduce the number of dioceses by putting a group of them under the administration of one only bishop. In February, the diocese of Palestrina was united to the diocese of Tivoli in persona episcopi (in the person of the bishop). In April, Bishop Stefano Russo, general secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference, left the administration of the diocese of Fabriano-Matelica. There was no successor appointed, and Bishop Francesco Massara of Camerino took over the administration of the diocese. Also, in April, Bishop Valentino Di Cerbo of Alife Caiazzo resigned because he reached retirement age. No successor was appointed, while the bishop of Sessa Aurunca was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese.  In May, the bishop Roberto Carboni of Ales-Terralba was promoted as Archbishop of Oristano, to replace the retired archbishop Ignazio Sanna.  Finally, in November, the diocese of Susa went under the administration of the Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin.  Pope Francis is then reducing de facto the number of the Italian dioceses, not seeking anymore for the Italian Bishops’ green light or even their suggestions. Italian Bishops also did not have a positive reaction to the idea of a possible Synod for the Church in Italy, either. The Italian Church periodically meets in an "Ecclesial convention," a big, week-longconference that takes place every ten years. The proposal of a Synod for the Church of Italy would then be a "double" of this meeting, and more than one bishop was doubtful about the opportunity of doing it.  Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, launched the proposal for a Synod of the Italian Church in an article penned in the number 4047 of the Jesuit bi-monthly magazine. Fr. Spadaro asked for "a real exercise of synodality within the Church" that would help to read our today history and to discern."  In the number 4062 of La Civiltà Catholic, then, Fr. Bartolomeo Sorge relaunched the idea. He also stressed that "the hoped-for renewal of the Italian Church cannot but be the fruit of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A mere national Ecclesial convention cannot be enough. Would not be then a Synod?"  Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, seems to be among the bishops who are said to be against the project of a Synod. Cardinal Bassetti is now 77, and it seems he is willing to leave the leadership of the Italian bishops in advance – his five-year term  should end in 2022.  Pope Francis might choose Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, as new president of the Italian Bishops Conference. Cardinal Zuppi was among those who backed the idea of a Synod. Another possible new president of the Italian Bishops Conference is  Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, Pope Francis' vicar for the diocese of Rome.  In addition, Pope Francis might put some of his more trusted collaborators at the helm of the most important Italian dioceses, so that they could carry forward his reforms of the Italian Church.  For this reason, there are rumors about the possible appointment of Fr. Antonio Spadaro as Archbishop of Naples. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the current archbishop, will turn 77 this year and will end his two years’ extension past retirement age.  Another "bishop-to-be" might be Fr. Giacomo Costa, SJ, editor of Aggiornamenti Sociali, well known in the Vatican as secretary of the Commission for Information of the Pan- Amazonian synod.  Pope Francis would then shape the Church in Italy with some new appointments and de facto merging of dioceses, thus doing something of an end run around the Italian bishops’ resistances. In the end, the Popes have always had a strong relationship with Italy. On the one hand, Pope Francis is seemingly desirous of reducing the Italian weight - trimming the fat - as shown also by the fact that he has often overlooked traditional  Italian Cardinalatial sees in consistories. On the other hand, Pope Francis shows a particular interest in Italy, and especially to the Italian political scenario. Pope Francis does not avoid the particular bilateral relations with Italy. He fosters that.  Some examples: the Pope chose Giuseppe Pignatone, an Italian former public prosecutor, as president of the Vatican Tribunal, and chose a former official of the Bank of Italy Carmelo Barbagallo, as president of the Financial Intelligence Authority.  In the end, the Roman banks seem to be more significant when speaking of an ecclesial context and more narrow when it turns to a political context. With the next round of appointments, we shall see whether Francis seeks to strengthen bilateral relations even further, while he advances his overhaul of Italy’s ecclesiastical plant.  

Will Pope Francis’s year be marked by ecumenical trips?

Jan 28, 2020 / 00:00 am

Pope Francis has not officially scheduled any trips for 2020. In his traditional new year’s speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, however, he did provide a clear indication of his desire to travel. Pope Francis told diplomats he would like to go to South Sudan this year. He was not revealing a secret. It is no secret that the trip will be ecumenical, either: he hopes to make it together with Anglican Primate Justin Welby, and David Chalmers, the former moderator of the Scottish Methodist Church. Both of them were also present at the prayer meeting for South Sudan in the Vatican on Apr. 10 – 11, 2019. That speech held an indication regarding another international voyage, as well. In his remarks to diplomats, Pope Francis recalled all his travels in 2019. He put some emphasis on the trips to Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Romania: all Orthodox countries, characterized by a robust ecumenical perspective. Expect the ecumenical travel trend to continue this year. There are rumors of a journey under consideration to Montenegro, Greece, and Cyprus. Any such or similar trip would have an ecumenical character, since all of those countries are Orthodox. On Dec. 14, 2019, Pope Francis received the Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. The Pope confirmed to the Prime Minister his desire to visit the country during 2020. Pope Francis’s visit would follow that of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, who visited Montenegro and Serbia in 2018. Montenegro could be the gateway for a future visit by Pope Francis to Serbia, and Serbia might open the way for Pope Francis to Russia:, a long-standing dream of Pope Francis. If Pope Francis does make it to Montenegro, it would be the first Papal visit to the country. Popes have been to Cyprus already, several times. Benedict XVI visited the country in 2010, and Pope Francis would like to mark the 10th anniversary of his predecessor’s visit with one of his own. Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, who met the Pope on Nov. 18, 2019, has extended the invitation. Francis might then visit the last European country with a wall of division. More recently, rumors surfaced that would put Pope Francis in Greece before too long. That trip would put the Pope further in the footsteps of St. Paul. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople could share some of the moments of the trip, while time spent with Orthodox Archbishop Hyeronimos of Athens would only increase the ecumenical emphasis of any such trip. There is nothing official yet. However, Pope Francis visit to Greece might begin from the archeological site of Philippi and then take him through Lagadia, Salonika, Thessalonika, Corinth, and Athens. Sources say Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias invited Pope Francis during a private audience with him on Oct. 30. In mid-November, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, met with Dendias and with Orthodox archbishop Hyeronimos during his trip to Greece and continued the talks about the feasibility of a Papal visit. The trip to Montenegro, Greece, and Cyprus might take place between the end of May and the beginning of June. As noted, Pope Francis wants to go to South Sudan, and wants it to be another ecumenical trip. The feasibility of a trip to South Sudan, however, is linked to the political situation in the country. At the moment, the Pope might not stay in the country for more than one day, due to security reasons. Among the possibilities under study, there is the organization of a trip that touches South Sudan as first or last leg of an African tour that might see the Pope in Ethiopia or South Africa, or both. Ethiopia is an Orthodox country, which would fit the description of the ecumenical trips. The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is growing in importance. Cardinal Berhaneyeus Souraphiel, archbishop of Addis Abeba, was picked to head the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A visit from Pope Francis would be a boost for all Christians in the Horn of Africa. Beyond this ecumenical trips, Pope Francis has also shown interest in traveling to Iraq. Cardinal Raphael Sako, the patriarch of the Chaldeans, is thinking about a long papal itinerary in the country, with four stops: Baghdad for institutional meetings; Ur, the city of Abraham, to fulfill St. John Paul II’s dream; Najaf, holy city for Shia Islam (where Cardinal Sako hopes that the Pope will sign another declaration on Human Fraternity); and, Erbil — in Kurdistan — where most of the people who fled the Islamic State found refuge. Pope Francis also said he is willing to go to Indonesia and East Timor, a trip that could happen in September. Catholicism has a substantial impact on East Timor for an important reason linked to St. John Paul II: East Timor gained independence from Portugal on Nov. 28, 1975, but shortly after, it was occupied by Indonesia. Indonesia considered East Timor its province for 25 years. The Catholic Church gave great support to the people, and St. John Paul II wanted to go there in 1989. The Polish Pope used to kiss the ground when he reached a country he was visiting. What to do in East Timor? Kissing the ground would have meant recognizing the independence of the country from the Indonesian occupants, taking a political position. With a diplomatic move, John Paul II kissed a crucifix put on the ground, thus avoiding any political exploitation of his gesture. Even the trip to Indonesia might be an “ecumenical one” since it was a group of Indonesians who wrote the prayer book for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Francis has given particular attention to Indonesia: he gave the Archbishop of Jakarta, Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, a red hat. From Indonesia, it would be a short trip hop to East Timor. Pope Francis received an invitation to go to East Timor in March 2016, from Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo. We’ll see what happens.

Benedict XVI – Sarah’s book: What if the real issue is the lack of institutional thinking?

Jan 16, 2020 / 00:00 am

The draft of the Curia reform, Praedicate Evangelium, does not even mention the office of the Pope emeritus. It is as if Benedict XVI’s 2013 renunciation were unique in history: a “one-off” and never to happen again. Recent high-stakes polemics surrounding not only the person, but the position of the Pope emeritus, have made it clear that  establishing something like an “office” of Pope emeritus could be critical. It would prevent confusion. It would even give more freedom to the reigning Pope. The issue of the Pope emeritus came crashing into the fore of public discussion because of the book on priestly celibacy by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. The book also has a contribution by Benedict XVI. The publication of a text by Benedict XVI on celibacy just ahead of the release of the post-Synodal exhortation from Pope Francis, following the special assembly of the synod of bishops for the Amazon, was read as a statement against Pope Francis, who is said to be willing allow the ordination of married men to the priesthood. The attacks targeted Cardinal Sarah because he allegedly used Benedict XVI’s text in a way different than what agreed with Pope emeritus. Cardinal Sarah defended himself. He published the correspondence he had with Benedict XVI before the publication. The letters show that Benedict XVI was aware of the book and agreed with publishing his text. Benedict XVI’s entourage asked anyway to change the book’s cover, so that the Pope emeritus would appear in subsequent editions as  a contributor, not as co-author. Ignatius Press, the publisher of the book in English, has said it will consider any request to change the cover and other attributions, but has not received any official indication. According to their criteria, the book is co-authored by Cardinal Sarah and Benedict XVI. We can only wonder what phone calls and conversations there have been between piazza Pia, headquarters of the Vatican Dicastery of Communication; the monastery Mater Ecclesiae, where Benedict XVI lives; and Casa Santa Marta, where Pope Francis lives. In any case, the Vatican’s communication strategy appeared aimed at getting rid of any possible contraposition between “the two Popes” and, at the same time safeguarding Benedict XVI’s work. It was a particularly tricky needle to thread. Benedict XVI feels free to write and publish for two reasons: The first reason is that he actually acts as Pope emeritus. He does not feel bound to the Petrine office, so he has reverted to his former self, asProfessor Ratzinger. NB. Not Cardinal Ratzinger. Professor Ratzinger. As a mere academic theologian, the man who became Benedict XVI used to think about issues. It is foreseeable that the return of many of the themes of the theological debate of the 1970s led him to write, reflect, participate in the discussion of them currently underway. The correspondence with Cardinal Sarah reveals that Benedict XVI had already begun to write a reflection on the theme of the priestly celibacy. Benedict XVI felt that the work was not perfect, but he anyway gave it to Cardinal Sarah and approved the publication. This means that Benedict XVI is attentive to discussion within the Church, and shows that he is still at work on some issues. He feels free because he is not interested in acting as a parallel magisterium. He merely studies arguments and argues out  his own positions. The second reason is that Pope Francis gave Benedict XVI permission to be active in public life. In one of his first interviews, given to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis stressed: The Pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum. It is an institution. We weren’t used to it. 60 or 70 years ago, ‘bishop emeritus’ didn’t exist. It came after the (Second Vatican) Council. Today, it is an institution. The same thing must happen for the Pope emeritus. Benedict is the first, and perhaps there will be others. We don’t know. He is discreet, humble, and he doesn’t want to disturb. We have spoken about it, and we decided together that it would be better that he see people, get out, and participate in the life of the Church. There was extensive debate about the activity of Benedict XVI in the public arena, and it was even requested that the silence of the Pope emeritus be regulated or imposed institutionally. That didn’t happen. Benedict XVI, meanwhile, feels himself very much  free to write, to think, and to discuss; because, he has Pope Francis’s permission. As every Catholic, Benedict XVI gives total obedience to the Pope.  The real issue regards the office of the Pope emeritus itself. Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the papal office opened a new world. It had never happened in modern history. In the end, Benedict XVI decided that his title was going to be that of Pope emeritus and that he was going to wear the white cassock. He was not going to be a Cardinal again; he did not become a simple priest or even another “retired” bishop.  Theologian Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli noted that, with this decision, Benedict XVI interpreted the Petrine ministry as an episcopal ordination. When a bishop retires, he does not lose his episcopal status. He retires from his office. Benedict XVI was the first who did not identify the Papacy with the office of the pontifex.  Benedict XVI opened a new way and left to his successor the task of regulating it. Pope Francis was expected to issue a motu proprio or some other juridical document to provide a legal frame to the office of the Pope emeritus. The motu proprio might have clarified what the weight of Pope emeritus words would be, and which were the Pope emeritus’ responsibilities within the Church.  Never in the seven years of his pontificate, has Pope Francis done that. Nor have the  Curia reform discussions touched the issue. There is, in the end, an institutional lacuna — even a vacuum — which is likely the main problem in Francis’ pontificate.  Elected with a mandate for reform, Pope Francis has made his decisions personally, and only later, sometimes given them an institutional framework. The latest example is the appointment of Francesca De Giovanni as Secretariat of State’s undersecretary for the multilateral relations.  This is a new position within the Secretariat of State. The new undersecretary is added to the undersecretary for the relations with the States. This new position is foreseen in the draft law reforming the Curia. However, the draft has not been approved yet. Pope Francis made the appointment without waiting for the reform. The office has been established.  As far as concerns the Pope emeritus, Pope Francis took his presence for granted, and trusted that there was no need to regulate the office. However, an institutional framework helps to prevent from misunderstandings. Benedict XVI does not speak as a Pope; he is not looking to teach a magisterium other than Pope Francis’ one. But anytime he speaks, he is considered like a reigning Pope.  Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, underscored that if people quit considering Benedict XVI’s words as those of a Pope, everything would be fixed. It is hard to disagree with him.  In the end, one doubts that the confusion is intentional. William Kilpatrick's argument on that, in an article penned for Catholic World Report and published on Dec. 6, 2019, is interesting. Kilpatrick noted that recent scandals and debates (from the Amazonian Synod’s Pachamama issue to the revelation on abuse cover-up) generated confusion among Catholics. He then stressed that “some people think the confusion is deliberate—the Vatican version of the Cloward-Piven Strategy. Devised by Columbia University-trained sociologists Richard Cloward and Francis Fox Piven—a husband-wife team dedicated to political activism—the strategy advocated strategic, organized overloading of the public welfare system. This would, as they wrote in a famous 1966 article in The Nation, create ‘ political crisis … that could lead to legislation for a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty’.” In the end, Kilpatrick said, “the trick is to overwhelm the system with repeated demands in the hope that the resulting confusion will provide the conditions for implementing radical changes.” In a certain sense, since there is a lack of an institutional framework for the Pope emeritus, those who want to raise confusion and get to their goals can use this strategy. So far, very few people have spoken of what Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah wrote in their book. The debate so far has  focused almost entirely on the fact that the two wrote their reflection and that the reflection they wrote could be read in contrast with Pope Francis. So, it was better that Benedict XVI stay silent, and Cardinal Sarah resign.  If this system were applied, there would be no space for free speech in the Church, and small lobbies would be able to exercise an unprecedented pressure. These are the risks when the goal is to open processes without any initial regulation.In the end, the issue of Benedict XVI – Sarah’s book implies a different problem, which involves the Church reform Pope Francis undertook: the institutional issue. Pope Francis has always said he wants a conversion of hearts. The conversion of hearts must be framed into an organization, however, setting the institution in the first place. The Church lasted  2,000 years in part because the institution has always come before individual churchmen and ultimately won out over concerns for their personal circumstances.  A strong institution, in the end, could have easily absorbed “book-gate”. In the end, the main characters of the story are: a Pope emeritus almost mocked because he was allegedly manipulated; a cardinal targeted as an anti-Pope; a Pope described as unaware of the maneuvers behind his back. In the meantime, a theological contribution by two very senior churchmen was momentarily overshadowed, and there was no discussion on what the book actually says.   

2020, all Pope Francis’ men

Jan 8, 2020 / 00:00 am

2020 seems to be the year in which Pope Francis will be able to change the Curia profoundly, along with the profile of the worldwide episcopate. Many cardinal-archbishops holding major sees will turn 75 — the retirement age for a serving bishop — and many others already have. The same is true in the Roman Curia. Then, the much-awaited reform of the Roman Curia should be out in the first half of 2020. It “should” be out: nothing is guaranteed. The draft of the reform is still under review. The draft was forwarded to the bishops conferences from all over the world for extensive consultation and received hundreds of amendments and suggestions. Retirements in the Curia  Among the ones who will turn 75 during this year, there is Cardinal Robert Sarah: the prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments will get to the retirement age on June 15. Pope Francis put him at the helm of the Congregation in 2014, so even his five-year term is already expired. Cardinal Sarah had also been president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, now absorbed in the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. His ability to govern the CDW has also been reduced, with the wholesale replacement of senior staff and membership a couple of years ago. Pope Francis might even decide simply not to renew Sarah’s mandate, as he did with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   According to the drafts of the Curia reform, the top-ranking positions in the Curia will be assigned on a five-year term basis, renewable only once. This reform was anticipated by the reform of the office of the Dean of the College of Cardinals, which has been until now a life-post. Assuming Cardinal Sarah and others are still in office when he does turn 75, there will be five out of nine prefects of a Vatican congregation beyond 75. The other ones are Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who turned 75 last June; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, also 75 since June 2019; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for the Catholic Education, who is 76; and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, also 76. Cardinal Versaldi’s successor will be leading the dicastery for Education, which will include the Pontifical Council for the Culture. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the pontifical council, is already 77. Pope Francis had renewed Ravasi until he’s 80, but things can change with a new dicastery. In his Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis let it be understood that there will be changes for  the CDF , as well. For now, by the way, Cardinal Ladaria — a Jesuit —should remain in the top spot. There will be a reshuffle of the secretaries of the Vatican dicasteries. On January 5th, Archbishop Joel Mercier, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, turns 75. On March the first, archbishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga will turn 75, too. Archbishop Vergez was chosen by Pope Francis as number 2 of the Vatican City State administration, with a special task to consider the spiritual needs of the Vatican employees. His replacement will change an era. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia will turn 75 on April 20. Paglia is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and chancellor of the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II for the Studies on Marriage and Family. At the moment, there are no rumors about a possible successor of Archbishop Paglia. How the College of Cardinals will change There will be changes in the College of Cardinals, too. Pope Francis has profoundly reshaped the college of Cardinals. He has created 88 cardinals  from 55 different countries. Cardinals not yet 80 years-of-age are eligible to vote in a conclave. Pope Francis has created 67 out of the 124 Cardinals currently eligible to vote, which is the 52.3 percent of the total. During 2020, there will be four cardinals who will turn 80, thus losing their right to vote in a Conclave. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, will turn 80 on Feb. 25. Cardinal Agostino Vallini will turn 80 on April 17: he has been the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome, and he is currently pontifical legate for the Papal basilicas in Assisi. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri will turn 80 on September 29. He will also leave the position of General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, as Pope Francis already appointed a pro-general secretary, Bishop Mario Grech. The last cardinal who will turn 80 during 2020 is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington, DC. By the end of 2020, the cardinals eligible to vote in a Conclave will then be 120, which is the maximum limit set to Paul VI. Pope Francis might then also decide not to celebrate another consistory for the creation of cardinals. However, Pope Francis has held  one consistory per year throughout his pontificate, and he would likely give out another batch of red hats  in 2020: it would be his seventh consistory.   The College of Cardinals is structured in three orders, or ranks: the order of “cardinal deacons,” the order of “cardinal priests,” and the order of “cardinal bishops.” There are customarily six cardinal bishops from the Latin Church, who are given a particular ceremonial title as the “titular bishops” of Rome’s ancient suburbicarian sees.  The dean of the College of Cardinals is also assigned as titular bishop of the Roman see of Ostia. Pope Francis expanded the order of Cardinal Bishops, but still, the titles of the suburbicarian sees must be assigned. After the passing away of Cardinal Roger Etchegaray in September 2019, the title of Porto Santa Rufina is vacant and will be assigned. Eight cardinals will be likely promoted to the order of priests since they have been for ten years “Cardinal Deacons". These Cardinals are: Walter Brandmueller, Francesco Monterisi, Angelo Amato, Gianfranco Ravasi, Mauro Piacenza, Robert Sarah, Raymond Leo Burke and Kurt Koch. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino always rejected a “promotion” to the rank of cardinal priest, and so he stayed in the order of the deacons. He is the Cardinal proto-deacon, which is the cardinal in charge of announcing to the world the name of the new Pope after the Conclave. Although Martino is beyond 80 and will not take part in a future conclave, he still might announce the Pope since, after the election, the Conclave is formally over. Archbishops and “cardinalatial” positions  Pope Francis will be called to do a reshuffle in some important dioceses of the world, too. For Italy, it is noteworthy that in 2020 Cardinals Angelo Bagnasco and Crescenzio Sepe will end their mandates as archbishop of Genoa and Naples, respectively. Pope Francis renewed their mandate for two years, which will end  during 2020. Both Bagnasco and Sepe turned 75 two years ago. Who will replace them? Rumors speak about a Papal preference for two Jesuits: Fr. Giacomo Costa could become the archbishop of Genoa and Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the archbishop of Naples. Fr. Costa is the editor of Aggiornamenti Sociali, a lively magazine of the Italian Jesuits on the social teaching of the Church. Fr. Costa gained visibility as special secretary to the Synod of Bishops, first during the assembly on young people, and as then as secretary to the commission for information during the recent Pan-Amazonian synod assembly. Fr. Spadaro is the director of La Civiltà Cattolica, and he is understood to have the pope’s ear. There are currently 20 Cardinals in charge of an archdiocese who are beyond 80. By the end of 2020, there will be 27. None of the new Cardinals who will reach the retirement age has a coadjutor with the right of succession. The Spanish situation is the most critical one. Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, archbishop of Valladolid, is 77. Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, will turn 75 on May 16. Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia, will get to the retirement age on October 15. Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, will turn 75 on 2021. Spanish archdiocese will therefore be subjected to a significant generational change. The other to-be-75 cardinals are mostly from Europe, but there are also two from Asia and one from Africa. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna (Austria), will turn 75 on January 22, and is in very ill health. On January 25, Cardinal Philippe Nakellantuba Ouedraogo will get to the retirement age: he is the archbishop of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, archbishop of Westminster (England), will be 75 on November 8, while Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, will do on September 8. In Asia: Cardinal Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, will reach the retirement age on July 21;. Cardinal George Alencherry will be 75 by the end of the year. However, his position is that of the major archbishop of Ernakulam – Angamaly of Siro-Malabanan, one without an age limit. Ambassadors There are two Papal nuncios supposed to retire in 2020: archbishop George Kocherry, apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh, and Archbishop Alain Charles Lebeaupin, apostolic nuncio to the European Union. On January 2, archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot, apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka, resigned at the age of 70. The nunciature to Colombo is thus currently vacant, as they are those to Angola, Argentina, Burkina Faso, Belarus, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, Jordan / Iraq, Philippines, Ghana, Malaysia / East Timor, and Zimbabwe. It is expected for 2020 a more extensive rotation of Papal ambassadors, with the inclusion of new nuncios and diplomats. Archbishop Joseph Marino, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy since October 11 of last year, will have the task of providing new ambassadors. The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is the Vatican school for ambassadors, and its president must choose every year a dozen priests to enroll into the Holy See diplomatic service.  Archbishop Marino is called to overcome the crisis of the Academy. Because of a lack of vocations, Bishops present fewer candidates. Many potential candidates for the diplomatic service are stuck because they can access to the academy only from the age of 33 on. This is a problem for papal diplomacy, as there are fewer apostolic nuncios.  In the end, during this year, Pope Francis might carry forward a real  shakeup in the Curia, in some crucial positions in archdioceses all over the world, and in the College of Cardinals. After 2020, we may finally be able to see who all Pope Francis’ men are.  

Europe needs a "climate change on religious freedom," says EU Special Envoy

Dec 17, 2019 / 00:00 am

According to the latest report of the Observatory on Intolerance and discrimination Against Christians in Europe, there have been in the last year about 500 cases of anti-Christian discrimination on European soil. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.  In Europe, the persecution might be subtle or take place in the form of attacks on  sites of worship. The situation in the world is different. This is the reason why the exiting European Commission looked attentively at the religious persecutions and established the office of the EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom outside  the European Union.  EU announced the establishment of the office on the very day Pope Francis was given the Charlemagne Prize in the Vatican.  Jan Figel was chosen as the EU special envoy for religious freedom. In that capacity, Figel was able to carry out some remarkable successes, as the liberation of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The woman won her final appeal, but she was in danger in her country. It was thanks to Jan Figel that she and her family were able to leave Pakistan and find a haven in Canada.  The new European Commission, along with the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, will have to decide whether to renew the mandate to Figel or not.  On Oct. 15-16, an event about the "Inventory of religious freedom" took place in Brussels. The event's goal was to summarize the step forward in terms of religious freedom and assess how religious freedom is important for the future.  Jan Figel took the floor at the end of the meeting, wrapping up the discussion. In his intervention, he stressed that "Freedom of religion and belief is a condition of good governance, important for believers and non-believers," and it is "a civilizational objective and criterion, representing freedom of thought, conscience, religion." Figel then stressed that "we need a climate change on religious freedom."  Figel underscored that "religious freedom for decades was a neglected, abandoned, misinterpreted human right."  Mentioning Pew Forum figures, Figel said that "today, 79% of the global population lives in countries with high or very high obstacles against freedom of religion or belief."  Figel distinguishes four levels of problems and crises, based on Pew Forum's 2019 book "A Closer Look at How religious restrictions have risen around the world," which analyses figures on religious freedom in the decade from 2007 to 2017: intolerance, discrimination, persecution, and genocide. Figel notes that "government restrictions on religion - laws, policies, and actions by state officials - increased markedly around the world. Indeed, 52 governments - including some in very populous countries like China, Indonesia, and Russia - impose either 'high' or 'very high' levels of restrictions on religion (up from 40 in 2007)". The figures also show that "social hostilities involving religion - including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups - also have risen since 2007. The number of countries where people are experiencing the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion has risen from 39 to 56 throughout the study".  Figel also mentioned the UK Ministry for Foreign Affairs' special report on religious freedom. The report said that religious persecution against Christian is "almost at the level of genocide."  Figel also stressed that there is also good news on the religious freedom side. Among the good news are items such as the EU Guidelines of 28 Member States, adopted in 2013; the establishment in the European parliament of first Intergroup for freedom of religion and belief and religious tolerance, with 38 members so far; the International Contact Group of Freedom of Religion and Belief diplomats, set up in 2015 and joined by a growing number of countries; and, finally, the establishment of the EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion Outside EU. Figel finally advanced five recommendations: work on the freedom of religion and belief within a human rights framework; boost the freedom of religion and belief literacy; support the engagement with religious actors and inter-religious dialogue; implement a more strategic and contextualized approach at the country level; step up coordination among member States and European Union on religious freedom.  During his five-year mandate, Figel also launched the Declaration for Human Dignity for everyone and everywhere, signed by politicians and members of the academy. As mentioned, Figel was also involved in the Asia Bibi case. The case was an evident abuse of religious freedom, and Figel could, in his capacity, shed light on the issues of religious freedom. Figel was able to go to Pakistan for the first time in December 2017 and paid a second visit in 2018.  "During the talks – Figel recalled – I spoke about the importance of dignity and justice for every Pakistani citizen, especially minorities. I tirelessly spoke with my high-level interlocutors about the importance of having clear signs that the Pakistani authorities are moving toward the rule of law and justice for all. Delayed justice is denied justice."  Figel's involvement in Asia Bibi's case was decisive for the Asia Bibi released. According to Figel, this showed that "European Union is a soft power that can facilitate positive changes in the world on justice, sustainable development, human rights protection and more effective promotion of religious freedom."  It is not yet known whether the office of the Special Envoy for Religious Freedom outside the EU will be renewed. The outcomes, however, showed that religious freedom is a crucial factor and that EU commitment in advancing religious freedom in the world might be of benefit for the same EU.

Dutch cardinal: Priests should 'speak clearly' on assisted suicide

Dec 16, 2019 / 17:06 pm

A priest must say clearly to a person opting for assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia that he is committing a grave sin, a Dutch cardinal told CNA this week.

Pope Francis, does the appointment of Tagle at Propaganda Fide begin the race for the next conclave?

Dec 11, 2019 / 00:00 am

Pope Francis on Sunday appointed the 62-year-old Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The move is more than a major curial appointment: it seems to  open the way toward preparations for the papal succession.  Not by chance, the veteran Vatican watcher Sandro Magister immediately made a list of papabili, that is, of cardinals eligible to be the next Pope. The transfer of Cardinal Tagle to Rome has been rumored for a long time. Pope Francis never hid the fact he likes  the archbishop of Manila. However, Cardinal Tagle garnered consideration step by step. He was created cardinal in Benedict XVI's last consistory. It was a particular consistory: Benedict XVI created only six new Cardinals, all of them non-Italian.  Cardinal Tagle already had good press at the time. He was a scholar of the so-called ”Bologna School” — a group of scholars gathered in Bologna that wrote a comprehensive history of the Second Vatican Council. The Bologna scholars interpret the Second Vatican Council through the twin lenses of discontinuity and rupture. Benedict XVI, au contraire, always read the Second Vatican Council in continuity with the tradition of the Church. However, Benedict XVI was not biased by Cardinal Tagle's participation in the works of the Bologna School. In 2015, Cardinal Tagle was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, the Holy See umbrella organization for some 160 Catholic relief service in the world. That position strengthened Cardinal Tagle's international appeal. Cardinal Tagle has never been too vocal or overexposed, but he has always cultivated a public presence and persona. Pope Francis called him to be president delegate of the 2015 Synod on the Family and among the participants of the 2018 Synod on Youth. During this latter, thanks to a video where he danced with young people, Cardinal Tagle got even more popular. Pope Francis considers that the Roman Curia is less important than the local Churches. To Pope Francis, diocesan bishops are more important than the top officials of the Roman Curia.  Cardinal Tagle's appointment, however, is the first of a series of new appointments that will revolutionize the Curia offices. All of these appointments will come along with the finalization of the much awaited Curia reform. Cardinal Tagle will be at the helm of what draftsmen of the curial reform law, Praedicate Evangelium, say is to be the “first dicastery”.. According to the reform, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples will be renamed as "Dicastery for the Evangelization." The evangelization dicastery will keep its responsibilities for mission territories, and will likely keep its economic autonomy. It will also absorb the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, whose president is currently Archbishop Rino Fisichella.Since its foundation in 1622, Propaganda Fide has enjoyed independence in terms of money so that they could directly provide to the needs of the missions. The Propaganda Fide patrimony also includes 957 real estate properties. Cardinal Tagle will replace Cardinal Fernando Filoni. The Pope appointed Cardinal Filoni as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. This is a prestigious but mostly honorific position, that is usually given to retired or almost retired Cardinals. Cardinal Filoni is only 73, and his second mandate as prefect of Propaganda Fide was going to expire only in 2021 when he is 75. Why did the Pope not wait for two years? That is not a significant amount of time by Catholic Church reckoning. Some explained Cardinal Filoni’s transfer as a punishment because of his straightforwardness, or because he expressed his doubts on the confidential agreement with China for the appointment of bishops. More likely, Pope Francis decided he wants to give a sharp cut with the past. Pope Francis will have to reshape the Curia ranks in the upcoming months substantially. Cardinal Luis Antonio Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, turned 75, but he seems the only one of retirement age that will likely keep his position for some while more. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is 76. According to rumors, the next prefect will be Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Archbishop Pizzaballa gained much credit when Pope Francis asked him to organize the prayer for peace in the Vatican Garden in 2014. Other rumors say that the Pope could also look to the US and choose as new prefect the eparch of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, Gregory John Mansour, who was recently appointed chairman of Catholic Relief Services. There will also be a new prefect at the Congregation for Catholic Education. The current prefect is Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi: he turned 76, one year more than the retirement age set at 75. After the reform, the Congregation will absorb the Pontifical Council for Culture. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council, is 79, and Pope Francis prorogated his mandate at the helm of the dicastery until he will be 80. It is hard to foresee who will be the new prefect of the Congregation. There might also be a new secretary, since Archbishop Vincenzo Zani could be moved to the position of Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences to replace Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, now 77. Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, turned 78, and is now three years beyond the retirement age. He is considered one of Pope Francis' most trusted men, and for this reason, Pope Francis will have a hard time  replacing him. His successor will also give clues about how Pope Francis is going to govern in this phase. Among the possible candidates for the succession is Cardinal Blaise Cupich, archbishop of Chicago. There might be changes also in the Congregation of Bishops. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect, recently turned 75. A deep connoisseur of Latin America, Cardinal Ouellet is also considered a papabile. His position at the helm of the Congregation might be prorogated. However, the secretary of the Congregation might change. Monsignor Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz left the position of Pope Francis' secretary and is now in full time at the Congregation for Bishops, where he has been working part-time since the election of Pope Francis. He might be appointed secretary and elevated to the rank of archbishop. The current secretary, archbishop Ilson Montanari de Jesus, might be appointed archbishop of San Salvador de Bahia, primatial diocese of Brazil. The current archbishop of Salvador de Bahia is Murilo Sebastiao Ramos Krieger, who turned 76. As archbishop of Salvador de Bahia, Montanari could also get the red hat. The Curia is not Pope Francis' only field of action. Francis has been working to change the profile of bishops. In particular, he focused his attention on two specific Churches considered among the most conservative: the US Church and the Italian Church. Regarding the United States, the possible candidature of the Jesuit Fr. James Martin as Archbishop of Philadelphia created turmoil. Father Martin is known for his dialoguing position with the LGBT community; his statements have been often labeled as controversial. Observers say that this is just a rumor, and that Fr. Martin's appointment as archbishop of Philadelphia is unlikely. However, if Fr. Martin made it to Philadelphia, this would be a considerable shift for one of the most senior archdioceses of the US. Philadelphia has been until now under the guidance of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who just turned 75. Archbishop Chaput is strong on doctrine and cultural issues and has been a real mentor for generations of American Catholics. Regarding Italy, two archdioceses will experience major overhauls: Genoa and Naples. Genoa is now led by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who is also president of the Council of the European Bishops Conferences, and served until 2017 as president of the Italian Bishops Conference. Cardinal Bagnasco turned 75 in 2017. Pope Francis prolonged his mandate by two years. In January, he will turn 77, and Pope Francis will select his successor. One of the primary candidates for the post seems to be Fr. Giacomo Costa, Jesuit, currently director of the magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali. Fr. Costa was very much appreciated in the Vatican as special secretary of the 2018 Synod on Youth and as secretary of the Commission for the Information of the 2019 Panamazonian Synod. A Jesuit could administer even the Archdiocese of Naples. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe will turn 77 next year.His ecclesiastical career developed under John Paul II pontificate before his appointment as Archbishop of Naples under Benedict XVI. Now, it is retirement time for him and time for a shift for the archdiocese. Water cooler talk hasFr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, in the running for the spot. Spadaro is considered one of Pope Francis' most trusted advisors. Fr. Spadaro might carry forward from within the Italian bishops conference his project of a "Synod of the Italian Church" . This project was sponsored by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano but actually did not get much traction among the Italian bishops. Pope Francis backs the plan, while Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, currently president of the Italian Bishops Conference, does not. However, Cardinal Bassetti is already 77. He might end his mandate as president of the Italian bishops and also retire as archbishop of Perugia – Città della Pieve. In this case, the race would be open for a new president of the Italian Bishops Conference. One of the strongest candidates might be Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna. Pope Francis likes him a lot. Coming from the Sant'Egidio movement, Cardinal Zuppi's profile goes, in fact, beyond the movement he belongs to. For this reason, he might be a strong candidate in a conclave, along with Cardinal Tagle. If everything goes according to rumor, one can conclude that Pope Francis decided to look within the Jesuits to face a moment of crisis and prepare the future. Pope Francis also appointed the  Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves SJ as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Fr. Guerrero will not be ordained bishop and will go back to the Jesuits at the end of his mandate. This decision also gives us a glimpse of the Curia reform. According to new rules, no one could be in a Curia position for more than two mandates, which is ten years. It seems that the big maneuvers for the next Pope have already begun, and that the main indication is that the next Pope should be chosen in Asia. Cardinal Tagle is the second Filipino at the helm of a Vatican congregation, after Cardinal José Tomas Sanchez, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1991 to 1996. It is striking that Cardinal Tagle is called to Rome in the year when Dominicans elected a Filipino as General Master, Fr. Gerard Timoner, the first Asian at the helm of the Preachers. It is a coincidence. However, it is also true that religious orders have  always been a key to reading and anticipating the signs of times – and the Order of Preachers have always read attentively and generally anticipated shrewdly. By the end of 2020, the Curial map will be revolutionized. With Cardinal Tagle's appointment, Pope Francis gave a sort of indication for the next conclave. It is not granted that cardinals will follow his indication. Benedict XVI moved Cardinal Angelo Scola from the position of Patriarch of Venice to that of Archbishop of Milan, in a move that was read as a clear indication for his succession. The 2013 conclave, however, elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Vatican finances, how did the IOR work?

Nov 13, 2019 / 00:00 am

How did the Institute for Works of Religion work in real estate investments? The question is pertinent to two major issues:  the recent so-called Vatican financial scandal, which led to an institutional crisis; and, for some of the lawsuits initiated by the IOR to protect its integrity.  Paolo Tosi, a former IOR manager, provided an answer to the question concerning some of the investments, and in particular, as a member of the Investment Committee of the Ad Maiora fund. Ad Maiora was a fund of funds used by the Institute for Religious Works to manage and coordinate a series of investments placed under the request of the IOR board of directors, officially called the Council of Superintendence.   First of all, it is crucial to understand the nature and the scope of the Institute for Religious Works. The IOR is not a bank, as it is generally said because it neither operates credit intermediation nor grants loans. The IOR is a financial institute, with no branches, that works within the Vatican City State and provides services to particular categories of clients.  The IOR also makes investments. The IOR looks for products that fit its particular circumstances: that of a small institute with only €3 billion in assets, which cannot run a speculative risk. Above all, the IOR does not want to run a high speculative risk, since the monies it invests are mostly those of religious congregations,  that must generate profit and cannot be lost.  In addition to that, the IOR is called to invest following particular ethical parameters.  It is generally thought that the “ethical investments” shift took place under Pope Francis. This narrative was recently put forward by the latest annual report issued by the IOR. While profits have been going down in recent years, the reports have always emphasized that the Institute is committed toethical investments.  Paolo Tosi issued a release last week that breaks this narrative. Tosi did not have a career within the Institute. He was hired to manage some particular financial operations. The statement he sent to the Italian news agency Ansa is intended to defend his integrity and his work from the allegations of a “imprudent and opaque management.” The claims were advanced in the recent muck-raking book on the Vatican, Giudizio Universale (Universal Judgment) by Gianluigi Nuzzi.  Tosi’s point of view must be taken into account, though. Tosi reminds me that he was “hired by the IOR on Jan. 15, 2013 with the tasks of managing the IOR treasury, because of my high professionality, after an interview with the IOR interim president Rolando Schmitz.” Tosi then explains that “the Council of Superintendence had introduced, in December 2012, a new asset class for the investments on alternative funds “which includes real estate investments,” and that he matured “a long term experience on these products.”  The former IOR manager underscores that he was at pains to illustrate to both the Council and the statutory auditors his “strong perplexities regarding the risk – too high — that the IOR was running relative to the mission and objectives of the Institute. In short, the Council of Superintendence had initiated more speculative, and somewhat risky, investment strategies. The president of the Council was Ernst von Freyberg from Feb. 15, 2013, to July 9, 2014.  Tosi stresses that “the Council’s will was supreme.” For this reason, beyond his perplexities, Tosi worked to meet the Council’s will. He also worked successfully to “re-balance asset location, reduce the riskiest asset class (both shares and alternative investments) and gradually schedule alternative investments in no less than 24 months.”  The alternative investments were included in the Ad Maiora Fund, established for the management of just such investments, and every operation was referred to the Council of Superintendence “in great detail,” Tosi underscores. Tosi adds that the investments “were not in contrast with any of the provisions of the leading bodies, now with the real estate investments.”  Tosi goes on to underscore that the only provisions on real estate were issued in March 2008 and “imposed the request for an authorization exclusively for the selling of real estate that the IOR already owned, while there were no limitations on real estate acquisitions.”  Tosi also denies reports that risk management, internal auditing, and the college of auditors did not put in action adequate checks,  since he “received a daily and detailed report from the risk management office on the main values of risk.” Tosi stresses that the minutes show both the college of auditors and the internal auditing had a detailed report on everything.  Tosi’s statement leaves many questions open. First question: why did the Council of Superintendence decide to make speculative investments? According to the IOR 2015 annual report, the profits were 16,1 million euros, while the net financial result was 42,8 million euros. The year before the net financial result was 104,5 million. This drop-off in revenue (more than a 50% drop) was described as “part of the strategy that began at the end of 2014 to make the IOR portfolio more secure.”  It was mostly a new investment strategy. In June 2012, there was the first meeting ever of the IOR general direction with a group of journalists.. During the meeting, Paolo Cipriani — who was general director at the time — explained the IOR investment policies and stressed that those policies were not speculative. What did determine the new strategy, and why?  The second question is about real estate management. Tosi referred to a 2008 provision that prohibited  the sale of real estate owned by the IOR. There is an ongoing trial against the former IOR president Angelo Caloia, his general director, now deceased, Lelio Scaletti, and the lawyer Liuzzo, over the management of the IOR real estate. Beyond that, the question is, why have the purchase of real estate funds been monitored, if they were permitted? The third question regards IOR procedures. The Council of Superintendence is the real star of this show: no decision can be made without it, no investment can be placed without its ok. When the Council opted for a new investment plan, the investment plan was executed, despite managers’ doubts.  So, why did the IOR initiate a lawsuit against the former general director and his former vice-general director Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli? The two were found guilty of mismanagement, and the trial is currently under appeal. Why, then, did the tribunal find them guilty of mismanagement, if they could not make any decisions without the approval of their superiors?  The story of Cipriani and Tulli certainly needs some more details. The two resigned in July 2013, when the Nunzio Scarano’s scandal broke. Monsignor Scarano was an official at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. He was involved in two different trials in Italy: one at the tribunal of Salerno for predatory lending and illegal financing, and one at the tribunal of Rome for corruption and defamation. The case brought to the historic first instance of the execution of international letters rogatory between the Republic of Italy and the Holy See In the middle of the scandal, Cipriani and Tulli resigned to help the IOR better to defend itself. They had left the Institute in financial health. The first IOR annual report, published in October 2013, stated that the IOR had 86,6 million in profits in 2012. The profits were four times greater  than in 2011. In July 2014, the IOR made the 2013 balance sheet public: the profits were just 2,9 million. The IOR stressed that the decline was due to three extraordinary events. The report reads that “the IOR donated securities with a book value of EUR 15.1 million to a papal foundation, we wrote down by EUR 28.5 million a proprietary investment in external funds, and the value of our decades-old gold holdings declined by EUR 11.5 million, in line with the gold price. Meanwhile, while we benefited from a reduction of bond interest rates in the markets in 2012, which resulted in significant realized and unrealized gains, those interest rates did not fluctuate much in 2013, so the positive effect we saw in 2012 was not repeated in 2013. In addition, operating expenses rose by EUR 8.3 m as our reform process accelerated significantly.”  The report made a direct reference to a write-down of a proprietary investment in external funds. Can the alleged mistake in investments be attributed to Cipriani and Tulli? Or must it be attributed to the direction that replaced them after their resignation? It is noteworthy to recall that, after their departure, the interim general director was president von Freyberg, while the vice-general director was Rolando Marranci, who later took over the position of general director.  The framework is food for further thought, if we consider that the first Council of Europe’s Moneyval report on the Holy See / Vatican City State, issued in July 2012, praised the IOR procedures, which in some cases even surpassed the standards requested by the legislation then in force.  The process of shoring up the books and implementing better accounting procedures had begun long before, as the 2012 Moneyval report showed. However, in 2013, someone — or some group of someones — decided to entrust costly external consultants coming from the US to finalize a job already underway. The hiring of consultants cost 8,3 million euros. In the meantime, the IOR dismissed some of the profitable funds in the name of a new policy on investment that has not been clarified yet.  At the moment, there are two ongoing trials in the Vatican (Cipriani and Tulli’s appeal and the one against Caloia, Scaletti, and Liuzzo), while the IOR provoked the current institutional crisis with a report after the denial of a loan to the Vatican Secretariat of State. The loan was intended to finalize the purchase of luxury real estate in London.  Looking at the papers, the IOR has never been a place for opaque operations. The questions raised here, however, require an answer: even if only so that the framework in which decisions matured might be better understood.

Vatican finances, how this institutional crisis can harm the Holy See’s international credibility

Oct 21, 2019 / 00:00 am

The searches and seizures conducted by Vatican police at  the Secretariat of State and the Financial Intelligence Authority inaugurated an institutional crisis within the Vatican. Among its other effects, this crisis could have consequences on the next round of evaluations by the international money laundering oversight body, Moneyval. Moneyval is the body of the Council of Europe that reviews the anti-money laundering measures of the States that join the program, to which the Holy See adhered in 2011.Ever since, Moneyval has issued periodic reports on the Holy See. The reports showed that the Holy See improved its anti-money laundering system continuously. The first report was issued in 2012 and was about the general findings on the Vatican anti-money laundering system. There have been three subsequent progress reports: in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The final release of the 2017 Moneyval progress report stressed that “the Holy See should present an update on action taken to implement the Committee´s recommendations by December 2019.” According to the regular procedure applied to States that do not undergo a reinforced examination, the next Moneyval review of the Holy See should be scheduled in 2020. The 2017 report stressed that “the Holy See will be fully evaluated against the 2012 FATF Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Recommendations and their effective implementation within MONEYVAL’s ongoing 5th round of mutual evaluations”. It seems things go well. Let us take a more in-depth glance at the situation. The 2020 Moneyval review, unlike the 2012 review, will focus on the effectiveness of the anti-money laundering law. The 2017 report noted that “the overall effectiveness of the Holy See’s engagement with combatting money laundering depends on the results that are achieved by the prosecution and the courts.” This is a crucial point. The 2017 progress report also stressed that “the results on the law enforcement/prosecutorial/judicial side two years after the last review remain modest” (2017 Moneyval progress report on the Holy See / Vatican City State, p. 64). The questions are whether the office of the Vatican prosecutor has adopted the Moneyval recommendations, and if so, how. In 2016, the Vatican tribunal established a special section against economic and financial crimes. Up to 2018, the Financial Intelligence Authority disseminated in six years 27 reports for alleged money laundering to the Vatican prosecutor. Nine of the cases were dismissed,  six other were under motion of dismissal. At the inauguration of the Vatican judicial year on Feb. 16, 2019, the Vatican prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, said that the Financial Intelligence Authority issued six reports, while two of the previous reports were dismissed. The figures say that the Vatican prosecutor did not proceed on financial crimes before 2016, though the Vatican anti-money laundering law was issued in 2011. The current institutional crisis does not help the Holy See. The Holy See is a particular State, and this is recognized. However, the Holy See undertook some international obligation, and it must fit standards. The figures for five years cannot be healed in one. The Holy See counterpart and international organization showed preoccupation about the current situation that led to the suspension of five Vatican officials. The suspension of Financial Information Authority (AIF) director Tommaso Di Ruzza was particularly striking for the counterpart. The AIF and its director enjoyed good credibility in the Vatican and the international field. The AIF established strong, trusted relations with its many of its European counterparts. There are also excellent bilateral relations with Italy: the AIF signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bank of Italy in 2016, following the memorandum of understanding signed with the Italian Unit for Financial Unformation (UIF) in 2013. The AIF also garnered international credit for its contribution to combating financial crimes. The arrest of José Gomes Graciosa, counselor of the Brazilian Federal Court of Audit, took place thanks to the AIF’s decisive contribution. The Italian magazine, L’Espresso, published last week leaked papers in its latest issue that said  the AIF had “an unclear role” in the purchase of a London luxury building by the Secretariat of State. According to the papers, there are no specific allegations against the AIF’s director, and the AIF is mentioned because of its institutional activities. The same Italian magazine – certainly not a pro-Catholic one – stressed that there would be “other pieces of evidence the Vatican magistrates do not mention.” The pieces of evidence, L’Espresso wrote,  “show that the AIF, as soon as they received a report from Pena Parra, immediately forwarded their own report to the British and Luxembourgeois anti-money laundering authority.” The scenario is food for questions. Before searching in the AIF’s offices, did the prosecutor check actual powers and duties of the authority in its financial intelligence competences? If there was a report by the Secretariat of State, were there ongoing intelligence activities? Did the prosecutor assess the international consequences of its decision? The secrecy of information and the protection of documents are among the pillars  of financial intelligence activities. If the raid in the AIF’s offices led to the seizure of communication by foreign UIFs, there would be a reaction by interested UIFs and, above all, by the Egmont Group,  an umbrella organisation that brings together  UIF outfits from around the world. The Holy See’s Financial Information Authority  joined the group in 2013. There is, then, more food for thought. According to L’Espresso, there was a report by the Secretariat of State to the AIF. The AIF did its job, contacted the interested counterpart, and asked to trace all the financial flows. It can be easily assessed that, once the financial flows were traced, the AIF could ascertain the actual movement and, without giving scandal, the eventual network of exploiters and even tricksters, working from outside and inside the Vatican. The AIF was stopped one step before the closing of the intelligence procedures. Was this decision adequately assessed? These questions and many others are left suspended. The response to these questions will weigh in the Holy See’s international relations.

Vatican finances, the latest events are not just a financial scandal

Oct 10, 2019 / 00:00 am

The Vatican Gendarmes Corps seized documents, computers, and other electronic equipment in the offices of the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Financial Intelligence Authority.  The events led to the suspension of five Vatican officials, but above all generated a particular preoccupation among the financial intelligence units of many countries as well as in international organizations, like the Egmont Group, the Council of Europe's committee Moneyval and of the European Commission. The Egmont Group gathers financial intelligence units from 150 States, included the Vatican financial intelligence authority. The Holy See is a member of the Council of Europe, while the European Commission feels called into question because the Holy See undertook some obligations when it signed the 2009 Monetary convention.  The Vatican official communication departments did not officially disclose the reason for the "raids" of the Vatican police. However, it was leaked that the reason was the purchase of a real estate in London by the Vatican Secretariat of State. In the end, the Institute for Religious Works found that the deal had some shadows, and asked for clarifications.  If this is the issue, many questions can be raised. Was the Financial Intelligence Authority asked for collaboration? And, given that the financial intelligence activities are under the obligation of official secrecy did the investigators ascertain whether the Financial Intelligence Authority did or was doing some intelligence activity?  If the Financial Intelligence Authority already worked on the issue, and sources say that it was, there could be devastating consequences for the credibility of the Vatican Financial system.  There are many serious perplexities raised over the suspension of Tommaso Di Ruzza, director of the Financial Intelligence Authority. The suspension is unusual, and, according to Vatican sources, it was decreed without giving any notice to René Bruelhart, the president of the Authority.  In the end, the scenario is not favorable to the Holy See and shows that this is not merely a financial scandal.  The role of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority The Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF) played a crucial role in building the Holy See's international credibility in countering financial crimes, especially under the direction of Di Ruzza.  As the Holy See is a global player, the international and multilateral fields were privileged. However, AIF also strengthened some deteriorated "special" relation, like the bilateral relation with Italy. Proof of it is the memorandum of understanding the Vatican Financial Intelligence signed with the Bank of Italy. The memorandum was signed by AIF president Bruelhard and Di Ruzza and by the Bank of Italy's Governor Ignazio Visco along with the then chief of the Bank of Italy's oversight department Carmelo Barbagallo. It is not usual that the Bank of Italy's governor in person signs a memorandum. It was a sign that there was an operative and institutional arrangement for the mutual interest of both the Vatican and Italy. The Vatican Intelligence Authority is recognized as a trusted partner both in its functions of oversight and intelligence. According to the latest AIF annual report, the AIF signed 56 memoranda of understanding with counterparts in financial information and eight memoranda with counterparts in the oversight. Beyond the Italian Unit for Financial Information and Bank of Italy, AIF signed memoranda with the US Office of the Controller of Currency, with the German central bank and many financial intelligence units.  The exchange of information with financial intelligence units from all over the world show that the AIF is a trusted interlocutor. The figures of the latest AIF report number 473 exchanges of information with other financial intelligence units. The AIF also forwarded 158 spontaneous communication of information to competent authorities and received 15 spontaneous communication of information.  This work is based on relations of trust, characterized by the secrecy needed for intelligence investigation. There is also the need for a well-designed juridical system, on which the Holy See has been working over  the last several years. Given all of these data, is it possible that the Financial Intelligence Authority underestimated a real estate investment while working on the interest of the government, that is, the Secretariat of State? The foreign counterparts and international organizations have severe doubts about that, and they are also concerned since the autonomy and independence of the Vatican financial watchdog can be at risk.  There are also some nerves within the Financial Intelligence Authority.. The acts of seizure took place without giving any notice to the Board of Directors. Among the board members, there are people with indisputable international credit, like Juan Zarate, who served as an anti-terrorism advisor to the US president; and the Italian Maria Bianca Farina, that chairs the Italian Post Service. In addition to that, the financial intelligence authority was surprised by the publication of the leaked note of the Vatican police, which signaled the people suspended. The release of names and pictures of the people, while an investigation is ongoing, was considered by many in the Vatican disproportioned and damage to the reputation and the dignity of the people involved. An op-ed with no byline published by Vatican News announced that there would be lawsuits for that.  On the eve of the upcoming Moneyval report on the Holy See, which is to be out in spring 2020, it is normal that international observers are surprised that the Financial Intelligence Authority became a target.  How the crisis broke The so-called financial scandal thus turned into an institutional crisis within the Vatican, which also touches the secretariat of State. The Promotor of Justice that is the Vatican prosecutor had received two lawsuits, one initiated by the IOR and one for the Vatican General Auditor office.  Once he got the green light, the prosecutor, with the collaboration of the Vatican Gendarmes corps, launched the raids in the Secretariat of State and Financial Intelligence Authority and to the suspension of a top-ranking official, a chief of office and three Holy See's employees.  Among these, it is noteworthy the presence of Monsignor Mauro Carlino, former particular secretary to the Cardinal Angelo Becciu ( who served as Vatican Secretariat of State's 'sostituto' from 2011 to 2018).  Since Septemeber 2019, Monsignor Carlino has been the chief fo the Office for Information and Documentation of the Secretariat of State.  Even in this case, questions are more than the answers. On which charges these five people have been suspended? How prudent was to initiate an investigation on a likely old modus operandi, also involving the Financial Intelligence Authority? The Financial Intelligence Authority worked to overcome the old modus operandi. So, was the investigation a fruit of revenge or crossfires among other entities?  The institutional crisis and the issues at stake The questions lead to the understanding that there is a particularly grave institutional crisis. There is an attack on the institution from within the institution.  On the one hand, there is the Secretariat of State, under attack for unclarified reasons. The new deputy, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, a decision-maker, began a process of reshuffle and internationalization of the administrative office.  The new deputy started the new phase, as is showed by the appointment of monsignor Alberto Perlasca as deputy promotor of justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.  Monsignor Perlasca served from 2009 to 2019 as head of the administrative office of the secretariat of State. The new head of the Secretariat of State's administrative office is monsignor Rolandas Makirckas, a Lithuanian who recently got to the Secretariat of State after serving to the nunciature in Washington: he is the first non-Italian to lead the office. On the other hand, there is the IOR. The Institute for Religious Works would have refused to the Secretariat of State the financial support requested to carry out the London real estate purchase. Another factor in play is the Vatican promotor of justice, the public prosecutor in charge of the investigation. The latest Council of Europe's Moneyval committee highlighted modest outcomes in the judiciary activities in the 2017 progress report of the Holy See.  Vatican magistrates always rejected the allegation of poor operativity. However, numbers are numbers: since the Vatican anti-money laundering system was into effect, the tribunal just issued two first grade guilty verdicts. One against Giuseppe Profiti for abuse of functions in the Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù; the other one against Stefano Proietti for self money laundering linked to some procurements in the Vatican. The Financial Intelligence Authority reported on the cases. In addition to that, Proietti's guilty verdict came in 2018, two years after he plead bargain at the trial in Italy.  The Financial Intelligence Authority reported about other cases that led to an investigation in other States than the Vatican. Some examples are the investigation of Rome's public prosecutor against the banker Pietro Nattino; the investigation that led to the arrest of monsignor Patrizio Benvenuti in Bolzano, Northern Italy; the arrest of the former member of the Brazilian Federal Court of Audit Josè Gomes Graciosa.  Which scenarios in the offing? The scenario is yet to be assessed. The day after the news of the raids, Giuseppe Pignatone was appointed the president of the Vatican tribunal.  Pignatone is a retired Italian public prosecutor, well known for his anti-Mafia investigation. Is his appointment a coincidence or a new phase for the Vatican tribunal? Only time will tell. The Holy See has worked to gain robust accreditation in the international field. This accreditation seems now at stake after the Financial Intelligence Authority became a target. Is the Holy See willing to carry on the path for international credibility, or is it ready to return under the Italian influence? And what is the price to pay for the sovereignty, the autonomy and the independence of the Holy See? These questions remain without an answer, for now. The events were shocking, though. 

Why does celibacy matter in the end?

Sep 24, 2019 / 00:00 am

According to the French writer Jean Mercier, who passed away in 2018, the Church of the future will be a Church of small communities in the diaspora. For this reason, there will be a need for more “apostle priests,” able to move. In this context, “priestly celibacy fits better to the current times.” Jean Mercier’s points in favor of the priestly celibacy were published on the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Dec. 14, 2014. The article was a commentary to the Mercier’s book “Celibat des pretres” (Priestly celibacy). The book investigated reasons and odds of priestly celibacy. It is worth recalling the Jean Mercier’s article at the eve of the Special Synod of the Pan-Amazonian region. While the discussion on the ordination of viri probati (married men of proven faith) seems to become one of the cores of the Synod, Jean Mercier, already in 2014, labeled the issue as a “false good idea.” In the article, Mercier noted that priestly celibacy is “now under accusation,” considered “responsible for a certain number of sexual deviations among priests and the main cause of the lack of priests.” It is, he denounced, “a trial systematically instructed by media,” especially when there are scandals or when a priest renounces to the priesthood to marry. Mercier emphasized that even practicing Catholic ignore or do not understand the “theological challenges for the celibacy of their priests,” as they consider scandalous that “a celibate priest cannot marry a woman if he is in love, but has to leave the ministry, especially in times of lack of priests.” However, Mercier noted that “the Church does not consider possible to withdraw” from the promise of celibacy of the future priests. So, the other way is that of the possible ordination of married priests. The possible ordination of married people can count on some arguments in favor: it has an ancient tradition and sometimes the Church of Latin rite accepts married ministries that convert from other Christian confessions where “uxorate priesthood” is consented (see the Anglicans after the motu proprio ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’). However, “the ordination of married priests can be a false good idea if it creates new problems, more complex than the previous ones, as the divorce.” This is the reason why, the issue of viri probati needs “infinite discernment,” even though “the priestly celibacy is one of the foundation of the Catholic tradition, that goes beyond a simple disciplinary or juridical issue.” A possible path could be that to “keeping the obligation to celibacy, with wider possibilities of an exception than the existent ones, that limited to former Anglican or Protestant ministry.” To Mercier, it is instead “a dangerous idea” thinking about married priests able to enter in the seminary as the celibate priests, and the solution of the viri probati is “in the end a false good idea.” Mercier noted that the viri probati issue “corresponds to a Church’s mindset inherited from the 1950s and the 1960s, when people were Catholic by the majority, and it was a priority to keep the fabric of society.” “This Church does not exist anymore,” said Mercier. Mercier also noted that, in the Internet age, the process of affiliation to the Church is not necessarily bound to the territory.” The future Church will be a Church of “small communities in the diaspora, built around Eucharistic poles,” and so, Mercier underscored, there will be more need of “mobile priests,” like the apostles. For this reason, “celibacy is more fit to these times.” The candidates of the priesthood are nowadays more motivated by missionary action than by the possibility of being a parish priest – official that reigns over one well delimited geographic parish” (State-clerics, Pope Francis would say). Mercier maintained that “celibacy has not had its last say yet,” but it is instead garnering more traction as “a force to re-position the Catholicism as an anti-system resistance” against the “ultraliberal model.” Celibacy makes of the Church a counter-cultural space, able to “inspire a generation again,” said Mercier. He added that “young priests and young Catholic generation do not want a ‘petty bourgeois’ evolution of the priesthood,” while “young parish priests have no wish to gather laypeople that cannot always give to prayer its right place.” In the end, the world of today sees “the return of missionary, itinerant characters, like the Jesuit missionaries in South America.” Mercier noted that “marriage and celibacy are two parallel vocations.” Facing the denigration of the conjugal act, St. John Paul II re-sacralized marriage, and now marriage has “a prophetic, chivalric function” in front of the hyper-sexualization of society and the praise for adultery in the media. Priests, on the other hand, decide for celibacy and renounce to sexuality “not for issues of ascesis or deprivation,” but as “the choice for different happiness.” If both the vocations are total, it is tough to live both of the vocations at the same time, especially if “both the sacraments are conceived as two nuptial marches toward sanctity that involve different spiritual and theological scopes.” Mercier then faced the issue of the lack of priests. “Priests, he wrote, are at the limit burn out, often submerged by organizational and administrative tasks, not only priestly tasks.” Christians, however, are not aware of the fact that the number of priests will significantly decrease in the next years, and “still wonder that the Church can keep on offering them a sort of public service in the religious area without they are called to commit themselves in the Church.” Mercier’s conclusions were definitive: “The Church must convert or disappear. It will be always more difficult to be Christian in a society with the option that distance from the Gospel, and so the Catholics will have to face the truth of their relationship with the person of Christ, with their care of keeping the relationship with prayer and sacraments.” Communities will, in the end, understand that “it is not the priest that must go to them, but that they have to make an effort, for example, to receive the Body of Christ.” This is “hard to accept, as Communion was trivialized during the last forty years,” Mercier concedes. But in the end, a renewed commitment. Catholics will become aware that “they must encourage the vocations to priesthood among their sons, in their parishes, in their schools and Catholic Universities. Otherwise, nothing will change.” In the end, Mercier underscored that “committing forever in a state, whether it is celibacy or marriage, is a challenge against fear. The fear of not being able, to make mistakes, to fail.” “Celibacy, as well as marriage, is about grace, that is the strength they God freely gives to carry forward, day by day,” Mercier concluded. All of his reflections must be taken into strong consideration during the upcoming Special Synod for the Pan-Amazonian region.

EU official: Release of Asia Bibi shows promise for religious freedom

Sep 11, 2019 / 23:02 pm

A European Union official who played a role in working for the release of Pakistani death row inmate Asia Bibi said the outcome shows the potential of international cooperation to promote religious freedom.

Five keys to interpreting Pope Francis’ sixth consistory

Sep 1, 2019 / 00:00 am

With the consistory of Cardinals set on Oct. 5, Pope Francis will create 13 new cardinals. His choices are revealing of Pope Francis’ modus operandi. There are, in fact, five keys to understanding Pope Francis choices.   First key: Pope Francis awards his most trusted collaborators. Second Key: despite what is commonly said, Pope Francis is eager to deliver red birrettas to people in traditional cardinalatial positions, if the Pope places trust in them. Third key: Pope Francis always award with a red hat a country he had visited during the year.  Fourth key: Pope Francis always look at the outward bounds and the less represented countries. Fifth key: Pope Francis gives implicit signals of a change of course with his picks for the over 80 cardinals, that will have no right to vote in a conclave.    The pick of Fr. Michael Czerny proves the first key. Fr. Czerny, a Jesuit with a long-standing missionary experience, made his way as a collaborator of Cardinal Peter Turkson in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In 2016, Pope Francis appointed him as undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees section, within the Dicastery for the Service of the Integral Human Development. Pope Francis is the head of this section. Now, with a cardinal at the helm of it, the section will weight as much as the dicastery under which it operates.    Fr. Czerny’s pick is also a statement: Pope Francis wanted to emphasize how important the issue of migration is to him.    The cardinals-elect Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, José Tolentino Mendonça, Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodrigue and Matteo Zuppi fit with the second key of interpretation.    Archbishop Ayuso was appointed May 25 president of the Pontifical Council for the Interreligious Dialogue. He had served as secretary of the dicastery since 2012. He replaced the former president, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who passed away on July 2018. Archbishop Ayuso worked on Cardinal Tauran’s side. Among his successes, the restoration of the Holy See relations with al Azhar university, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution. After the restoration, there have been five meetings between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al Azhar. The Pope and the Grand Imam also jointly signed on Feb. 2 the Declaration on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi. Pope Francis appreciated Ayuso’s work, who was the first in the list of new cardinals.    Indeed, the position of president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is a cardinalatial post, as is the post of Prefect of the Vatican Library. For this reason, José Tolentino Mendonça will be created a cardinal. It is no surprise.    It is, indeed, striking that Pope Francis never created cardinal the former prefect, Jean Louis Brugues, who retired last year. Pope Francis, however, had some harsh with Brugues. When he was the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Brugues opposed to the appointment of Victor Fernandez as rector of the Catholic  University of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Bergoglio instead backed the nomination of Fernandez, who is now dubbed to be one of the Pope Francis' ghostwriters.     It is no surprise that Pope Francis will create a cardinal the archbishop of Bologna, Matteo Zuppi, that will be the first cardinal coming from Sant’Egidio community. Bologna has always been led by cardinal. It is, however, surprising, that the Pope left without a red hat the Patriarchate of Venice and the archdioceses of Turin and Milan.    Pope Francis also gave the red hat to the archbishops of La Habana in Cuba and Kinshasa in Congo: both of them are cardinalatial positions.    In conclusion, Pope Francis also follow tradition in his picks for new red hats. He does that his way. Before, once you got to a position, you could be sure to get the red hat. The people appointed to those positions were the most trusted ones. With Pope Francis, the most trusted ones can also not be selected in critical positions, and yet get a red hat. The person and Pope Francis’ trust are more important than anything else.    Third key: Pope Francis never misses to award the countries he visited. This country, he chose Morocco, and archbishop Cristobal Lopez Romero of Rabat will be created a cardinal. Spanish, he distinguished himself for his great work in interreligious dialogue.   The fourth key is the look at the outward bound. Pope Francis will create a cardinal archbishop Ignatius Subaryo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, Indonesia. His predecessor,  Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja is cardinal, but he left the right to vote in a conclave in 2014 when he turned 80. Now, Indonesia will be represented again in a consistory.    Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, fits the criterion not to award traditional cardinalatial position.   His pick is also a statement. Bishop Ramazzini has always been in the frontline to confront the mining exploitation operated by multinational companies in Guatemala and to advocate an agrarian reform. He can be considered a “social bishop,” and Pope Francis likes that.    Pope Francis will also create a cardinal archbishop Jean Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg. Archbishop Hollerich is awarded for his vision. A Jesuit educated in Japan and former vice-rector of Jesuit-run Sofia University of Tokyo, Hollerich is the president of COMECE, the Commission of the European Bishops Conferences that monitors the EU activities.    Last April, in view of the European election, Hollerich penned an article for Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit-run magazine directed by Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In the article, Hollerich stressed that fears could destabilize democracies and weaken European Union. Pope Francis many times referred to the danger of the “fear” caused by new populism, showing at least a union of intent with the archbishop of Luxemburg.    The fifth key is the break with the past.   Pope Francis’ chose three cardinals beyond 80, and so not eligible to vote in a conclave.   Sigitas Tamkevicius, emeritus of Kaunas (Lithuania) will be a cardinal. He accompanied Pope Francis in the KGB prison in Vilnius during the Pope’s trip to the Baltic in September 2018.    Pope Francis will also give the red had to bishop Eugenio Dal Corso, emeritus of Benguela, Angola. Before his missionary journey to Africa, Dal Corso was in mission in Argentina during the 1970s while Pope Francis was then a young provincial of the Jesuits.    The most important pick is that of Archbishop Michale Louis Fitzgerald. In 2006, he was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He expected to be created a cardinal, and he was instead sent nuncio to Egypt. According to Sandro Magister, he used to be too open in establishing a dialogue with some Muslim institutions.    With the red hat, Pope Francis underscored that he backs his way of pursuing a dialogue.   It is not the first time Pope Francis does that. The red hat given to Archbishop Rauber in 2015 consistory had the same purpose. In 2010, as nuncio to Belgium, archbishop Rauber backed Archbishop Jozef de Kesel as the successor of Cardinal Danneels at the helm of the archdiocese of Bruxelles. Benedict XVI appointed instead archbishop Joseph André Leonard. Not only Pope Francis made Rauber a cardinal. In 2015, when archbishop Leonard retired, de Kesel was finally appointed archbishop of Bruxelles, and in 2016 he was created a cardinal.    With the next consistory, Pope Francis will shape the college of cardinals his image. The cardinals created by Pope Francis will be the majority in a future conclave.   Pope Francis has created 85 cardinals so far, and 67 of those have the right to vote in a conclave. There are 43 voting cardinals created by Benedict XVI and 18 created by John Paul II.    After the consistory of Oct. 5, the college of cardinals will be composed by 228 cardinals, and 128 are eligible to vote in a conclave. Cardinals Monsengwo Pasinya, Grocholewski, Menichelli e Toppo will turn 80 between Oct. 7 and 15, 2019, and so they will lose the right to vote in a conclave. By mid-October, there will be 125 cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave, five more of the limit of 120 set by Paul Vi.    Europe will have 58 cardinals in a conclave, Africa, 27, Asia 27, Latin America 21, North America 12, Central America 9 and Oceania 4. 

How the Vatican Secretariat of State is changing

Aug 27, 2019 / 00:00 am

It is time for change within the ranks of the Vatican Secretariat of State. On July 26th, two officials of the Secretariat of State were promoted to new positions, while others are leaving the central office in Rome to take over a new position in the Papal nunciatures, that are the Papal embassies.   One year after the appointment of Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra as deputy of the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat of State start renewing its ranks.   Monsignor Carlo Maria Polvani, who headed to Office for information of the Vatican Secretariat of State, was appointed undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pontifical Council of Culture.   Monsignor Polvani was replaced at the head of the Office for Information by monsignor Mauro Carlino. Monsignor Carlino, 41, served for a long time as secretary of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu when this latter was the deputy of the Secretariat of State.   Monsignor Alberto Perlasca was appointed deputy Promotor of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura after he spent a decade as the head of the administrative section of the Secretariat of State.   According to rumors, the new head of the administration will be the Lithuanian monsignor Rolandas Makrickas.  Monsignor Makrickas worked from 2013 to 2017 in the Apostolic Nunciature of Washington and was called to serve in Rome after two years as chargeé d’affairs at the Apostolic Nunciature of Gabon and Counsellor to the Apostolic Nunciature in Congo.    These two offices of the Secretariat of State are critical.    The office for information of the Secretariat of State is the interface between the Secretariat of State and the Dicastery for Communication.  As head of the office, monsignor Polvani was also involved in the commission to revise the Vatican media reform. The director of the office also serves as the Holy See representative in the Government Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and number.    The position of administrative director of the Secretariat of State is critical, too. The office is considered the situation room for the Holy See’s economic and administrative policies. It also boasts the Peter Pence and the funds of Vatican foundations.    Italians have always led the office, and it is rumored that it was not in good terms with the Secretariat for the Economy. The establishment of the Secretariat for the Economy led by Cardinal George Pell represented the first time that the Vatican economy was under the hands of a non-Italian.  Now, a Lithuanian will lead the office, thus breaking with the past.   Secretariat of State also has a juridical office. The head of the office was Monsignor Sergio Aumenta, now sent back to his home diocese of Asti.    Monsignor Mark Miles, well known to be the translator of Pope Francis during international trips, will leave the Secretariat of State to serve in Washington, DC, in a new position as likely "permanent observer" at the Organization of the American States. It is the first time the Holy See will have an office dedicated to the OAS. Until now, the position has been held by the Holy See Permanent Observer to United Nations.    Even the staff of Cardinal Pietro Parolin is going to be reshaped. Monsignor Robert Murphy, his first secretary, has been promoted counselor of nunciature and sent to the nunciature to India.    Monsignor Giancarlo Dellagiovanna, cardinal Parolin’s ‘ghostwriter,’ will serve at the nunciature in the Netherlands.   All of this moves show an ongoing transition within the Secretariat of State. One year after the appointment of the new deputy and given the Curia reform, the Secretariat of State staff is going to be reshaped.

Vatican communication, what now?

Jul 19, 2019 / 00:00 am

The first declarations that followed the new appointments in Vatican media departments showed a series of clues that might disclose how the Vatican communication will develop. Like everything in the Vatican, hints need to be interpreted and understood.  Right after the new appointments, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for the Communication, stressed in a release that “the direction of the Holy See Press Office, to be completed with the deputy director, is now in its almost final composition.”  The fact that a deputy director was not appointed is food for thoughts. It seemed that everything was settled. The new appointments were supposed to be out on July 15, and deputy director was supposed to be Cristiane Murray, from the Portuguese section of Vatican News. This appointment never took place.  There are rumors, within the Holy See, that the Secretariat of State gave its “non-placet” to the appointment of Murray after further scrutiny on her life and career. Since the appointment did not take place, the Dicastery for Communication is still hunting the new deputy director.  Murray met two critical requirements for the post: she is a woman, and Pope Francis made it clear that he wants a woman in that position; and her mother tongue is Portuguese, a crucial language given the next Special Synod for the Panamazonian Region.  Before looking for someone that met those criteria, two Italian journalists were offered the job and refused it, for different reasons. According to rumors, one of the possible candidates is Aura Miguel, a correspondent for the Portuguese Radio Renascença. However, it is baffling that the Vatican will hire someone from the outside. A circular letter by the Vatican Council for the Economy has been delivered in the Vatican offices. The latter laments for the increase of the expenses and asks for the further spending review. Not by chance, Paolo Ruffini underscored, in his July 18 release, that the new appointments “value the internal resources. After seven months as interim director, Alessandro Gisotti is now appointed deputy director of the editorial section, along with Sergio Centofanti, who has been serving as the chief office in Vatican News for years. The two appointments strengthen the editorial direction, led by Andrea Tornielli.  Speaking with journalists right after the announcements, Gisotti said that “the fact that Tornielli is good and that gives the line with his op-eds and interviews cannot be considered a disadvantage.”  The editorial direction is confirmed to be one of the most critical offices in the Dicastery for Communication, as it is called to coordinate all the Vatican communication. Tornielli’s op-eds are already translated into the Vatican News several languages and are published in L’Osservatore Romano: Sometimes, they are also delivered in the Holy See Press Office bulletins.  Step by step, the role of Tornielli and the office he leads are taking shape. The editorial direction was previewed by the statutes of the Dicastery of Communication. However, mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò took over the interim of the editorial direction while he was the prefect of the Dicastery.  All the clues say that the editorial direction will foster the communication strategies, also giving instructions to the Holy See Press Office. This is the reason why the office has been strengthened.  The Holy See Press Office will stay as a direction, as the statutes say. Speaking with journalists, Gisotti said it is evident that a Papal trip will be announced by a declaration of the Holy See Press Office director, as it will be an official response to questions by journalists.  In an interview granted to Vatican News, Matteo Bruni, the new Holy See Press Office director, underscored the great work he did with journalists during the last years. He has been a sort of liaison between the Press Office and the journalists, especially for the organization of the Papal trip. It will not be possible to assimilate his job to that of a spokesperson, as it happened for Joaquin Navarro Valls, Fr. Federico Lombardi and Greg Burke.  Bruni is the first non-journalist of the modern era at the helm of the Holy See Press Office. He is called to coordinate and manage a Press Office that has a regulation finally. During his months of interim, Gisotti took charge to write a statute. Gisotti also promoted the new organizational chart: Romilda Ferrauto as senior advisor, Raul Cabrera Perez, and Sr. Bernadet Reis as assistants of the director, Thaddeus Jones as office manager.  The international team is intended to cover the most critical linguistic area and to fill some structural lacks. It is noteworthy that the group was composed of internal resources: all of the staff come from the Vatican Radio ranks. They know the machine and the Vatican mentality, but they also know how to relate with journalists. In the end, all the staff of the Dicastery for Communication was raised and nurtured within the Holy See, but the top officials: nor Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery, nor Andrea Tornielli, editorial director, ever worked in the Vatican before, and neither did Andrea Monda, director of L’Osservatore Romano, who must be considered part of the team of Communication.  This new structure completes the path of the reform. This path began with the committee chaired by Lord Christopher Patten, went on with another commission and step by step made concrete with the establishment and shaping of the Dicastery.  The rationale of the reform was not just that of unifying all the media departments, but rather to create a real ministry that took care both of pastoral and news.  Next step of this reform will be the transfer of the L’Osservatore Romano offices outside of the Vatican Walls, in the same building where Vatican Radio / Vatican News office is. The transfer was planned long before. It is intended to have all the media office working together in the production of contents.  The transfer is also symbolic. It tells of a detachment of the Holy See communication from the Vatican City State. The detachment began with Paul VI decision to establish the Holy See Press Office outside of the Vatican Walls, moving it out of the rooms of L’Osservatore Romano. Another clue of this detachment is the increasing marginalization of the Secretariat of State. The Holy See Press Office had always been under the Secretariat of State umbrella.  Vatican communication is, thus, institutional communication with an international perspective and firmly centered on the words and the image of the Pope. This communication is less self-referential when it communicates the Holy See activities. However, it risks being self-referential when it tells about Pope Francis and his gestures.  Indeed, the era of the Vatican spokesperson with direct access to the Pope or his entourage is over. The Holy See Press Office ceases to be the central reference point of Vatican communication. Perhaps, not even the editorial direction is the primary reference point. Probably, the only main reference point is now just the Pope. 

Ecumenism, the dream of the Patriarchate for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Jul 9, 2019 / 00:00 am

According to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has the mission to be the catalyst of dialogue and unity. The head of the biggest of the 23 Churches Sui iuris (i.e. Churches granted of their rite and jurisdiction) wraps up with CNA the outcomes of the two-day meeting in the Vatican summoned by Pope Francis. The meeting took place on July 5-6. 2019. It gathered around the same table Metropolitans and members of the Synod of the Greek Catholic Church and officials of the Roman Curia who have some interest in Ukraine. Pope Francis took part in both of the days of the meeting. For the first time, Pope Francis mentioned that a “hybrid war” is taking place in Ukraine and for the first time a release by the Holy See Press Office described the situation in Ukraine as a war and not as a conflict.  Topics of discussions of the meeting were: the war in Ukraine, the ecumenical challenge of Eastern Catholic Churches, the catechism as a mean of unity.  Major Archbishop Shevchuk told CNA that “Pope Francis himself wanted the meeting, and he chaired it both of the days and not just the initial day as it was previewed.” According to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Pope wants that Eastern Churches develop and flourish. Eastern Churches are always labeled as uniates, that means Churches who celebrated a union with Rome. Major Archbishop Shevchuk noted that uniatism as a method to re-establish the full and visible unity of the Church of Christ is over because it is a method “that breaks a Church and makes part of this breach be absorbed by another Church” which “creates divisions and do not help to heal the wounds.  However, he underscored that the notion of uniatism is used to “question the real existence of Catholic Eastern Churches,” which are “alive people and vibrant Churches.”  The Pope makes the distinction between the method and the people, said Beatitude Shevchuk, and noted that the meeting started a methodology in addressing the issues of Catholic Eastern Churches. “We presented to the Pope our experience of being a Synod,” he said.  He then added that “the focal point of our reflection has been the war in Ukraine: to everybody, it is clear that this was is foreign aggression, that Ukraine is a victim of the aggression and that the was is a hybrid war, often forgotten or biased.  In his report, Major Archbishop pointed out there are two ways to refer to Ukraine: with Ukraine, Ukrainian means the identity of a people and the State as subject of international law and that is living the decolonizing process; by Ukraine, “the aggressor, that is the Russian Federation, means a territory that is object of negotiations and geopolitical interest, a provisional or “failed’ State where “a people does not exist.”  “The war in Ukraine is, in the end, a colonial war, fought in the heart of Europe, intending to re-establish an empire,” said Major Archbishop Shevchuk.  The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said he presented to the Holy Father the wish of his people to defend his country, that is “a country on the path out of colonization,” that lived three revolutions: the Revolution on Granite in 1990, that ended with the declaration of independence and the dissolution of Soviet Union; the “Orange Revolution” in 2004; and finally the “Revolution of Dignity” in 2013.  The Church, Beatitude Shevchuk said, accompanied this path of liberation as “master of liberation,” because they wish to be free “is born out of the conscience of your dignity.” “During the times of the Soviet Union, the Church, especially our clandestine Church, has always been an oasis for human dignity, as the communist totalitarian world canceled the human dignity and the Church have always been the ultimate refuge for this dignity,” the Major Archbishop said. Freedom is a manifestation of dignity, and it is a spiritual phenomenon, as “one can be free even when in prison, as our martyrs testify.” The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church noted that the Church’s commitment to being “master of liberation” might also help the ecumenical movement. Shevchuk said: “I spoke about a colonial war moved against Ukraine by an aggressor that wants to keep our nation at the peripheries of a big empire. I am convinced that great ecumenical advancement experienced during the second half of the 20th century is an outcome of the process of decolonization: as soon as geopolitical and worldly interests freed the spiritual life, the Churches regained their capacity to dialogue.”  “The problem with ecumenism in Ukraine and the whole territory of the ex-Soviet Union is that decolonization has not yet happened. The Churches were often servants and instruments of the state authorities,” he added.  The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is very committed in the ecumenical dialogue, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said.  “We want, he stressed, take care of the relations with all the churches in Ukraine, and in particular with Orthodox confessions that represent the 71 percent of the Christian population. We look for any opportunity to collaborate, especially to help the people that are enduring the war. In the end, a bomb makes no distinction between Catholics and Orthodox, or Polish, Ukrainian or Russian speakers: it kills everyone.”  Beatitude Shevchuk said that “ecumenical identity is part of the identity of an Eastern Catholic Church: we have the same theology, the same canonical praxis of our Orthodox brothers. We need to put into practice.”  Establishing some bilateral official dialogue between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Orthodox confessions will be the first step.  The second step will be “thinking how to apply in the local pastoral framework the fruits of the ecumenical dialogue at a global level,” starting from “the work of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox International Theological Commission,” said Shevchuk. One crucial point will be the mutual recognition of the sacraments.  Major Archbishop Shevchuk underscored that he does not know the reason why Pope Francis summoned the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and not any of the other Sui iuris churches, but he noted that “the final release of the meeting speaks about a new methodology, and perhaps tomorrow the Pope will summon other Catholic Eastern Churches, to let also these churches to flourish.”  In conclusion, Major Archbishop Shevchuk spoke about three dreams of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church. The first is Pope Francis’ visit to Ukraine. “Pope Francis’ visit to Ukraine would end the war,” Major Archbishop said.  The second dream is the recognition of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as a Patriarchate. Currently, it is a Major Archbishop. There is some slight difference: when there is a Patriarch, the Pope is informed of his election and grants the ecclesiastical communion; when there is Major Archbishop, the Pope need to confirm the vote to make it valid.  The decision to tailor the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as a Major archbishopry was not to create problems with orthodox Patriarchate. Major Archbishop Shevchuk said that the request to become a Patriarchate was on the table, and that “the Patriarchate is a way of being, not a medal of honor. It is a tool to make our Church flourish, as it increases our effectiveness and our pastoral work.” He added that “our Church is not a danger for our Orthodox brothers. We are not against someone, but for Someone.” According to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Patriarchate is also needed to face new challenges given by the high rate of migrants – every year, one million people leave Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian ministry for foreign affairs.  Ukrainians also back the beatification of Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, that led the Greek Catholic Church from 1901 to 1944.  “He was, major archbishop Shevchuk maintains, the first to understand that our is a global Church. When he was our metropolitan, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had just three eparchies in Western Ukraine, and now there are 34 all over the world. He was the first to highlight the need to meet the pastoral needs of migrants. We are now harvesting the fruits of his work.”  These three dreams are “closer than before the meeting.” Major Archbishop Shevchuk, however, underscored that “the two-day meeting was not intended to make decisions already made within some dicastery. They have been days of study, analysis, and reflections. We are now waiting for concrete decisions.”

What is the meaning of Pope Francis' gift to the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

Jul 5, 2019 / 00:00 am

Pope Francis’ unexpected gift to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is part of the Pope’s effort in advancing ecumenical dialogue. Since 1977, the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople exchange delegations in honor of the feast of their patron saints.  A Holy See’s delegation visits the Patriarchate’s headquarters in Istanbul on Nov. 30, St. Andrew’s feast; and an ecumenical patriarchate delegation visits the Holy See for the feast of St. Peter and Paul on June 29th.  This year was no exception. Metropolitan Job of Telmessos led the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They had an audience with Pope Francis on June 28, and then they participated in the Mass. At the end of the Mass, they went together with the Pope to worship the tomb of Peter. So the Pope then gave them a reliquary with nine relics generally attributed to St. Peter. Metropolitan Job of Telmessos, head of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, stressed with CNA on July 4 that the gift "is an extraordinary, unexpected event that we could not even hope for."  Metropolitan Job noted that "historically, the relics of St. Peter have always been in Rome which was a destination for pilgrimage. In the past, there have been relics that have been given back by the Popes, but these were actually relics being returned to the Orthodox Church since they had been taken away from the East and brought to the West by the Crusaders."  Metropolitan Job refers to the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nazianzen, that St. John Paul II gave to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 2004. In that case, however, there had been a formal request by the Patriarchate and an exchange of letters that made everything official. Pope Francis' decision was an impromptu decision.  Metropolitan Job commented: "This time, for the first time in history, the relics of St. Peter are being given and sent out of Rome to the Church of Constantinople. This is a giant step towards a more concrete unity."  The Holy See never confirmed those were the actual relics of St. Peter. Pope Francis, however, is not interested so much in the historical authenticity of the bones. Mostly, he focuses on another issue: “What is their spiritual message?” The history of the finding of the relics is likely one of the most intriguing “archeological yellow stories” of the 20th century. The Catholic Church venerated for about 2,000 years the place of burial of St. Peter, but the finding of the relics of the saint dates back only to 1960s. The story begins in the 1940s, with the beginning of the works to build the Pius XI’s tomb in the grotto.  The works lead to an archeological excavation. Between 1940 and 1949, Vatican archeologists find a Roman necropolis and a small monument right under the altar of St. Peter, which was evidently dedicated to the apostle and likely indicated the place of his burial.  The monument was within a funeral fence, a small niche that stayed at the center both of the Constantinian Basilica and of the current St. Peter Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine and then rebuilt in the 15th century.  There were many findings, but all related to the tomb of Peter, not the relics. What was in the monument and underneath the memorial had been destroyed.  Pius XII, in his Christmas radio message of Dec. 23, 1950, underscored that “the tomb of St. Peter has been found”, while there was no certainty about the relics. “Around the tomb, Pope Pius XII said, human bones were found, but it is impossible to prove with certainty that they belonged to the apostle.”  During the 1960s, Professor Margherita Guiducci announces she found the bones of Peter. Guiducci was an epigraphist, after several studies of the graffiti of Christians in the area around the tomb of Peter. She said that a worker who took part in the excavations showed her, in the storage, a group of bones that archaeologists found and forgot. The bones would belong to an only man, a male, enveloped in a precious tissue. Guarducci is a friend to Paul VI, and she tells him her discovery. The Pope seems convinced and, on June 26, 1968, he announces that “new patient and very accurate investigations took place, and we deem the outcome positive: even St. Peter’s relics have been identified convincingly, we might say.”  However, there is no certainty that the bones are St. Peter’s. The analysis seems to confirm sex, age, and historical period fit to the life of the Apostle, the identification of the bones was based on the place where the bones were taken. The bones were in a hole in a second wall of the niche, built before the construction of Constantinian Basilica with the scope to support the other wall, damaged by a crack.  Guarducci studied the graffiti on the outer side of the wall, where there was this little hole. The archeologists found the hole empty. The worker revealed to Guarducci that he had taken the bones before the archeologists get thereupon an order of Mons. Ludwig Kaas, who was responsible for St. Peter’s Fabric during the excavations.  It is not proved, though, that the bones belong to St. Peter. First of all, the place where the bones were allegedly located is strange. Guarducci said that the bones were taken out of the original tomb to save them from persecutions.  Guarducci said that the prove the bones were the bones of Peter in an inscription she found in the hole. There were a few letters, which she interpreted as “Petros eni,” the ancient Greek for “Peter is here.” Those words would indicate the real place of burial of the bones of the saint.  Other epigraphists questioned Guarducci's interpretation. For example, Carlo Carletti wrote in L’Osservatore Romano of Apr. 3, 2013 that the inscription is part of the phrase “Petros en irene,” Peter in peace, one of the most common acclamations to the saint since the 3rd Century.  It cannot be excluded that the bones belong to St. Peter.  It cannot be proved either.  There is also another possibility: that the bones were placed inside a tomb destroyed while in construction. The tomb of Peter was damaged, nobody knows when. It was likely up during the construction of the Constantinian basilica in the 4th century.  In 846, under Pope Serge II,  Saracens got to Rome and devastated St. Peter’s Basilica. It is possible that the tomb of Peter was plundered in that period. Serge II’s successor, Leo IV, decided to build the Leonian Walls to protect the Basilica.  Paul VI seemed convinced of the authenticity of the relics and wanted to put the nine fragments of bones together and he kept them close to his heart. Andrea Tornielli recounted on Vatican News: “Paul VI had nine fragments handed over to keep them in the private chapel of the papal apartment, inside a bronze box bearing this inscription: ‘Ex ossibus quae in Arcibasilicae Vaticanae hypogeo invents Beati Petri Apostoli esse putantur’ (From the bones found in the hypogeum of the Vatican Basilica, which is believed to be of Blessed Peter the Apostle).”  The relics were exposed only once, on Nov. 23, 2013, at the end of the year of faith. It was Pope Francis to decide to expose them. As said, to Pope Francis, it is not crucial whether the relics were real or not. What they represent mattes more: a 2,000 years history, a communion that started a long time ago.  Giving the relics to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not just a sign of proximity. It is a symbolic gesture that dates back to the beginning of Christianity when the Church was undivided.  Pope Francis did not care about the possible criticism of his gesture. He preferred focusing on the ecumenical meaning. “This gift is not from me. It is from God,” he said to Metropolitan Job of Telmessos.  Now, those fragments which are considered Peter’s bones will lie in the Phanar, the headquarters of Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Peter and Andrew will then symbolically be back together, though not in Rome. 

The European Union and religious liberty: progress or indifference?

Jun 27, 2019 / 15:01 pm

Despite European Union guidelines and the work of a special envoy for religious freedom and belief, the state of religious freedom inside and outside of Europe at times seems to be worsening, not improving.