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Pope Francis celebrates 50th ordination anniversary by honoring his mentor

Friday, December 13, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 13, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Fifty years ago on Dec. 13, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained a Jesuit priest in Argentina. As pope, he will celebrate his ordination anniversary Friday by honoring one of his early spiritual mentors, Fr. Miguel Angel Fiorito.

Fiorito, 1916-2005, was a Jesuit Argentine priest, professor, and spiritual writer who died when Cardinal Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In a preface to a five-volume collection of his writings to be launched Dec. 13, Pope Francis wrote that Fiorito had a “passion for the spiritual exercises,” and “taught many to pray and to discern the signs of the times.”

The future Pope Francis first met Fiorito as a young priest shortly after his ordination in 1969. Bergoglio later put Fiorito in charge of the last stage of Jesuit seminary formation when he served as Jesuit provincial for Argentina.

As a professor of Jesuit spirituality, Fiorito understood that “the spiritual mercy is to teach to discern,” Pope Francis wrote in the preface to his spiritual writings which he will present at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus Dec. 13.

“He had a special nose to feel a bad spirit, he knew how to expose him for his bad fruits. He was a man of combat against a single enemy: the bad spirit, satan, the devil, the tempter, the accuser, the enemy of our human nature,” he said.

Pope Francis described Fiorito in the preface as both “a man of “dialogue and listening” and “lovable father, a patient master and a firm adversary.”

The pope discovered his own vocation to the priesthood as a chemistry student in Argentina after a making a confession with a priest who was dying from leukemia.

“At that moment I felt that I had to become a priest. And I didn’t have the slightest hesitation,” Bergoglio said in an Italian radio interview in 2013.

In 1958, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He received a philosophy degree in 1963, taught literature and psychology, and then studied theology. He was ordained a priest in 1969. He would go on to serve as Jesuit provincial for Argentina, a seminary rector, a pastor, a professor, and a spiritual director.

Fr. Bergoglio was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Buenos Aires archdiocese in In 1992. He became the archdiocese's coadjutor archbishop in 1997, and succeeded as archbishop the following year. St. John Paul II appointed Archbishop Bergoglio a cardinal in 2001.

Pope Francis began his 50th ordination anniversary with a private morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta with all of the cardinals present in Rome. In the evening, he will celebrate with the General Curia of the Society of Jesus as he presents Fiorito’s collected writings.

Fr. Fioriti “brought us the divine imprint that the Lord Jesus has impressed on his life: that of the passion for spiritual exercises, which are an instrument for knowing how to feel and taste the Lord's request to our soul and help to cleanse it of all ambiguities,” Pope Francis wrote.

Pontifical Academy for Life hosts interreligious discussion on palliative care

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life held an international symposium this week on medical ethics and palliative care, hosted together with the WISH initiative, a part of the Qatar Foundation.

The Dec. 11-12 conference included presentations by representatives of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism on the topic of medical ethics, palliative care, and the mental health of the elderly.

In a press conference before the event, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, discussed the importance of palliative care, which focuses on alleviating suffering and improving quality of life. This care may be offered in end-of-life situations or at any stage of an illness. It may be offered on its own, or in conjunction with efforts to treat or cure a disease or medical condition.

Paglia said that promotion of palliative care is an area where all religions can work together. He said the symposium is part of a series of events being put on by the Pontifical Academy for Life which are focused on promoting “a culture of care in contrast to the culture of waste.”

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) co-hosted the symposium, which drew around 250 people.

WISH is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation. The Qatar Foundation was founded by then-emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his second wife Moza bint Nasser and is both privately and governmentally funded.

A WISH employee, speaking with journalists on background, said it is a scientific not religious group; but because of its connection to Qatar, its activities usually do contain a Muslim “stream.”

CEO of WISH Dr. Sultana Afdhal noted Dec. 10 that within Islam, “religious scholars from different schools do have different interpretations of what Islam teaches when it comes to palliative care or beginning of life care.”

Mohammed Ghaly, the academic director of the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Qatar said Dec. 12 that the general consensus in Islam at the present moment is that suicide should be harshly condemned. A distinction was not drawn between physician-assisted suicide and other forms.

The British Medical Journal is also a sponsor of the event. Its executive editor, Kamran Abbasi, said the journal respects religions and religious views, but added that its job is to foster dialogue rather than reach an “end-point” in debates.

“We are always willing to entertain all sides of a debate,” he said.

Abbasi added that “this conference is perfectly in line with our core values,” which he said include patient-focused care and evidence-based medicine.

The first day of the symposium included a panel discussion on whether cooperation between faiths could help spirituality be better incorporated into palliative care. There was also a panel Dec. 12 on suicide and suicide prevention.

The first part of the panel was a presentation by Diego De Leo, an Italian doctor and expert on suicide and suicide prevention, based in Australia. His presentation did not distinguish between medically assisted suicide and other types of suicide.

De Leo noted that the suicide rate overall in the world is declining, with the biggest decline being among elderly.

One of the prominent exceptions to this decline is the United States, where the suicide rate is growing, especially among Americans aged 45 to 54, he noted. De Leo drew a correlation between this and the growing economic disparity, as well as lack of welfare, in the U.S. He pointed to research which shows poverty to be a major contributing factor in suicides around the world.

The doctor also spoke about suicide among elderly populations, which remains a significant problem despite some declines. In some countries, such as Italy, rates of suicide among young people are relatively low, but the rate rises with each age category.

Among the elderly, suicide correlates with a high prevalence of depression, physical illness, isolation and loneliness. Other risk factors include feelings of hopelessness, poor subjective sleep quality, family discord, financial problems, and bereavement.

Lack of social support, such as moral support from family and friends, is also connected to suicide in the elderly, De Leo said.

The symposium also included a talk on dementia and current models of healthcare, presented by Paulina Taboada, a professor of bioethics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, who stressed the importance of “whole-patient care,” which she called the “biopsychosocial-spiritual model.”

Taboada challenged participants to think about how spirituality can contribute “in its own right” to the health and wellbeing of patients, especially those in palliative care.

She also presented the model of whole-patient care created by Edmund Pellegrino, an American bioethicist and former president of The Catholic University of America who died in 2013.

Pellegrino argued whole-patient care should take into consideration four aspects: evidence-based medicine, the patient’s best interests, the good of the patient as a human person, and the ultimate good of human life.

Pope Francis: Our Lady of Guadalupe is 'woman, mother, and mestiza'

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated Dec. 12 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at which the pope mentioned that through the apparition, Mary revealed herself to be the mother of all humanity.

In his off-the-cuff homily, the pope talked about three aspects of Our Lady of Guadalupe: that she was a woman, a mother, and a mestiza.

While Christians have honored Mary under many titles, the Pope said, “nothing else is needed” than to remember her as a woman of holiness, an example for all woman, a faithful disciple of Christ, Pope Francis said.

“It is that simple,” the pope added.

Mary also “is our Mother, the Mother of our peoples…the mother of our hearts,” Pope Francis added.

The pope said Mary is the mother of the Church, and an image of the Church, and that a ”Marian sense” is needed to see the Church as she is, and to understand the role of women in the Church.

“What can be said of Mary can also be said of the Church, which is feminine,” Pope Francis said.

Finally, Pope Francis said that Our Lady of Guadalupe wanted be seen as a “mestiza.”

“She became a mestizo to show that she is everyone’s mother,” the pope said, adding that Mary fosters solidarity among all people, united in Jesus Christ.

Women African judges meet at Vatican to tackle 'plague' of human trafficking

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 02:25 pm (CNA).- A group of around 50 women judges and prosecutors engaged in the fight against human trafficking and organized crime in Africa is meeting at the Vatican this week.

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, the Dec. 12-13 meeting reprises a similar summit held in December 2018.

Pope Francis addressed the summit privately for around 10-15 minutes in the afternoon of Dec. 12.

Judith Wanjala told CNA Pope Francis addressed the problem of human trafficking, “urging us to take positive steps to deal with this problem, which is affecting the entire world, so many countries.”

Wanjala, who has heard human trafficking cases as a judge in Kenya for more than 30 years, added that Pope Francis’ encouragement of the summit is for her a sign of his strong feelings against trafficking.

She said she is participating in the gathering to share and to understand better what practices judges and prosecutors in other African countries are putting into place.

“I think it is important for everybody to understand what trafficking is, because it affects almost every aspect of society, not just as women but the entire judiciary, prosecutors, police, investigators, and the public,” she said. Everyone needs “to understand what human trafficking entails.”

One participating judge, who asked not to be identified, called human trafficking a “plague” in Africa.

Mina Sougrati, an administrative judge in Morocco, told CNA that Africa is very concerned about human trafficking.

She explained that the increase in illegal immigration to Europe has been contributing to the problem, especially in Morocco: “There’s a big market for human trafficking.”

“For me it’s very important, you know, that this issue is international. And everyone from society is concerned,” she said. “Judges are more concerned because it’s up to them to decide whether it’s a human trafficker or not.”

She added that these meetings are very important because they do not always have opportunities to gather as judges within one country, “let alone the whole continent of Africa.”

“So, when we are here, everyone, from each country, talks about the problems, whether there is a law or no law, what is the strategy of the country, are there institutions working on this issue or not. We try to exchange experiences.”

Sougrati noted that the group is very happy Pope Francis has decided to create a pan-African committee on the topic of human trafficking. “The pope has done a very good thing,” she said. “This is a very, very strong work; no country in the world has done it like this.”

“We thanked him for doing this. I felt from his discourse that he speaks from the bottom of his heart that judges must work on this.”

Pope Francis: The world needs peacemakers open to dialogue, forgiveness

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 World Day of Peace released Thursday calls for openness to dialogue, commitment to forgiveness, and an ecological conversion.

“The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation,” Pope Francis said in his peace message released Dec. 12.

“We cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions. Peace must be built up continually; it is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law,” he said.

Pope Francis said that war often begins with “the inability to accept the diversity of others,” which fosters attitudes of “domination born of selfishness and pride.”

“War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle. And these, in turn, are aggravated by the experience of war,” he said.

He noted that entire nations have struggled to “break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence.”

“Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable,” the pope said.

Pope Francis recalled his meeting with survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on his recent apostolic journey to Japan. He said that their testimony bears witness to succeeding generations of the unspeakable suffering and horror caused by the bombings.

The pope reiterated his message that nuclear deterrence can only produce “the illusion of security.”

“We cannot claim to maintain stability in the world through the fear of annihilation, in a volatile situation, suspended on the brink of a nuclear abyss and enclosed behind walls of indifference,” he said.
Pope Francis said that the answer to breaking today’s unhealthy mentality of threats and fear is to pursue “a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God” through dialogue and mutual trust.

Only by choosing “the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance,” he said, underlining the importance of forgiveness by quoting Christ's command to forgive not “seven times, but seventy times seven.”

“This path of reconciliation is a summons to discover in the depths of our heart the power of forgiveness and the capacity to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters. When we learn to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace,” he said.

For Christians, confession is a part of the peace process because it “renews individuals and communities” and “bids us to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who reconciled all things … by making peace through the blood of his cross,” the pope said.

The sacrament “requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbours or against God’s creation,” he said.

The World Day of Peace – instituted by St. Paul VI in 1968 – is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The pope provides a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world.

The pope’s message for the 2020 World Day of Peace is entitled, “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion.”

“The ecological conversion for which we are appealing will lead us to a new way of looking at life, as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to a share it in joy and moderation,” Pope Francis said.

“All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favour the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family,” he said.

At a press conference on the peace message, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said faith in God’s covenant implies care for the weakest members of society and for the environment as God’s creation.

In his peace message, Pope Francis said that democracy can be an important paradigm for the peace process, provided that it is “grounded in justice and a commitment to protect the rights of every person, especially the weak and marginalized.”

“Setting out on a journey of peace is a challenge made all the more complex because the interests at stake in relationships between people, communities and nations, are numerous and conflicting. We must first appeal to people’s moral conscience and to personal and political will,” he said.

“The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis taps 'Minnesota farm boy' to lead Sioux Falls diocese

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 04:42 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Paul Joseph Swain of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and appointed Minnesota priest Fr. Donald Edward DeGrood as his successor.

Bishop of Sioux Falls since 2006, Swain's resignation was accepted after he reached in 2018 the age of 75, the minimum age of retirement for diocesan bishops.

Bishop-elect DeGrood, 54, grew up outside Faribault, Minnesota, one of five boys in a farming family.

A priest of the Saint Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese, he has been pastor of Saint John the Baptist Parish in Savage, Minnesota since 2017.

A bio the Saint John's website states that "life was great as a farm boy," and that DeGrood first felt called to the priesthood around age seven.   

Saint John's serves more than 2,100 families, according to its website. The church also has a parrochial school with preschool through 8th-grade.

From 2013 to 2017, Bishop-elect DeGrood was the archdiocesan episcopal vicar for clergy.

DeGrood has been pastor of Saint John Parish in Savage, Minnesota since 2017. The parish serves more than 2,100 families, according to its website. The church also has a parochial school with preschool through 8th-grade.

The bishop-elect is also the member of several diocesan committees and was on the board of the the seminaries of Saint Paul until completing his terms earlier this year.

He was a formator and spiritual director at Saint John Vianney Seminary in Saint Paul from 2000 to 2004.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls is one of two dioceses in South Dakota. It covers the eastern part of the state and has over 120,000 Catholics.

 

This story originally referenced Saint John Vianney Seminary in Denver. The story has been corrected.

Pope Francis: 'Holiness is the true light of the Church'

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that the often hidden holiness lived out in everyday life is a true light within the Church.

“Holiness permeates and always accompanies the life of the pilgrim Church over time, often in a hidden and almost imperceptible way,” Pope Francis said Dec. 12 in the Vatican’s apostolic palace.

"We must learn to see the holiness in the patient people of God: in parents who raise their children with so much love, in men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly who continue to smile," the pope said.

In an audience with the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis underlined the importance of recognizing the most hidden and least striking heroic sanctity, which he said is equally extraordinary as that which shines most visibly.

The Vatican congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. In 1969, St. Pope Paul VI split the centuries-old Sacred Congregation of Rites into two separate Vatican dicasteries: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“The many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that the saints are not unreachable human beings, but are close to us and can support us in the journey of life,” Pope Francis said.

The saints are “people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue on the path,” he said.

The pope stressed that objectivity and rigor are fundamental criteria in the scrupulous examination and judgement of miracles, martyrdom, and heroic virtue in each stage of a cause for sainthood.

He said that postulators for a sainthood cause must also have an attitude of service to the truth and cooperation with the Holy See, and never let themselves be guided by economic interests.

“The causes of beatification and canonization are spiritual realities; therefore they must be treated with a marked evangelical sensitivity and moral rigor,” Pope Francis said.

“The work of the congregation makes it possible to clear the field of all ambiguity and doubt, achieving full certainty in the proclamation of holiness,” he said.

On Dec. 12, Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated a decree regarding the martyrdom of 27 priests and sisters killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish Civil War, including Servants of God Angelo Marina Álvarez and 19 Franciscan companions and Servant of God Sr. Isabella Sánchez Romero, a Dominican.

The congregation also approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Maria Luigia of the Blessed Sacrament, who founded the Franciscan sisters, Adorers of the Holy Cross in Italy in 1877, and recognized the heroic virtue of an Italian archbishop Vincenzo Maria Morelli, Portuguese priest Fr. Americo Monteiro de Aguiar, Spanish priest Tommaso Suárez Fernández, Italian Fr. Giulio Facibeni, and Brazilian Sr. Mary of the Angels of St. Teresa.

In his meeting with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis said that every baptized person is called to holiness.

“Holiness is the true light of the Church,” Pope Francis said.

Archbishop Paglia says priests can be present at assisted suicide

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Tuesday that he would be willing to hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he does not see that as lending implicit support for the practice.

Paglia spoke at a Dec. 10 press conference preceding a two-day symposium on palliative care, being sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the WISH initiative, part of the Qatar Foundation.

Answering a question about assisted suicide and whether a Catholic or a Catholic priest can be present at someone’s death by assisted suicide, Paglia told a small group of journalists that he would be willing to do so, because “the Lord never abandons anyone.”

“In this sense, to accompany, to hold the hand of someone who is dying, is, I think a great duty every believer should promote,” he said, adding that believers should also provide a contrast to the culture of assisted suicide.

“I believe from our perspective, no one can be abandoned, even if we are against assisted suicide because we do not want to do death’s dirty work,” he said.

Last week, the Swiss bishops released guidance on pastoral care regarding assisted suicide. The document said pastoral caregivers should not be present during a person’s death by assisted suicide.

Asked his thoughts on directives such as these, Paglia responded, “Let go of the rules. I believe that no one should be abandoned.”

“I would like to remove the ideology from this situation,” he said.

Paglia added that it is a “cruel society” which tries to justify assisted suicide, or which abandons those not deemed “good” enough.

Suicide is a “great defeat” for society and can never be transformed it into “a wise choice,” he said.

In addition to discussions on assisted suicide, the Dec. 11-12 Vatican conference will include presentations by representatives of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism on the topic of medical ethics, the mental health of the elderly, and interreligious cooperation to incorporate spirituality into palliative care.
 

 

Pope thanks Ruthenian Catholics of Ukraine for fidelity to Christ in Soviet era

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2019 / 02:40 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis praised Wednesday the courage of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Mukachevo, which emerged from hiding 30 years ago after persecution in Soviet Ukraine.

Pilgrims from the eparchy met with the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 11 in celebration of the anniversary.

“I am happy to welcome you to the tomb of Saint Peter, and together with you I wish to thank the infinitely good Lord who with His powerful hand freed your Church from the long oppression of the Soviet regime,” Pope Francis said in their meeting.

“I also wish to remember your ancestors, grandparents and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, who in the intimacy of their homes, and often under the watchful eye of the hostile regime, risking their freedom and their lives, transmitted the teaching of the truth of Christ and offered to future generations, of whom you are representatives, an eloquent witness of firm faith, of living faith, of Catholic faith,” he said.

During the decades of Soviet suppression of the Byzantine rite Catholic Churches in Ukraine, 128 priests, bishops, and nuns were put in prisons or sent into exile in Siberia. The eparchy of Mukachevo had 36 priests martyred during the persecution.

The pope thanked the formerly underground community for their fidelity to Christ in the midst of persecution and martyrdom, saying that “the Church of Mukachevo is the mother of many martyrs, who with their own blood confirmed their fidelity to Christ, to the Catholic Church and to the Bishop of Rome.”

He recalled the martyred bishop, Blessed Theodore Romzha, “who in the darkest moments of your history was able to guide God’s people with evangelical wisdom and courage.”

Bl. Romzha was the Ruthenian Bishop of Mukachevo for three years before he was assassinated in 1947 by the NKVD on the orders of Nikita Khrushchev, who was then first secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Pope Francis praised Romzha as “a tireless man” who followed the example of Christ the Good Shepherd all the way to the point of giving his life for his flock.

Two years after Romhza’s death, the Byzantine rite Catholic Churches in Ukraine were completely suppressed by the Soviets, and remained underground for 41 years.

St. John Paul II beatified Romzha during a pastoral visit to Lviv in 2001.

Pope Francis said that “On this solemn occasion I pray the Lord to protect the eparchy of Mukachevo from the pitfalls of evil and to bestow every prosperity upon it.”

“As we approach the Christmas holidays, entrusting your pastors and all of you, dear faithful, to the protection of the Blessed Virgin of Mukachevo, I wish you a Holy Christmas: may the Son of God be born in your hearts,” he said.

Pope Francis: Martyrs are a sign the Church is following Jesus

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2019 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that persecution has always been a part of the Church’s life, and that the witness of martyrdom is a blessing for all Christians.

“Martyrdom is the air of the life of a Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are going on the way of Jesus,” the pope said during his Wednesday audience Dec. 11.

“It is a blessing from the Lord, that there may be in the people of God, someone or someone who gives this witness of martyrdom,” the pope added.

The pope mentioned that Christian persecution is on the rise.

“Today in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted ‘with white gloves,’ that is, set aside, marginalized,” Pope Francis said.

A 2019 report from NGO Aid to the Church in Need documented that Christians face persecution from regimes around the world, noting especially such persecution in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, India, Nigeria, China, and North Korea.

“Christian women suffer the most, with reports of abductions, forced conversions and sex attacks,” the report said.

Pope Francis mentioned that he had been meeting with Ukrainian pilgrims before his weekly public audience, from a Ukrainian diocese with a long history of Chritian persecutions.

“How persecuted these people were; how much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they did not negotiate their faith. They are example,” the pope said.

Discussing the apostle Paul, Pope Francis said that in addition to being an evangelist, Paul was “also the suffering witness of the Risen One.”

Pope Francis prays for Chile after plane disappears near Antarctica

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2019 / 09:57 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is closely following the news of the Chilean military plane bound for Antarctica that went missing with 38 people aboard, the Vatican Secretary of State said Wednesday.

The pope “prays to the Lord to give hope in this moment of uncertainty and to sustain the search work and all those who collaborate in it,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in a Dec. 11 telegram.

The military transport plane has been missing since the evening of Dec. 9, when radio contact was lost with the C-130, en route to a Chilean military base off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula for a maintenance mission.

The Chilean air force has stated that plane must have crashed, as the aircraft would have run out of gas by Dec. 10. The plane was equipped with four safety rafts for an emergency water landing, according to the AP.

Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and the United States contributed search apparatus to the Chilean search crew looking for any sign of the plane over the Drake Passage between Chile and Antarctica, but visibility has remained low.

The plane was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers.

Pope Francis “assures his spiritual closeness to the Chilean people and to all the families,” Parolin said in the telegram sent to Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of the Military Ordinariate of Chile.

Vatican’s investment manager backed company that ‘misled investors’

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- The Italian businessman responsible for investing millions of Vatican funds owned a stake in an online options trading company fined in 2016 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors.

Raffaele Mincione, through whom the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from the faithful, bought in 2015 a 5% stake in EZTD Ltd, an Israeli-based company known as EZTrader.

Through a privately arranged sale, instead of on the open market, Mincione paid only $.25 per share for his stake in the company, while the publicly listed share price was $5.10. For only $1.6 million, he acquired a stake in EZTD valued on the market at $32 million.
 
That investment lost 90% of its value after a 2016 SEC finding that the company had misled investors and violated both the Securities Act and the Securities and Exchanges Act. EZTD’s share price dropped to $0.001 after the SEC announced its findings and fined the company.

EZTD offered American investors a binary options platform, inviting customers to make an all-or-nothing bet on whether a stock would increase in value. The company did not explain the risks of its products, or register in the United States as a broker-dealer, the SEC found.

Fewer than three percent of the company’s 4,000 account holders made a profit investing through the company, according to the SEC.

“Not only did the firm fail to register the binary options or register as a broker-dealer to legally sell the investment to U.S. investors in the first place, but it failed to disclose on its trading platforms that there was significantly greater potential for investors to lose rather than earn money,” the SEC said in 2015

Because his stake in EZTD qualified him as a “beneficial owner,” Mincione was listed in the company’s 2015 SEC filing.

Mincione’s involvement in multiple Vatican investments has featured in a series of media reports in recent months.

In 2014 Mincione was managing $200 million for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State through his company Athena Capital, with 55% allocated to “speculative investments,” according to Corriere della Serra.

Among these, the Financial Times reported Oct. 17 that Mincione used Vatican funds to purchase unrated bonds in another of his holding companies, Time and Life SA, which financed his personal investments, while at the same time charging the Vatican millions of euros in performance and management fees.

That report raises the possibility that Vatican funds were used to finance Mincione’s stake in EZTD.

Also in 2014, Mincione’s Athena Capital was used to channel Vatican investment into a 45% share in another Mincione project - the luxury real estate development at 60 Sloane Avenue in London - at a price of 180 million euros, more than Mincione paid for his original investment in the whole building. CNA has reported that the Vatican’s funds for the purchase came from loans from two Swiss banks, and were concealed on Vatican balance sheets in breach of Vatican financial regulations.

While paying Mincione’s company, Athena, to manage the transaction, the Secretariat of State, under the authority of then sostituto Cardinal Angelo Becciu, decided to purchase the remaining 55% stake in the development from Mincione in 2016, allowing him to clear hundreds of millions of euros in profit on the sale of the second set of shares in the project.

Although it sold the Secretariat of State 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company retained the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. It offered to part with those at greatly inflated prices. That sale was eventually arranged through – according to Italian media – another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi.

Mincione’s estimated profit from managing the deal, excluding profit from selling the building itself, is 60 million euros, with Torzi making a further 10 million from his participation.

In early 2019, Becciu’s replacement as sostituto, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, became aware of the details of the deal and sought advice from Rene Brülhart, then the head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority.

Vatican Gendarmes executed a raid at the Secretariat of State and AIF offices on Oct. 1 as part of an investigation related to the investment. Five people were suspended as a result, including two Secretariat employees listed as directors of the Vatican’s UK holding company now managing the building investment, London 60 SA Ltd.

A director of London 60 SA Ltd charged with leading the development project is Luciano Capaldo, a UK resident and UK-Itallian citizen. Capaldo was originally registered with Companies House in London as a Vatican citizen, raising still-unanswered questions about why the Secretariat of State might have conferred Vatican citizenship on a layman living in London.

Capldo himself has several business links to Torzi. FEG International Assets, a Luxembourg based company formerly run by Torzi, is a major investor in Capaldo’s Italian architecture and development company, Imvest, which was raided by Italian financial authorities in May 2018 on charges of preparation and submission of false budgets.

FEG and Torzi were named recently in a commercial fraud suit in London’s High Court. Also named as respondents in the suit was Odikon Services PLC, of which Torzi and Capaldo were also directors. Odikon, currently suspended by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, is a major shareholder in Meti Capital, which is itself the major shareholder in Imvest.

During a recent in press conference, Pope Francis was asked about the London investment. While confirming that he had personally authorized the October raids, he emphasised that proof of corrupt or illegal activity was “not yet clear,” before concluding that “it passed what passed: a scandal,”

“They have done things that do not seem clean,” the pope said. Last week, the Holy See press office confirmed that several investments and funds used by the Secretariat of State were under investigation.

“Lines of enquiry which may help clarify the position of the Holy See with respect to the aforementioned funds and any others, are currently being examined by the Vatican judiciary, in collaboration with the competent authorities,” a statement said.

‘This is Francis:’ A Vatican photographer’s call from the pope

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Imagine that your cell phone rings, and the display says the call is from a “private number.” You expect it to be a telemarketer. But instead, when you answer, you hear a man with an Argentine accent say: “This is Francis. I received your letter.”

That phone call happened to Daniel Ibanez, the CNA and EWTN News Vatican photographer, on an ordinary weekday morning in December 2018.

“I effectively stayed frozen, because I was speaking with the pope,” Ibanez told CNA. “He said: ‘I would like to invite you to the Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Dec. 20, 2018, which will be the last I publicly celebrate in the Vatican [before Christmas].’”

Ibanez had sent a letter to Pope Francis two months prior, in October 2018, telling him about his experience as a young Catholic from Palencia, Spain, living and working in Italy as a photographer for a Catholic media organization.

He had also expressed his desire for the opportunity to experience Pope Francis as an ordinary Catholic, since Ibanez is always working – that is, taking photos – during papal Masses and events.

The 27-year-old Ibanez said he was touched and surprised that during their phone call, which lasted about five minutes, Pope Francis asked his pardon for not responding to his letter sooner.

The pope also gave him the directions for what to do in two days to attend the private Mass at the Vatican’s guesthouse.

“He repeated what I should do four times, like a grandfather. Because I was not understanding. My brain was really frozen... I was speaking with the pope on my cellphone!” Ibanez said.

On Dec. 20, 2018, the photographer went through all the security to arrive at the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta. He said at first he sat at the very back, but the priests made him move to the front: “From a photographic perspective, the best seat.”

Ibanez said he remembers one part of Pope Francis’ homily that day in particular: “God enters history and does so in his original style: a surprise. The God of surprises, surprises us.”

After the Mass, the pope greeted each person individually. Ibanez introduced himself as a photographer for CNA and EWTN and gave him two photos he had taken of him.

He also gave the pope some letters from his friends and family, including one from a young woman who wrote about her elderly uncle, a retired priest in Spain. Pope Francis called this priest a few months later, speaking to him for about an hour.

Ibanez also told the pope about his friend, a wife and mother who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a few days prior. Francis put his hand over the woman’s photo, staying in silence for some seconds. In that moment, “I felt that he is a very empathetic person, who listens,” he said.

Then, before the pope left, Ibanez asked if he could give him a hug, and the two embraced.

Ibanez is the youngest fully Vatican-accredited photographer, and the only one from Spain. He explained that he originally came to Rome to study, but he finds the words of St. Josemaria Escriva relatable, that one should “dream and your dreams will fall short.”

He only expected to be in Rome for six months, and instead he has been here for almost six years, he told CNA.

“This work is beautiful, even if it is a little tiring. But I am a Catholic and above all it is an honor to do this work,” he stated.

“It is true that the negative part is that [Pope Francis] is a person who never gets tired. So, if you follow the pope, the agenda of the pope is very complicated, very complex too. That is, to work on Sundays and holidays...”

Ibanez’ newest project has been to create a 2020 wall calendar, available for free from EWTN, featuring his photos. Each month showcases a full-page photo he took at the Vatican, in Rome, or in other places important to Catholicism, such as the Holy Land and the Shrine of Our Lady in Fatima.

Ibanez said the calendar is a way of helping people see the Vatican, and the Church, from their homes.

“It is a way of making these places present in the homes of American families.”

 

Pope Francis blesses 100 nativity scenes near the Vatican

Monday, December 09, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday stopped by the “100 Nativities in the Vatican” display to bless Christmas scenes from all over the world.

The unscheduled visit took place in the afternoon Dec. 9, with the pope spending about 40 minutes meeting the staff and artists of the exhibition and viewing the nearly 130 nativities from 30 different countries.

He also recited a prayer and blessed those present.

The previous week, Pope Francis visited the Italian town of Greccio, where St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene with live animals in a cave in 1223.

In Greccio, the pope also signed the apostolic letter Admirabile signum, which means “A wonderful sign,” to encourage the tradition of the nativity scene in families, schools, workplaces, hospitals, prisons, and town squares.

“Setting up the Christmas crèche in our homes helps us to relive the history of what took place in Bethlehem,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

“When, at Christmas, we place the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger, the nativity scene suddenly comes alive. God appears as a child, for us to take into our arms. Beneath weakness and frailty, he conceals his power that creates and transforms all things,” he said.

After his visit to Greccio, “the pope wanted to give a further sign of his attention to this tradition of faith,” according to a Dec. 9 statement from Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni.

The international display of nativities features many different styles, from the elaborate to the homemade.

It brings together nativities from Taiwan to Panama made from a variety of materials, including pinecones, aluminum, coral, yarn, and papier-mache. Among the many historical nativities from Italy is a modern rendition of the nativity made entirely out of pasta.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization organizes the display to share the history and spirituality behind the nearly 800-year-old Christmas devotion.

This year’s exhibit is also sponsored by the Hungarian Embassy to the Holy See, the auxiliary bishop of Esztergom-Budapest Ferenc Cserhati, and the members of the general secretariat of the International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Budapest in 2020.

The annual “100 Nativities” exhibit was started in 1976 by Italian Manlio Menaglia, who worried that the Catholic devotion was being overshadowed by other Christmas decorations.

Before 2018, the nativities were exhibited in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. This is the second year the nativity exhibition is under the leadership of the Vatican.

The free-to-visit exhibit, situated down the street from the Vatican at the Saint Pius X Hall, is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day from now until Jan. 12. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve it will close at 5:00 p.m.

In a de-Christianized world, priests should be pillars of faith, Pope Francis says

Monday, December 09, 2019

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 07:24 am (CNA).- Priests should strive after a strong relationship with Christ, beginning in seminary, in order to be the guides in faith the de-Christianized society needs, Pope Francis said Monday.

To seminarians and priests from northern Italy Dec. 9, he said: “You are called to be evangelizers in your region, also marked by de-Christianization.”

“Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith which is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which to cling,” he stated.

A strong faith, the pope said, “is cultivated above all in a personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ.” In the seminary, candidates for the priesthood should evaluate their actions “in reference to Christ.”

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary in Bologna.

He encouraged men studying for the priesthood to focus on their relationship with Christ while in seminary, which he called a “‘house of prayer,’ where the Lord again calls ‘his people’ to ‘a secluded place’ to live a strong experience of meeting and listening.”

To become a priest, the Church requires a long period of formation, he noted, underlining the aspects of prayer, study, and communion.

Study is an important part of the foundation of formation of future priests, also in its communal aspect, such as sharing lessons and studying with fellow students, Pope Francis argued: “The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual.”

He said for priests, charity and fraternity should go hand-in-hand. “A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to a diocese, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of holy priests, of a particular Church.”

Francis also spoke about four attitudes of “closeness” every diocesan priest should strive after: closeness to God in prayer, closeness to his bishop, closeness to his brother priests, and closeness to the people of God.

“If one of these is missing,” he said, “the priest will not function and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes.”

“Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under rigidity, there are serious problems,” he stated.