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Posted on 12/8/2019 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Edinburgh, Scotland, Dec 8, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- After Scotland’s Catholic bishops stressed the right to life as fundamental, their parliamentary office has released a letter setting out the Church’s teaching on abortion and assisted suicide ahead of the U.K. general election next week.
“It is the duty of all of us to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right – the right to life,” the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said the letter, released Thursday ahead of the Dec. 12 vote.
“We should urge candidates to recognize human life from the moment of conception until natural death and to legislate for its protection at every stage, including protecting the unborn child, ensuring that both mother and child are accepted and loved.”
The bishops did not endorse any political party or candidate, but said abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are “always morally unacceptable,” and that all politicians should be urged to resist the decriminalization of abortion, which leads towards abortion on demand for any reason.
The Catholic Parliamentary Office, an agency of the Scottish bishops’ conference, also reports on its website the votes of politicians on several bills, organized by parliamentary constituency.
These votes include the decriminalization of abortion, which the office said would clear the way for “abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.” MPs’ votes on a bill to legalize assisted suicide are also recorded, as are how MPs voted on the parliamentary act which imposed permissive abortion laws and same-sex “marriage” on Northern Ireland.
The website also provides links to the major parties’ manifestos and information about voter registration and methods of voting.
Scotland’s bishops emphasized the need to vote in a way that reflects Catholic beliefs.
“This general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs,” they said in their letter.
“It allows us to revisit Catholic social teaching and to connect our voting to our Catholic faith. It can be a chance to proclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and to promote the common good.”
The bishops said that politics has taken on a divisive tone, mainly as a result of the European Union “Brexit” referendum, and they lamented that vigorous debate has sometimes turned into personal attacks and acts of violence, “which are never acceptable.”
Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland, sent a separate letter to priests, the Scottish Catholic Observer reports.
“While we tend to see politics through a party prism, this general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs, including the inherent dignity and value of every human being and the promotion of the common good,” he said.
Horan urged the priests and their parishioners “to contact all candidates in your constituency and to challenge them on the issues raised in the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Pastoral letter on the General Election 2019.”
Scottish constituencies make up 59 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. While unaffiliated candidates can stand as independents, the vast majority of elected candidates are members of one of the main political parties.
The letter from the Scotland bishops also criticized pro-abortion rights advocacy backed by the U.K. government and the Scottish parliament.
“Our Governments should also promote a culture of life overseas, reversing the current practice of the U.K. government to support anti-life initiatives, which might be described as ideological colonization,” the bishops said.
The bishops also highlighted rising homelessness and reliance on food banks. The government’s two-child limit on tax credits disproportionately affects religious families, they said.
“Society relies on the building block of the family to exist,” they said. “The love of man and woman in marriage and their openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which society is built.”
Religious tolerance and religious freedom were also a focus. The bishops called for legislation that welcomes “all faiths and none,” with respect for conscience rights and awareness of the need to work against religious persecution and intolerance around the world, including anti-Christian persecution.
“We believe that a creeping intolerance towards religious belief, including but not confined to Christianity, has become part of life in modern Britain,” the bishops said. “Certain politicians and citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to be true to their faith in an environment that tries to restrict religion to the private sphere.”
In line with recent comments by Pope Francis on his papal trip to Japan, the Scottish bishops also urged the next U.K. government to work to eliminate the U.K. nuclear arsenal and to move away from weapons industries which “fuel wars and instability across the world.”
About ten percent of Scotland’s 5.4 million people are Roman Catholic, while about 18% belong to the protestant Church of Scotland. Over half of Scottish people say they have no religion at all.
Posted on 12/8/2019 19:01 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- For the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Francis on Sunday venerated a statue of the Virgin Mary located in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, reciting a prayer he wrote for the occasion.
“I entrust to you all those who, in this city and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust, by discouragement due to sin; those who think that for them there is no more hope, that their faults are too many and too great, and that God has no time to waste with them,” the pope prayed Dec. 8.
“I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother, and as such you never stop loving your children, but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace, and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.”
“We thank you, Immaculate Mother,” he continued, “for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but free, free to love, to love each other, to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.”
On the feast day, Pope Francis also offered a prayer before the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church proclaimed the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day.
The statue is adorned with flower wreaths hung around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue.
Below is the full text of the original prayer Pope Francis offered for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
O Mary Immaculate,
we gather around you once again.
The more we go on in life
the more our gratitude to God increases
for giving to us as a mother, we that are sinners,
You, who are the Immaculate.
Among all human beings, you are the only one
preserved from sin, as the mother of Jesus
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But this your unique privilege
it was given to you for the sake of us all, your children.
In fact, looking at you, we see the victory of Christ,
the victory of God's love over evil:
where sin abounded, that is, in the human heart,
for the gentle power of the Blood of Jesus.
You, Mother, remind us that, yes, we are sinners,
but we are no longer slaves to sin!
Your Son, with his Sacrifice,
He broke the dominion of evil, He won the world.
Your heart tells this to all generations
as clear as the sky where the wind has dispeled every cloud.
And so you remind us that it's not the same thing
to be sinners and to be corrupt: it is very different.
It is one thing to fall, but then, repent, confess it
and rise again with the help of God's mercy.
Another thing is the hypocritical connivance with evil,
the corruption of the heart, which is impeccable outside,
but inside is full of evil intentions and petty selfishness.
Your clear purity recalls us to sincerity,
to transparency, to simplicity.
How much we need to be released
from the corruption of the heart, which is the most serious danger!
This seems impossible to us, we are so inured,
and instead it is at hand. Enough
to raise our eyes to your Mother's smile, to your pristine beauty,
to feel again that we are not made for evil,
but for good, for love, for God!
For this, O Virgin Mary,
today I entrust to you all those who, in this city
and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust,
by discouragement due to sin;
those who think that for them there is no more hope,
that their faults are too many and too great,
and that God has no time to waste with them.
I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother,
and as such you never stop loving your children,
but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace,
and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness
a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.
He, and He alone, breaks the chains of evil,
free from the most relentless addictions,
dissolves from the most criminal ties,
softens the most hardened hearts.
And if this happens inside people,
how the face of the city changes!
In small gestures and in great choices,
vicious circles become virtuous little by little,
the quality of life becomes better
and the most breathable social climate.
We thank you, Immaculate Mother,
for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ,
we are no longer slaves to sin,
but free, free to love, to love each other,
to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.
Thank you for encouraging us with your candor
not to be ashamed of good, but of evil;
help us to keep the evil one away from us,
who with deceit draws us to himself, into the coils of death;
give us the sweet memory that we are children of God,
the Father of immense goodness,
the eternal source of life, beauty and love. Amen.
Posted on 12/8/2019 18:09 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 09:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Tagle, 62, follows Cardinal Fernando Filoni as prefect, usually referred to by its historic name of Propaganda Fide.
Charged with the Church’s missionary works and territories, Propaganda Fide is one of the largest curial departments, with a size and scope exceeding almost any other.
The beneficiary of centuries of dedicated legacies and bequests, Propaganda Fide is also the most financially autonomous curial department.
Praedicate evangelium, the new curial constitution, not yet promulgated, is expected to place an even further emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with the possible merger of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.
As the head of a curial department, Tagle will no longer be the archbishop of Manila, a post he has held since December 2011. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.
Since 2015, he has been president of Caritas Internationalis. Tagle was also very involved in the October 2018 youth synod.
Tagle was born in Manila in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, Philippines. He served as bishop of Imus from 2001 to 2011.
His episcopal motto is Dominus est (It is the Lord). From 1997 to 2002 he was on the International Theological Commission, appointed by St. Pope John Paul II.
Filoni, who headed Propaganda Fide since 2011, was Dec. 8 named Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, following the retirement of Cardinal Edwin O’Brien at the age of 80.
In a statement Dec. 8, O’Brien said he accepts and appreciates the pope's decision to accept his resignation, appointing Cardinal Filoni as his successor.
The order supports around 80% of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting parishes, schools, and Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.
“Throughout my more than eight years as Grand Master, my personal faith and love of our Church have deepened as I have witnessed our members’ commitment to the goals of our Order, expressed in different cultures and languages, all profoundly Catholic!” O’Brien said.
Posted on 12/8/2019 14:35 PM (CNA Daily News)
Loreto, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 05:35 am (CNA).- At first glance, pilots and plane passengers have little in common with the Holy House of Mary in Loreto, Italy.
But just as pilots and passengers take flight in airplanes, the Holy House of Loreto also “flew,” according to an often-told story, when it was transported through the air by angels from the Holy Land to the small Italian town of Loreto.
Modern documentation suggests a hint of truth to the pious story, but with a twist. Evidence suggests the house was brought to Italy by the noble Angeli family, who saved the materials of the house from destruction by Muslim invaders in the 13th century. The name Angeli means “angels” in both Greek and Latin.
Three statues of Our Lady of Loreto will soon be “taking flight” during a special Jubilee Year of Loreto, to be celebrated by the Church beginning Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
As part of the jubilee year, the Marian statues of the “Black Madonna” of Loreto will be making symbolic pilgrimages by plane. One will travel to the main Italian airports, another to military units, and a third to major airports of the five continents, including New York.
“This pilgrimage will represent the Mother’s embrace of the whole world,” the prelate of Loreto, Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, said at a press conference Dec. 3.
The Jubilee Year of Loreto, which will be celebrated through Dec. 10, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Loreto being officially proclaimed the patroness of pilots and air passengers.
This designation was made by Pope Benedict XV in March 1920, after aviators fighting in World War I became devoted to the Virgin Mary under this title for her traditional connection to “flight.”
Pope Francis recently also added the Dec. 10 feast day of Our Lady of Loreto as an optional memorial in the Roman Calendar of the universal Church.
With the theme “Called to fly high,” the Jubilee Year of Loreto will begin with an opening of the Holy Door of the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto.
By visiting the basilica during the year, Catholics may obtain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.
A plenary indulgence requires an individual to be in the state of grace and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act, and pray for the pope’s intentions.
This plenary indulgence, according to Archbishop Dal Cin, may also be extended to chapels in civil and military airports upon request of the local bishop.
Catholics are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Mary in Loreto during the jubilee year, or to another shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto.
There is also an official hymn, composed by lauded composer Fr. Marco Frisina. During the year, a charitable donation will be made for the purchase of new equipment for the neonatology department of Sacred Family Hospital in Nazareth.
Celebrations throughout the year will also include an air show by Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team.
The jubilee year “does not only concern the world of aviation (workers and passengers), but is addressed to all the devotees of Our Lady of Loreto,” Dal Cin said, “and to those pilgrims who will arrive to the Holy House from all over the world to receive the gift of the plenary indulgence.”
Posted on 12/8/2019 13:49 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 04:49 am (CNA).- With Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, God was, even before Mary’s birth, putting into motion his plan of salvation for the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.
“Today we consider the beginning of this fulfillment” of God’s promise, he said Dec. 8, during his weekly Angelus address, even “before the birth of the Mother of the Lord.”
“In fact, her immaculate conception leads us to that precise moment when Mary’s life began to palpitate in her mother’s womb,” he continued. “Already there was the sanctifying love of God, preserving her from the contagion of evil that is a common heritage of the human family.”
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, celebrated by the Church on Dec. 8, marks the moment when the Virgin Mary was conceived inside St. Anne’s womb, with a soul preserved by God from original sin.
The pope noted that this feast day always takes place in the context of Advent, a time of waiting, showing that “God will accomplish what he has promised.”
“But in today’s celebration we are told that something has already been accomplished, in the person and in the life of the Virgin Mary,” he said.
The day’s Gospel reading comes from Luke and jumps ahead to when the Virgin Mary is a young woman being visited by the Angel Gabriel. The angel says to Mary: “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you.”
“God has always thought and wanted her, in his inscrutable design, as a creature full of grace, that is filled with his love,” Francis said.
But, he reflected, Mary is able to be filled with God’s grace also because she makes space, emptying herself of her own will to make room for the will of God, trusting it and accepting in unreservedly, to the point that the Word becomes flesh inside her.
“Mary does not lose herself in so many arguments, she does not put obstacles in the way of the Lord, but relies quickly and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
In Mary “is reflected the beauty of God, which is all love, grace, self-giving.”
The pope also spoke about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s own word for herself: “handmaid of the Lord.”
Mary serves “without clamor and ostentation, without seeking places of honor, without advertising,” he said.
This is an example for everyone, he continued, to “do works of charity in silence, in hiding, without boasting of making them. Even in our communities, we are called to follow Mary’s example, practicing the style of discretion and concealment.”
In the afternoon Dec. 8, Pope Francis will go to Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to give homage at the foot of a statue of the Immaculate Conception, a papal tradition. This year, he will also stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray for Our Lady’s intercession.
“I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother,” Pope Francis said.
The pope also asked people to join him in praying for a meeting of the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, France, and the Chancellor of Germany, which will take place Dec. 9 in Paris.
This meeting is “to find solutions to the painful conflict that has been going on for years in eastern Ukraine,” he explained.
“I accompany the meeting with an intense prayer and I invite you to do the same, so that this initiative of political dialogue will contribute to bringing peace in justice to that territory and its population.”
Posted on 12/8/2019 09:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 8, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A popular Argentine priest has explained why he frequently wears a priestly cassock, even while the garment has fallen out of favor among some priests.
Fr. Christian Viñas, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Cambaceres, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, explained in a recent essay why he wears his cassock as often as possible.
In the essay, entitled “I love my cassock!” Viñas explained that “Christ sends us all the time as sons to feed, console, correct, teach and sanctify. Of course to do that we must show ourselves and have to be seen as available.”
Viñas considers the cassock to be “uniquely priestly,” and “indispensable to identify us for what we are: Priests of the Lord! Dead to the world, so that others may live, and live in abundance (Jn 10:10). And in the world but not of the world (Jn 15:19).”
“The cassock of course never goes unnoticed. It situates us, distinguishes us, preserves us, and presents us in society. And, in a society like ours where the ideologues of hate sow all the time aversion against those in uniform, from clerics and nuns, to soldiers and police, on to hotel and building porters, it constitutes a clear identification of what one is and for Whom one is,” he wrote.
By wearing the cassock, “we receive anything from glowing praises to violent insults, to requests for confession, to spontaneous venting, to asking for advice, to requests for blessings for entire families, right out in public,” Viñas said
Viñas says he has time for all of them. “I always stop even though I am often going from one urgent thing to another. They are the children God puts on my path and they don't take away my time but they give meaning to the time, as a priest, He gives to me,”
In the U.S., the norms regarding priestly clothing stipulate that while “a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.”
“I love my cassock, amid the pushback from the world. Give me the grace, Lord, to live and die with it, and for it!” Vinas wrote.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 12/8/2019 06:30 AM (CNA Daily News)
Peoria, Ill., Dec 7, 2019 / 09:30 pm (CNA).- After the Diocese of Rochester last week confirmed it had requested that the beatification of Venerable Fulton Sheen be delayed, a longtime Peoria diocese official is accusing the Rochester diocese of repeatedly “sabotaging” Sheen’s sainthood cause.
“Under the veneer of the Rochester diocese’s call for caution, more than an overwhelming majority of people would conclude that it is an unexplainable act of sabotage — a sabotage that simply hurts the faithful,” Monsignor James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, wrote in a lengthy Dec. 7 op-ed.
Venerable Fulton Sheen was an American archbishop and television personality who was set to be beatified Dec. 21. The Holy See made the decision to postpone the beatification on Dec. 2, with the Peoria diocese attributing the Vatican’s decision to “a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.”
CNA first reported Dec. 4 that it was Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester who asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.
“Rochester diocese’s revelation of these undisclosed cases simply follows the same pattern that the Rochester diocese has executed since this past spring,” Kruse wrote.
“This pattern is simple: The Sheen Cause takes a step forward and then the Rochester diocese acts to block the Beatification. When examining the pattern it is hard not to believe that the diocese of Rochester acts more to sabotage the Cause and less to protect the good of the Church.”
In September 2018, New York’s attorney general began an investigation into whether any of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.
Kruse says he was first contacted by the Rochester diocese in March 2019 by “Fr. Dan Conlon, Vicar General of the diocese of Rochester,” who told him that the Diocese of Rochester had submitted documents to the attorney general of New York which “may possibly implicate Sheen in appointing priests to assignments while having knowledge that these priests had abused children.”
Kruse is likely referring to the chancellor of the Rochester diocese, Father Dan Condon.
The Peoria diocese and the New York archdiocese were earlier this year engaged in a legal fight in civil court over Sheen’s final burial place, which ended on June 7, 2019 when the Superior Court of New York denied any further appeals. His remains arrived in Peoria later that month.
The day after the court’s final ruling, Kruse wrote, on June 8, 2019, the Diocese of Rochester submitted to Peoria the documents regarding Sheen’s administration related to two clerics known to have previously abused youth. Kruse wrote that the Diocese of Peoria believed that those documents were also submitted to the Vatican for their review.
Kruse wrote that the Vatican unofficially set a date for Sheen’s beatification for Sept. 20, 2019 but did not present an official decree.
On July 24, 2019, the Diocese of Peoria was informed that the Vatican’s Secretary of State had delayed the Beatification of Sheen “until the Congregation [for] the Causes of Saints is able to study this issue."
Kruse says the “issue” in question was the set of documents from the Rochester diocese.
“After Matano blocked the Beatification unofficially scheduled in September, [Bishop] Jenky of Peoria gathered together a group to examine the documents. I was involved in this examination. This examination revealed that [Bishop] Sheen acted rightly and did not place children in harm's way.”
The Rochester diocese said in its Dec. 5 release that it provided documentation to the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints through the Office of the Apostolic Nuncio, expressing concern about the advancement of Sheen’s cause “without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.”
“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.
The diocese said that Matano had requested a delay “prior to any announcements of the beatification.”
But Kruse, along with two other officials connected to the beatification cause, told CNA that Matano had also raised his concerns after the date was set. Kruse wrote that Matano did so both in person to an official from the nuncio’s office in Washington DC, and later in an official letter.
Kruse told CNA that Matano sent the letter in question to the apostolic nuncio Nov. 19, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed.
According to Kruse, a copy of this letter was also sent to Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Blase Cupich of Chicago.
“When I read this letter I immediately remembered Matano telling me in July that the case is now in the hands of Rome. We must wait for the conclusion of their investigation and abide by their decision. His earlier words rang hollow as I read his letter that again has blocked Sheen’s Beatification,” Kruse wrote.
CNA requested a copy of the Nov. 19 letter from the Diocese of Rochester. The diocese told CNA Dec. 5 that “it is not appropriate to release a letter addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio.”
The Democrat and Chronicle, a Rochester newspaper, reported Dec. 4 that the Rochester diocese had stated to the paper that Sheen’s handling of the cases of not just of Guli but also “two or more accused priests” deserved “more investigation.” The article goes on to speculate that there could be more than a dozen such cases.
The case of former Rochester priest Gerard Guli was the main focus of the documents submitted by the Diocese of Rochester, Kruse said.
The former priest was ordained in 1956, and from 1963 to 1967 served in parishes in West Virginia. According to a document issued by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, in 1963 the Diocese of Rochester received an allegation that in 1960 Guli committed abuse or misconduct against adults, not minors.
Kruse told CNA that the priest “returned from Wheeling to help his sick parents” in 1967.
Sheen became Rochester’s bishop in October 1966.
Some have claimed that Sheen gave Guli an assignment in the Diocese of Rochester, despite the 1963 allegation against him, Kruse said, and that Bishop Matano was concerned the NY attorney general would identify this issue in any report or announcement. But Kruse said that Sheen never assigned Guli to ministry, and reiterated in his op-ed that the case was thoroughly vetted and “Sheen did nothing wrong.”
Kruse also mentioned the case of another former priest, John Gormley, who abused youth in 1969 and whom Sheen immediately removed from ministry when the abuse was reported. Gormley later left the priesthood and again, Kruse says, it was determined that “Sheen did nothing wrong.”
“Regretfully, it appears that only after receiving the attorney general’s approval will Sheen enjoy Beatification,” Kruse wrote.
“We also must wait to see if the Rochester diocese’s established pattern will continue even after this report.”
Kruse concluded his op-ed by exhorting the faithful to follow Sheen’s example.
“Both the Vatican and the Peoria diocese have confirmed that Sheen did not put children in harm's way. The Vatican also has confirmed that Sheen’s intercession raised a baby from the dead. The diocese of Peoria constantly receives reports of more miracles that are attributed to the help and intercession of Sheen,” Kruse wrote.
“I am confident that Sheen’s Beatification will eventually take place. Regretfully, certain forces are now inexplicably causing its delay...may Fulton Sheen pray for us.”
Posted on 12/8/2019 00:25 AM (CNA Daily News)
Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec 7, 2019 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- Authorities in Indonesia are expected to deploy 160,000 security personnel to ensure Christmas and New Year’s celebrations safe, according to local media.
According to UCA News, the number of security personnel deployed this year will be almost double that of 2018, when nearly 90,000 security personnel guarded about 50,000 churches across the country.
The chief of the National Police Traffic Corps said military personnel and “members of government agencies” will guard churches and tourism sites during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
In addition to attacks on religious minorities in recent years, Indonesia suffered a bombing attack on a police headquarters in Medan in North Sumatra in November, and in October a militant with ties to an ISIS-affiliated terrorist group stabbed the country’s Security Minister.
Indonesian authorities are concerned that the terrorist group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), may try to launch additional attacks around Christmas or New Year’s, UCA News reports. Police in the country have arrested more than 100 suspected terrorists since January 2019.
Muslims make up 87% of the population in Indonesia. Christians account for 10%, and 2% are Hindu. Discrimination and attacks against religious minorities, and even among different sects of Islam, are not uncommon.
In March 2018, church officials in the country urged Catholics to be vigilant, especially during Holy Week.
Fr. Felix Atmojo, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Palembang, urged the faithful to stay alert after a church in the Palembang archdiocese was damaged earlier that month when six men broke into the Chapel of Saint Zacharias in South Sumatra’s Ogan Ilir district, damaging part of the church’s walls and burning statues.
The previous month, a man armed with a sword attacked members of St Lidwina’s Church during Mass in Feb. 2018, injuring two before the police shot him.
In May 2018, two men blew themselves up at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, killing two. More attacks followed that day, and ultimately 11 people were killed and at least 40 injured in three separate suicide bombings at churches as worshipers were gathered for Sunday services.
Though the constitution of the country guarantees religious freedom, Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws embedded in its criminal code.
In Dec. 2018, human rights groups criticized a smartphone app being rolled out by the Indonesian government to allow citizens to file heresy reports against groups with unofficial or unorthodox religious practices.
Users can report from their phones the practice of any unrecognized religion, or unorthodox interpretations of the country’s six officially recognized religions: Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Protestantism.
Posted on 12/8/2019 00:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- A fund in which the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has invested tens of millions of euros has links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals involving more than one billion dollars. The fund is under investigation by Vatican authorities.
The fund, Centurion Global Fund, made headlines this week that it used the Vatican assets under its management to invest in Hollywood films, real estate, and utilities, including investments in movies like “Men in Black International” and the Elton John biopic “Rocketman.”
Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra reported that the Centurion Global Fund has raised around 70 million euro in cash, and that the Holy See’s Secretariat of State is the source of at least two-thirds of the fund’s assets. The Vatican’s investment is reported to include funds from the Peter’s Pence collection, intended to support charitable works and the ministry of the Vatican Curia.
Centurion registered a loss of some 4.6% in 2018, while at the same time incurring management fees of roughly 2 million euros, raising questions about the prudential use of Vatican resources.
But beyond losses, a CNA investigation has found that Centurion Global Fund is connected to several institutions linked to allegations of money laundering.
Fund prospectus documents state that all Centurion investment funds are held by Lugano-based Banca Zarattini, a small Swiss bank providing private banking, asset management, and fixed income trading services.
Swiss and U.S. media outlets in 2018 reported that Zarattini was named in indictments filed by U.S. prosecutors in a $1 billion money laundering case, involving the Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA and Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro.
Along with an offshore bank and a New Jersey institution that has faced several investigations for non-compliance with money laundering regulations, Zarrattini was at the time holding funds subject to seizure in the PDVSA money laundering investigation.
Swiss financial news sites also linked the bank to an alleged $62 million bribe paid to a PDVSA official.
Centurion Global Fund shares a corporate office, 259 St. Paul Street in Valetta, Malta, and a single phone number and email address, with a Malta-based investment group, Gamma Capital which is listed as Centurion’s formal investment manager.
Gamma Capital's founder and owner is Enzo Filippini. Before founding Gamma, Filippini served as head of the treasury department for a now-closed Swiss bank, BSI.
In 2016, Swiss banking authorities effectively shuttered BSI by a forced extinctive merger, after concluding that it had committed “serious breaches of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organization.”
European brokerage firms like Gamma Capital Trader are required to disclose the institutions through which they execute client trades each year. In 2017, Gamma executed all of its trades through a single bank – Banca Zarattini.
The next year, 2018, Gamma used only two institutions to execute client trades, Zarattini and Sparkasse Bank Malta, which was also involved in the PDVSA money laundering scandal, according to multiple media reports.
The Times of Malta reported that “Sparkasse Bank was mentioned in the Panama Papers data leak as the Maltese institution of choice for infamous money-laundering Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.”
The CEO of Gamma Capital Markets is Alexander Vella. Vella is also the sole listed director at E2S Monitoring, a compliance firm which also lists its address as 259 St. Paul Street. E2S is the company that registered Centurion Global Fund with Maltese regulators in 2016.
On Dec. 5, Vella’s picture and profile as CEO were listed on the Gamma website, but were erased sometime on Dec. 6, though CNA has retained December screenshots of Vella on the site, and archived copies of the listing. Vella is still listed as CEO on his personal LinkedIn page.
The formal nature of the relationship between the Vatican-backed Centurion Global Fund and Gamma is described in the fund’s proposal document. Centurion is managed by a longtime Vatican financial advisor and Swiss resident Enrico Crasso, whose former company, Sogenel, is listed as the investment adviser for the fund’s investment portfolio, while Gamma is listed as the fund manager.
Centurion’s management fees in the prospectus are listed as 2.25% of assets under management annually and 20% of profits, and the fund has a seven year investment life cycle. The effective fee could, however, be higher, because among Centurion’s listed investments are other private equity funds which could have similar fee structures, including EOS FYSIS Fund Sicav and TAGES Helios II.
According to Corriere della Serra, Grasso also played a “central role” in a controversial investment by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in London property development with the Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione.
CNA has reported that the Vatican’s purchase of the property at 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea was arranged and is being managed through a complicated network of individuals and businesses linked to previous and current lawsuits and criminal investigations for fraud and money laundering. It is not clear what role Crasso is alleged to have played in the deal, into which the Secretariat of State has invested around $200 million.
Filippini, Gamma Capital's owner, is also connected to the bank that financed the London property deal. CNA has reported that the Secretariat of State financed the purchase of the London property with a loan against its accounts at the bank for which Fillipini was an officer: BSI.
The Holy See Press Office said on Wednesday that “investigations are in progress” regarding the Centurion Fund and other investments made by the Secretariat of State.
“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,” the statement said.
Multiple phone calls from CNA to Centurion and Gamma went unanswered. An email requesting comment from Vella was not responded to by time of posting.
Posted on 12/7/2019 16:12 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome, Italy, Dec 7, 2019 / 07:12 am (CNA).- Birmingham’s Bishop Robert Baker said Friday there is a hopeful spirit about the renewal of the Church in the United States at the end of the latest round of ad limina visits with Pope Francis and other curial offices.
About the crisis of mistrust in episcopal leadership, Baker said, “we know we have a long way to go, and we know the struggles there… We acknowledge our failures as bishops to do all that we should do.”
“But there’s a hopeful spirit after these ad limina visits, that if we center and focus ourselves on Christ, it’s not we who are going to save the Church ... it’s Jesus Christ.”
For renewal in the U.S., “we need the help of the angels and saints. I think it’s a spiritual quest principally,” Baker stated. “We are being purified, and we are in a penitential time because of mistakes that have been made in the past, but there is hope.”
Bishop Baker spoke to EWTN following a Mass with the bishops of the U.S. regions four and five, held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Dec. 6. Baker was the principle celebrant.
Region four of the U.S. bishops includes Washington D.C., the Military Archdiocese, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Region five encompasses Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
The group of 37 bishops and one diocesan administrator met with Pope Francis for two and a half hours on the morning of Dec. 3, Baker said. “The dialogue was very open-ended and positive. The meeting with the pope was a beautiful meeting.”
Despite being a large group, he said there was time for everyone to speak.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese told EWTN the ad limina visit with Pope Francis was “a very cordial atmosphere. The pope was very open to our commentary and he basically left the themes we would treat, he left that to us, what we would introduce, what we would ask.”
“He was very friendly. We talked about all sorts of things, from the formation of priests to preaching the Gospel in today’s world, to also working together as an episcopal conference.”
The week of meetings is a “moment for the bishops of a region to gather together and to meet with the different offices of the Holy See, but most importantly, with the Bishop of Rome,” Broglio added, also noting the importance of the visits to the four major basilicas: Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran, and St. Peter.
He said he was particularly touched that Pope Francis asked them how Archbishop Joseph Kurtz is doing. Kurtz, the archbishop of Louisville, is ill with bladder cancer and did not travel to Rome for the ad limina.
The pope “would know him of course because he had been the head of the [bishops’] conference, but it was still very touching that he would ask us that,” Broglio said.
Bishop Baker said he spoke with Pope Francis about the importance of devotion to St. Joseph and the need “to have St. Joseph in the picture of our Church in the midst of all the scandals and troubles of family life and Church life, to bring him back into that.”
The pope said the world needs the example of the Holy Family, he said.
The Birmingham, Alabama bishop said he thinks two main things are needed for renewal in the Church in the U.S. “It’s a deep spirituality centered on Jesus Christ” and “also a zeal, we need to rekindle a zeal.”
“St. Pope John Paul II talked about the New Evangelization not being new in its message of salvation in Christ, but being new in its methods, expressions, and he said, ardor or zeal,” Baker said.
“I think the American bishops at the last [general assembly] did approve the five-year plan, which really focuses around deepening that personal relationship with Jesus,” he added. “If that’s missing, we will succeed in nothing.”
An “ad limina apostolorum” visit is a papal meeting required for every diocesan bishop in the world to provide an update on the state of one’s diocese. Ad limina visits typically take place every five years.
The trip to Rome, usually made together with all the bishops from a country or region, also serves as a pilgrimage to “the threshold of the apostles,” giving the bishops, who are the successors of the apostles, the opportunity to pray at the tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The bishops of U.S. regions six and seven are the next group to come to the Vatican for an ad limina visit, which will take place Dec. 9-14. These are the bishops of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
There will then be a short break for Christmas before the next group arrives in mid-January.