ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Pope Francis asks for prayer for Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region

    Vatican City, Nov 29, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked people to pray for Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the United Nations has said that “a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding.”

    A communique from the Holy See Press Office Nov. 27 stated that the pope was following the news coming from Ethiopia and asked for prayer for this country. Weeks of violence in the Tigray region have led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians and forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes toward Sudan.

    “The Holy Father, in inviting prayer for this country, makes an appeal to the parties in conflict to stop the violence, to safeguard the life, especially of civilians, and to restore peace to the populations,” Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said in the statement.

    The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Nov. 28 that government forces had ceased military operations in the Tigray region, and the Ethiopian state broadcaster reported that the region was under control of the government. But multiple international news outlets have been unable to independently verify these claims due to the communications blackout in the region.

    Reuters reported later that night that Tigrayan rebel forces said that they will continue fighting the Ethiopian government, and the U.S. Embassy in Eritrea stated Nov. 29 that six explosions were heard overnight in Asmara, advising caution due to the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.

    In the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, the regional government is run by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The group once dominated the ruling coalition of Ethiopia but felt marginalized by Prime Minister Abiy’s political changes after he took office in 2018. He dissolved the ruling coalition and merged its ethnicity-based regional parties into a single party, the Prosperity Party, which the TPLF refused to join.

    Tigrayan leaders have said they were unfairly targeted by political purges and allegations of corruption. They have argued that Abiy’s postponement of national elections due to coronavirus have ended his mandate as a legitimate leader, BBC News reports.

    On Nov. 4 Abiy announced a military offensive in response to an alleged attack on a military base in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. The violent clashes that followed led to a serious humanitarian situation.

    The spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch,  warned Nov. 17 that “a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan.”

    Baloch said that the UN was also in negotiations with the federal and regional authorities to get humanitarian access to the Tigray region. An estimated 40,000 refugees have crossed from Ethiopia into Sudan, according to the UN.

    The conflict has prompted fears of regional destabilization as well as instability, and even civil war, within Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa.

    Ethiopia’s Catholic bishops have called for an end to the violence and the start of peaceful dialogue in the Tigray region.

    “Conflict between brotherly people does not help anyone. Instead, it destroys lives of innocent people and it is an act that will turn our country into a failure and (create) extreme poverty,” Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa said in a Nov. 9 statement from Ethiopian bishops’ conference.

    During his Angelus address on Nov. 8 Pope Francis appealed for peace in Ethiopia.

    The pope said: "While I urge that the temptation of an armed conflict be rejected, I invite everyone to prayer and to fraternal respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful resolution to the disagreements."

  2. Pope Francis: 'Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God'

    Vatican City, Nov 29, 2020 / 05:40 am (CNA).- On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis recommended a traditional Advent prayer to invite God to draw close during this new liturgical year.

    “Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica  Nov. 29.

    “Let us make the traditional Advent prayer our own: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ … We can say it at the beginning of each day and repeat it often, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every important or difficult moment of our lives: ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’” the pope said in his homily.

    Pope Francis stressed that Advent is both a time of  “God’s closeness and our watchfulness”.

    “It is important to remain watchful, because one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a  thousand things and not to notice God. Saint Augustine said: ‘Timeo Iesum transeuntem’ (I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed). Drawn by our own interests … and distracted  by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential. That is why today the Lord repeats: ‘To all, I say: be watchful,’” he said.

    “Having to be watchful, however, means it is now night. Yes, we are not living in broad daylight, but awaiting the dawn, amid darkness and weariness. The light of day will come when we shall be with the Lord. Let us not lose heart: the light of day will come, the shadows of night will be dispelled,  and the Lord, who died for us on the cross, will arise to be our judge. Being watchful in expectation of his coming means not letting ourselves be overcome by discouragement. It is to live in hope.”

    The pope offered Mass on Sunday morning with 11 of the new cardinals created at the ordinary public consistory this weekend.

    In his homily, he warned of the dangers of mediocrity, lukewarmness, and indifference in the Christian life.

    “Without making an effort to love God daily and awaiting the newness he constantly brings, we become mediocre,  lukewarm, worldly. And this slowly eats away at our faith, for faith is the very opposite of mediocrity:  it is ardent desire for God, a bold effort to change, the courage to love, constant progress,” he said.

    “Faith is not water that extinguishes flames, it is fire that burns; it is not a tranquilizer for people under stress, it is a love story for people in love. That is why Jesus above all else detests lukewarmness.”

    Pope Francis said that prayer and charity are antidotes to mediocrity and indifference.

    “Prayer rouses us from the tepidity of a purely horizontal existence and makes us lift our gaze to higher things; it makes us attuned to the Lord. Prayer allows God to be close to us; it frees us from our loneliness and gives us hope,” he said.

    “Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be Christians without praying.”

    The pope quoted the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Advent: “Grant [us] … the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”

    “Jesus is coming, and the road to meet him is clearly marked: it passes through works of charity,” he said.

    “Charity is the beating heart of the Christian: just as one cannot live without a heartbeat, so one cannot be a Christian without charity.”

    Following the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

    “Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ,’ he said.

    The pope invited everyone to live this season of hope and preparation with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer.

    “The situation we are experiencing, marked by the pandemic, generates concern, fear and despair in many; there is the risk of falling into pessimism... How should we react to all this? Today's Psalm recommends to us: ‘Our soul awaits the Lord: He is our help and our shield. It is in Him that our hearts rejoice,’” he said.

    “Advent is an incessant call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate end, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said.

    “May Mary Most Holy, the woman of the expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year, and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus’ disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter. And what is that task? To render an account for the hope that is in us."

  3. Pope Francis to new cardinals: May the cross and resurrection always be your goal

    Vatican City, Nov 28, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals Saturday, urging them to remain vigilant lest they lose sight of their goal of the cross and resurrection.

    “All of us love Jesus, all of us want to follow him, yet we must always be vigilant to remain on the road,” Pope Francis said at the consistory Nov. 28.

    “Jerusalem always lies ahead of us. The cross and the resurrection are … always the goal of our journey,” he said in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica.

    In the seventh consistory of his pontificate, Pope Francis created cardinals from Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

    Among them is Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who became the first African American cardinal in the Church’s history. He received the titular church of St. Mary Immaculate in Grottarossa.



    Archbishop Celestino Aós Braco of Santiago, Chile; Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy; and Fra Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi also joined the College of Cardinals.

    Pope Francis placed a red hat on each cardinal’s head and said: “To the glory of almighty God and the honor of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of the Holy Roman Church.”

    Each of the newly elevated cardinals received a ring, and was assigned a titular church, tying them to the Diocese of Rome.



    In his homily, the pope warned the new cardinals of the temptation to follow a different road than the road to Calvary.

    “The road of those who, perhaps even without  realizing it, ‘use’ the Lord for their own advancement,” he said. “Those who – as Saint Paul says – look to  their own interests and not those of Christ.”

    “The scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ‘eminence,’” Francis said, warning them of the “many kinds of corruption in the priestly life.”

    Pope Francis encouraged the cardinals to reread St. Augustine’s sermon number 46, calling it a “magnificent sermon on shepherds.”

    “Only the Lord, through his cross and resurrection, can save his straying friends who risk getting lost,” he said.



    Nine of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and thereby eligible to vote in a future conclave. Among them are Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, who became secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in September, and the Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who was named prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in October.

    The cardinals who participated in the consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica all wore face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Two cardinal-designates were unable to attend the consistory because of travel restrictions. Cardinal-designate Cornelius Sim, the Apostolic Vicar of Brunei, and Cardinal-designate Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, in the Philippines followed the consistory via video link and will each receive a biretta, cardinal’s ring and title connected with a Roman parish from their apostolic nuncio “at another time to be determined.”



    Italian Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, received a red hat in St. Peter’s Basilica while wearing his Franciscan habit. Cantalamessa, who has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, told CNA Nov. 19 that Pope Francis had permitted him to become a cardinal without being ordained a bishop. Aged 86, he will not be eligible to vote in a future conclave.



    Three others who received the red hats are unable to vote in conclaves: Emeritus Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico; Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer Emeritus to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva; and Msgr. Enrico Feroci, parish priest of Santa Maria del Divino Amore at Castel di Leva, Rome.

    Pope Francis and the 11 new cardinals present in Rome paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery following the consistory. Each new cardinal was introduced to the pope emeritus, who gave them a blessing after together singing the Salve Regina, according to the Holy See Press Office.



    With this consistory, the number of voting cardinals comes to 128, and the number of non-voters to 101 for a total of 229 cardinals.

  4. Swiss court orders full access to records for Vatican financial investigation

    Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Vatican investigators have been granted full access to Swiss banking documentation related to long-time Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso. The newly announced decision by a Swiss federal court is the latest development in the ongoing financial scandal surrounding the purchase of a London building by the Secretariat of State in 2018.

    According to Huffington Post, the decision was issued on Oct. 13 but only published this week. The documents to be turned over to the Vatican include financial records of the company to Az Swiss & Partners. Az Swiss owns Sogenel Capital Holding, the company Crasso founded after leaving Credit Suisse in 2014.

    Although the company sought to block full access to its records by Vatican investigators, Swiss judges ruled that “when foreign authorities ask for information to reconstruct criminal asset flows, it is generally considered that they need the entirety of the relative documentation, in order to clarify which persons or legal entities are involved.”

    Vatican prosecutors have been working with Swiss authorities since filing letters rogatory in December last year. Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

    CNA has previously reported that, in response to the Holy See’s request for cooperation in its investigation into Vatican finances, Swiss authorities have frozen tens of millions of euros in bank accounts and sent banking documents and records to Vatican prosecutors.

    Crasso, a former banker at Credit Suisse, has been a long-time financial advisor to the Vatican, including introducing the Secretariat of State to the businessman Raffaele Mincione, through whom the secretariat went on to invest hundreds of millions of euros and purchase the London building at 60, Sloane Avenue, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018.

    Huffington Post reported on Nov. 27 that the Swiss decision also quoted the Vatican’s original rogatory request as citing "investment schemes that are neither transparent nor compliant with normal real estate investment practices," pointing back to the controversial London deal.

    Specifically, Vatican investors noted that the pledging of Vatican funds on deposit in Swiss banks, including Peter’s Pence, to secure hundreds of millions of euros in loans from the same banks “represents strong circumstantial evidence that it represented a ploy to avoid making [the transactions] visible.”

    Prosecutors contend that the use of liquid assets as collateral to secure loans from the banks for investments, instead of investing Vatican money directly, appears designed to shield the investments from detection and scrutiny.

    In November last year, CNA reported on a similar instance in 2015, when then sostituto at the Secretariat of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu allegedly attempted to disguise $200 million loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.

    CNA also reported that the attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell.

    Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”

    Crasso’s Centurion Global Fund, in which the Secretariat of State was the largest investor, is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

    Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were “no secret.” 

    In an Oct. 4 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing “confidential” accounts for Becciu’s family.

    Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers. 

    On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions “step by step.”

    According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.”

  5. Pope Francis: Avoid the temptation of seeking ‘utopia’ in this world

    Vatican City, Nov 27, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- In a video message to a Catholic social doctrine conference on Thursday, Pope Francis said that remembering our baptism and the promise of eternal life can help us avoid the temptation to seek “utopia” in this world.

    In the message released Nov. 26, he described a positive attitude in which believers are immersed in society yet live their baptism in the light of a future life with God.

    “This attitude helps us to overcome the temptation of utopia, to reduce the proclamation of the Gospel to a simple sociological horizon or to get involved in the ‘marketing’ of various economic theories or political factions,” the pope said.

    His video message was sent to participants in a Nov. 26-29 online “Festival of Social Doctrine.” The Italian event is in its 10th edition, with this year’s theme being “Memory of the Future.”

    The goal of the festival is to be a “leaven in society” and “to create a place of discussion among Catholics engaged in work, in society and in public responsibility” who want to promote the common good.

    Referring to the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen gentium,” Pope Francis said that “living the memory of the future means making a commitment to ensure that the Church, the great people of God, can constitute on earth the beginning and the seed of the kingdom of God.”

    Christians have received “Life in Baptism,” he said, explaining that it is a gift which calls us to communion with God, with others, and with creation.

    Communion with God and others requires charity and “the intimacy of prayer in the presence of the Lord,” he explained.

    “And,” he continued, “the Life received as a gift is the same life as Christ, and we cannot live as believers in the world except by manifesting his very life in us.”

    He warned listeners about a kind of nostalgia “which blocks creativity and makes us rigid and ideological people even in the social, political and ecclesial sphere.”

    Memory instead links us to love and experience and is one of the deepest dimensions of the human person, Pope Francis said. 

    “This is why the dynamic of Christians is not that of nostalgically holding onto the past, but rather of accessing the eternal memory of the Father; and this is possible by living a life of charity,” he commented.

    Living “in the world with the strength and creativity of the life of God in us” is the way “we will be able to fascinate the hearts and the gaze of people to the Gospel of Jesus, we will help make projects of a new inclusive economy, and politics capable of fruitful love,” the pope said.