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  1. Catholic cycling champion who saved Jews during World War II honored in Assisi

    Gino Bartali (1914-2000) competing in the 1938 Tour de France. / Public domain

    Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 09:10 am (CNA).

    A cycling champion and devout Catholic who helped to save more than 800 Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II was remembered in Assisi Wednesday on the 21st anniversary of his death.

    Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi led the singing of the Marian antiphon “Regina Coeli” at 12pm local time on May 5 in Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, now housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943 -1944, to remember the man declared “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in 2013.

    “Bartali was a great witness, [whose example] helps us to become more Christian, more human…” Sorrentino said. Even in the difficulties of the present time, “Bartali gives us a hand, with his example, his courage, and his faith.”

    During World War II, Gino Bartali used his position as a famous road cycling champion to support the Italian Resistance and help, with others, to save the lives of more than 800 Italian Jews.

    Using cycling training as a cover, Bartali transported photographs and forged documents between Florence and Franciscan convents in the surrounding regions where Jews were hidden. He also carried messages and documents for the Italian Resistance.

    Bartali also assisted the Assisi Network, an underground network of Catholic clergy who hid Jews in convents and monasteries during World War II, by taking Jews from the hiding places to the Swiss Alps in a wagon with a secret compartment attached to his bicycle. If he was stopped, he said that the wagon was for training.

    The cyclist, who twice won the Tour de France, also personally hid a Jewish family in his cellar, saving their lives, according to one survivor.

    Gino Bartali with his son Andrea. / Courtesy of the Bartali family.
    Gino Bartali with his son Andrea. / Courtesy of the Bartali family.

    His reputation and popularity as Italy’s top cyclist before the war meant that he was mostly left undisturbed by the Fascist police and German troops, who did not want to risk upsetting his large fan base by arresting him.

    Nevertheless, he was once taken in for questioning by the Nazi intelligence agency and the Italian RSS, and his life was threatened. Bartali never revealed what he had done. Even after the war, he spoke little about his accomplishments.

    The cyclist used to say, “Good is done, but not said. And certain medals hang on the soul, not on the jacket.”

    Bartali married in 1940 and was the father of three children. He died in 2000 at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack following a heart bypass operation. He had received the last rites 10 days prior.

    In an obituary for the Guardian newspaper, Tim Hilton wrote: “Bartali was a genuinely religious man, making his devotions public and, in return, becoming the Vatican’s favorite sportsman -- he was personally blessed by three popes.”

    “He would set up shrines in his hotel bedrooms when he rode the Giro [d’Italia] and the Tour de France, and, on some mountains, children from summer camps sang canticles as he pedaled past, a priest conducting their infant worship.”

    When he was not traveling to compete, Bartali lived in Florence. But he was very attached to the city of Assisi, which is just over 100 miles to the southeast in the region of Umbria.

    Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943-1944, in Assisi, Italy. / Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.
    Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943-1944, in Assisi, Italy. / Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

    In 1937, Bartali became a Carmelite Tertiary. He built a private chapel in honor of his brother who had died in a racing accident the year before. The chapel was consecrated by Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, the archbishop of Florence.

    That chapel is now part of Assisi’s Memorial Museum. Bartali’s granddaughter, Gioia Bartali, said that this chapel “has always represented an indelible memory of our family.”

    “In 1937, my grandfather Gino took his vows as a Carmelite Tertiary following the untimely death of his beloved brother Giulio, who died in an accident during a cycling race,” she told CNA’s Italian-language partner agency ACI Stampa.

    “Following that tragic event he decided to stop racing,” she noted, “and it was only thanks to the comfort of his faith and the love of my grandmother Adriana that he decided to get back in the saddle, to win again, thus dedicating his victories to the Virgin Mary.”

    Gino Bartali with his granddaughters Gioia and Stella. / Courtesy of the Bartali family
    Gino Bartali with his granddaughters Gioia and Stella. / Courtesy of the Bartali family

    She said the chapel was created that year, with a few simple objects placed in a small room in Bartali’s house.

    “An altar consecrated to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, which allowed him to have Mass celebrated [at home], thus managing to practice his faith with devotion and humility,” she said.

    Bartali left the chapel to Gioia’s father, Andrea, in his will. At the request of Andrea, Gioia and her sister, Stella, donated the chapel to the bishop of Assisi.

    Speaking about Assisi, she said that “no place more than the seraphic city could have celebrated the heroic deeds of a great sportsman and man of faith, who became a protagonist in the dark years of the war, saving hundreds of Jews in total silence and without asking for anything in return.”

  2. Pope Francis confirms ex-management consultant as Vatican’s auditor general

    Dome of St. Peter's basilica, Vatican City. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

    Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 08:05 am (CNA).

    The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has confirmed a former management consultant as the Vatican’s auditor general.

    The Holy See press office said May 5 that the pope had named Alessandro Cassinis Righini, who has served as acting auditor general since June 2017, to the role.

    On his publicly accessible LinkedIn page, the auditor general lists the start date of his new position as March 2021.

    He succeeds Libero Milone, who served as auditor general from 2015 to 2017.

    Milone was dismissed just two years into a five-year mandate after being hired as the Vatican’s first auditor general in a move to introduce more financial transparency in the Vatican City State.

    Three months after stepping down, Milone claimed that he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

    Although he declined to give details due to non-disclosure agreements, he claimed that he had been targeted after launching an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving an Italian cardinal.

    Describing his version of the events that led up to his resignation, Milone said that he was called to the office of Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, then a senior official at the Vatican Secretary of State, on June 19, 2017, and told that the pope had lost faith in him and requested his resignation.

    Becciu accused the auditor general of “spying” on the finances of senior officials -- a claim Milone strongly rejected.

    Becciu, who received the red hat in 2018, resigned in September 2020 as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals.

    The Vatican’s new auditor general was born in Rome on Dec. 29, 1965. After graduating in economics and commerce from the University of Rome La Sapienza, he gained an MBA from the School of Business Management of Bocconi University in Milan.

    Married with three children, he taught strategic management at the University of Rome La Sapienza and at the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli.

    After gaining experience at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, he worked as a researcher at the Fondazione Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali (Censis).

    He then served as a management consultant for Braxton Associates in London and the Deloitte Group.

    In March 2016 he was appointed as a deputy auditor, serving under Milone.

    In September 2020, as acting auditor general, he signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vatican’s prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy on the fight against corruption.

    The auditor general is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.

    According to the Vatican website, the Office of the Auditor General consists of the auditor general, “who directs and represents the office,” and a group of auditors “with solid and proven professional experience,” assisted by support personnel.

    It says: “The auditor general is appointed ad quinquennium [for five years] by the Holy Father and chosen among persons of proven reputation, who do not exercise activities that are incompatible with the appointment, who are free from any conflict of interest, and who have recognized professional competence and skills in the relevant areas concerning the work of the Office.”

    “The auditor general may be appointed only for two terms.”

  3. Pope Francis to issue apostolic letter on ministry of catechist

    Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his March 28, 2018 general audience in St. Peter's Square. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 06:20 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis will issue an apostolic letter next week on the ministry of catechist.

    The Holy See press office said May 5 that the papal letter, issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”), would be presented at a press conference on May 11.

    It described the apostolic letter, Antiquum ministerium, as the means “by which the ministry of catechist is instituted.”

    The Italian section of the Vatican News website said: “The motu proprio therefore will formally establish the ministry of catechist, developing that evangelizing dimension of the laity called for by Vatican II.”

    It noted that in a 2018 video message, Pope Francis said that the vocation of catechist “demands to be recognized as a true and genuine ministry of the Church, which we particularly need.”

    Further details will be unveiled at the news conference, which will take place at the Vatican. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Pontifical Council’s delegate for catechesis, will speak at the event.

    The Code of Canon Law (Can. 785) defines catechists as “lay members of the Christian faithful, duly instructed and outstanding in Christian life, who devote themselves to setting forth the teaching of the gospel and to organizing liturgies and works of charity under the direction of a missionary.”

    “Catechists are to be formed in schools designated for this purpose or, where such schools are lacking, under the direction of missionaries,” it says.

    In his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris missio, Pope John Paul II described catechists as “irreplaceable evangelizers.”

    He wrote: “It is with good reason that the older and established churches, committed to a new evangelization, have increased the numbers of their catechists and intensified catechetical activity. But ‘the term “catechists” belongs above all to the catechists in mission lands... Churches that are flourishing today would not have been built up without them.’”

    “Even with the extension of the services rendered by lay people both within and outside the Church, there is always need for the ministry of catechists, a ministry with its own characteristics.”

    He continued: “Catechists are specialists, direct witnesses and irreplaceable evangelizers who, as I have often stated and experienced during my missionary journeys, represent the basic strength of Christian communities, especially in the young churches.”

    A 1993 guide for catechists, issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said: “Through religious instruction, preparation for the sacraments, animation of prayer and other works of charity, they help the baptized to grow in the fervor of the Christian life.”

    “Where there is a shortage of priests, the catechists are also entrusted with the pastoral guidance of the little community separated from the center. Often, they are called to witness to their faith by harsh trials and painful privations.”

    “The history of evangelization past and present attests to their constancy even to the giving of life itself. Catechists are truly the pride of the missionary Church!”

    In his 2020 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis said that there was a need to strengthen lay leadership in the Amazon region.

    He wrote: “A Church of Amazonian features requires the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority and familiar with the languages, cultures, spiritual experience and communal way of life in the different places, but also open to the multiplicity of gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on every one. For wherever there is a particular need, he has already poured out the charisms that can meet it.”

    “This requires the Church to be open to the Spirit’s boldness, to trust in, and concretely to permit, the growth of a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay. The challenges in the Amazon region demand of the Church a special effort to be present at every level, and this can only be possible through the vigorous, broad and active involvement of the laity.”

    In January this year, the pope issued a motu proprio, Spiritus Domini, changing canon law to allow women to serve as lectors and acolytes.

    Lector and acolyte are publicly recognized ministries instituted by the Church. The roles were once considered “minor orders” in the tradition of the Church and were changed to ministries by Pope Paul VI.

  4. Pope Francis at the general audience: The contemplative dimension of being human gives life flavor

    Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 04:35 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged people to embrace the contemplative dimension of being human both in prayer and their daily lives.

    In his general audience address on May 5, the pope said that the “contemplative dimension of the human being -- which is not yet contemplative prayer -- is a bit like the ‘salt’ of life: it gives flavor, it seasons our day.”

    “We can contemplate by gazing at the sun that rises in the morning, or at the trees that deck themselves out in spring green; we can contemplate by listening to music or to the sounds of the birds, reading a book, gazing at a work of art or at that masterpiece that is the human face,” he said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    The pope said that for those who live in a big city, where everything tends to be “artificial and functional,” there can be the risk of “losing the capacity to contemplate.”

    Pope Francis recommended contemplative prayer, “the ‘breath’ of our relationship with God,” which he said “sharpens our gaze” and “purifies the heart.”

    “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus,” he said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    He recounted the story of a peasant in Ars, France, who told St. John Vianney while praying before the tabernacle: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

    “The light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men,” he said.

    “Everything comes from this: from a heart that feels that it is looked on with love. Then reality is contemplated with different eyes. ‘I look at Him and He looks at me.’ It is like this: loving contemplation, typical of the most intimate prayer, does not need many words.”

    The pope stressed that in the Gospel there is “no opposition between contemplation and action.”

    Jesus “never lacked the time, space, silence, the loving communion that allows one’s existence not to be devastated by the inevitable trials, but to maintain beauty intact,” he said. “His secret was his relationship with his heavenly Father.”

    Pope Francis spoke from the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions. The speech was the 32nd reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    At the end of his audience, the pope reminded Catholics to pray the rosary throughout May. He mentioned that this month Catholic shrines around the world are hosting daily rosaries prayed for the intention of an end to the coronavirus pandemic and the resumption of work and social activities.

    “There is only one great call in the Gospel, and it is that of following Jesus on the way of love. This is the pinnacle and center of everything,” Pope Francis said.

    “In this sense, charity and contemplation are synonymous, they say the same thing. St. John of the Cross believed that a small act of pure love is more useful to the Church than all the other works combined.”

    “What is born of prayer and not from the presumption of our ego, what is purified by humility, even if it is a hidden and silent act of love, is the greatest miracle that a Christian can accomplish. And this is the path of contemplative prayer: ‘I look at him, he looks at me.’ This act of love in silent dialogue with Jesus does so much good for the Church.”

  5. Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is for the regulation of financial markets

    Phillippine stock market board / Katrina.Tuliao via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

    Vatican City, May 4, 2021 / 08:46 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis is asking Catholics to pray throughout May for the regulation of financial markets to “protect citizens from its dangers.”

    “How far is the world of big finance from most people’s lives. Finance, if not regulated, becomes pure speculation animated by monetary policies. This situation is unsustainable. It’s dangerous,” Pope Francis said in a video message released May 4.

    “To prevent the poor from paying the consequences again, financial speculation must be strictly regulated.”

    The Vatican released a video message to present the pope’s prayer intention for May.

    The pope is asking Catholics to pray “that those responsible for finance will collaborate with governments to regulate financial markets and protect citizens from its dangers.”

    Each month, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network produces a video to spread the pope’s prayer intention. In 2021, these intentions have ranged from prayer for women who are victims of violence to prayer that more people will return to the sacrament of confession.

    Fr. Frédéric Fornos, S.J., president of the network, said that “this prayer intention must be understood in the context of the crisis we’re living through, which has made evident the great inequality there is in the world.”

    In 2020, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded its largest drop since the end of World War II, with millions of job losses as a result of restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    “The pope said it again recently,” Fornos said. “We cannot be content with ‘a return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth.’”

    In this month’s video, Pope Francis stressed that “finance is a tool” to be put at the service of people and to “take care of our common home.”

    He said: “We still have time to start a process of global change to put into practice a different, more just, inclusive, sustainable economy that leaves no one behind. Let’s do it.”