CNA Staff, Sep 24, 2020 / 12:32 pm (CNA).-
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who until today was prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has resigned from that office, and in an extremely rare move, from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals.
The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and has been connected to an ongoing investigation of financial malfeasance at the secretariat.
A statement from the Holy See press office Thursday said: “Today, Thursday, Sept. 24, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and related rights of the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.”
Becciu remains technically a cardinal, and the Vatican’s announcement did not specifically delineate what rights Becciu has resigned. In 2015, Pope Francis accepted a similar renunciation from Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 admitted to serial sexual misconduct. O’Brien did not subsequently attend public eccleiastical events, and was ineligible to participate in a future papal conclave. The Vatican press office could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
The cardinal himself has not yet responded to a request for comment from CNA.
The move was unexpected, and does not seem to have been long planned. Becciu had been scheduled to preside over the beatification of Ven. Carlo Acutis, which will take place in Assisi Oct. 10.
Becciu served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. During his tenure in that position, he was linked to a number of financial scandals, most recently the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.
CNA has previously reported that a substantial part of the $200 million used to finance the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a luxury development at 60 Sloane Avenuecame through credit extended by BSI, a Swiss bank with a long track record of violating money-laundering and fraud safeguards in its dealings with sovereign wealth funds.
CNA has also reported that in 2015 Becciu seemed to have made an attempt to disguise the loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property purchased in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by new financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.
The alleged 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.”
Becciu has previously defended the London investment as “accepted practice,” despite Vatican prosecutors staging raids on the offices of several of Becciu’s closest collaborators in the Secretariat, and despite the arrest of one of the businessmen involved.
CNA has also reported that Becciu was involved in a complicated series of events and financial transactions around the purchase of the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), an Italian hospital that collapsed in 2013 under 800 million euros of debt through theft and fraud.
In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.
Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.
When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.
In 2017, Becciu was also responsible for the dismissal of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone.
Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by Becciu, who accused the auditor of “spying” on the finances of senior officials, including Becciu. The then-Archbishop Becciu threatened criminal prosecution of Milone if he did not agree to leave his Vatican office quietly.
Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were perceived as a threat to the autonomy and business practices of long-time Curial officials. He said that he was dismissed on trumped-up charges after he uncovered evidence of financial misconduct under Becciu’s leadership.
Also in 2017, Becciu was involved in a complicated chain of events with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta that ended with the Grand Master of the Order being deposed, and Becciu being installed as special papal envoy charged with running the order.
At the center of that controversy were allegations that Vatican financial authorities had siphoned off more than 30 million euros from a 120 million euro bequest held in a Swiss bank account, in order to ease liquidity problems.
In February 2017, Pope Francis named Becciu as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order of Malta, with particular attention to the professed members. It is unclear if he will continue in the role.
Pope Francis created Becciu a cardinal on June 28, 2018. He was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Aug. 31, 2018.
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis blessed a large bell Wednesday that Polish Catholics hope will ring out in the defence of unborn life.
“May its ring awaken the consciences of legislators and all people of good will in Poland and the whole world,” Pope Francis said Sept. 23.
The Voice of the Unborn bell, commissioned by the Yes to Life foundation, is a symbolic bell to be used at Poland’s March for Life and other pro-life events. It is decorated with a cast an ultrasound image of an unborn child and a quotation from Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko: “A child’s life begins under the mother’s heart.”
In addition, the bell features two tablets, symbolizing the Ten Commandments. On the first are the words of Jesus, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law” (Matthew 5:17), and on the second is the commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).
Pope Francis was the first person to ring the symbolic bell after giving it his blessing in a courtyard in Vatican City after his general audience.
The pope noted that the bell would “accompany events aimed at remembering the value of human life from conception to natural death.”
The bell weighs more than 2,000 pounds and is nearly four feet in diameter. It was cast from bronze Aug. 26 at the Jan Felczyński bell foundry in the southeastern city of Przemyśl, in the presence of civil and Catholic leaders, according to Polish media.
After its return from Rome to Poland, the bell will be installed at All Saints parish in Kolbuszowa, but will soon be transported again for use in Poland’s March for Life, planned to take place in October in Warsaw.
“This bell is meant to stir consciences. The idea of casting it was born at the beginning of this year, when I read the information that 42 million children in the world are killed every year as a result of abortion,” Bogdan Romaniuk, vice president of the Polish Yes to Life foundation, told the Polish Catholic weekly Niedziela.
In Poland, the law allows abortion only in cases of rape, incest, threat to the mother’s life, or fetal abnormality. About 700 to 1,800 legal abortions take place each year.
Dr. Bogdan Chazan, the foundation’s president, said that he hoped the sound of the bell would serve as a “call to prayer” for the protection of unborn children.
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he is worried that large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than front-line healthcare workers in pandemic recovery and that the Catholic principle of subsidiarity is the solution.
“When a project is launched that directly or indirectly touches certain social groups, these groups cannot be left out from participating … the wisdom of the humbler groups cannot be set aside. Unfortunately, this injustice happens often in those places where huge economic and geopolitical interests are concentrated,” Pope Francis said Sept. 23.
“Let’s think of the grand financial assistance measures enacted by countries. The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy,” the pope said in Vatican City’s San Damaso Courtyard.
“Or let’s think about the cure for the virus: the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path. Everyone should be listened to, those who are at the top and those who are at the bottom, everyone.”
Pope Francis explained that the principle of subsidiarity was necessary in these situations to ensure the best solutions. Subsidiarity is the idea, deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, that the authority closest to a local need is best suited to tackle the issue. It is opposed to all forms of collectivism and sets limits for state intervention.
“To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least,” Pope Francis said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, according to the principle of subsidiarity, “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”
The pope underscored that the wisdom and contribution of individuals, families, associations, businesses, and the Church were all needed to revitalize society.
“The principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume their own role in the healing and destiny of society,” he said.
Religious freedom and freedom of expression are a critical component that allow for these voices to be heard, according to the pope.
“In some societies, many people are not free to express their own faith and their own values, their own ideas: if they express them freely, they are put in jail. Elsewhere, especially in the Western world, many people repress their own ethical or religious convictions. This is no way to emerge from the crisis, or at least to emerge from it better,” Pope Francis said.
The pope’s reflection on subsidiarity was part of his series of weekly catecheses, launched in August, on Catholic social teaching. Entitled “Healing the World,” the pope’s message at his Wednesday audiences focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic in light of Church teaching.
In previous weeks, Francis has spoken about the importance of solidarity and the common good. This week he noted that subsidiarity and solidarity were both needed for the good of society.
“This path of solidarity needs subsidiarity,” he stressed. “In fact, there is no true solidarity without social participation, without the contribution of intermediary bodies: families, associations, cooperatives, small businesses, and other expressions of society … This type of participation helps to prevent and to correct certain negative aspects of globalization and actions of countries, just as it is happening regarding the healing of people affected by the pandemic.”
“These contributions ‘from the bottom’ should be encouraged. How beautiful it is to see the volunteers during the crisis. The volunteers come from every part of society, volunteers who come from well-off families and those who come from poorer families. But everyone, everyone together to emerge. This is solidarity and this is the principle of subsidiarity.”
Another important component of subsidiarity, the pope explained, is that those with a higher responsibility look out for the good of those without adequate resources.
“After the great economic depression of 1929, Pope Pius XI explained how important the principle of subsidiarity was,” Pope Francis said.
“On the one hand, and above all in moments of change, when single individuals, families, small associations and local communities are not capable of achieving primary objectives, it is then right that the highest levels of society, such as the state, should intervene to provide the necessary resources to progress.”
“For example, because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people, families and economic entities found themselves and still find themselves in serious trouble. Thus, public institutions are trying to help through appropriate interventions. On the other hand, however, society’s leaders must respect and promote the intermediate or lower levels.”
At the end of his general audience, which took place on a rainy morning, the pope mentioned that he would bless a bell named “The Voice of the Unborn,” commissioned by the “Sì alla Vita” foundation.
“It will accompany the events aimed at remembering the value of human life from conception to natural death,” he said, noting a desire that its sound would awaken the consciences of legislators and all people of good will.
“During the lockdown, the spontaneous gesture of applauding, applause for doctors and nurses began as a sign of encouragement and hope. … Let’s extend this applause to every member of the social body, to each and every one, for their precious contribution, no matter how small,” Pope Francis said.
“Let’s applaud the ‘castaways,’ those whom culture defines as those to be ‘thrown out,’ this throwaway culture -- that is, let’s applaud the elderly, children, persons with disability, let’s applaud workers, all those who dedicate themselves to service. Everyone collaborating to emerge from the crisis.”
Vatican City, Sep 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Palliative care for the dying is important, but medical interventions are not enough; Catholics have a responsibility to be with the suffering and to communicate the hope of Christ, a new Vatican document on euthanasia said Tuesday.
While palliative care is “essential and invaluable,” it is not enough, a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.
“Palliative care cannot provide a fundamental answer to suffering or eradicate it from people’s lives,” the congregation said. “To claim otherwise is to generate a false hope, and cause even greater despair in the midst of suffering.”
“Medical science can understand physical pain better and can deploy the best technical resources to treat it. But terminal illness causes a profound suffering in the sick person, who seeks a level of care beyond the purely technical,” it continued.
“Palliative care in itself is not enough unless there is someone who ‘remains’ at the bedside of the sick to bear witness to their unique and unrepeatable value. Pain is existentially bearable only where there is hope.”
The CDF presented the 45-page letter, Samaritanus bonus: on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life, at a press conference Sept. 22. It was approved by Pope Francis on June 25 and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.
The letter reaffirmed Catholic teaching on a range of end-of-life issues, underlining the moral impermissability of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalling the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
The Vatican document also pointed out what it described as cultural obstacles obscuring the intrinsic value of every human life: the notion of “dignified death” as measured by a person’s so-called “quality of life,” a false understanding of compassion, and an individualism which sees the other as a limitation or threat to one’s freedom.
So-called “compassionate” euthansia holds that it is better to die than to suffer, the CDF noted. “In reality, human compassion consists not in causing death, but in embracing the sick, in supporting them in their difficulties, in offering them affection, attention, and the means to alleviate the suffering.”
Cardinal Ladaria said Sept. 22 that “a compassion that is not accompanied by the truth, by respect for human life in all its phases of existence, is a compassion that is not just, is not right.”
Catholics need to know how to show authentic compassion and to witness to Christian hope, the CDF document argued.
“In the face of the challenge of illness and the emotional and spiritual difficulties associated with pain, one must necessarily know how to speak a word of comfort drawn from the compassion of Jesus on the Cross,” it said. “It is full of hope -- a sincere hope, like Christ’s on the Cross, capable of facing the moment of trial and the challenge of death.”
“The hope that Christ communicates to the sick and the suffering is that of his presence, of his true nearness,” the letter explained. “To contemplate the living experience of Christ’s suffering is to proclaim to men and women of today a hope that imparts meaning to the time of sickness and death. From this hope springs the love that overcomes the temptation to despair.”
The document said that Catholic priests and others should avoid any active or passive gesure which might signal approval for euthanasia and assisted suicide, including remaining in a room while the act is performed.
But to someone who is considering taking that action, the presence of a witness to truth, charity, and hope can be powerful, Ladaria said.
“The witness of Christians, the witness of Christian healthcare workers, the witness of all the Christian relatives of this person, etc. can be something very determinative” in helping a person to turn away from the decision to end his or her own life, he said.
Ladaria encouraged offering a “witness of presence” to those who were seriously ill and dying.
When a person sees no other hope than assisted suicide, “if he sees someone who clearly does not accept this solution, but is there beside him, and does not abandon him, and is next to him, maybe this can be a factor which helps him to reflect,” he said.
“I believe that in every man there is some reserve of hope,” the cardinal stated. Communicating the truth with charity, being present to someone who feels hopeless, could help them to think and reflect, it “makes this person see that there is, however, hope, there is hope. That hope never ends!”
Priestly ministry to the sick at the end of life, a symbol of the solicitude of Christ and the Church, “can and must have a decisive role,” and makes proper priestly formation vital in this area, Samaritanus bonus said. It also noted that because priests cannot always be present at a bedside, physicians and healthcare workers need formation in Christian accompaniment too.
“In this essential mission it is extremely important to bear witness to and unite truth and charity with which the gaze of the Good Shepherd never ceases to accompany all of His children,” it stated.
Vatican City, Sep 22, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) said Tuesday that the Vatican had “done everything possible to dialogue” with an Irish priest barred from public ministry for his views on the priesthood and sexuality.
Speaking at a press conference at the Vatican Sept. 22, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, SJ, argued that the CDF had no alternative but to take action against Fr. Tony Flannery.
“We have done everything possible to dialogue with Fr. Flannery. It was not always easy,” he said.
Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, was barred from public ministry by the CDF in 2012 for his stances on the nature of the sacramental priesthood and human sexuality.
It was reported earlier this month that the CDF had asked the 73-year-old to affirm four doctrinal propositions as a condition of returning to ministry.
“Fr Flannery should not return to public ministry prior to submitting a signed statement regarding his positions on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the admission of women to the priesthood,” the CDF wrote to the superior of the Redemptorists in a letter dated July 9.
Flannery wrote on his personal website: “I will not be signing this document.”
Ladaria defended his congregation’s handling of the case, telling journalists: “We have done everything possible. In some moments we have had to take some measure that never concerns a judgment on the person, because this is always reserved to our Lord, but on his teachings or on his behavior.”
“And so we have tried always to maintain all of our respect toward Fr. Flannery, but also the duty we have, according to the dispositions of the Church, to protect the faith and therefore indicate when something is not in conformity with the faith.”
In 2010, Flannery helped to found the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, a group whose constitution emphasizes “the primacy of the individual conscience” and “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”
The Redemptorist leadership in Ireland reportedly wrote to the order’s superior general, who in turn wrote to the CDF, asking for Flannery to be allowed to minister publicly again.
The CDF’s letter, published on Flannery’s website, asked that the priest sign a proposition that “according to the Tradition and the doctrine of the Church incorporated in the Canon Law (c. 1024), a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”
This proposition regarding the reservation of priesthood to men was supported by excerpts from St. John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis and Pope Francis’ 2020 apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia.
Regarding the moral liceity of homosexual acts, Flannery was asked to submit to the proposition that “Since the homosexual practices are contrary to the natural law and do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity, they are not approved by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.” This was supported by a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The priest was also asked to assent to the proposition that “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator (CCC 1660). Other forms of union do not correspond to God’s plan for marriage and family. Therefore, they are not allowed by the Catholic Church.”
This proposition on marriage was supported by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and by Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation.
Finally, Flannery was invited to submit to the proposition that “In so far as it contradicts the foundations of a genuine Christian anthropology, gender theory is not accepted by Catholic teaching,” supported by the Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2019 document “Male and female he created them.”
In a response to the CDF letter published on his website Sept. 17, Flannery wrote: “From the first moment it came to me I knew that I was not going to sign it. But it has been sitting there for the last three months or so. Now it is gone, my decision has been finally made certain and clear, and there is a sense of relief and satisfaction about that.”
Speaking at a press conference on the CDF’s new document on euthanasia, Ladaria said: “This is a very unpleasant situation to the congregation, very unpleasant. But it is our responsibility, and it would be an error on our part if we did not bear this responsibility and left it to one side and did not give a word, when, in certain moments, sadly, many times it should be given.”
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