Vatican City, Jan 15, 2021 / 06:19 pm ().- Pope Francis sent a telegram Friday with his condolences for Indonesia, after a strong earthquake killed at least 67 people on the island of Sulawesi.
Hundreds of people were also injured in the 6.2-magnitude quake, according to Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Indonesia.
Pope Francis was “saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and the destruction of property caused by the violent earthquake in Indonesia.”
In a telegram to the apostolic nuncio in Indonesia, signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope expressed his “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.”
Francis “prays for the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve. In a particular way, he offers encouragement to the civil authorities and those involved in the continuing search and rescue efforts,” the letter stated.
The death toll is expected to rise, according to local search and rescue teams, who say that many people are still trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, CNN reported.
The telegram concluded with the pope’s invocation of “divine blessings of strength and hope.”
Sulawesi, governed by Indonesia, is one of the four Greater Sunda Islands. The western side was struck by the 6.2-magnitude quake at 1:28 a.m. local time about 3.7 miles northeast of the city of Majene.
Eight people died and at least 637 people were injured in Majene. Three hundred houses were damaged and 15,000 residents displaced, according to Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management.
The affected area is also a COVID-19 red zone, provoking concerns about spreading the coronavirus amid the disaster.
Rome Newsroom, Jan 15, 2021 / 01:00 pm ().- The Vatican court is due to hold a sentence hearing next week in a criminal trial against the former president of the Institute for Religious Works.
Angelo Caloia, the 81-year-old ex-president of the institute commonly known as the “Vatican bank,” has been on trial for two years for money laundering and self-laundering, and embezzlement.
The HuffPost reported last month that the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, is seeking an eight-year jail term for Caloia, the first time the Vatican has sought a prison sentence for financial crimes.
The Jan. 21 hearing is reportedly being held to issue the court’s sentence after the two-yeartrial.
Caloia was president of the institute -- also known by its Italian initials, IOR -- from 1989 to 2009.
The Jan. 21 hearing will also include Caloia’s lawyer, the 96-year-old Gabriele Liuzzo, and Liuzzo’s son, Lamberto Liuzzo. The lawyer was tried on the same charges as Caloia and is also facing a possible eight years in prison. His son was tried for money laundering and self-laundering and may get up to six years in prison, according to the HuffPost.
Diddi also reportedly asked for the confiscation of 32 million euros ($39 million) already seized from the accounts of Caloia and Gabrielle Liuzzo also at the institute.
In addition, Diddi is said to have requested the confiscation of the equivalent of a further 25 million euros ($30 million).
The Vatican court ordered Caloia and Liuzzo to stand trial in March 2018. It accused them of participating in “unlawful conduct” from 2001 to 2008 during “the disposal of a considerable part of the institute’s real estate assets.”
The HuffPost said that the two men allegedly sold the IOR’s real estate assets to themselves through offshore companies and firms in Luxembourg via “a complex shielding operation.”
Former IOR director general Lelio Scaletti, who died on Oct. 15, 2015, was part of the original investigation, launched in 2014 after complaints were lodged by the IOR.
In February 2018, the institute announced that it had joined a civil suit, in addition to the criminal proceedings, against Caloia and Liuzzo.
The trial began on May 9, 2018. At the first hearing, the Vatican court announced plans to appoint experts to assess the value of properties that Caloia and Liuzzo were accused of selling at below-market rates, while allegedly making off-paper agreements for higher amounts to pocket the difference.
Caloia was present at the nearly four-hourhearing, though Liuzzo was absent, citing his age.
According to the HuffPost, hearings over the next two and a half years drew on appraisals by the Promontory Financial Group, at the request of Ernst von Freyberg, IOR president from February 2013 to July 2014.
The hearings also reportedly considered three letters rogatory sent from the Vatican to Switzerland, with the most recent response arriving on Jan. 24, 2020. Letters rogatory are a formal request from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance.
The Institute for Religious Works was founded in 1942 under Pope Pius XII but can trace its roots back as far as 1887. It aims to hold and administer money designated for “religious works or charity,” according to its website.
It accepts deposits from legal entities or persons of the Holy See and of Vatican City State. The IOR’s main functionis to manage bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations.
The IOR had 14,996 clients as of December 2019. Nearly half of clients are religious orders. Other clients include Vatican offices, apostolic nunciatures, episcopal conferences, parishes, and clergy.
Vatican City, Jan 15, 2021 / 12:40 pm ().- The United States ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, met with Pope Francis Friday as she prepares to leave Rome in tandem with the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.
She will leave the post Jan. 20 to return to the United States. Deputy Chief of Mission Patrick Connell will be Chargé d’ Affaires until a new ambassador is appointed, an embassy official confirmed to CNA.
Gingrich was nominated for the position by President Trump in May 2017, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate the following October.
During her three years in Rome, Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, drew attention to issues such as human trafficking, Christian persecution, and religious freedom, by hosting symposiums and other events.
On Twitter, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See said Jan. 15 the “Ambassador and Speaker Gingrich were honored to have a farewell visit with Pope Francis today.”
Ambassador and Speaker Gingrich were honored to have a farewell visit with Pope Francis today. (Vatican Media Photos) pic.twitter.com/c4pDIY6n6M
— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) January 15, 2021
The two also met with other Vatican officials Friday. Gingrich wrote on Twitter Jan. 15 that she had a “beautiful visit today with Cardinal Parolin” and a “beautiful visit” to the Apostolic Palace.
In an interview on the website of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, published in September 2020, Gingrich said “it has been an incredible and fulfilling experience serving as our nation’s ambassador to the Holy See.”
“The United States and the Holy See collaborate on many important foreign policy objectives. From advancing religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, to combatting human trafficking, to delivering humanitarian assistance, to preventing conflict and violence, our partnership with the Holy See is a worldwide force for good,” she stated.
Gingrich, who is a life-long Catholic, also noted that working in Rome and the Vatican had “greatly strengthened” her faith.
“Every time I participate in a meeting at the Vatican or attend a papal liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica, I feel honored and blessed,” she said.
In May 2020, Gingrich called attention to the role of faith-based organizations in delivering U.S government relief funds to assist people who were suffering due to the coronavirus in Italy.
“The United States is funding NGOs and faith-based organizations that can effectively deliver critical assistance,” she told EWTN News.
“It’s important that American money be put to good use. Faith-based organizations are effective and trustworthy partners. They’re inspired by a sense of purpose and dedication to help those most in need,” the ambassador said.
In a column for CNA in 2019, Gingrich reflected on 35 years of diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
“Although our embassy was officially established in 1984, ties to the Holy See date back to our nation’s founding,” she said.
“Throughout our history, U.S. presidents have recognized the important role of the Holy See in advancing peace and justice,” she continued. “From 1870 to 1984, several personal envoys were dispatched to the Vatican for discussions on humanitarian and political issues. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt’s envoy to Pope Pius XII worked with the Holy See to feed European refugees, provide aid to Eastern Europe, and assist allied prisoners of war.”
Gingrich said that with the Cold War and the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II “realized that an unofficial relationship between the United States and the Holy See was no longer adequate to meet the dangers posed by Communism.”
The two leaders met in Vatican City in 1982, and within two years, official diplomatic relations had been established, she recounted.
“When Ambassador Wilson presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II on April 9, 1984, the Pope told him that renewed collaboration between the United States and the Holy See should mean ‘exerting common efforts to defend the dignity and the rights of the human person,’” Gingrich said.
“For the last 35 years,” she said, “this unique partnership has done just that. It has existed, in President Reagan’s words ‘to the benefit of peace-loving people everywhere.’”
Callista Gingrich is the president of both Gingrich Productions in Arlington, Va. and the charitable non-profit Gingrich Foundation, and is a former Congressional aide.
She is also a long-time member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Newt and Callista married in 2000, after having a six-year affair while Newt was married to his previous wife. Newt converted to Catholicism in 2009 and explained, in an interview that year with Deal Hudson at InsideCatholic.com, how Callista’s witness as a Catholic brought him towards the faith.
The couple worked on a documentary together that was released in 2010, “Nine Days That Changed the World,” that focused on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland when the former Soviet bloc country was under a communist government.
Vatican City, Jan 14, 2021 / 05:45 pm ().- Pope Francis might soon choose a new Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, to replace Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who turned 77 in September. His replacement, according to Vatican observers, may bring a broader generational change that could involve at least five Vatican dicasteries.
Comastri, who had a private audience with Pope Francis on Jan. 11, is a well-known preacher whose books are good sellers. During the lockdown due to the pandemic, Cardinal Comastri began to pray the rosary at noon in St. Peter's Basilica.
St. John Paul II appointed Comastri as his general vicar for the Vatican City State, President of the Fabric of St. Peter, and coadjutor Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica in 2005. In 2006, Benedict XVI appointed Comastri Archpriest of the St. Peter's Basilica. He succeeded Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.
One clue of Comastri's upcoming retirement is Pope Francis' decision to postpone the election of the members of the Chapter of St. Peter, the college of priests that governs the Basilica under the guidance of the archpriest. The elections were supposed to take place at the end of the summer or during the fall, but the Pope asked to hold them after Jan. 11.
The Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica is in charge of the worship and pastoral activity of the basilica. The position is very ancient and has always been assigned to a cardinal. Since 1991, the Archpriest of the St. Peter's Basilica is also the Pope's vicar for the Vatican City State.
The position is important not only because the Archpriest is one of the Pope's closest collaborators, but also because he manages and organizes the worship of the most emblematic temple in the Catholic world.
St. Peter's Basilica includes 45 altars and 11 chapels, while the Vatican Grotto has several Marian chapels.
The daily Mass schedule in St. Peter's Basilica lists one Mass per hour from 9 to 12 am, in Italian, at the Altar of the Chair. There is another Mass in Italian at 8.30 am at the altar of the Most Holy Sacrament, while every day at 5 pm, there is a Mass in Latin.
On Sundays, there are 5 Masses celebrated in Italian and one in Latin.
Beyond the regular Mass schedule, there is the possibility to celebrate Mass in every chapel of St. Peter's Basilica. The chapels are booked by groups of pilgrims or individuals who celebrate Mass in their own language. In fact, every day, St. Peter's Basilica is filled with celebrations in several languages at the same time.
The new Archpriest will be called to manage this. Will he keep things as they are?
There is a broad discussion among members of the Chapter of the Basilica regarding whether to keep the possibility to celebrate private masses in the Basilica or instead ruling that the pilgrims who want to take part in a Mass must be at the Masses already scheduled. The debate is also about a possible abolition of the daily Mass in Latin. The Mass is celebrated according to the Paul VI missal, so it is not a Mass in the extraordinary form.
A Vatican source with knowledge of the facts, who asked to remain anonymous, stressed with CNA that these discussions were also behind the power struggle that led to allegations of mismanagement at the Fabric of St. Peter. This institution takes care of the maintenance of St. Peter's Basilica.
Following these allegations and investigation initiated by the Vatican prosecutor, Pope Francis made the unprecedented decision to put the Fabric of St. Peter under an extraordinary commissioner, Archbishop Mario Giordana.
According to Vatican sources, there seems to be two candidates to replace Comastri. One is Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner. Krajewski is in the Pope's inner circle, and the Pope strongly appreciates his work for the poor. Among his initiatives are the installation of showers for the homeless in the St. Peter colonnade, the opening of two dormitories for the homeless in Vatican facilities around St. Peter Basilica, and the doctor and barbershop services on the side of the colonnade.
The other candidate would be Cardinal Mauro Gambetti. Cardinal Gambetti was the exiting Custodian of the Sacred Convent of Assisi. A Franciscan Conventual, Gambetti has no posts assigned yet. After his creation as cardinal, he went back to Assisi, waiting for the Pope's call.
If Gambetti indeed becomes Comastri’s successor, his appointment could be the first step in a generational change in several Vatican top positions. Cardinals Marc Ouellet, Leonardo Sandri, Luis Ladaria, Giuseppe Versaldi, Beniamino Stella, and Giuseppe Bertello are all older than the retiring age. The pope could be already looking for their successors at the helm respectively of the Congregation for Bishops, for the Eastern Churches, for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Catholic Education, for the Clergy, and at the Vatican City State administration.
Rome Newsroom, Jan 14, 2021 / 01:50 pm ().- Cardinal George Pell welcomed Thursday Pope Francis’ inclusion of lay women on the Vatican’s economy council, saying he hopes “clear headed” women will help “sentimental males” do the right thing concerning Church finances.
In August 2020, Pope Francis named 13 new members, including six cardinals, six lay women, and one lay man, to the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances and the work of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Speaking during a Jan. 14 webinar about financial transparency in the Catholic Church, Pell praised the appointees as “highly competent women with great professional backgrounds.”
“So I’m hopeful they will be very clear headed on the basic issues and insist that we sentimental males get our act together and do the right thing,” he said.
“Financially I’m not sure the Vatican can continue losing money the way we’re losing money,” the Australian cardinal continued. Pell, who was prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 to 2019, pointed out that “on top of that, there are very real pressures … from the pension fund.”
“Grace won’t exempt us from these things,” the cardinal stated.
Pell, who was acquitted this year after becoming the highest-ranking Catholic cleric to be convicted of sexual abuse, was the guest speaker at a webinar entitled “Creating a Transparent Culture in the Catholic Church,” hosted by the Global Institute of Church Management (GICM).
He addressed the question of how to have financial transparency in both the Vatican and in Catholic dioceses and religious congregations.
He described financial transparency as letting “the light in on these things,” adding, “if there’s a mess, it’s good to know about it.”
A lack of transparency about missteps just makes the Catholic laity disconcerted and worried, he warned. They say they need to know about things “and that’s got to be respected and their basic questions answered.”
The cardinal said he is strongly in favor of regular external audits for dioceses and religious congregations: “I do think some form of audit is possible in nearly every situation. And whether we call it accountability or whether we call it transparency, there are different levels of interest and education among the lay people about wanting to know about the money.”
Pell also posited that many of the Vatican’s present financial troubles, especially the controversial purchase of a London property, might have been prevented, or “would have been recognized earlier,” if an external audit by Pricewaterhouse Cooper had not been canceled in April 2016.
About recent changes to finances at the Vatican, such as the transfer of management of investments from the Secretariat of State to APSA, the cardinal noted that when he was at the Vatican, he said it was less important who was controlling certain sections of the money, than that it was being managed well, and that the Vatican was seeing a good return on investments.
The transfer to APSA needs to be done well and competently, he stated, and the Secretariat of Economy needs to have the power to be able to stop things if they need to be stopped.
“The pope’s plan to set up a board of experts to manage the investments, coming out of Covid, coming out of the financial pressures we are presently experiencing, that will be absolutely vital,” he added.
According to Pell, the pope’s charitable fund, called Peter’s Pence, “faces a gigantic challenge.” The fund is intended for the charitable activities of the pope and to defray some of the costs of running the Roman Curia.
The fund should never have been used for investments, he stated, noting that he has “fought for years for the principle that if donors give money for a specific purpose, it should be used for that specific purpose.”
As financial reform continues to be enacted at the Vatican, the cardinal emphasized the importance of having the right personnel.
He said having competent people in charge of financial affairs is an essential first step toward changing the culture to one of more accountability and transparency.
“There’s a close connection between incompetency and being robbed,” Pell commented. “If you have competent people in place who know what they’re doing, it’s much harder to be robbed.”
In a diocese, one important aspect is having a finance council made up of experienced people who “understand money,” who meet often, whom the bishop consults, and whose advice the bishop follows.
“One hazard of course is if your finance council doesn’t understand that you’re a Church and not a business.” The first priority is not financial profit, but care of the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and social assistance, he said.
The cardinal praised the contribution of lay people, saying, “at every level, from diocese, to archdiocese, to Rome I’ve been impressed at the large number of competent people who are willing to give their time to the Church for nothing.”
“We need lay leaders there, Church leaders there, who do know the basics of management of money who can ask the right questions and find the right answers.”
He also encouraged dioceses to not wait for the Vatican always to lead the way on enacting financial reform, even if it should.
“We’ve made some progress in the Vatican and I agree the Vatican should be taking the lead -- Pope Francis knows that and is trying to do that. But just like any organization, you can’t always make everything happen as quickly as you want,” he opined.
Pell warned that money can be “a tainting thing,” and fascinates many clerics. “I had been a priest for decades when someone pointed out to me the dangers of money being about hypocrisy,” he said. “It’s not the most important thing we’re doing.”
“For the Church, money is not of first importance or of every importance.”
Pell was initially convicted in Australia in 2018 of multiple counts of sexual abuse. On April 7, 2020, Australia’s High Court overturned his six-year prison sentence. The High Court ruled that he should not have been found guilty of the charges and that the prosecution had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pell spent 13 months in solitary confinement, during which time he was not permitted to celebrate Mass.
The cardinal still faces a canonical investigation at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, though after his conviction was overturned, several canonical experts said it was unlikely he would face a Church trial.
Vatican City, Jan 14, 2021 / 10:00 am ().- Vatican Museums are expected to reopen in February if coronavirus restrictions permitit, according to the museums’ director.
Starting on Feb. 1, visitors are likelyto be ableonce again to see masterpieces like Caravaggio’s “The Entombment of Christ,” the ancient Roman Laocoön sculpture, and the recently restored Raphael Rooms within the Vatican walls.
The Vatican Museums have been closed since Nov. 5, when the Italian government implemented tighter coronavirus restrictions, closing all museums in Italy. A draft text of a new decree expected to be announced on Jan. 15 contains a provision to allow museums to open in some regions of Italy.
Throughout the pandemic, the Vatican Museums have followed the Italian government’s measures. During anational lockdown in the spring of 2020, the Vatican Museums were closed for a total of 12 weeks before reopening on June 1.
Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta said that the more than four miles that make up Vatican Museums’ halls should not pose a “health problem,” given the small number of visitors projected. She said this wasespecially so given that there were fewvisitorsduring the summer reopening when interregional travel was allowed in Italy and much of Europe.
Jatta took part in an online conference on Jan. 14 called “More Museum: The future of museums between crisis and rebirth, changes and new scenarios.” Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Tourism,opened the conference.
Franceschini said that he was proposing that museums reopen “at least on weekdays” in regions of Italy where the spread of coronavirus is less severe.
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With the repeated museum closures, Jatta said that the Vatican Museums have seen growth in their online audience on Instagram and YouTube. The Vatican Museums’ Instagram page, @vaticanmuseums, features a different work of art each day with a description in both English and Italian.
The Vatican Museums have also released videos on YouTube highlighting the work of restorers and curators, who have continued working within the museum during the months of the most recent closure.
“We are taking the opportunity of this time in which exhibitions and events are suspended, to focus on the collections, on the maintenance of the exhibition spaces and deposits, on the catalog, on research and publications,” Jatta said in an interview with Vatican News.
Travel within Italy is expected to remain limited under the revised coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 15, which could also include stricter rules for restaurants.
The Italian Ministry of Health reports 561,380 positive cases of COVID-19 in Italy as of Jan. 14 with 77,980 cases in Lazio, the Italian region where Rome is located. The country has recorded a total of more than 2.3 million cases and 80,848 deaths related to COVID-19.
Vatican City, Jan 14, 2021 / 04:50 am ().- Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Vatican confirmed on Thursday.
Responding to questions from reporters on Jan. 14, Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said: “I can confirm that as part of the Vatican City State vaccination program to date, the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and the pope emeritus.”
The two men are expected to receive the second dose in about three weeks.
Benedict XVI’s personal secretary said on Tuesday that the 93-year-old pope emeritus would receive the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it was ready.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, on Jan. 12 that Benedict XVI would be vaccinated “as soon as the vaccine is available.”
“I will also be vaccinated along with the whole household of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery,” said Gänswein, referring to the Vatican monastery where Benedict XVI has lived since resigning as pope in 2013.
The Vatican began administering vaccinations against COVID-19 on Jan. 13.
Vatican residents and employees and their families are receiving their doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Vatican City State, the world’s smallest independent nation-state, has a population of around 800 people. But together with the Holy See, the sovereign entity that predates it, it employs more than 4,000 people.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, a total of 27 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vatican City State. Among them were at least 11 members of the Swiss Guard.
Dr. Andrea Arcangeli, head of the Vatican health service, said on Jan. 2 that the Vatican had purchased a low-temperature refrigerator to store the vaccine.
“Priority will be given to health and public safety personnel, to the elderly and to personnel most frequently in contact with the public,” he said.
In a television interview broadcast on Sunday, Pope Francis said that he had booked an appointment to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I believe that, ethically, everyone has to get the vaccine. It is an ethical option because it concerns your life but also that of others,” he commented.
Recalling the introduction of the polio vaccine and other common childhood immunizations, he said: “I don’t understand why some say this could be a dangerous vaccine. If doctors present it to you as something that can be fine and has no special dangers, why not take it?”
The 84-year-old Pope Francis is generally healthy, though he suffers from sciatica and had eye surgery for cataracts in 2019. When he was young, he had a portion of a lung removed because of an infection.
At his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, the pope called for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to the world’s neediest people.
He said: “I ask everyone -- government leaders, businesses, international organizations -- to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”
Rome Newsroom, Jan 13, 2021 / 01:47 pm ().- Brazilian Cardinal Eusébio Oscar Scheid, the archbishop emeritus of Rio de Janeiro and a theologian, died Wednesday afternoon after a long period of illness.
The 88-year-old cardinal was living in the city of São José dos Campos, where he was a bishop from 1981 to 1991. He was admitted to the hospital Jan. 12 after testing positive for COVID-19 and showing signs of pneumonia.
Scheid retired as archbishop of Rio de Janeiro in 2009 at the age of 76. The following year he also retired as the bishop of the Ordinariate of Brazil for the faithful of the Eastern rite, which he had led from 2001.
The ordinariate was established in 1951 to oversee Eastern Catholics in Brazil who do not have proper jurisdiction of their own sui iuris churches.
Scheid was a member of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as Dehonians, making his religious profession in 1954.
He then studied theology in Rome, where he received a doctorate in Christology. He was ordained a priest in Rome in 1960.
The cardinal was born in 1932 in the city of Luzerna, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.
He was a professor of theology at several seminaries in Brazil and at the Theological Institute of Taubaté-SP, where he was later director of the theology faculty.
While bishop of São José dos Campos, he established the Santa Teresinha Institute of Philosophy and the Padre Rodolfo Komorek Theological Residence.
Scheid was named archbishop of Florianópolis in 1991, where he served for 10 years, until his appointment as Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.
In the Florianópolis archdiocese he established the John Paul II Social Institute and the Emmaus Convivial Theology and Edith Stein Philosophy seminars.
He was made a cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II in 2003, while archbishop of Rio de Janeiro. He retired in 2009.
Scheid was also an advisor to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Latin America and a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication.
In 2007, he was a member of the Council of Cardinals created to study the Holy See’s organizational and economic problems.
Rome Newsroom, Jan 13, 2021 / 09:35 am ().- Vatican City State began administering the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday.
Vatican residents and employees and their families are receiving their doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Pope Francis also received his first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 13, according to Argentine newspaper La Nacion. Hewill reportedly receive the second dose in about three weeks.
The pope announced in a recent interview that he would be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also said he believed“that ethically everyone should take the vaccine.”
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI will also soon receive the coronavirus vaccine, according to his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.
Gänswein and the rest of the household at the 93-year-old Benedict’s Vatican residence, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, will also be vaccinated.
Dr. Andrea Arcangeli, head of the Vatican health service, told Vatican News last month that he believes “it is very important that even in our small community a vaccination campaign against the virus responsible for COVID-19 is started as soon as possible.”
Vatican City State, the world’s smallest independent nation-state, has a population of around 800 people. But together with the Holy See, the sovereign entity that predates it, it employs more than4,000people.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, a total of 27 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vatican City State. Among them wereat least 11 members of the Swiss Guard.
Pope Francis and other Vatican officials have been outspoken in calling for the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, especially tothe world’s neediest people.
“I ask everyone -- government leaders, businesses, international organizations -- to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet,” Pope Francis said in his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on Christmas day.
The 84-year-old Pope Francis is generally healthy, though he suffers from sciatica and had eye surgery for cataracts in 2019. When he was young, he had a portion of a lung removed because of an infection.
More than79,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Italy, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The average age of Italy’s victims is around 80, according to AP, which noted that 65% of Italy’s coronavirus dead had three or more other health problems before testing positive.
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2021 / 04:02 am ().- Pope Francis urged Catholics on Wednesday to praise God not only in happy times, “but above all in difficult moments.”
In his general audience address on Jan. 13, the pope compared those who praise God to climbers who breathe in oxygen that enables them to reach the summit of a mountain.
He said that praise “must be practiced not only when life fills us with happiness, but above all in difficult moments, in moments of darkness when the path becomes an uphill climb.”
After undergoing these“demanding passages,” he said,we are able to see “a new panorama, a broader horizon.”
“Giving praise is like breathing pure oxygen: it purifies the soul, it makes you look far ahead so as not to remain imprisoned in the difficult moment, in the darkness of difficulty,” he explained.
In Wednesday’s address, Pope Francis continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.
He dedicated the audience to the prayer of praise, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes as one of the principal forms of prayer, alongside blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving.
The pope meditated on a passage in St Matthew’s Gospel (11:1-25), in which Jesus respondsto adversity by praising God.
“After the first miracles and the involvement of the disciples in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the mission of the Messiah goes through a crisis,” he said.
“John the Baptist doubts and makes Him receive this message -- John is in jail: ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Matthew 11:3) because he feels this anguish of not knowing whether he is mistaken in his proclamation.”
He continued: “Now, precisely in this disappointing moment, Matthew relates a truly surprising fact: Jesus does not lift up a lament to the Father, but rather He raises a hymn of jubilation: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,’ says Jesus, ‘that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes’ (Matthew 11:25).”
“So, in the midst of a crisis, amid the darkness of the soul of so many people, such as John the Baptist, Jesus blesses the Father, Jesus praises the Father.”
The pope explained that Jesus praised God, above all, because of who God is: his loving Father. Jesusalso praised Himfor revealing himself to the “little ones.”
“We too must rejoice and praise God because humble and simple people welcome the Gospel,” he said. “When I see these simple people, these humble people who go on pilgrimages, who go to pray, who sing, who praise, people who perhaps lack many things but whose humility leads them to praise God…”
“In the future of the world and in the hopes of the Church there are the ‘little ones’: those who do not consider themselves better than others, who are aware of their own limitations and their sins, who do not want to lord it over others, who, in God the Father, recognize that we are all brothers and sisters.”
The pope encouraged Christians to respond to their own “personal defeats” in the same way as Jesus.
“In those moments, Jesus, who highly recommended the prayer of asking questions, at the very moment when He would have had reason to ask the Father for explanations, instead begins to praise Him. It seems to be a contradiction, but it is there, it is the truth,” he said.
“To whom is praise helpful?” he asked. “To us or to God? A text of the Eucharistic liturgy invites us to pray to God in this way, it says this: ‘Although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness, but profit us for salvation.’ By giving praise, we are saved.”
“The prayer of praise serves us. The Catechism defines it this way -- the prayer of praise ‘shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing Him in glory.’”
The pope then reflected on a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi, known as the “Canticle of Brother Sun.”
“The Poverello did not compose it in a moment of joy, in a moment of wellbeing, but on the contrary, in the midst of hardship,” he explained.
“Francis was by then almost blind, and he felt in his soul the weight of a solitude he had never before experienced: the world had not changed since the beginning of his preaching, there were still those who let themselves be torn apart by quarrels, and in addition, he was aware that death was approaching ever nearer.”
“It could have been the moment of disillusionment, of that extreme disillusionment and the perception of his own failure. But Francis prayed at that instant of sadness, in that dark instant: ‘Laudato si’, mi Signore…’ (‘All praise is yours, my Lord...’)”
“He prays by giving praise. Francis praises God for everything, for all the gifts of creation, and even for death, which he courageously calls ‘sister.’”
The pope commented: “These examples of saints, of Christians, and also of Jesus, of praising God in difficult moments, open to us the gates of a great road towards the Lord, and they purify us always. Praise always purifies.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis said: “The saints show us that we can always give praise, in good times and bad, because God is the faithful Friend.”
“This is the foundation of praise: God is the faithful friend, and His love never fails. He is always beside us, He always awaits us. It has been said, ‘He is the sentinel who is close to you and keeps you going with confidence.’”
“In difficult and dark moments, let us have the courage to say: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord.’ Praising the Lord. This will do us so much good.”
Vatican City, Jan 12, 2021 / 11:57 am ().- A letter by Cardinal Pietro Parolin leaked to an Italian news outlet shows that the Secretariat of State was aware, and approved at its highest ranks, of the disgraced purchase of a luxury real estate property in London now at the center of a Vatican investigation.
The Italian newspaper Domani published on Jan. 10 a "confidential and urgent" letter addressed by Cardinal Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, to Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) also known as "the Vatican bank."
In the letter, Cardinal Parolin asked the IOR to loan 150 million euros(approximately $182.3 million) to the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Secretariat of State needed the money to pay off the loan contracted with Cheney Capital four months before. The Secretariat of State took the loan to buy out the shares of the real estate in London.
Cardinal Parolin described the investment as "a valid one," said that the investment had to be safeguarded, and asked the IOR for the loan. He also wrote that the loan was needed because the financial situation at that moment suggested the Secretariat of State not to use its reserve to "carry out operations for hedge investments," but instead to "acquire additional liquidity."
The Secretary of State also detailed that the loan would have a "two-year maturity" and that the IOR would be remunerated "in line with the international market" for the loan.
According to Domani, the IOR immediately moved to fulfill the request and informed the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority. The ASIF has oversight power over the IOR, but not over the Secretariat of State.
In April, the ASIF labeled the operation as "feasible," considering that the IOR had enough money to carry it out. At the same time, the ASIF asked for adequate due diligence to comply with existing anti-money laundering laws.
In May, Mr. Gianfranco Mammì, IOR general director, asked Archbishop Edgar Peña, Sostituto of the Secretariat of State, to write down the request in a letter signed by him. According to Mammì, the Sostituto has “executive power,” and for this reason, Cardinal Parolin's letter was not enough for the IOR to carry out the operation as requested.
Archbishop Peña Parra met the Mammì requests and signed a letter on June 4 and another one on June 19 to explain the request for the loan.
On June 27, the IOR experts gave their green light to the financial operation. On June 29, the IOR presented the economic plan for the loan to the officials of the Secretariat of State.
But on July 2, Mammì changed his mind and reported to the Vatican prosecutor that Archbishop Peña Parra was not clear and would not disclose who would be the real beneficiary of the requested loan.
One Vatican source confirmed with CNA that Cardinal Parolin's letter is authentic and that the story penned by the newspaper Domani is accurate.
After Mammì's report to the public prosecutor, the Vatican police searched and seized the ASIF and Secretariat of State's office on Oct. 1, 2019.
Two days later, the news broke that the Vatican had suspended five officials: Msgr. Maurizio Carlino, Mr. Fabrizio Tirabassi, Mr. Vincenzo Mauriello and Mrs. Caterina Sansone of the Secretariat of State; and Mr. Tommaso Di Ruzza, ASIF director.
Later on, the Vatican also suspended Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, who led the Secretariat of State's administrative office from 2009 to 2019.
Despite no criminal charges were filed against any of them, all of these officials, except for Caterina Sansone, no longer work at the Vatican. Di Ruzza was not renewed as the ASIF's director, Tirabassi and Mauriello agreed on an early retirement and both Carlino and Perlasca were sent to their dioceses of origin.
Although Cardinal Parolin’s leaked letter has no relevance for the investigation, it does provide important context.
One of them is that the Secretariat of State was aware that there were financial and ethical concerns regarding the 2011-2012 investment in the luxury real estate property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, managed by 60 SA Company.
The Vatican Secretariat of State signed its purchase for $160 million with the Luxembourg-based Athena fund, owned and managed by Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, who acted as an intermediary.
When the Athena fund was liquidated, the investment was not returned to the Holy See. The Holy See risked losing all the money if it did not buy the building.
The ASIF examined the deal and then proposed restructuring the investment, excluding intermediaries and thus making the Holy See save some money.
At that time, the Secretariat of State asked the IOR for resources sufficient to close the old mortgage and allow a new one to conclude the purchase.
Since the investment was initially considered “good” by the IOR, it is still a mystery what led Mammì to change his mind and report the financial operation to the public prosecutor; especially when in September 2020, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) reportedly paid out the loan with Cheney Capital and contracted a new loan to safeguard the investment. This was the same operation suggested by Cardinal Parolin's letter.
So, why did the IOR not carry out the operation, as initially planned?
As more details of the operation come to light, the reason seems to be a power struggle in the inner circle of Pope Francis, with no clear winner. Currently, one year and three months after the search and seizures in the Secretariat of State, the Vatican investigation led to no indictments but also to no decisions not to prosecute. As long as the investigation leads to no clear conclusions, the scenario will continue to be confusing regarding the direction to which the Vatican finances are going.