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Analysis: Vatican financial reform begins in earnest. Again.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 1, 2020 / 02:30 pm ().- It is Groundhog Day for Vatican financial reform, again. 

On Monday, Pope Francis published sweeping new laws governing Vatican financial dealings, setting new standards for contracts awarded by the city state and curial departments.

The new regulations, published in two parts, explicitly aim to inject transparency and accountability into the often opaque budgeting process of the Holy See and its institutions.

In fact, the new laws are not really that new: They resurrect measures called for during the first days of the Francis pontificate. And now they’re back.

The motu proprio, titled “On transparency, control and competition in the procedures for awarding public contracts of the Holy See and Vatican City State,” comes in the immediate context of a serious financial difficulties for the Holy See.

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a body blow to Church income at every level, from the country parish to the Vatican. Last month, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said that the Holy See expects a 30-80% income reduction in the coming year. It is a storm that threatens to sink the Vatican finances, which have run large deficits for years; 70 million euros on a 300 million euro budget for 2018 alone.

The need for practical cost-cutting measures is clear, and the urgency of a comprehensive new system for ensuring value for money in Vatican contracts is self-explanatory.

But within the wider context of Vatican financial scandals, the laws may point to an emerging victory for reformers, after years of setbacks.

In 2014, Pope Francis established the Secretariat for the Economy under Cardinal George Pell. In the years following its creation, the secretariat advanced a comprehensive vision for financial reform, insisting on a wholesale audit of Vatican assets and a review of procurement procedures.

Some in the curia saw those plans as a radical agenda, and Pell was often characterized as a bull in a china shop, out of step with the unique culture and sensitivity of Vatican operations.

Attempts to centralize expenses, standards, auditing and oversight among curial departments were met with fierce opposition, most notably from the .

Many of the proposed reforms put forward by Pell, including centralizing Vatican investments in APSA, which acts as the Holy See’s reserve bank and sovereign wealth manager, were defeated. Others, like moving out of APSA and to the Secretariat for the Economy, were implemented 2014 and then quietly rolled back in 2016. Those same reforms have now been brought back to life and into force in the last few weeks.

Monday’s announcement of new standards for contracts and tendering appear to be another example that Pell’s reforming tide is coming back in, with the reiteration of explicit oversight and enforcement powers for the Secretariat for the Economy, now under Fr. Guerrero.

One senior figure close to the secretariat and familiar with Pell’s time in charge told CNA that the new motu proprio was “a wonderful advance” for reformers.

“By themselves they won’t solve the grave financial problems facing the Vatican, but they spell out the methodology which has to be followed going forward: transparency, proper control and competition amongst suppliers with competitive costing and pricing to the benefit of the Holy See.”

Of course, an open process for fielding contract bids will only go so far as a cost-cutting measure. But the new standards are aimed as much at fighting corruption as they are achieving value for money.

Fraud, patronage, organized crime, money laundering, arms dealing, terroism, and human trafficking are all cited as targets of the new measures, and the need to conform to international standards on those issues is cited repeatedly.

New standards for individuals and businesses with whom the Holy See and Vatican City will do business amount to a serious and easily understood fit-and-proper-persons test which must now be applied to anyone looking to partner with a curial department.

Some of the standards appear welcome nods to common sense, excluding companies whose boards include anyone with convictions for fraud, corruption, money laundering and similar crimes. Others go further and could strike at the often complicated networks of nested companies involved in Vatican financial dealings; the new norms explicitly single out companies with obscured ownership arrangements.

Internally, the new rules go further than simply providing mechanisms for enhanced transparency. Perhaps most importantly, they provide new accountability requirements for due diligence processes, insisting on the clear designation and separation of those offering a contract for tender and those evaluating the bids.

The risks of age-old problems like nepotism, conflicts of interest, and insider dealing now must be individually assessed, deal-by-deal, by a named person – attaching personal responsibility to decisions.

Most strikingly, any complaints or accusations brought under the new rules are to be assessed in open court before being referred, if necessary, for further investigation and enforcement action.

Of course, it is this enforcement action which will prove the measure by which the law’s effectiveness is assessed.

“Regular independent auditing will be needed to ensure that these norms are being followed,” a senior figure close to the Secretariat for the Economy warned. That auditing has proved difficult in the past.

The first Vatican auditor general, Libero Milone, was forced from his job under threat of prosecution in 2017, the same year Pell took what became a permanent leave of absence to return to Australia. At the time, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then sostituto of the Secretariat of State, said Milone had to go because he was “spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.”

Since then, Becciu’s former department has become the locus of a series of stories of suspected financial impropriety, with apparent by senior officials, suspicions of , and links to external that - put mildly - do not appear to reflect the new standards.

With several members of staff suspended and investigations by prosecutors ongoing, Vatican watchers may give Monday’s announcement a cautious welcome as signs of a new beginning. 

But on this Groundhog’s Day, some experts are wondering if this is really a sign of a springtime to come. The best predictor of whether the new reform measures will succeed may prove to be how Vatican prosecutors resolve issues from the recent past.

Pope Francis asks consecrated virgins to be 'women of mercy'

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2020 / 01:01 pm ().- Pope Francis sent a letter Monday to women living the vocation of consecrated virginity, exhorting them to be close to suffering people, and to lead them to Christ.

“Be women of mercy, experts in humanity,” the pope said in his June 1 message to consecrated virgins around the world.

“Let everything that is happening all around us disturb you: do not close your eyes to it and do not flee from it,” he continued. “Be present and sensitive to pain and suffering. Persevere in proclaiming the Gospel, which promises fullness of life for all.”

A consecrated virgin is a never-married woman who dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and is set aside as a sacred person who belongs to Christ in the Catholic Church. There are more than 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide, according to estimates by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

In his message, Pope Francis encouraged the women to “weave a web of authentic relationships” to decrease loneliness and anonymity in cities, and to have “the wisdom, the resourcefulness, and the authority of charity, in order to stand up to arrogance and to prevent abuses of power.”

Francis’ message was sent to mark the 50th anniversary of the Church’s revision of the Rite of Consecration of Virgins, published in 1970 with the approval of St. Paul VI.

The pope expressed his regret that an international meeting of consecrated virgins, organized to commemorate the anniversary by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, had to be postponed.

“Nevertheless, I wish to join you in giving thanks for what Saint John Paul II, addressing you on the twenty-fifth anniversary, referred to as a ‘twofold gift of the Lord to his Church,’” he said.

According to the pope, the vocation of consecrated virginity “is a sign of the inexhaustible and manifold richness of the gifts of the Spirit of the Risen Lord, who makes all things new.”

He added that it is also a sign of hope and the faithfulness of God the Father, who inspires certain women with the desire for this vocation.

Francis also highlighted that it is a vocation lived out “in a concrete social and cultural setting, rooted in a particular Church, and expressed in a way of life that is ancient, yet modern and ever new.”

“You have been called, not because of your own merits, but by God’s mercy, to make your lives a reflection of the face of the Church, the Bride of Christ,” he said.

Your lives, he noted, reveal the eschatological tension of creation. He also encouraged meditating on the texts of the Rite of Consecration.

“You are called to experience yourselves, and then to testify to others, that God, in his Son, loved us first, that his love is for all, and that it has the power to change sinners into saints,” he said.

The pope closed by extending his blessing to all consecrated virgins, as well as those women who will be consecrated in the future.

“As signs of the Church as Bride, may you always be women of joy, following the example of Mary of Nazareth, woman of the Magnificat, Mother of the living Gospel,” he stated.

Pope Francis donates an ambulance to aid the homeless

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2020 / 11:57 am ().- Pope Francis has donated an ambulance that will be set apart to serve Rome’s poor and homeless population in need of emergency medical care.

“It is a new gift from the Holy Father, entrusted to the Office of Papal Charities, in favor of the poorest, in particular of the homeless who face the difficulties of the streets,” a Vatican communique stated June 1.

The pope blessed the ambulance before Mass on Pentecost Sunday. The Vatican City ambulance will be used in coordination with the Vatican’s medical aid initiatives for service to the poor, who arrive sick at the Vatican’s homeless shelter and medical clinic.

This is the most recent of Pope Francis’ many initiatives to serve the homeless near the Vatican.

During the coronavirus pandemic, St. Peter’s Square itself became a refuge for Rome’s homeless who could not find a place in the shelter’s across the city.

Despite added risks, the services for homeless men and women near the Vatican continued uninterrupted, including the papal charities-run showers and bathrooms, located under and between the right colonnade and a Vatican wall.

The mobile medical clinic in St. Peter’s Square continued to provide medical care to those in need throughout Italy’s lockdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis also opened a four-story homeless shelter right off of the St. Peter’s Square colonnade in November. The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant'Egidio community, has two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling.

The Vatican statement said that Modesta Valenti served as an inspiration for the papal ambulance dedicated for the homeless. Valenti was a homeless woman who died in front of Rome’s Termini train station on Jan. 31, 1983 after an ambulance refused to take her to the hospital because she had lice.

Rome’s homeless gather to pray and honor those who died on the streets each year with the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, who organize an annual memorial near the anniversary of Valenti’s death. There are an estimated 8,000 homeless people currently living in Rome.


Pope Francis issues law to combat corruption in Vatican financial transactions

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2020 / 04:04 am ().- Pope Francis Monday promulgated a new law intended to prevent corruption and control spending in Vatican City State and Holy See financial transactions.

The law, “Norms on the transparency, control and competition of public contracts of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State,” gives new procedures for awarding public contracts which aim to increase oversight and accountability, and ensure the Vatican and Holy See work only with vetted financial partners.

The new regulations also bring the Vatican into line with international anti-corruption laws.

In the motu proprio, signed May 19, Pope Francis said “the promotion of a concurrent and fair contribution of economic professionals, combined with transparency and control of contract award procedures, will allow a better management of the resources that the Holy See administers to achieve the ends of the Church…”

“The operation of the entire system will also constitute an obstacle to restrictive agreements and will make it possible to significantly reduce the risk of corruption of those called to the responsibility of government and management of the Entities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State,” he continued.

The law was promulgated following reports last month that the Holy See is facing dire deficit projections.

On May 10, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported that an internal Vatican report projects income reduction of at least 30%, and possibly as much as 80%, in the next fiscal year. Those projections forecast substantial increases in the annual budget deficit of the Holy See.

At the same time, the Holy See is facing investigations by Vatican prosecutors, who are looking into suspicious financial transactions and investments at the Vatican Secretariat of State, which could trigger increased oversight by European banking regulators.

The new law aims to show that Pope Francis is serious about his frequently stated commitment to internal reform.

The legislation states several fundamental principles guiding the norms, including that the Vatican and Holy See’s economic decisions should be ethical and made in accord with the social doctrine of the Church.

The law calls for “economy, efficacy and efficiency,” and puts in place guidelines for medium and long-term planning and justification of financial expenditure.

Among other changes in more than 30 pages of norms, Pope Francis gave the courts of the Vatican City State the power to conduct trials of Curial offices on issues related to the legislation, citing its “specificity” and “technicality.”

The process of choosing financial partners for Vatican projects or investments will be centralized through the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and the Governorate of the Vatican City State. The legislation gives deadlines by which the two offices must internally publish information about the financial partners chosen and the scheduled dates of those transactions.

For awarding public contracts, the legislation calls for transparent and impartial procedures, the integrity of documentation, and other measures against conflicts of interest, illicit competition agreements, and corruption.

The law establishes a “Register of Economic Professionals.” To be included on the register, potential Vatican financial partners will have to meet a list of qualifications, which includes having no convictions for any kind of financial crime.

Pope Francis says 'listen to the call to mission'

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 07:40 am ().- Pope Francis urged Catholics around the world to “listen to the call to mission” Sunday.

In his , released May 31, the pope invited people to discern their mission within the Church.

He said: “Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life?” 

“Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church?” 

“Are we, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s will?”

World Mission Day -- also known as World Mission Sunday -- is celebrated annually on the next-to-last Sunday in October. This year it falls on October 18. The day is marked by a collection for the Pontifical Mission Societies, a group of Catholic missionary societies under the jurisdiction of the pope.

In his message dated May 31, Pentecost Sunday, the pope reflected on the theme of this year’s observance, “Here am I, send me,” taken from Isaiah 6:8.

He wrote: “In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here am I, send me.’ This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’” 

“This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis.”

He said that the suffering caused by the pandemic should spur Catholics to serve God and their neighbor.

“The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others,” he said. 

Describing Jesus as “the Father’s Missionary,” the pope explained that through his death and resurrection Jesus called us to take part in his mission of love.

He said: “The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus in history and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness of faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and in this way touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies, and cultures in every place and time.”

Pope Francis noted that the coronavirus pandemic presented a challenge for the Church’s mission. 

“Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others,” he said.

“And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation.”

“The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday.”

“In all of this, God’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’ is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: ‘Here am I, send me!’”

In conclusion, the pope implored the Virgin Mary, “Star of Evangelization and Comforter of the Afflicted, missionary disciple of her Son Jesus,” to intercede for humanity. 

Pope Francis prays for pandemic-hit Amazon region at Regina Coeli

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 06:40 am ().- Pope Francis prayed for the pandemic-ravaged Amazon region Sunday as he gave his first Regina Coeli address overlooking St. Peter’s Square since March.

Speaking from a window overlooking the square, the pope noted May 31 that the coronavirus had spread throughout the vast area of Amazonia in South America.

He said: “Seven months ago the Amazon synod ended; today, the feast of Pentecost, we invoke the Holy Spirit to give light and strength to the Church and society in the Amazon, which has been hard hit by the pandemic.” 

“Many are the infected and the dead, even among the indigenous peoples, who are particularly vulnerable. Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Amazon, I pray for the poorest and most defenseless of that dear region.”

Traditionally, the pope leads the Sunday Angelus -- and the Regina Coeli, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost -- from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

But from March 8 onwards, Pope Francis delivered his address via videolink from the library of the Apostolic Palace, and offered a blessing from the window above an empty St. Peter’s Square.

At the start of his address May 31, the pope expressed his delight at returning to the usual practice. 

“Today the square is open, we can return,” he said, as people stood spaced out in the square below, many of them wearing medical masks. Security limited the number of people in the square as a safety measure.

The pope noted that the Church worldwide was celebrating the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem.

He recalled that after the Resurrection Jesus had appeared to the disciples as they gathered fearfully behind closed doors. His first words to them were “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). He said that these words were more than a mere greeting. 

“They express forgiveness, the forgiveness granted to the disciples who, to tell the truth, had abandoned him,” he said. “They are words of reconciliation and forgiveness. And we too, when we wish peace to others, are giving forgiveness and asking forgiveness as well.” 

The pope continued: “Jesus forgives, always forgives, and offers his peace to his friends. Do not forget: Jesus never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking forgiveness.”

“By forgiving and gathering his disciples around him, Jesus makes them a Church, his Church, which is a reconciled community ready for mission. Reconciled and ready for mission. When a community is not reconciled, it is not ready for mission: it is ready to discuss within itself, it is ready for internal [discussions].”

The meeting with the Risen Lord turned the disciples into “courageous witnesses,” he said. They then took up the same mission that the Father had entrusted to Jesus, aided by the Holy Spirit.

The pope said: “The feast of Pentecost renews the awareness that the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit dwells in us. He also gives us the courage to go outside the protective walls of our ‘cenacles,’ small groups, without resting in the quiet life or locking ourselves up in sterile habits.”

After praying the Regina Coeli, the pope recalled that Italy was marking the Giornata Nazionale del Sollievo, or National Relief Day, honoring those who help the sick. He led a moment of silent prayer for medical workers who had given their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

He emphasized that leaders should put caring for people ahead of economic concerns.

He said: “I wish everyone a happy Pentecost Sunday. We need the light and the power of the Holy Spirit so much! The Church needs it, to walk together and courageously, witnessing to the Gospel. And the whole human family needs it, to come out of this crisis more united and no longer divided.” 

Full text: Pope Francis’ homily on Pentecost Sunday

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 05:15 am ().-

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4), as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians. He continues: “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (vv. 5- 6). Diversity and unity: St. Paul puts together two words that seem contradictory. He wants to tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings together the many; and that the Church was born this way: we are all different, yet united by the same Holy Spirit. 

Let us go back to the origin of the Church, to the day of Pentecost. Let us look at the Apostles: some of them were fishermen, simple people accustomed to living by the work of their hands, but there were also others, like Matthew, who was an educated tax collector. They were from different backgrounds and social contexts, and they had Hebrew and Greek names. In terms of character, some were meek and others were excitable; they all had different ideas and sensibilities. They were all different. Jesus did not change them; he did not make them into a set of pre-packaged models. He left their differences and now he unites them by anointing them with the Holy Spirit. The union comes with the anointing. At Pentecost, the Apostles understand the unifying power of the Spirit. They see it with their own eyes when everyone, though speaking in different languages, comes together as one people: the people of God, shaped by the Spirit, who weaves unity from diversity and bestows harmony because there is harmony in the Spirit. He himself is harmony. 

Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today. We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?” We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. But the temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. And that's a bad temptation that divides. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants. We might think that what unite us are our beliefs and our morality. But there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that first of all we are God’s beloved children, all the same, in this, and all different. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord -- Jesus -- and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters! Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with this ideology, with that one; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy. The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic. 

If we go back to the day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is proclamation. Yet we see that the Apostles do not prepare a strategy; when they were shut in there, in the Upper Room, they did not make a strategy, no, they do not prepare a pastoral plan. They could have divided people into groups according to their roots, speaking first to those close by and then to those far away... They could have also waited a while before beginning their preaching in order to understand more deeply the teachings of Jesus, so as to avoid risks... No. The Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest.” And this is a bad disease that can come to the Church: the Church not as a community, not as a family, not as a mother, but as a nest. He opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith. In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The beginning of the First Letter of John is beautiful: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you” (1 John 1:3). 

Here we come to understand what the secret of unity is, the secret of the Spirit. It is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving. Why is this important? Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and imposes himself, we too will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power. But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving: not by holding on but by giving of ourselves. 

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look within and ask ourselves what prevents us from giving ourselves. There are, let us say, three enemies of the gift -- the main ones, three -- always lurking at the door of our hearts: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us. The narcissist thinks: “Life is good if I profit from it.” So he or she ends up saying: “Why should I give myself to others?” In this time of pandemic, how wrong narcissism is: the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others, and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes. But the second enemy, victimhood, is equally dangerous. Victims complain every day about their neighbour: “No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!” The victim’s heart is closed, as he or she asks, “Why aren’t others concerned about me?” In the crisis we are experiencing, how ugly victimhood is! Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience. Finally, there is pessimism. Here the unending complaint is: “Nothing is going well, society, politics, the Church...” The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: “What good is giving? That is useless.” At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before! When someone thinks this way, the one thing that certainly does not return is hope. In these three -- the narcissistic idol of the mirror, the ‘mirror-god;’ ‘I feel like a person with grievances;’ and the ‘god-negativity,’ ‘everything is black, everything is dark’ -- we find ourselves in the famine of hope and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is. Therefore we need the Holy Spirit, God's gift that heals us from narcissism, victimhood and pessimism, heals us from the mirror, from grievances and darkness. 

Brothers and sister, let us pray to him: Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves. Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen. 

Pope Francis asks Catholics to see Church with 'eyes of the Spirit'

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 04:40 am ().- Pope Francis urged Catholics to view the Church “with the eyes of the Spirit” as he celebrated Pentecost Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his homily May 31, he cautioned against seeing the Church in worldly terms.

He said: “The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord -- Jesus -- and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters.” 

“Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with this ideology, with the other; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy.”

Around 50 people attended the Mass in St. Peter’s. They sat spaced apart, with many wearing medical masks, to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 369,000 lives worldwide as of May 31.

In his homily, the pope reflected on “the secret” of the Church’s unity. He noted that from its earliest days the Church had brought together people with different characters and backgrounds. The Apostles “all had different ideas and sensibilities,” but Jesus did not eliminate their differences. Instead, he anointed them all with the Holy Spirit.

“Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today,” the pope said. “We can ask ourselves: ‘What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?’ We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. The temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. And that’s a bad temptation that divides. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants.”

The pope said that Catholics were united not only by beliefs and morality, but also by the Holy Spirit. 

He noted that after the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in Jerusalem they immediately began proclaiming the Gospel. They did not wait to devise a pastoral plan, he said, or to make sure they had understood fully the teachings of Jesus.

“No, the Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to ‘nest’ ... He opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith,” he said. 

“In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message.” 

“The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received.”

Pope Francis said that this was the secret of the Church’s unity. 

“It is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving,” he said.

The pope explained that it was essential to believe this because how we understand God shapes our actions. 

“If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God,” he said.

The pope then identified three “enemies of the gift:” narcissism, victimhood and pessimism.

He defined narcissism as the temptation to idolize ourselves and be concerned only with what is good for us. He said the pandemic showed clearly how wrong narcissism was. 

Victimhood was just as dangerous, he said, because the victim is consumed with complaints about their neighbor. 

The pessimist, meanwhile, is angry with the world but does nothing to change it for the better. 

“At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before,” the pope said. 

He suggested that these three ways of thinking contributed to a “famine of hope.”

“Therefore we need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism,” he said.

The pope concluded his homily with a prayer: “Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves.” 

“Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen.” 

Pope Francis urges Christians to be united as 'witnesses to mercy'

Vatican City, May 31, 2020 / 02:10 am ().- Pope Francis said Sunday that he prays that Christians will be “more deeply united as witnesses of mercy” in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The pope made the comment in a May 31, broadcast during an online Pentecost Sunday service hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. 

The pope said: “Let us ask the Spirit for the gift of unity, for only if we live as brothers and sisters can we spread the spirit of fraternity. We cannot ask others to be united if we ourselves take different paths. So let us pray for one another; let us each feel responsible for the other.”

The papal message was shown during a virtual service connected to the  movement, which began in 2016 when Welby and the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, asked every Church of England parish to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for the evangelization of the world. The following year, Christians in more than 85 countries took part.

In his message, Pope Francis said that since Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in Jerusalem, “God’s life dwells among us, bringing us new and previously unknown hope, peace and joy.”

He said: “At Pentecost God ‘infected’ the world with life. How different this is from the contagion of death that has ravaged the earth for months now! Today, more than ever, it is necessary to implore the Holy Spirit to pour forth into our hearts the life of God, who is love. Indeed, if there is to be a better future, our hearts must change for the better.”

The pope noted that although the pandemic had forced people to observe social distancing it had also brought people together by a shared fear and uncertainty. 

“The Spirit assures us that we are not alone, that God sustains us,” he said. “Dear friends, we must give in turn the gift that we have received: we are called to share the comfort of the Spirit, the closeness of God.”

Pope Francis explained that we can do this by reflecting on what we ourselves long for.

“Everything we would like others to do for us, let us do for them instead. Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement. Do we want someone to care for us? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned. Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today,” he said.

The pope suggested that the world was experiencing “a tragic famine of hope.” But Christians, he said, are able to become “messengers of the comfort bestowed by the Spirit,” radiating hope.

He said that this also had a social dimension, inviting Christians to pray that political leaders would defend human life and the dignity of work, and tackle poverty and inequality.

He said: “Now as never before we need a vision rich in humanity: we cannot start up again by going back to our selfish pursuit of success without caring about those who are left behind. And even if many are doing precisely that, the Lord is asking us to change course.” 

“On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke with a bold courage (parrhesia) prompted by the Spirit. ‘Repent’ (Acts 2:38), he urged, be converted, change the direction of your lives. That is what we need to do: go back, turn back to God and our neighbor: no longer isolated and anesthetized before the cry of the poor and the devastation of our planet.” 

“We need to be united in facing all those pandemics that are spreading, that of the virus, but also those of hunger, war, contempt for life, and indifference to others. Only by walking together will we be able to go far.”

The also featured: the Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave a sermon; Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, who said the Creed; and Pastor Agu Irukwu, the Pentecostal president of Church Together in England, who led prayers. 

Also taking part were Heidi Crowter, a young advocate for people with Down Syndrome, and Thelma Commey, Methodist Youth president.

The service ended with a rendition of the hymn Amazing Grace, featuring singers from across the United Kingdom.

Pope Francis calls for 'a more just, equitable and Christian society' after coronavirus crisis

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 03:15 pm ().- Our suffering during the coronavirus crisis will have been in vain if we fail to build “a more just, more equitable, more Christian society,” Pope Francis said May 30.

In a video message released Saturday, on the eve of Pentecost, the pope urged Catholics to seize the opportunity for change presented by the pandemic.  

He said: “When we come out of this pandemic, we will no longer be able to do what we have been doing, and how we have been doing it. No, everything will be different.”

“All the suffering will have been useless if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name, but in reality, a reality that leads us to a Christian behavior.”

“If we do not work to end the pandemic of poverty in the world, with the pandemic of poverty in the country of each one of us, in the city where each of us lives, this time will have been in vain.”

The pope made the comments in a message to members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service (CHARIS). The body was established in December 2018 by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life to bring together the different branches of the Charismatic Renewal worldwide. Its statutes came into force on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2019.

The pope told CHARIS members, who were taking part in an online Pentecost vigil, that “Today more than ever we need the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.”

The world is suffering, he said, and it needs the witness of Catholics to the Gospel of Jesus, which can only be given through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“We need the Spirit to give us new eyes, open our minds and hearts to face this moment and the future with the lesson we have learned: we are one humanity. We are not saved alone,” the pope explained, speaking in his native Spanish.

He said that the pandemic had underlined that, despite their differences, Christians are one, united by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

“We have before us the duty to build a new reality,” he said. “The Lord will do it; we can collaborate.”

He continued: “From the great trials of humanity, and among them the pandemic, one comes out either better or worse. It is not the same.”

“I ask you: How do you want to come out? Better or worse? And that's why today we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that He may change our hearts and help us to come out better.”

“If we do not live to be judged according to what Jesus tells us: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was in prison and you visited me, a stranger and you welcomed me’ (cf. Matthew 25:35-36), we will not come out better.”

The Pope urged members of CHARIS to be guided by a text called by the Belgian Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens and the Brazilian Archbishop Hélder Câmara. 

He also encouraged them to reflect on “the prophetic words” of St. John XXIII announcing the Second Vatican Council, in which he spoke of a “new Pentecost.” 

Pope Francis concluded: “To all of you, I wish on this vigil the consolation of the Holy Spirit. And the strength of the Holy Spirit to come out of this moment of pain, sadness and trial that is the pandemic; to come out better. May the Lord bless you and may the Virgin Mother take care of you.”

Pope Francis asks Mary to intercede for end to pandemic during rosary with world’s shrines

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 11:15 am ().- Pope Francis asked the Virgin Mary to intercede for an end to “this terrible pandemic” as he recited the rosary with Marian shrines worldwide via videolink May 30.

The pope was joined Saturday by 50 shrines in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa as he implored God’s help amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 365,000 lives so far.

During the rosary, the pope was seated before the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens. The grotto’s altar is the original altar from the Grotto at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.   

Sitting behind Pope Francis were rows of people wearing medical masks spaced apart to avoid spreading the virus. 

At the conclusion of the rosary, the pope rose to pray, saying: “O Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes to us in this pandemic of coronavirus, and comfort those who are lost and weeping for their dearly departed, sometimes buried in a way that hurts the soul.”

“Support those who are distressed for the sick people to whom, to prevent contagion, they cannot stay near. Instill confidence in those who are anxious about the uncertain future and the consequences for the economy and work.” 

“Mother of God and our Mother, implore for us from God, Father of mercy, that this hard trial ends and that a horizon of hope and peace returns.” 

Flanked by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, he continued: “As at Cana, come to your Son Jesus, asking him to comfort the families of the sick and victims and to open their hearts to trust. Protect the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, volunteers who in this time of emergency are in the front line and put their lives at risk to save other lives.”

“Accompany their fatigue and give them strength, goodness and health. Be close to those who night and day care for the sick, to priests and consecrated persons who, with pastoral solicitude and evangelical commitment, seek to help and support everyone.” 

The pope prayed for scientists and world leaders, and that money spent on weapons would be given instead to those studying how to avoid future catastrophes. 

He implored Mary to help the world grow in solidarity, firmness in faith, and perseverance in service and prayer. 

“O Mary, comforter of the afflicted, embrace all your troubled children and ask that the Merciful Father intervene with his omnipotent hand to free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life may take its daily course in serenity,” he prayed. 

“We entrust ourselves to You, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, O merciful, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.” 

The Argentine pope then greeted those gathered at shrines in Latin America via videolink. 

Speaking in Spanish, he said: “To all of you, the shrines of Latin America -- I see Guadalupe and so many others -- who are connected with us, united in prayer. In my mother tongue, I greet you. Thank you for being close to all of us. May our Mother of Guadalupe accompany us.”

As those gathered sang the Ave Maria of Fatima, the pope prayed silently beneath the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was illuminated inside the grotto, before departing.

The rosary event was promoted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, with the theme “Devoted with one accord to prayer, together with Mary,” inspired by the Acts of the Apostles 1:14.

The Pontifical Council has been responsible for Catholic shrines since 2017.

In an interview with EWTN Vatican ahead of the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said: “I think we have discovered two main things during this special moment. First of all the importance of the media for the new evangelization and the importance of media for the prayer.”

Shrines joining the pope from the Americas included the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal in Canada, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá in Colombia, Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and Our Lady of Luján in Argentina.

The majority of shrines were located in Italy, including Loreto, Pompei, and Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Padre Pio. Other participating shrines in Europe included: Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal; Częstochowa, Poland; and Walsingham, England.

The pope was joined from Israel by the Basilica of the Annunciation, and from Africa by the shrines of Elele in Nigeria and Notre-Dame de la Paix in Ivory Coast.

The rosary was recited in the Vatican Gardens by men and women affected by the coronavirus crisis. They included a doctor, a nurse, a hospital chaplain, and a woman who had lost her mother to COVID-19. 

In a May 30 with the Italian version of Vatican News, Archbishop Fisichella noted that a baby born during the pandemic would also be present at the event with his family. 

He said: “Last but not least, I like to remember that there will also be Jacopo, a child just one month old, whom we have chosen with his parents, because he was born during this dramatic period. 

“Jacopo is the one who gives hope, he is the one who makes us understand that life continues and will always go on, because man is made for life, he is made to live.”

There have been more than 5.9 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide as of May 30, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pope Francis praises sacrifices of Rome’s clergy amid pandemic

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 09:30 am ().- Pope Francis has praised Rome’s priests for remaining close to their flocks as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged Italy.

In a 3,000-word letter dated May 31 and marking Pentecost Sunday, the pope expressed his deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by clergy during the crisis.

“As a priestly community we were not strangers to this reality and we did not look at it from the window; drenched in the storm that raged, you made an effort to be present and accompany your communities: you saw the wolf coming and did not flee or abandon the flock,” he said, according to an unofficial translation of the letter provided by the Holy See press office.

In the letter, released May 30, the pope noted that he had been unable to address priests at this year’s Chrism Mass, which was due to take place on Holy Thursday but was postponed due to the pandemic. 

The pope, who is Bishop of Rome, said he wished to share his vision for the future with his brothers in the priesthood. 

“The new phase we are beginning asks us for wisdom, foresight and common commitment, so that all the efforts and sacrifices made so far will not be in vain,” he wrote. 

He thanked priests for sharing their recent experiences with him via telephone and email. 

He said: “Although it was necessary to maintain social distancing, this did not prevent us from strengthening the sense of belonging, fellowship and mission which helped us to ensure that charity, especially with the most disadvantaged people and communities, was not quarantined.”

“I was able to see, in those sincere dialogues, that the necessary distance was not synonymous with withdrawal or isolation of the self that anesthetizes, sedates and extinguishes the mission. Encouraged by these exchanges, I am writing to you because I want to be closer to you, in order to accompany, share and confirm your journey.” 

The pope drew a parallel between the Church in Rome today and the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem before Pentecost. The first apostolic community, he said, “also lived through moments of confinement, isolation, fear and uncertainty.”

He wrote: “We have suffered the sudden loss of family, neighbors, friends, parishioners, confessors, points of reference of our faith. We saw the disconsolate faces of those who could not stay close and say goodbye to their loved ones in their last hours. We have seen the suffering and helplessness of the health workers who, exhausted, spent themselves in endless days of work, worried about having to respond to so many requests.” 

“We have all felt the insecurity and fear of workers and volunteers who exposed themselves to risk on a daily basis to ensure that essential services were provided; and also to accompany and care for those who, because of their exclusion and vulnerability, were suffering even more from the consequences of this pandemic.” 

“We have heard and seen the difficulties and discomforts of social confinement: loneliness and isolation, especially of the elderly; anxiety, anguish and a sense of a lack of protection in the face of job and housing uncertainty; violence in and pressure on relationships.” 

“The ancestral fear of contagion has once again struck hard. We have also shared the distressing concerns of entire families who do not know what to put on their plates the following week.”

Faced with this suffering, the pope said, priests experienced a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.

“The unpredictability of the situation highlighted our inability to live with and face the unknown, which we cannot govern or control, and like everyone else, we felt confused, frightened, helpless,” he wrote. 

Clergy were unable to serve the people in the way they had become accustomed to, the pope noted.

“The complexity of what had to be faced did not allow for ‘recipes’ or textbook answers; it required much more than easy exhortations or edifying speeches, incapable of taking root and consciously taking on everything that concrete life demanded of us,” he said.

“The pain of our people hurt us, their uncertainties afflicted us, our common fragility stripped us of any false idealistic or spiritualistic complacency, as well as any attempt at puritanical escape.”

Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus crisis had shaken society’s most basic assumptions.

“The narrative of a society of prophylaxis, imperturbable and always ready for indefinite consumption, has been questioned, revealing the lack of cultural and spiritual immunity to conflict,” he wrote.

The pandemic posed urgent questions, he said, and they could not be answered simply by resuming activities put on hold during the lockdown.

He wrote that “it will be indispensable to develop a way of listening which is attentive but full of hope, serene but tenacious, constant but not anxious, which can prepare and pave the way for the Lord’s call to us.”

He urged priests to resist the temptation to withdraw into “brooding” over the devastation wrought by the pandemic, as well as the trap of an “unlimited optimism” that refused to accept the true extent of the damage. 

He wrote: “There are many temptations, typical of this time, that can blind us and make us cultivate certain feelings and attitudes that do not allow hope to stimulate our creativity, our ingenuity and our ability to respond.” 

“From wanting to honestly take on board the gravity of the situation, but trying to resolve it only with substitute or palliative activities, waiting for everything to return to ‘normal,’ ignoring the deep wounds and the number of people who have fallen in the meantime; until we are immersed in a certain paralyzing nostalgia for the recent past that makes us say ‘nothing will ever be the same again’ and makes us incapable of inviting others to dream of and develop new ways and styles of life.”

The pope encouraged clergy to fix their gaze on the Resurrection in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“If an invisible, silent, expansive and viral presence has put us in crisis and caused us upheaval, let this other discreet, respectful and non-invasive Presence call us again and teach us not to be afraid to face reality,” he wrote.

“If an impalpable presence has been able to disrupt and overturn the priorities and seemingly irremovable global agendas that so suffocate and devastate our communities and our sister earth, let us not fear that it is the presence of the Risen One that traces our path, opens horizons and gives us the courage to live this historic and unique moment.” 

Returning to the theme of Pentecost, he described the Apostles as “a handful of fearful men” who were nevertheless able to release “a new current” into the world.

“Let us be surprised once again by the Risen One,” he said. “May it be He, from His wounded side, a sign of how harsh and unjust reality becomes, who pushes us not to turn our backs on the harsh and difficult reality of our brothers and sisters.”

In conclusion, the pope encouraged Rome’s clergy to “take responsibility for the future and plan it as brothers.”

“We place in the wounded hands of the Lord, as a holy offering, our fragility, the fragility of our people, that of all humanity,” he wrote. 

Vatican tees up summer fun with sports camp

Vatican City, May 30, 2020 / 09:00 am ().- After weeks stuck indoors, the children of Vatican employees will be able to stretch their legs, and grow in their faith, at a sports camp hosted inside the Vatican this summer.

“Estate Ragazzi in Vaticano” is a camp for the children of Vatican City State employees in the style of the oratory of St. John Bosco.

And it is not letting ongoing coronavirus safety measures get in the way of an “educational, sporty, and fun” experience for kids ages 5-14, one organizer told CNA.

“What we are trying to do is to not change the way in which kids play, but to change the games” to comply with the safety measures in place, said Pasquale Acunzo.

Acunzo works for “Tutto in una Festa” which runs children’s events and is partnering with the Vatican’s Salesian community to put on the day camp, which will take place in July.

The idea for the camp, he said, started from Pope Francis’ desire to welcome kids to the Vatican in the model of the Salesian oratory.

Salesian Fr. Franco Fontana, chaplain of the Vatican Museums and gendarmes, told Vatican News that organizers wanted a way to help parents working at the Vatican, many of whom will be back in the office this summer. 

With camp activities taking place inside the Pope Paul VI hall, the Vatican Gardens, and other sport facilities inside the city state, moms and dads will be able to have their kids nearby while working.

“After months in which families have been forced to stay at home, parents will need to entrust their children to trusted people who know how to restore hope, enthusiasm, and to teach their children safely,” Fontana said.

The theme of the camp will be “happiness and the beatitudes.”

“We are all called to happiness. We look for it, we all want it even though we know that it is not easy to find or maintain it. But what is true happiness?” the camp website says.

“Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus of Nazareth gave an extraordinary answer. He used eight sentences that all begin with ‘Blessed…’ and are called the ‘Beatitudes.’”

Bishop Fernando Vergez, secretary general of the Vatican City State, wrote about the camp in a letter to parents in March, saying “summer should be, especially after these months, a beautiful and fruitful time for the growth of young people.”

The time risks being filled with television and video games, Vergez said. “A lot of free time needs to be filled with meaning.”

Activities will include prayer, workshops, group and individual sports, games, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

Swiss accounts frozen in Vatican property deal probe

CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 02:30 pm ().- Tens of millions of euros have been frozen in Swiss banks as part of the investigation into a Vatican property investment, according to a Swiss media report. Swiss authorities have also forwarded documents to Vatican prosecutors, as part of an investigation into investments made by the Holy See Secretariat of State.

On May 23, NZZ am Sonntag that Holy See prosecutors sent Swiss authorities a formal request for help examining the Holy See Secretariat of State’s investment of more than $300 million in a luxury London property development.

"The Federal Office of Justice received a request for legal assistance in this matter," spokesman Raphael Frei told NZZ. "With a diplomatic note dated April 30, 2020, the Federal Office sent the Vatican a first part of the requested documents." 

The newspaper also reported that its sources had confirmed tens of millions of euros have been frozen in several Swiss banks as part of the investigation.

Vatican investigators are examining the Secretariat of State’s purchase of the building at 60 Sloane Avenue, London.  In October 2019, four officials at the department were suspended following a raid by Vatican gendarmes in which they seized files and computers. A further raid on a former senior official at the secretariat was conducted in February.

CNA has that that deal was at least partially financed with loans from several Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and BSI.

BSI was the subject of a damning report by Swiss banking authorities in 2016, which found that the bank was in “serious breaches of the statutory due diligence requirements in relation to money laundering and serious violations of the principles of adequate risk management and appropriate organization.” The bank was ordered into an extinctive merger with EFG Group in 2017, on condition that no BSI officer retain a management role.

Credit Suisse acknowledged to NZZ that it was involved in the investigation, but said that it was not the subject of any accusation by either Swiss or Vatican authorities. 

"Credit Suisse is not the subject of the Vatican's investigation, but is working with the authorities in compliance with the applicable regulations," said bank spokeswoman Anitta Tuure.

The London building was purchased by the Secretariat of State in stages, over a period of years, from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

When it sold to the secretariat 30,000 of 31,000 shares in the project, Minicone’s holding company the 1,000 voting shares needed to control the holding company which owned the building. Mincione eventually offered to part with those, at greatly inflated prices.

To complete the sale, in 2018 the Secretariat of State enlisted the help of another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi, who acted as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares. Torzi earned 10 million euros for his role in the deal.

Earlier this month, CNA that one of the five suspended employees, Fabrizio Tirabassi, who was charged with managing the secretariat’s investments, was made a director of a Luxembourg-registered holding company belonging to Torzi.  

Sources close to the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that Tirabassi has been involved in managing several financial transactions at the secretariat that are now being examined by financial investigators at the Vatican.

Vatican offers online book for parents facing difficult prenatal diagnosis

Vatican City, May 29, 2020 / 07:10 am ().- The Vatican has published a free book online that can be a resource for parents facing a difficult or fatal diagnosis for their unborn child during pregnancy. 

The nearly 300-page is a compilation of speeches given at a Vatican conference held last year dedicated to the medical care and ministries that support families who receive a prenatal diagnosis indicating that their baby will likely die before or just after birth. 

“Yes to Life: Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness,” a conference organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life in May 2019, brought together medical professionals, bioethicists, ministry providers, and families from 70 countries to discuss how best to provide medical, psychological, and emotional support for parents expecting a child with a life-limiting illness.

“Sometimes people ask me, what does perinatal hospice look like? And I answer, ‘It looks like love,’” author and mother Amy Kuebelbeck shared at the conference. 

Kuebelbeck was 25 weeks pregnant when she received the diagnosis that her unborn son had an incurable heart defect. She carried her pregnancy to term and had a little more than two hours with her son, Gabriel, before he died after birth.

“It was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” Kuebelbeck said. She wrote a memoir of her experience of grief, loss, and love called .

“I know that some people assume that continuing a pregnancy with a baby who will die is all for nothing. But it isn’t all for nothing.  Parents can wait with their baby, protect their baby, and love their baby for as long as that baby is able to live. They can give that baby a peaceful life -- and a peaceful goodbye. That’s not nothing. That is a gift,” Kuebelbeck wrote in Waiting with Gabriel.

Kuebelbeck’s testimony at the conference is included in the ebook in English, as is a transcript of the presentation provided by Dr. Byron Calhoun, a medical professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who first coined the term “perinatal hospice.” 

Calhoun’s research has found that allowing parents of newborns with a terminal prenatal diagnosis the chance to be parents can result in less distress for the mother than pregnancy termination. 

Other speeches from the conference are also published in Italian and Spanish, such Sister Giustina Olha Holubets’ Italian presentation. The Ukrainian religious sister, who works as a geneticist at the University of Lviv, helped to found “Imprint of Life,” a perinatal palliative care center in Ukraine.

“Imprint of Life” offers grief accompaniment, individualized birth plans, the sacrament of baptism, and burial, as well as respectful photos, footprints, and memory books to help families cherish their brief moments with their child. Their motto is “I cannot give more days to your life, but I can give more life to your days.”

There are now more than 300 hospitals, hospices, and ministries providing perinatal palliative care around the world.

Many families facing these diagnoses have to decide if they will seek extraordinary or disproportionate medical care for their child after birth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘overzealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

Ministries like , a perinatal hospice in Kansas City, Missouri, provide counsel and grief support to parents as they face these difficult medical decisions. They also connect families with a network of other parents who have had a terminal prenatal diagnosis.

“Most of the families stay in contact indefinitely,” said MaryCarroll Sullivan, nurse and bioethics adviser for the ministry.

The book, published by the Vatican’s Publishing House, includes Pope Francis’ speech from his meeting with the conference participants in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

In this speech, Pope Francis said that selective abortion of the disabled is the “expression of an inhumane eugenic mentality that deprives families of the chance to accept, embrace and love the weakest of their children.”

“Fear and hostility towards disability often lead to the choice of abortion, presenting it as a practice of ‘prevention,’” the pope said on May 25, 2019.

Pope Francis also thanked the perinatal hospice providers for creating “networks of love” to which couples can turn to receive accompaniment with the undeniable practical, human, and spiritual difficulties they face.

“Your witness of love is a gift to the world,” he said.

“Caring for these children helps parents to process their mourning and to understand it not only as loss, but also as a stage in a journey travelled together. They will have had the opportunity to love their child, and that child will remain in their memory forever,” Pope Francis said.

“Those few hours in which a mother can cradle her child in her arms leave an unforgettable trace in her heart.”