Lohodedoo u Lahadi u Batisma Yesu sha zwa u Fada Peter Iyaghigba

  • Vatican City, Jan 15, 2021 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- 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 (CNA).- 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-year trial.

    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-hour hearing, 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 function is 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 (CNA).- 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 (CNA).- 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 (CNA).- 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.

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