“Mary has gone to heaven in both body and soul, and the angels rejoice. I can imagine, too, the delight of St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, who awaited her in paradise. Yet what of us who remain on earth? Our faith tells us that here below, in our present life, we are pilgrims, wayfarers. Our lot is one of suffer­ing, of sacrifices, and privations. Nonetheless, joy must mark the rhythm of our steps. ‘Serve the Lord with joy’ — there is no other way to serve him.”

  • Vatican City, Jul 6, 2020 / 06:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis will celebrate Mass Wednesday marking the seventh anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

    The Mass will take place at 11 a.m. local time July 8 in the chapel of the pope’s residence, the Casa Santa Marta, and will be livestreamed.

    Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance will be restricted to staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Department for Promoting Integral Human Development.

    Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island on July 8, 2013, shortly after his election. The trip, his first pastoral visit outside Rome, signaled that concern for migrants would be at the center of his pontificate. 

    Lampedusa, the southernmost part of Italy, is located approximately 70 miles away from Tunisia. It is a primary destination for migrants from Africa seeking entry to Europe.

    Reports say that during the coronavirus outbreak migrant boats have continued to land on the island, which has received tens of thousands of migrants in recent years.

    The pope chose to visit the island after reading harrowing reports of migrants dying while attempting the crossing from North Africa to Italy.

    Upon arrival, he threw a wreath into the sea in memory of those who had drowned.

    Celebrating Mass close to a “boat cemetery” containing the remains of shipwrecked migrant boats, he said: “When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”

    “So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated!”

    On October 3, 2013, more than 360 migrants died when the vessel carrying them from Libya sank off Lampedusa.

    The pope marked the sixth anniversary of his visit last year with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he called for an end to rhetoric that dehumanized migrants.

    “They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

  • Vatican City, Jul 5, 2020 / 06:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis applauded the United Nations Security Council Sunday for its recent resolution calling for an immediate global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    “The call for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow the peace and security necessary to provide the urgently needed humanitarian assistance, is commendable,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer July 5.

    “I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of many people who are suffering. May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future,” he said.

    The ceasefire resolution applies to conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and Congo, according to the Associated Press. It demands “a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to ensure that medical and humanitarian aid will reach those in need as the coronavirus continues to spread.

    The 15 countries that make up the Security Council passed the resolution July 1 after months of disagreement between China and the United States over whether the text would include references to either the World Health Organization or “transparency.”

    The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres first called for a global ceasefire on March 23 with Pope Francis echoing this appeal the following week.

    The UN Secretary General said that a global ceasefire would “help create corridors for life-saving aid” and “bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” He pointed out that refugee camps and people with existing health conditions are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses.”

    On March 29, Pope Francis said: “Conflicts are not resolved through war.” He added that conflicts must be overcome through “dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”

    The pope said in his Angelus address July 5 that Jesus offers “the weary and oppressed” much more than “psychological solace or a lavish handout.”

    “The joy that Jesus gives us. It is unique. It is the joy that he himself has,” he said.

    “The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity. And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot,” Pope Francis said. “And it is a message for the Church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelise the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants His Church, that is, us, to be.”

    Pope Francis said that Jesus placed himself among “those who labor and are burdened” because he was “meek and humble of heart.”

    “May Mary, the humblest and highest of creatures, implore from God wisdom of the heart for us … that we may discern its signs in our lives and be sharers in those mysteries which, hidden from the proud, are revealed to the humble,” the pope said.

  • Vatican City, Jul 3, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has made a donation to the World Food Programme as the organization works to feed 270 million people this year amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Coronavirus infection levels have been rising in Latin America and Africa at a moment when food stocks in some parts of the world are already low, leaving more people vulnerable to food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme website.

    The Vatican announced July 3 that Pope Francis would donate 25,000 euros ($28,000) as “an expression of his closeness to those affected by the pandemic and to those who are engaged in essential services for the poor and weakest and most vulnerable people in our society.”

    With this “symbolic” gesture, the pope desires to express “paternal encouragement towards the organization's humanitarian work and toward other countries willing to adhere to forms of support for integral development and public health in this time of crisis, and to combat social instability, food insecurity, rising unemployment, and the collapse of the economic systems of the most vulnerable nations.”

    The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a call for $4.9 billion in funding to bring food assistance where governments are asking for more support. 

    “The impact of COVID-19 on people is demanding us to step up and scale up our efforts to ensure more food-insecure people receive assistance,” Margot van der Velden, director of emergencies for WFP, said July 2.

    Van der Velden said that she was particularly worried about Latin America, which has seen a threefold rise in the number of people requiring food assistance as the outbreak spreads across the region.

    South Africa, which has documented more than 159,000 COVID-19 cases, has also experienced a 90% rise in the number of food-insecure people, according to WFP.

    “The front line in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” WFP head David Beasley said June 29.

    “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” he said.

  • Vatican City, Jul 3, 2020 / 05:30 am (CNA).- The president of the European bishops’ commission has promised persecuted Christians in Nigeria that he will advocate for increased support from the European Union. 

    Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who leads the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), wrote a letter to the Nigerian bishops stating that the commission will advocate for EU assistance and cooperation with the Nigerian authorities to combat violence and persecution. 

    The cardinal expressed solidarity with Nigerian Christian communities, who, he wrote, are “living a situation of continuous attacks by terrorists, insurgents and militias, that in some cases reaches levels of genuine criminal persecution,” according to a European commission statement July 2.

    An estimated 6,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed since 2015, mostly by Boko Haram and militant Fulani herders, the European commission reported.

    More than 600 Christians have been killed so far in 2020, according to a International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) report on May 15. Christians have been beheaded and set on fire, farms set ablaze, and priests and seminarians have been targeted for kidnapping and ransom.

    A Boko Haram attack on a village in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno left at least 81 people dead June 9. The attack was the latest in an ongoing Islamist group against the country’s Christian population. Earlier in June a Christian pastor and his pregnant wife were killed on their farm in the northeastern region of the country.

    In January, militants kidnapped four Catholic seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna, killing one of them, Michael Nnadi. On March 1, Nigerian priest Fr. David Echioda was kidnapped by gunmen after offering Sunday Mass, but was released days afterward.

    The European bishops’ conferences commission has been vocal in calling on EU member states to “increase their efforts in order to stop the violence in Nigeria, bring criminals to justice, support the victims and promote dialogue and peace,” according to the COMECE statement.

    In May 2020, the bishops “urged the international community to use diplomatic, political and financial instruments to assist Nigerian authorities to stop the violence, bringing the criminals to justice, supporting the victims and fully including Christians (47% of the national population) in all state structures and levels of administrations -- including the police and armed forces.”

    Leaders within the United States have also called for further support of Nigeria’s Christians. On June 25, former Rep. Frank Wolf said that the U.S. should send a special envoy to Nigeria to coordinate the protection of the Christian population and prevent further destabilization of the area.

    In February, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told CNA that Nigeria was one of the countries of highest concern when it came to violations of religious freedom. 

    Brownback said he was concerned that the situation in Nigeria would spread to nearby countries if nothing was done to crack down on religious persecution. 

    “There's a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we're afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that's really popped up on my radar screens -- in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.”

    Cardinal Hollerich said that he was particularly concerned for the people who are forced from their homes by the increased violence in Nigeria. He said it was important that Europe welcomes and protects them.

    “My thoughts and my heart are with the many young people who are forced to leave the country because of violence and lack of socio-economic prospects,” Hollerich said.

  • Vatican City, Jul 3, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s financial watchdog authority reported Friday that it received 64 suspicious activity reports in 2019, 15 of which it forwarded to the Promoter of Justice for possible prosecution. 

    In its annual report, released July 3, the Financial Intelligence Authority (Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria, or AIF) hailed “the rising trend in the ratio between reports to the Promoter of Justice” and cases of suspicious financial activity.

    The report comes ahead of a scheduled inspection by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, which has put pressure on the Vatican to prosecute breaches of financial regulations. 

    Unlike in previous years, the report was not presented at a Vatican press conference.

    The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee Vatican financial transactions. It is charged with ensuring that internal banking policies comply with international financial standards.

    The number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) is seen as an important indicator of the AIF’s performance. In 2017, there were 150, while in 2018 there were 56. 

    The AIF forwarded 11 reports to the Promoter of Justice in 2018, four fewer than in 2019. 

    In the introduction to the new report, AIF director Giuseppe Schlitzer wrote: “Overall, the tendency towards higher quality SARs is strengthening, thanks to the guidelines on more specific anomaly indicators which was provided and a more conscious implementation of a risk-based approach.”

    In the introduction Schlitzer said that in 2019 the AIF had “intensified its action in every branch of activity, while consolidating forms of collaboration with other states and jurisdictions.” 

    “At the system-wide level, also thanks to the Vatican authorities’ strong commitment to fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism, there was further progress towards a better functioning and international recognition of the jurisdiction,” he wrote.

    He noted that the AIF had carried out two onsite inspections at the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as “the Vatican Bank.” 

    The first, in June, “aimed at assessing the technical compliance with the legal and regulatory framework for payment services.” The second, in August, “consisted in a general compliance assessment in the fields of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” 

    The annual report said that the AIF exchanged 66 requests for information with foreign financial intelligence units concerning 373 subjects. 

    It also said: “Domestic cooperation with the competent authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State is intense and led to 24 requests for information and concerned 423 subjects.”

    “A marked increase in exchanges with the authorities of the Holy See and Vatican City State was observed as compared with the previous year, which confirms the trend of greater domestic cooperation and exchange of information, as well as greater involvement of Holy See and Vatican City State authorities in countering money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.”

    Moneyval was due to carry out a scheduled inspection of the Vatican in spring 2020. But the inspection was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

    In a July 3 statement on the AIF's annual report, the watchdog’s president Carmelo Barbagallo said that the Moneyval evaluation team would begin its inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City State Sept. 29.

    “The inspection, which will last about two weeks, was actually scheduled to begin in April but was postponed because of the pandemic. AIF has been tasked with heading the Vatican’s delegation,” he said.

    He continued: “Several years have gone by since Moneyval’s first inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City State, which took place in 2012. During this time span, Moneyval has remotely monitored the many advances made by the jurisdiction in the fight to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. As such, the upcoming inspection is especially important. Its outcome may determine how the jurisdiction is perceived by the financial community.”

    “The Moneyval inspection will be broad-based. It will cover both the legislative framework and its effective implementation. It is crucial to arrive well prepared, to highlight the progress achieved in recent years in the system of controls, and to underscore what has been done in recent months to assure further progress.”

    Last year was a turbulent period for the financial watchdog. 

    On Oct. 1, Vatican gendarmes raided the AIF’s offices in connection with a controversial London property deal. This led to the suspension of five employees and officials, including Tommaso Di Ruzza, the AIF’s director. They were also blocked from entering the Vatican.

    The Egmont Group, through which 164 financial intelligence authorities share information and coordinate their work, suspended the AIF Nov. 13.

    René Brüelhart, a Swiss lawyer who had served as president of the AIF since 2012, resigned Nov. 18.

    Marc Odendall, a Swiss-German banker and member of the AIF board, resigned the same day, citing the Egmont Group’s decision and Brüelhart’s departure.

    “We cannot access information and we cannot share information. There is no point in staying on the board of an empty shell,” he told the Associated Press.

    During an in-flight press conference Nov. 26, Pope Francis confirmed that Di Ruzza remained suspended because of suspected “bad administration.”

    “It was AIF that did not control, it seems, the crimes of others. And therefore [it failed] in its duty of controls. I hope that they prove it is not so. Because there is, still, the presumption of innocence,” Pope Francis said.

    Barbagallo, an auditor and Italian banking consultant, was named Brüelhart’s successor Nov. 27.

    Barbagallo announced in January that the Egmont Group had lifted its suspension of the AIF.

    Addressing the incident in his statement on the AIF's annual report, Barbagallo said: “The suspension was lifted after only two months, once adequate reassurance was provided to Egmont. Crucial to this aim was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by AIF and the Promoter of Justice.”

    “With this memorandum, we were able to assure our foreign counterparts that, should the need arise to seize confidential documents and information, the seizure would be carried out in accordance with the confidentiality standards established by the Egmont Group concerning financial intelligence.”

    The Vatican announced the appointment of Schlitzer as director of the AIF April 15. He succeeded Di Ruzza, who completed his five-year term of office January 20, according to the Vatican.

    In his July 3 statement Barbagallo said that the AIF hoped to issue “a new statute and the first internal regulation.”

    “First and foremost, pursuant to the new statute, the name of the Authority would change to the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority (SFIA), a name that highlights the Authority’s dual nature as intelligence unit and supervisory (and regulatory) authority,” he wrote.

Mpase u Lohodedoo u Lahadi u sha Puekaaunyiin ken shie u Gbilinii ken Inyom i A, sha zwa u Fada Boniface Ahura VC

 

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