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Vatican confirms Pope Francis will visit Slovakia in September

Pope Francis gives his Sunday Angelus address overlooking St. Peter's Square June 27, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 4, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican confirmed Sunday that Pope Francis will travel to Hungary and Slovakia in September.

The pope will visit Budapest on Sept. 12 for the concluding Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. He will then travel to the Slovakian cities of Bratislava, Prešov, Košice and Šaštin from Sept. 12 to 15.

The trip was confirmed July 4 by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, who said details about the pope’s program in Slovakia will be published at a later date.

Pope Francis himself announced his trip to Slovakia after his noon Angelus address: “I am pleased to announce that from 12 to 15 September next, God willing, I will go to Slovakia to make a pastoral visit,” he said from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

Pilgrims from Slovakia present in the square responded to the announcement with cheers, and the pope noted their presence. “The Slovaks are happy there!” he said.

“I sincerely thank all those who are preparing this journey and I pray for them,” Francis said. “Let’s all pray for this trip and for the people who are working to organize it.”

In his Angelus address July 4, Pope Francis reflected on “the comfort of habit and the dictatorship of prejudice,” which prevents us from really knowing Jesus and the people around us.

His exegesis centered on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark. In the passage, Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Nazareth, but his fellow villagers react by asking themselves: “What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?”

“We could say that they know Jesus, but they do not recognize him,” the pope said. They “have known him for 30 years and think they know everything.”

“In reality, they never realized who Jesus really is,” he said.

Francis noted that the same thing can happen in our own lives with the people around us: we see someone in our neighborhood, meet them occasionally, but “it is an ordinary, superficial knowledge that does not recognize the uniqueness of that person.”

“It is a risk that we all run: we think we know a lot about a person, and the worst is that we label them and shut them up in our prejudices,” he said.

“And here we get to the very heart of the problem,” Pope Francis continued, “when we make the comfort of habit and the dictatorship of prejudice prevail, it is difficult to open up to novelty and be surprised.”

He encouraged Catholics to foster amazement in their faith life.

“Without amazement, faith becomes a tired litany that slowly dies out and becomes a habit,” he said. “What is it, amazement? Amazement is precisely when the encounter with God happens.”

God became incarnate and he draws near to us in the normal activities of our lives, Francis said.

“And then, it happens to us as to the fellow villagers of Jesus, we risk that, when he passes by, we do not recognize him.”

“Now, in prayer, let us ask the Madonna, who welcomed the mystery of God in her daily life in Nazareth, for eyes and hearts free of prejudices and to have eyes open to be amazed: ‘Lord, that we might meet you.’”

“We meet him in the normal: eyes open to God’s surprises, at his humble and hidden presence in daily life,” he concluded.

Why has a Vatican judge ordered Cardinal Becciu and nine others to stand trial?: A CNA explainer

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, center, in 2015. / Alan Holdren/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s court announced Saturday that it had indicted 10 individuals, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on charges including abuse of office, embezzlement, and fraud, and that a trial will begin July 27.

What is the story behind the trial? And what are the backgrounds of the 10 people who have been charged? Continue reading for CNA’s overview of the upcoming Vatican finance trial.

What is the trial about?

The trial is the result of a two-year investigation by Vatican prosecutors into allegations of financial malfeasance, mostly in connection with an investment made by the Secretariat of State in a London property.

According to prosecutors, during the Secretariat of State’s years-long purchase of the London building, people employed by the Vatican, or doing business with it, worked to defraud the city state for their own financial gain.

The prosecution has collected 500 pages of documentation and evidence it will present at trial. According to a summary by Vatican News, investigators claim the fraud involving the London property began when the building’s value was grossly overestimated in discussions with the Secretariat of State at 350 million pounds (around $483 million) -- and the secretariat agreed to the purchase price.

Who are the defendants?

Defendants in the finance trial include two Italian businessmen, an investment manager, a lawyer -- and the two Vatican employees who allegedly colluded with them.

Becciu, who was the second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, has also been indicted. In addition to facing charges of embezzlement, he is accused of attempting to mislead and interfere with the financial investigation.

A woman to whom Becciu paid more than $650,000 in secretariat funds for “security” work has also been charged, along with the former heads of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, who investigators say “overlooked the anomalies of the London transaction” despite having information about the purchase.

Four corporations are also included in the indictment.

But didn’t Vatican officials authorize the London property deal at every stage?

Vatican authorities, such as Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and sostituto Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, did sign off at various points in the deal, but they were deceived by others who presented them with false or partial information, prosecutors argue.

According to the Vatican News report, they say that Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, the secretariat official who signed the share purchase agreement, and his superiors, had not been “effectively informed to be fully aware of the juridical effects that the different categories of actions would cause.”

When did this get uncovered and why didn’t it happen sooner?

The Vatican investigation started in the summer of 2019, after the IOR (commonly called the “Vatican bank”) and the auditor general’s office presented allegations of serious crimes such as fraud, extortion, embezzlement, corruption, aiding and abetting, and blackmail in the Secretariat of State.

The auditor general noticed that 77% of the Secretariat of State’s portfolio was concentrated in the Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse and that donated funds earmarked for charity, or to support the work of the Roman Curia, may have been invested in “high-risk financial activity.”

Despite Pope Francis’ financial reforms, at the time investigations began, the Secretariat of State had control over large sums of money, including money intended for investment, with little outside oversight.

When investigations uncovered probable malfeasance, Pope Francis ordered that responsibility for investments should be taken away from the Secretariat of State.

In its report on the Vatican, published in June after an October 2020 on-site inspection, the financial watchdog Moneyval noted that there was still a significant level of risk for abuse of office for personal benefit and money laundering by mid- and senior-level Vatican figures.

It added that cases such as the London property deal had “raised a red flag for potential abuse” of the Holy See and Vatican City State’s systems by personnel.

Moneyval said that, though positive actions had been taken since 2014, they were not addressed with the General Risk Assessment, “which raises some concerns as to the degree to which these matters are formally recognized and acknowledged by all authorities.”

The Moneyval Report also pointed out the Vatican’s weak record on convictions for financial crimes, and suggested that sanctions had not been “proportionate and dissuasive.”

The Vatican’s prosecuting judges claim that two of the defendants in this month’s trial, René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, should have noticed some problems sooner in their former capacities as president and director of AIF (the Financial Information Authority, now called the ASIF.)

The main prosecutor, the documents say, “believes that AIF’s behavior in the persons of its director and president seriously violated the basic rules governing supervision.” The prosecutor argues that AIF would have known that a payment made to businessman Gianluigi Torzi, a sum allegedly received through extortion, was not legitimate.

How have the accused responded?

In a statement made through his lawyer July 3, Becciu said that he is innocent of the charges brought against him and is a victim of “machinations” and media derision.

The trial will be “the moment for clarification,” he said, adding that he believed that the court would uncover “the absolute falsity of the accusations against me and the dark plots that evidently supported and fed them.”

René Brülhart, former president of the AIF, issued his own statement July 3, stating his confidence that the trial would show “the truth about my innocence.”

“I have always carried out my functions and duties with correctness, loyalty and in the exclusive interest of the Holy See and its organs,” he said. “I face this matter with serenity in the conviction that the accusations against me will fully disappear.”

Brülhart also said that he had not yet received a formal notification from Vatican judges about his indictment, adding that “this matter constitutes a procedural blunder that will be immediately clarified by the organs of Vatican justice as soon as the defense will be able to exercise its rights.”

Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked in the Secretariat of State and is charged with extortion and abuse of office, issued a statement through his lawyers July 3, asserting his “profound ethical integrity” and the “groundlessness” of the accusations against him.

The lawyer said that Carlino was “surprised and regrets” that Vatican investigators consider his actions, “carried out in the exclusive interest of the Vatican Secretary of State and on instruction of his Superiors,” to be criminal.

It was noted that Carlino “has always given loyal and dutiful obedience” to his superiors, and that in the case of the London property, he intervened only because he was instructed to, in order to save the Secretariat five million euros ($5.9 million) off of the 20 million euros ($23.7 million) that Gianluigi Torzi was allegedly attempting to extort.

“It seems at least incomprehensible that a meritorious activity, already ascertained in its factual terms, which did not involve any personal advantage for Msgr. Carlino and, on the contrary, determined a significant economic saving for the Secretariat of State, could have given rise to a request for subpoena,” the statement said, noting the brief time to prepare a defense for an investigation which took two years, had extensive media coverage, and involved acts in foreign jurisdictions.

Cardinal Becciu to stand trial at Vatican for embezzlement and abuse of office

Giovanni Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, pictured June 27, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Cardinal Angelo Becciu will be tried on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office.

The Vatican court also announced it will hold a criminal trial against nine people and four corporations in connection with the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London investment property.

The trial's first hearing will take place July 27.

Among those to be tried are several employees of the Secretariat of State: Fabrizio Tirabassi, who oversaw investments, will be tried on charges of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office.

Mons. Mauro Carlino, who worked with Tirabassi, has been charged with extortion and abuse of office.

At the center of the trial is the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. It was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

Mincione will also stand trial on charges of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation, and self-money laundering.

Businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican’s purchase of the London property in 2018, has been charged with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

Enrico Crasso, who managed investments for the Vatican for over 25 years, was investigated on suspicions he was working together with Mincione and Tirabassi to defraud the Secretariat of State.

Crasso, who is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund in which the Holy See is the principal investor, faces the most charges: corruption, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, self-money laundering, fraud, abuse of office, falsifying a public document, and falsifying a private document.

The Vatican has also charged three corporations owned by Crasso with fraud.

Gianluigi Torzi, a businessman who worked with Mincione, will face trial on charges of extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

His associate, the lawyer Nicola Squillace, faces the same charges minus extortion.

Torzi was arrested by Vatican officials last year, and held for a little over a week, as part of the financial investigation. He was also arrested in London on May 11 at the request of a judge in Rome. His bail was set at $1.6 million.

The Italian businessman acted as a commission-earning middleman for the Secretariat of State as it finalized its purchase of the London property, on which it spent approximately $300 million.

Torzi brokered the sale, reportedly earning 10 million euros for his role in the final stage of the deal.

Mons. Alberto Perlasca, Becciu's former chief deputy at the Secretariat of State, was also investigated as part of the London property scandal, but is not among the defendants in this summer's trial.

According to the Vatican communication, in the course of investigations, which began in July 2019, “elements also emerged against Card. Giovanni Angelo Becciu, against whom we proceed, as required by law, for the offenses of embezzlement and abuse of office also in cooperation, as well as subornation.”

In a statement made through his lawyers July 3, Becciu said he is innocent of the charges, and that he was the victim of enemy plots and media derision.

The trial will be “the moment for clarification,” he said, adding that he believes the court will uncover “the absolute falsity of the accusations against me and the dark plots that evidently supported and fed them.”

A date is not given for the trial against Becciu.

Becciu resigned as prefect of the congregation and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals on Sept. 24, 2020.

The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the powerful curial department at the center of the investigation of financial malfeasance.

The financial trial will also include Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, who has been charged with embezzlement after a Vatican investigation into reports that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in connection with Becciu, and that she had spent the money on luxury goods and vacations.

Marogna acknowledged receiving the money but insisted that the funds went to her Vatican security consultancy work and salary.

The 39-year-old woman from Sardinia was arrested in Milan last year on an international warrant issued by the Vatican through Interpol. She was released from jail after 17 days and an extradition request by the Vatican was dropped in January.

Marogna’s Slovenian-based company, Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, D.O.O., is also being brought to trial on the charge of embezzlement.

The last two defendants are René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, who previously led the Vatican's internal financial watchdog, ASIF.

Di Ruzza was replaced last year after completing his five-year term of office, according to the Vatican.

Brülhart left ASIF in November 2019. A Vatican statement at the time said that Brülhart was leaving at the end of his five-year term, but the Swiss lawyer told Reuters that he had resigned from the post.

Di Ruzza was one of five employees and officials suspended and blocked from entering the Vatican after Vatican gendarmes raided the Secretariat of State and ASIF offices on Oct. 1, 2019.

Later that month, the ASIF’s board of directors issued a statement expressing “full faith and trust in the professional competence and honorability” of Di Ruzza, but no announcement was ever made by Vatican authorities regarding the results of any investigation into Di Ruzza or his return to work.

Di Ruzza is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and violation of confidentiality.

Brülhart is charged with abuse of office

Archbishop Paglia pleads with Catholic critics of Covid vaccines

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in Philadelphia, March 9, 2015. / Sarah Webb/

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 16:48 pm (CNA).

During a press conference on Friday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called Catholics who are reluctant to receive COVID vaccines and oppose their distribution to "listen to what the Church has already said”, implying that all objections against COVID vaccines have already been addressed by official Church documents. 

The July 2 press conference was intended to present a final statement crafted the day before during a meeting of the World Medical Association, the German Medical Association, and the Pontifical Academy for Life dedicated to "promote vaccine equity and confront vaccine hesitancy."

The statement says that "while many higher-income countries had the resources to quickly sign bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies for promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, this left many developing countries at a disadvantage due to financial restrictions and limitations on production capacity."

The document also says that reluctance to being vaccinated in disadvantaged communities "is rooted in historical inequities, breaches of trust in medical research, negative experiences with health care and suspicion about pharmaceutical companies’ behavior focused on profit."

But it lashes out on "a more pernicious form of vaccine hesitancy … driven by unfounded and misleading claims and myths, including disinformation about side effects, which are amplified by social media and other means of enhanced communication."

"Adding to this complexity," the statement also says, "is the fact that vaccine hesitancy even exists in the medical community and some religious groups. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal can ultimately give rise to difficult ethical questions about the tension between individual freedom of choice and the common good."

But during the Q&A part of the press conference, several journalists representing secular and Catholic media highly skeptical of COVID vaccines pushed back with statements followed by questions.

The correspondent from the Epoch Times opened the discussion, saying that "Your speakers discussed combating disinformation yesterday. Critics argue that only representing one side of ongoing medical research goes against scientific methods, (which) promotes propaganda and fosters reactionary disinformation. Why did yesterday's round table only include experts on one side of this debate?"

She finally asked: "Would the Pontifical Academy for Life or and the WMA (World Medical Association)  commit today to hosting a conference honoring the scientific method by inviting recognized experts representing all sides of this debate, including credible medical experts against the COVID vaccine?"

“In fact, the Pontifical Academy for Life, which has decided some time ago to discuss the issue of the vaccines, obviously wants to treat it in a comprehensive way, therefore bringing all the sides related to dealing with this issue,” Paglia responded, while adding that “this is not only a technical, scientific issue, is an ethical and social issue, which requires a new anthropological perspective. So we will continue to debate the issue of vaccines.”

He also said that in the upcoming conferences "we will take into account those who are critical to the vaccines as a tool” and recalled that the Pontifical Academy for Life "have never spoken about 'obligation,' but about ‘responsibility’.”

In their responses, both Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, Chair of Council of the WMA, and Dr. Ramin Parsa-Parsi, Head of Department for International Affairs of the German Medical Association, pushed back at the idea that experts who participated in the previous day roundtable belonged to "one side." Both insisted that it consisted of independent scientists. But Parsi said that future meetings on COVID vaccines will include a larger number of scientists covering a "broader range of aspects."

Later, the correspondent of St. Michael Media –parent company of Church Militant- listed noted scientists highly skeptical of the COVID vaccines who "are widely published in prestigious peer reviewed journals, and yet they are being completely ignored in this debate. So why can't you include multiple voices and have a genuine scientific debate, because this is what science is all about."

Parsi again dismissed the criticism, saying that "when it comes to vaccines, all the questions and all the inclarity [sic] have been tackled and I think there is no reason why we shouldn't be confident that these vaccines are a blessing for our patients and for the people."

Montgomery specifically discredited the papers mentioned by the journalist, and said that "as far as we know up to now, and of course, no one can say anything about long-term effects because we've only administered these techniques for six months now, but as far as we know, these techniques are very safe and produce much less side effects than for instance, the well-known vector therapies, which have a very high rate of side effects, especially at the first dose."

The correspondent from The Remnant addressed a question to Archbishop Paglia: "you've spoken a lot today about the ethics of vaccines, but these ethics appear limited to primarily equitable distribution and overcoming vaccine hesitancy. You've made no mention to what genuinely concerns many Catholics; the fact that many of these vaccines are abortion tainted; the right to conscientious objection, and the fact that these vaccines have cost many lives in the United States, 6,100 people have died from them. Why are you not addressing these legitimate questions, particularly (to) Catholics, as you're the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life."

"I have mentioned before the interventions both from the Dicastery for Integral Human Development of this past December, but also of the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which as you know, within the context of the Catholic Church, is the authority which responds with more clarity to all doubts and problems, and which has responded exactly to the objections you have presented,” Archbishop Paglia said.

“Now, if Catholics do not listen to that, well that is another matter.”

“We are very aware that the answer (to your question) has been provided. But since liberty exists, there are those who say ‘I don't accept what the Pope says’, ‘or what the Congregation says’, ‘or what you say’. But from a standpoint of the Catholic doctrine, we are in the right," he added.

“I would appeal to my Catholics brothers and sisters to listen to what has already been said (regarding the vaccines),” Archbishop Paglia concluded.

Pope Francis discusses protection of Christians with Iraqi prime minister

Pope Francis meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi discussed the importance of protecting the Christian presence in the Middle East during a meeting at the Vatican on Friday.

According to a Vatican press release, the roughly 30-minute private meeting included conversation about Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq in March “and the moments of unity experienced by the Iraqi people.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

They also spoke about “the importance of promoting a culture of national dialogue to foster stability and the process of reconstruction of the country.”

The Vatican said that Al-Kadhimi and Pope Francis discussed “the importance of protecting the historical presence of Christians in the country with adequate legal measures and the significant contribution they can make to the common good, highlighting the need to guarantee them the same rights and duties as other citizens.”

The Christian population in Iraq has been dwindling for decades, from around 1.4 million in 2003 to around 250,000 Christians in the country.

The situation in the entire Middle East and the need to “re-establish a climate of trust and peaceful coexistence” were also discussed by the two men.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The Iraqi prime minister met separately with the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

At the end of their meeting, Pope Francis and Al-Kadhimi exchanged gifts.

Pope Francis gave the prime minister a bronze artwork with grapevines and a dove which had “Be messengers of peace” written in Italian on the bottom. He also gave copies of his 2021 message for peace, the 2019 document on human fraternity, and his encyclicals Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti in English and Arabic.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The prime minister gave the pope a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, created in leather by a woman while she was held captive by ISIS.

The pope also received a cross made from wood and stone taken from the ruins of the ISIS-destroyed St. Addai Church in the Iraqi town of Karamlesh on the Nineveh Plains.

When ISIS militants captured the northern Iraqi town in August 2014, they destroyed the Chaldean Catholic church, breaking windows, burning benches, desecrating a tomb, and decapitating a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The Knights of Columbus contributed $2 million to help rebuild many of the town’s homes and the church, which was consecrated in 2018.

The Catholic fraternal organization reported in April that around 450 of the 820 families that had fled Karamlesh when ISIS invaded have now returned home. About 30% of the population has moved abroad and some families remained in Erbil.

During his March 5-8 visit to Iraq, Pope Francis did not visit Karamlesh, but he prayed before the church’s partially restored statue of the Virgin Mary when he offered Mass in Erbil.

On his return flight to Rome, Pope Francis told journalists that the sight of the destroyed churches and ruins in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq left him speechless.

“When I stopped in front of the destroyed church, I had no words… beyond belief,” Francis said in the in-flight press conference.

The pope said that he had read about and seen pictures of the destruction in northern Iraq, but what he saw in person in Mosul and Qaraqosh was unimaginable.

Pope Francis releases a dove after praying for the victims of war in Mosul, Iraq, March 7, 2021. Photo credits: Vatican Media.
Pope Francis releases a dove after praying for the victims of war in Mosul, Iraq, March 7, 2021. Photo credits: Vatican Media.

Francis’ historic trip to Iraq brought him from Baghdad to the birthplace of Abraham and finally to the rubble-strewn city of Mosul, where the Islamic State declared its caliphate in 2014.

“But then what touched me most was the testimony of a mother in Qaraqosh,” Pope Francis said.

“She is a woman who lost her son in the first Islamic State bombings, and she said a word: ‘forgiveness.’ I was moved.”

Pope Francis: 2022 World Meeting of Families will include local gatherings

The official logo of the 2022 World Meeting of Families in Rome. / Diocese of Rome.

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 07:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called Friday for local gatherings to be held across the globe at the same time as next year’s World Meeting of Families in Rome.

“At past meetings, most families stayed at home,” the pope said in a video message July 2. “The meeting was perceived as being something remote, at most followed on television, and unknown to the majority of families.”

Francis said that this time the World Meeting of Families would have a special format.

“It will be an opportunity provided by Providence to create a worldwide event that can involve all the families that would like to feel part of the ecclesial community,” he said.

The 10th World Meeting of Families is scheduled for June 22-26, 2022, after it was postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis said that Rome would still be the main location of the event and its corresponding conference and festival of families would be broadcast all over the world. But “during that same period, each diocese can be the focal point for a local meeting for its families and communities.”

“In this way, everyone will be able to participate, even those who cannot come to Rome,” he said.

On Friday, the Vatican and Diocese of Rome also unveiled the logo for the 2022 World Meeting of Families.

The logo, which depicts families in the bright colors of red, yellow, and blue, uses a thin line to depict the shape of Bernini’s famous colonnade encircling St. Peter’s Square.

The theme of the 2022 gathering will be “Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness.” The meeting’s official prayer was unveiled in April.

Pope Francis said that the upcoming World Meeting of Families “is a wonderful opportunity to devote ourselves with enthusiasm to family ministry with spouses, families, and pastors together.”

“Take courage, then, dear pastors and dear families, and help each other to organize meetings in the dioceses and parishes on every continent,” he urged.

The 10th World Meeting of Families will be held at the end of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which marks the fifth anniversary of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family. The Year, which began on March 19, will last for 15 months, culminating with the gathering in Rome.

Pope John Paul II established the World Meeting of Families in 1994. It typically takes place every three years in a different country. The most recent meeting was held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018.

The meeting is organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, together with the local diocese where it will take place.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the family dicastery, said that “over the years, this important ecclesial appointment has observed an ever-increasing participation of families.”

“The thousands of people who have participated in the most recent editions, bringing enrichment with their languages, cultures, and experiences, have been an eloquent sign of the beauty of the family for the Church and for all humanity,” he said. “We need to continue on this path, seeking to involve more and more families in this beautiful initiative.”

Report: Secretariat of State official paid by Swiss bank for Vatican accounts

St. Peter’s Square. / Mazur/

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A suspended Secretariat of State official was paid a side fee by a Swiss bank for bringing in Vatican investment funds, according to an Italian media report.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper reported July 1 that Fabrizio Tirabassi was given a “finder’s fee” by the Swiss bank UBS, where the Secretariat of State reportedly had accounts worth over 600 million euros ($710 million), while he was working as a lay official at the secretariat.

The newspaper said that documents showed that UBS had a contract with Tirabassi from at least 2004 to 2016, guaranteeing him a commission of 0.5% per year on the assets deposited in UBS accounts and for bringing in new clients.

CNA has not independently confirmed the report.

Until his suspension in October 2019, Tirabassi was a senior lay official working within the Secretariat of State’s general affairs section, where he oversaw investments and would have had a say over the movements of the Vatican’s Swiss accounts.

Tirabassi is one of several people being investigated by the Vatican in connection with investments and financial transactions made at the Secretariat of State.

At the center of the inquiry is the purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

Businessman Gianluigi Torzi was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican’s purchase of the London property in 2018.

CNA has previously reported that Tirabassi was appointed a director of one of Torzi’s companies while the businessman was acting as a commission-earning middleman for the purchase of the remaining shares.

According to corporate filings, Tirabassi was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a Luxembourg company owned by Torzi, used to transfer ownership of the building between Mincione and the Vatican.

Filings for Gutt SA with the Luxembourg Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés showed that Tirabassi was appointed a director on Nov. 23, 2018, and removed by a filing sent on Dec. 27. At the time of Tirabassi’s appointment as director, his business address was listed as the Secretariat of State in Vatican City.

In October 2020, Corriere della Sera published a report saying that it had heard “extensive excerpts” from a secret audio recording of a meeting between Torzi, Tirabassi, and Enrico Crasso on Dec. 19, 2018.

According to the newspaper, Tirabassi could be heard in the recording thanking Torzi for his help in securing the London deal.

Tirabassi then allegedly tried to persuade Torzi to part with a thousand voting shares belonging to Gutt SA, Torzi’s Luxembourg-based company that took over the building at 60 Sloane Avenue and was meant to act as a pass-through between Mincione and the Vatican.

In early November 2020, Italian media reported that Rome’s financial police had executed a search warrant against Tirabassi and Mincione, as well as Crasso, a banker and longtime Vatican investment manager.

The reports said that the warrant was issued as part of an investigation into suspicions that the three were working together to defraud the Secretariat of State. All three have denied any wrongdoing.

Pope Francis: ‘There cannot and must not be any opposition between faith and science’

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his March 28, 2018 general audience in St. Peter's Square. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2021 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that there “cannot and must not” be any opposition between faith and science.

The pope made the comment in a video message to participants in the “Science for Peace” event, an international meeting held on July 2-3 in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.

“Dear and distinguished scientists, your meeting is a great gift of hope for humanity,” the pope said.

“Never before as in this time have we been aware of the need to relaunch scientific research to face the challenges of contemporary society.”

“And I am pleased that it is the diocesan community of Teramo which is promoting this meeting, thus testifying that there cannot and must not be any opposition between faith and science.”

The gathering, promoted by the Diocese of Teramo-Atri, is hosted by the University of Teramo and the Sanctuary of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The sanctuary -- at the foot of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, a massif in the Apennine Mountains -- is the burial place of St. Gabriel, an Italian Passionist, and a popular pilgrimage destination.

The Church is currently celebrating the centenary of St. Gabriel’s canonization. The Jubilee of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows began on Feb. 27 and will end on the same date in 2022.

The Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, the world’s largest underground research center, is located beneath the massif.

Referring to his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, the pope said it was vital that scientists worked together for the good of all.

“Moreover, as I noted in the encyclical, it is important not to overlook the ‘risk that a single scientific advance will be seen as the only possible lens for viewing a particular aspect of life, society, and the world,’” he said.

The pope noted that the coronavirus pandemic had prompted the scientific community to rethink “prevention, treatment, and health organization,” paying greater attention to relations between people.

He said: “Faced with the new challenges, you are entrusted, dear friends in science -- yes, you! - with the task of testifying to the possibility of building a new social bond, endeavoring to bring scientific research closer to all the community, from the local to the international, and that together it is possible to overcome every conflict.”

“Science is a great resource for building peace!”

Pope Francis: ‘Stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for outside interests and profits’

Pope Francis takes part in a day of reflection and prayer for Lebanon, July 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2021 / 11:23 am (CNA).

Hosting a day of prayer for Lebanon with Catholic and Orthodox leaders on Thursday, Pope Francis said that the country should no longer be used to serve “unscrupulous interests.”

“Stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for outside interests and profits,” the pope said July 1.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“The Lebanese people must be given the opportunity to be the architects of a better future in their land, without undue interference.”

Christian leaders from Lebanon spent the day at the Vatican in private roundtable discussions about the future of their country, which is facing a severe economic crisis.

Representatives from Lebanon’s Maronite, Melkite, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean, Syrian Catholic, and evangelical community came to the Vatican for the day of prayer.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The day began with a moment of prayer in front of the high altar at St. Peter’s Basilica before the pope and the patriarchs placed lighted candles in the crypt chapel at the tomb of St. Peter.

It ended with members of the Lebanese diaspora community gathered in the world’s largest Catholic basilica to pray for peace together with the pope and the patriarchs, with prayers offered in Arabic, Armenian, and Syriac.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

A choir made up of students from Lebanon studying in Rome chanted hymns of praise taken from the psalms between each of the prayers.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis spoke at the end of the ecumenical prayer service, urging hope and a future of peace for the country in crisis.

“We assembled today to pray and reflect, impelled by our deep concern for Lebanon -- a country very close to my heart and which I wish to visit -- as we see it plunged into a serious crisis,” the pope said.

The World Bank has described the current financial situation in Lebanon as among the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

It estimates that Lebanon’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation, high unemployment, and more than half of the population below the national poverty line.

Lebanon’s leaders have failed to form a government to implement reforms after the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port on Aug. 4. The blast killed nearly 200 people, injured 600 others, and caused more than $4 billion in damage.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In his speech, the pope said that the “disillusioned and weary Lebanese people” were “in need of certainty, hope, and peace.”

“A phrase from the Scriptures resounded among us today, as if in response to our fervent prayer. In a few short words, the Lord declares that he has ‘plans for peace and not for woe’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Plans for peace and not for woe,” he said.

/ Courtney Mares.
/ Courtney Mares.

“In these woeful times, we want to affirm with all our strength that Lebanon is, and must remain, a project of peace. Its vocation is to be a land of tolerance and pluralism, an oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities live together, putting the common good before their individual interests.”

Among the Christian patriarchs present at the Vatican for the day of prayer was Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, who has served as the leader of Maronite Catholics, predominantly based in Lebanon, for more than 10 years.

The outspoken cardinal has repeatedly called on Lebanon’s political leaders to “overcome the logic of partisan interests” and form a government to rescue the country.

Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and Patriarch John X, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All The East, were present.

/ Courtney Mares.
/ Courtney Mares.

“As Christians, today we wish to renew our commitment to building a future together. For our future will be peaceful only if it is shared,” Pope Francis said.

“Human relationships cannot be based on the pursuit of partisan interests, privileges, and advantages. No, the Christian vision of society arises from the Beatitudes; it is born of meekness and mercy, and it inspires us to imitate in this world God’s own way of acting, for he is a father who desires his children to live in peace.”

The pope urged those present to entrust their efforts to assist Lebanon to Christ, the Prince of Peace.

“Brothers and sisters, may the night of conflicts recede before a new dawn of hope,” he said.

“May hostilities cease, disagreements fade away, and Lebanon once more radiates the light of peace.”

Pope Francis accepts resignation of 75-year-old Chicago auxiliary bishop

Bishop John R. Manz, pictured in 2012. / Screenshot from YouTube channel of St. Norbert College.

Vatican City, Jul 1, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday accepted the resignation of Chicago auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz, who has dedicated his priesthood to advocating for immigrants.

Bishop Manz turned 75 in November, the age at which bishops are required to send a resignation letter to the pope.

He was one of eight auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Chicago, which serves 2.2 million Catholics in northeast Illinois. Cardinal Blase Cupich, 72, is the archbishop of Chicago.

Manz celebrated his 50th anniversary of priesthood and 25th anniversary as a bishop in May.

He told the archdiocesan newspaper Chicago Catholic that he had always felt welcomed by members of the Hispanic community.

“I have been able to develop friendships with them and understand their issues, many times not seen by the media. My involvement with them has made me a better priest and a better person,” he said.

The Chicago native has been living at Good Shepherd Parish in Little Village, a neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, with a large foreign-born Mexican population, where 80% of residents are of Mexican descent.

In 2006, Manz wrote about how he first became interested in migrant worker rights. In an essay on the Chicago archdiocese website, he explained that during college seminary, he was assigned to work in the kitchen, where a group of religious sisters from Mexico did the cooking.

“So over the course of the next couple of years, they basically taught me Spanish and that started my interest,” he wrote. “About the same time, I worked with a landscaping outfit in the summers to help pay my expenses, and a lot of the men I worked with were migrants, Mexican Americans from Texas or Mexico.”

“They were a big contrast to the sisters. Their whole outlook on life and their vocabulary was very different, and that piqued my interest even more,” he added.

Manz said he also worked at a parish in north Chicago that focused on migrant workers and he went out to California at the height of the grape strike in 1968. He also lived in a border town in Texas for one summer.

“These kinds of experiences continued until I was ordained a priest. I have been working with immigrants/migrants since before I was ordained a priest and also for the 10 years I have been a bishop,” he wrote in 2006.

“Like the migrants, I too come from a humble background. My people are from farms and small towns,” he said.

“When I was a kid I spent a lot of time on the farm with my grandmother who was a very simple farm lady. Maybe it goes back to that. I learned from her and from others in my family that this is the way you look at the world, and that the work you do is not better or worse than anyone else.”

He added: “It’s hard to get an exalted opinion of yourself, working on a farm, when you are standing knee-deep in manure.”

Manz is currently chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, as well as a member of the Diversity in the Church Committee and the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.

In these capacities, he has traveled to different U.S. states with a significant Hispanic presence to speak with and minister to migrant workers. He has also traveled to countries in Latin America, including Panama, where he lived for six months.

Manz told Chicago Catholic in May that “there are many problems at the border, with people coming from Central America. The new administration has been open to finding improvements in solving these immigration problems, but I don’t think they are prepared. It is important to start over with new structures, especially to solve the case with minors.”

Before his ordination as an auxiliary bishop for Chicago in 1996, Manz was known to parishioners as “Fr. Juan.”

“The work as a priest has never been easy, but I feel very fortunate,” he said. “I have had many experiences; I have never been bored and I think it is because I like people. As a priest, I believe I have received more than I have given.”