By Vatican News staff writer
The Bishops of Guatemala have aired their disapproval over the recent removal of internationally known graft prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, from his position as the head of Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI).
In their 5–point statement issued on Sunday, the bishops who decried Sandoval’s firing as “illegal and arbitrary” said that the public outcry that it generated, shows that it is a “setback in the efficient fight against corruption and impunity” that have done so much damage to the integral development of the country.
Guatemala’s attorney general, Maria Porras, removed Sandoval from his post on Friday, prompting public outcry and criticism that the move was a setback to the rule of law.
The Special Prosecutor’s unit, FECI, led by Sandoval, was originally created to tackle investigations spearheaded by the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) which was removed from the country in 2019. The agency had been hit with legal challenges seeking to declare it unconstitutional.
Porras defended Sandoval’s firing, accusing him of frequent abuses and undermining her work, though she did not provide further details.
Following the decision, hundreds of Guatemalans gathered outside the presidential palace on Saturday protesting the ouster of the anti-graft fighter.
Sandoval, known for his work in investigating and litigating cases against former officials, presidents and business leaders in Guatemala, reportedly fled the country to the Salvadoran borders on Saturday morning, hours after being sacked.
In the statement signed by CEG President, Archbishop Gonzalo de villa y Vasquez, SJ, the bishops note that “prompt and impartial justice, and the investigation of crime are guarantors of freedom and democracy”. More so, “only if the law is respected and obeyed with a moral sense, can it be interpreted and applied in the service of the common good.”
In this regard, they stress that “nothing is more dangerous for the institutionalism of the country than to have mafias entrenched in the organs of the state” because those who rejoice at Sandoval’s dismissal only “feel safe and comfortable when the regime of impunity is consolidated.”
The bishops go on to point out that though it is common knowledge that the process of the administration of justice in Guatemala has serious flaws, the Public Prosecutor’s Office – the State body in charge of investigation and prosecution of crimes committed – has, in recent years, “been able to investigate acts that previously enjoyed total impunity, generating hope among citizens and relieving the victims.” And in these investigations, the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) played a fundamental role.
Further supporting their opinion that the abrupt dismissal of prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval has done “irreparable damage to the country,” the CEG expressed concern that important cases he was handling would be slowed down and the Office of the Public Prosecutor would suffer an increased loss of credibility.
On top of that, they feared that “citizen indignation will grow, social protests and the level of conflict will increase, and the already deficient management of the pandemic and the tortuous process of vaccinations will be further complicated.”
Concluding their statement, the Bishops launched an appeal to authorities and all those who work in the justice institutions of the country, to continue to be committed to the pursuit of justice and to peacebuilding as a greater good. They also urged them to be courageous in recognizing their mistakes and to not lose “the horizon of the common good as the ultimate expression of the purpose of the State of Guatemala.”
Vatican City, Jul 28, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
A Vatican spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the fifth bishop to be created under the 2018 Vatican-China deal has been ordained.
Anthony Li Hui was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Pingliang by Pope Francis on Jan. 11, according to spokesman Matteo Bruni.
Bruni said that Bishop Li was ordained in the Cathedral of Pingliang, in the province of Gansu, on July 28.
Pingliang, in north-central China, has a wider metropolitan population of more than two million people.
According to UCA News, the 49-year-old Bishop Li was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, president of the state-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.
Bishops’ conference vice president Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai and Bishop Nicolas Han Jide of Pingliang were concelebrants.
Representatives of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a state-endorsed organization founded in 1957, were also present.
Li was born in 1972 in Mei county in the province of Shaanxi. He was ordained a priest for Pingliang diocese in 1996. He also studied the Chinese language at Renmin University in Beijing.
Starting in 1998, Li worked at the secretariat office of the Chinese bishops’ conference and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing.
Before his appointment as bishop, Li was secretary of the Chinese bishops’ conference.
In October 2020, the Vatican and China renewed their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for another two years.
Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019.
Bishop Li is the third bishop to be consecrated since the deal’s renewal.
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By Giancarlo La Vella & Linda Bordoni
Thursday, 28 July 2021, marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention. The anniversary falls at a time in which there are 26.4 million refugees in the world – the highest ever seen; 48 million internally displaced people and 4.1 million asylum seekers.
The Convention, that has remained largely unchanged, aside from an additional Protocol of 1967, has had broad political support since it was drafted and adopted in the wake of World War II.
The protection of the lives and dignity of migrants and refugees is one of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’ pontificate who has repeatedly called on all men and women of goodwill to open their arms and their hearts to their brothers and sisters fleeing poverty and war. He has also appealed to leaders and legislators “and the entire international community (…) to confront the reality of those who have been displaced by force, with effective projects and new approaches in order to protect their dignity, to improve the quality of their lives and to face the challenges that are emerging from modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery.”
Chiara Cardoletti is the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the Holy See, Italy and San Marino. Speaking to Vatican Radio, she explained that the Convention, “one of the most ratified legal instruments on earth,” set the foundations for legislation that guarantees solidarity and protection for refugees, but it also provides opportunities to find new solutions in a changing world scenario.
“The 1951 Convention is a fundamental instrument to protect refugees,” Chiara Cardoletti explained, noting that “It was drafted after WWII with an objective: not so much to provide a definition of who is a refugee but rather to provide clarity as to the treatment refugees would be receiving in the various European countries where they were located at the time.”
Those who drafted the document, she said, aimed not only to provide a vision of the past, “of what had happened during the War,” but also to make sure its framework was such that it would remain a credible and authoritative legal instrument for the future.
“We are looking at a document that is not exclusively focused on the State as an actor of persecution, but also on the possibility – as we are seeing right now – of others being actors of persecution,” she said.
Clearly, Cardoletti continued, the world has evolved and both refugees and governments are faced with very different contexts; “contexts that are no longer entrenched in the realities of the Second World War or of the Cold War afterwards,” but in the current reality in which conflicts and more complex for a variety of reasons, and “where defining who is a refugee is obviously a whole lot more complex.”
But she underscored the fact that the 1951 Convention, one of the world’s most ratified legal instruments, must be read reflectively and always bearing in mind the best protection that can be given to refugees.
Noting that today there exists a wide variety of practices pertaining to the protection of refugees, Cardoletti said, “For example, we know that 90% of refugees currently live in developing countries, very close to where they have fled. So today, the real challenge is not so much deciding who is a refugee, but rather who is going to be responsible for their treatment and their protection.”
Even in this respect, she said, the 1951 Convention set the foundation of international solidarity and international cooperation as the basis of this instrument, and “therefore the importance of ensuring that States take this responsibility seriously, and provide protection to refugees.”
New laws and legislation currently regulate migration issues in Europe and across the world, for example, the recent Global Compact on Refugees that Cardoletti said “aims precisely to provide support to all those countries who have opened their borders and their arms to refugees.”
This is fundamental, she concluded, to try and make sure they continue doing so while further sharing responsibility in other countries in the industrialized world “so they can continue what they have been doing and maintain the tradition of hospitality and generosity towards refugees.”
By Vatican News
A new bishop – the fifth since the signing of the Provisional Accord between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the nomination of bishops – was consecrated on Wednesday, 28 July, in China. Antonio Li Hui received episcopal consecration as the new co-adjutor bishop of Pingliang in the province of Gansu.
As reported on the site of the Catholic Church in China, the ordination ceremony was presided over by Bishop Giuseppe Ma Yinglin of Kunming, in the province of Yunnan.
The new bishop was born in 1972 in Mei County, in the province of Shaanxi, and entered into the diocesan seminary of Pinliang in 1990. He graduated from the National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China, and was ordained a priest in 1996.
According to Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis made the nomination on 11 January 2021.
By Robin Gomes
The United Nations is convening a crucial Food Systems Summit in September, in New York. It is part of the Decade of Action to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, in order to help create healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems.
Caritas Internationalis, the confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, released a statement in view of the July 26-28 Pre-Summit in Rome, asking decision-makers to ensure meaningful participation of local producers and consumers, especially women, in policymaking and implementation at the local levels.
Caritas said that both the Rome Pre-Summit and the September Summit must not be missed opportunities to engage in a durable transformation of food systems. This is all the more necessary now that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and aggravated pre-existing inequalities in access to food. Several millions of people are expected to experience food insecurity and malnutrition in the months and years to come.
According to UN figures, up to 811 million people faced hunger in 2020, as many as 161 million more than in 2019. Because of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, 3 billion people cannot afford to eat healthily, either. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lamented that the world is “seriously off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030”. “Poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food”, he said are responsible for these ills, and climate change and conflict are “consequences and drivers of this catastrophe”.
The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report released on July 12, estimated that around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, 30 million more people than in a scenario in which the pandemic had not occurred, due to the lasting effects of Covid-19 on global food security.
Stressing that access to food is a basic human right, Caritas said that food security cannot be ensured, and food systems cannot be transformed, by just promoting industrial agriculture, which in the long run will only contribute to excluding more people from the supply chain and will also generate more injustice in the access to food. Caritas, which works with the poorest communities, advocated the promotion of community-based traditional agriculture, agroecology, a review of the supply chain in favour of local markets and the promotion of responsible food consumption.
The Catholic Church’s social arm underscored the urgent need to promote agriculture and food production that scale up ecological and sustainable farming and encourage rural agricultural activities through incentives for the farmers. “This was also the cry of the poorest Latin-American farmers during the Synod on Amazon in 2019,” said Aloysius John, the Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis. He said this will ensure “food justice” and enable the poor farmers to live in dignity”.
In this process, John stressed that the prime role of women in traditional agriculture in their own lands must be recognized. “Women,” he said, “are part of the agricultural sector, and they are responsible for 60 to 80% of food production in the developing countries.” However, “they are also the ones who encounter untold challenges due to lack of access to land rights, credit, production resources and seeds capital”. The Caritas Internationalis Secy-Gen said they must be helped to put in place cooperatives and local supply chains that would enable them to sell their products.
In line with the teachings of Pope Francis’ encyclical, ‘Laudato sì’, Caritas organizations question technocratic solutions to problems such as climate change, environmental degradation and food waste. John said that one must overcome the assumption that only science and technology will offer solutions to every problem. Instead, policy choices, lifestyles and spirituality that challenges the predominant technocratic paradigm, need to be embraced. “At the heart of the problems of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition” John said, “are human beings with dignity, relations and hopes.”
Pope Francis has also sent a message to the UN Pre-Summit on Food Systems in Rome, in which he denounced the “scandal” of hunger in a world that produces enough food for all people. He said it is a “crime that violates basic human rights”. (Source: Caritas Internationalis)
Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City
The large courtroom set up in the Vatican Museums hosted, on Tuesday, 27 July, the first hearing in the Vatican over the illicit deals made with Secretariat of State funds, starting with the sale of the Sloane Avenue Building in London. Judge Giuseppe Pignatonewith Judges Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano at his side, presided over the hearing, which lasted seven hours from 9:41 to 16:45. About thirty lawyers, journalists, and gendarmes were present, although only two of the ten defendants were present: Msgr. Mauro Carlino, already in the courtroom early in the morning, and Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the former Substitute of the Secretariat of State, who is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and subornation. The cardinal, from whom the Pope revoked the prerogatives of the cardinalate in September 2020, attended the entire hearing sitting. And at the end of the hearing, he recalled that he had always been “obedient to the Pope, who sent me to trial”, saying he was “not worried”: “I have the confidence that the judges will see the facts clearly and my great hope is the certainty that they will recognize my innocence”. He also announced that he had given a mandate to his lawyers to denounce Msgr. Alberto Perlasca and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui for slander.
At the beginning of the hearing, Pignatone communicated the extension of the terms for the presentation of evidence and petitions for the respective defenses and joined to the main trial the position of the former president of AIF (now ASIF), René Brülhart, who, through his lawyer, made it known that he was prevented from coming from Zurich but agreed to the continuation of the trial. Pignatone then gave the floor to the lawyers. The first one was Fiorino Ruggio, defender of Cecilia Marogna, the manager from Cagliari, who was not present. The lawyer made a request for a postponement since the DIS (Dipartimento delle informazioni per la sicurezza) had ordered an investigation and therefore the testimony of Marogna has to be freed from secrecy first.
Ambra Giovene, Torzi’s lawyer, deposited a copy of the request for “legitimate impediment” of his client to attend the hearing. Torzi is the recipient of a precautionary measure, which also includes an electronic bracelet, issued on April 28, 2021 with a request for extradition from Great Britain: “He cannot move from London,” his lawyer said. And the other lawyer Marco Franco replied: “Torzi, even when he would receive the authorization from the British judge to come to court, would be arrested at Fiumicino airport”. The defense then insisted on the postponement: “It is not in the interest of this defense to hold a trial on its own”.
Over an hour was spent by the lawyer Carlo Panella, defending the financier Enrico Crasso and his three companies (Prestige Family Office Sa, Sogenel Capital Investment, Hp Finance), who presented some objections. The first related to the establishment of a civil action by APSA and the IOR, which, according to the lawyer, should be “inadmissible” as they presented “a generic formula” with the request for compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage, including damage to reputation, without explaining the reasons. Panella then stated that: “It is not possible that three parties are constituted expressions of the same state and that each one asks for compensation. The risk is to triple the compensation”. The lawyer then complained about the lack of “numerous acts” – among the 28 thousand documents deposited – which to date have not been made available to the defence or were illegible, including nine USB pen drives containing bank statements and bank documentation from Switzerland. The lawyer has also pointed out that the defendants have not been guaranteed the necessary time to prepare their defence.
Panella also contended that there would be a lack of jurisdiction over the crimes of money laundering and self-laundering charged against Crassus and his companies abroad and not on Vatican territory. Finally, he challenged the fact that by virtue of a Rescript dated 2 July 2019 by Pope Francis, the office of the Promoter of Justice was authorized to proceed in the manner of a summary process and to take measures, including precautionary measures. According to the lawyer, a rescript is an “administrative act”, and so there is a “doubt concerning whether is appropriat that an administrative act should derogate from existing legislation.” Three other Rescripts of the Pope would have introduced criminal procedures “only for this process”, which, according to Crassus’ defender, would make the Vatican “a special Tribunal”.
All the other attorneys joined in the requests of attorney Panella, asking that the indictment be declared null and void. In particular, Cataldo Intrieri, a lawyer for Fabrizio Tirabassi (formerly an official of the Secretariat of State) pointed out that the acts lack documentation concerning his client, such as the search and seizure order that took place in October 2019 in the Secretariat of State and the experts’ report on the examination of Tirabassi’s computers: “The contents were extracted without our being consulted.” And he recalled that money was seized from Tirabassi’s and his father’s home that, according to the lawyer, should not have been possible to sequester “because it was there before 2013”. Moreover, according to what Intrieri pointed out, the file of the appeals court in Rome that had established the illegitimacy of the seizure and ordered the restitution of the goods to the owners appears to be missing.
This was followed by the intervention of attorney Salvino Mondello, who stated that his client, Msgr. Carlino, had been accused in the two interrogations of “completely different crimes from those that had been referred”. Then it was the turn of Fabio Viglione, Cardinal Becciu’s lawyer, who complained about the lack of recordings of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca’s interrogations (including videos of the interrogations), as well as “a series of acts that refer to forensic copies of numerous computer devices in use” by Perlasca himself. This was echoed by deputy Leonardo Mazza, according to whom the five interrogations of Perlasca – of which, he said, traces had been lost – are null and void, as well as “the result of an obvious procedural violation of the rights of guarantee”. In particular, this regards the first interrogation of August 31, 2020, to which the Perlasca presented himself voluntarily and without a defence attorney.
On the other hand, Giandomenico Caiazza, defense counsel for broker Raffaele Mincione, said that in the acts they learned “almost by chance” of the existence of an arrest warrant issued on 19 June 2020 against Mincione. “This warrant was never executed, but it was issued with the same logic as that of Torzi”. The lawyer hinted that if Mincione had shown up for questioning that day, he would have been arrested: “This is a method that will call for appropriate prudence towards similar citations to interrogations at the Vatican City State”.
The lawyers’ remarks were answered by Paola Severino, former Italian Minister of Justice and attorney for the Secretariat of State for the civil process, who reiterated the legitimacy of APSA’s incorporation as a civil plaintiff by virtue of the Pope’s Motu proprio of December 26, 2020, which transferred funds and investments of the Secretariat of State to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. “In the case of compensation to the Secretariat of State, no longer holders of assets, there were fears of objections of legitimacy. Hence the establishment of the APSA”. As for the fact that the Vatican is a “special tribunal”, the professor reiterated the “strong moral connotation” of the trial underway and, on several occasions; the validity of the rescripts of the Pontiff, stressing that “the Pope is the legislator, as is the case in all the processes in the Vatican”.
Also present in the courtroom on behalf of the IOR was lawyer Roberto Lipari, who stressed that the Istituto per le Opere di Religione is “an injured party”:
“The task of the IOR is to safeguard the assets destined for works of religion and charity. The illicit use of IOR assets damages the ability of the IOR – which is not part of either the Holy See or the Vatican City State – to make new contacts and relationships.”
For his part, the promoter of justice (effectively, the chief prosecutor), Gian Piero Milano, returned to the question of the papal rescript which, he explained, is an act that expresses “the supreme power” of the Pope: “If we look at this hearing with the eyes of a jurist, we have a deformed vision of this order and we can attribute non-compliant meanings of the civil orders,” he clarified. Referring to the “special” character of the Vatican Tribunal for the ongoing process, he said instead: “It would become a special tribunal if it arrogated to itself the prerogative of reviewing acts that are the expression of a power removed from any evaluation”.
The response of the assistant promoter, Alessandro Diddi, was more extensive. He began by saying, “If we have made mistakes, we are ready to amend them”. Then he replied, point by point, to each of the objections of the lawyers. First of all, he made it clear that the defense should not be based on the differences between the Italian and Vatican systems: “Let’s clarify the rules: making continuous reference to a system that is not the one in force distracts attention from what we are going to do from here in the coming months”. Reiterating the effectiveness of the Pope’s rescripts, Diddi explained that it is precisely because of this papal provision that the arrest warrant for Torzi and Mincione was issued. The latter mandate was decided because during those days in June 2020, at a “crucial” phase of the investigations, there was “an attempt to mislead” by the two brokers. “We felt we had to intervene with precautionary measures”.
The adjunct promoter also explained that all the computer items seized are currently kept in a safe in the office of the Promoter of Justice and that if some acts have not been produced it is because the laws in force establish that it is possible to deposit acts of proceedings and not seized acts: “The only material that cannot be included is a huge amount of computer items kept in a small location, a small building, in a room full of devices”. However, Diddi reiterated his willingness, subject to authorization by the Court, to reproduce any documentation requested. Finally, he said he was proud of the fact that “in a year and a half of investigations there has been no leakage of information”.
After an hour and twenty minutes of council chamber, President Pignatone revoked the Vatican’s arrest warrant against Mincione and reserved the right to decide on the objections and requests of the lawyers. He then established the judgment in absentia of all those absent from the first hearing, with the exception of broker Gianluigi Torzi, who is not participating due to a legitimate impediment; as well as Cardinal Becciu and his former secretary Msgr. Carlino who had appeared in court.
By Vatican News staff writer
The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland have spoken up against a controversial decision last week by authorities to direct the Executive and Department of Health to make abortion services available in Northern Ireland by 21 March 2022.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Bishops said that the move, a directive by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, is “the latest in a line of decisions by the current Westminster Government” which they believe “threaten the fragile balance of relationships at the heart of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”
The bishops also express concern that some local political parties seem content to welcome the “unilateral move” on such an issue which is “of fundamental importance to local voters” while they challenge other unilateral impositions on other issues.
Changes to abortion laws in Northern Ireland were liberalized in 2019 following legislation passed at Westminster during the absence of devolution. Since then, the commissioning of services was stalled due to a disagreement within the devolved administration.
However, on 22 July, Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, directed the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Board to implement more liberal abortion services amid opposition from some Northern Irish ministers.
Lewis said he was issuing the direction because of the “ongoing stalemate” among the five-party executive, adding that he has “a legal and moral obligation to ensure the women and girls in Northern Ireland are afforded their rights and can access the healthcare.”
In light of the move, the bishops noted that with many others, from a wide range of moral, philosophical and religious backgrounds, they “have consistently held that the right to life of every person, irrespective of stage of development or ability, is the prior and essential right of all other human rights.”
They also highlighted that our shared search for peace is driven “in no small part by our collective rejection of the brutality and demeaning of human dignity that occurs when the right to life is diminished in any way.”
In this regard, they expressed concern that the failure to extend this sensitivity and care to our own fellow human beings in the womb, as well as to pregnant mothers, will one day be seen as “a grave moral blindness on the part of this generation and a profound dereliction of our responsibility to uphold the most basic human right of all – the right to life.”
The Northern Irish bishops went on to note that in unilaterally imposing this decision on the Assembly to provide abortion services, it is as if the Westminster government “believe the answer to the issue of providing compassionate care for a woman and her unborn child in pregnancy can be framed simply and exclusively as a ‘healthcare issue’.”
On this matter, they pointed out that thousands of unborn children, whose humanity is excluded and who have no legal protection have been excluded from the discussion. It is thus for this reason, the bishops stressed, that “the argument for the protection of all human life can never be abandoned or referred to human rights experts alone.”
“Westminster has imposed an unjust law,” the Bishops said. “Christians, and all people of good will, can never stand silently by and fail to raise their voices at any attempt to ignore completely the fact that unborn children are human beings worthy of protection.”
Concluding their statement, the bishops called on all Catholics and all those who share their view on the inviolability of all human life to “reflect carefully on the issues raised by this succession of unilateral impositions by the Westminster Government” as the Northern Ireland prepares in coming months for elections to the local Assembly.
They also encouraged everyone who believes in the equal right to life and compassionate care for a mother and her unborn child to “ask local candidates and political parties to explain their position on these interventions and on this most fundamental of all issues.”
Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).
Cardinal Angelo Becciu was present Tuesday on the first day of a major Vatican finance trial to defend himself of charges of embezzlement and abuse of office.
Becciu is one of 10 defendants in what is the Vatican’s largest trial for financial crimes in modern times. The cardinal is going before the Vatican tribunal for the first time since Pope Francis changed norms in April to allow cardinals and archbishops to be tried by lay judges.
In a statement through his lawyer July 27, the cardinal said he that he was “calm” and awaited the continuation of the trial in order to prove his innocence of all the accusations against him.
“Cardinal Becciu, after today’s hearing, renews his confidence in the Tribunal, the impartial judge of the facts hypothesized only by the Promoter of Justice, as yet without any confrontation with the defense and with a view to the presumption of innocence,” the statement from lawyer Fabio Viglione said.
Defendant Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and is charged with extortion and abuse of office, was also present at the seven-hour hearing on Tuesday. The remaining eight defendants were absent but represented by their lawyers.
The hearing took place in a multipurpose room of the Vatican Museums recently adapted for use by the court. The next audience was scheduled by the court for Oct. 5 after several of the defense lawyers asked for more time to prepare.
In this trial, the Vatican court of first instance is made up of a three-judge panel consisting of tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone, and two Italian law professors: Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano.
According to a Vatican judge, only Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi’s absence from the courtroom July 27 was justified, due to him being under precautionary measures in the U.K. while awaiting extradition to Italy at the request of Italian authorities.
At the center of the case on 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.
Vatican prosecutors maintain that the deal was problematic and designed to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions of euros.
Becciu resigned as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints 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.
Msgr. 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.
Vatican prosecutors identified Perlasca’s testimony, provided over the course of several interviews, as being important for reconstructing “some central moments” in the affair. But at Tuesday’s hearing, a defense lawyer argued that Perlasca’s testimony from five interviews, in which he had no lawyer present, should be considered “inadmissible.”
A Vatican prosecutor argued that the depositions were legitimate because they were videotaped and “voluntary.”
Becciu said in a statement he will be suing Perlasca and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, another person questioned by investigators, “for slander for the very serious and completely false statements made during the investigations to the Promoter of Justice.”
The cardinal told journalists in the courtroom at the end of the hearing that he is “obedient to the pope who sent me to trial, I have always been obedient to the pope, he entrusted me with many missions in my life, he wanted me to come to trial and I am coming to the trial. I am calm, I feel calm in conscience, I have the confidence that the judges will be able to see the facts well and my great hope is the certainty that they recognize my innocence.”
Other defendants in the finance trial include 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.
Mincione has been charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation, and self-money laundering.
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.
His associate, the lawyer Nicola Squillace, faces the same charges minus extortion.
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.
Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, is accused of 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.
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.
Di Ruzza is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and violation of confidentiality.
Brülhart is being prosecuted for abuse of office. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
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By Robin Gomes
“It is a day of great joy, a day of great blessing in the Diocese of Vinh, which rejoices for 34 new ordained priests who will also be missionaries, where the Lord will call them to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel.” This is how Bishop Alphonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh introduced the solemn Mass of the priestly ordination which he presided over on Sunday, the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.
He noted that his diocese was “living this moment of great happiness, at a time of great suffering in many parts of the world” due to the surge in Covid-19 infections, including in Vietnam. The Mass could be attended only by a limited number of religious, seminarians and faithful of the diocese due to the Covid-19 health protocols.
Precisely in this dramatic situation, he pointed out, the new priests will be the ‘Good Samaritan’, “bringing care and mercy to wounded hearts, and they will also be missionaries in remote places or even in three dioceses, where the Lord will call them to live”. “Evangelization,” he recalled, “is the task of every baptized person; the proper mission of every priest is to lead men and women to God in order to have the gift of salvation and eternal life”.
Bishop Alphonse said that priests are called to be available and happy to serve anywhere, including in remote mission territories, poor countryside or in areas hard to reach. “The population in places of conflict, or where there are natural disasters or a high risk of contagion from a pandemic,” the bishop said, “really need the presence of priests for material and spiritual comfort, in order to help overcome pain and receive hope”. Bishop Alphonse noted that the Lord continues to call young people despite the fact that nowadays many are unwilling to dedicate their lives to serve people in difficult and dangerous places.
“In the context of the scarcity of priests, and while the population suffers severely from the pandemic and other causes, after a prayer discernment, I have decided to share half of these new priests with isolated territories, in other dioceses that lack priests,” Bishop Alphonse said. He is sending some of them as ‘Fidei Donum’ priests in the northern Diocese of Hung Hoa, where there is a shortage of priests to serve about 250,000 faithful in 10 provinces in mountainous and lowland areas.
The expression ‘Fidei Donum’ is the Latin for ‘the Gift of Faith’. This is the name of the 1957 encyclical of Pius XII, which called on all bishops to share his vision “to face the challenges of the universal mission of the Church”. This involved not only by means of prayer and assisting each other but also by making priests available to other dioceses, countries and continents. These priests, who while serving elsewhere are still attached to their own dioceses, are referred to as “Fidei Donum” priests. Turning to the new priests, Bishop Alphonse urged them to show their love for God by repeating in their hearts, “Lord, I come to do your will”.
The Communist-ruled country, which successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak throughout 2020, is now experiencing its worst wave so far. Its Covid-19 numbers have surpassed 6,000 infections a day for the past week. The health ministry on Monday reported 7,882 new cases, up from 7,531 cases on Sunday and just shy of the record of 7,968 set on Saturday. Most cases are concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbouring provinces, the ministry of health said.
It has recorded more than 109,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, with at least 524 deaths. A fifth of those cases have occurred between July 23 and 25.
In this situation, the Catholics in all the diocese are working to provide for the essential, material and spiritual needs of the people in the quarantine areas and other people in need. Some priests, religious and Catholic laity are also volunteering to provide pastoral, spiritual and humanitarian to patients in high-risk areas such as in Covid hospitals. (Source: Fides)
By Vatican News staff writer
In a note to Mexican authorities from the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Human Rights Centre ‘Juan Gerardi de Torreón’, the two organisations call for respect and ask that the human rights of migrants and those seeking international protection in Mexico be guaranteed.
In particular, the two bodies denounce the persecution, criminalisation and arbitrary detention of migrants in Mexico, describing it as a recurrent situation. They stress that, in reality, state and municipal security forces should not participate in migration operations because their intervention is contrary to legislative provisions. At the same time, the two bodies urge the Ministry of Security to ‘respect international human rights treaties and refrain from any act of intimidation, threat or obstruction of the work of human rights defenders or humanitarian workers’.
The note from the two organisations was prompted by what happened on the afternoon of 22 July, when twelve migrants from the centre were aggressively searched by four policemen, who stole their money and personal belongings. The humanitarian volunteers tried to intervene, but were violently repelled by an officer who claimed that the migrants were in possession of drugs. This accusation was not proven in any way. The incident triggered threats and intimidation by the police officers against the volunteers, who were also physically assaulted and had their mobile phones, which they were using to record the violence, destroyed.
The Jesuits and the Centre therefore call on the Attorney General of the country, Gertz Manero, to carry out an effective investigation into what happened, while the National Human Rights Commission is asked to investigate, in general, all human rights violations against asylum seekers and refugees, as well as violations committed against human rights defenders.
The Human Rights Centre ‘Juan Gerardi de Torreón’ has been working since 1999 in the La Laguna de Torreón region of Coahuila, promoting a culture of peace and respect for human rights. Its current areas of work include Central American transmigration, water and environmental protection, and human rights education. The organisation also documents cases of missing persons and provides humanitarian support to migrants passing through Torreón on their way to the United States of America.
By Vatican News staff reporter
With just forty days to go until the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis in Slovakia, the Pontifical Missionary Works of Slovakia has launched an initiative to prepare for his arrival on the 12 September.
A prayer “marathon” will take place from 7 August to 15 September and will require the faithful to recite the Rosary daily in church, at home or within their own community.
“We invite all people of good will – the organisers underline – to participate in the preparation of a ‘spiritual bouquet’, on which each believer will ideally place a flower, with a prayer for Slovakia and for the Pope”.
For their part, the Slovakian bishops are encouraging the faithful to look to the example of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, her Spouse, who they say, “guide us in the following of Jesus and lead us to recognise the traces of His presence in our lives, in expectation and in the deepest desires of our hearts”.
“We are all invited to this journey of life, to this pilgrimage,” continue the bishops, “individuals, families, communities. Pope Francis himself will take part in September and will encourage us personally”.
In addition, the auxiliary bishop of Bratislava, Jozef Haľko, head of spiritual preparation for the papal visit in September, invites the faithful to pray the Rosary every day, so that the words that the Pope will pronounce in Slovakia “may fall on fertile ground and bear fruit in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ”.
The Pope’s visit to Slovakia will take place from the 12-15 September
By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis has encouraged Catholic communicators in Brazil to be “instruments of reconciliation and unity” in these difficult times of pandemic which has hardly hit the country.
In a message addressed to the participants in the 12th “Mutirão de Comunicação”, an annual meeting of Catholic communicators co-organized by the Brazilian Bishops Conference (CNBB), the Pontiff stresses that Christians are called to be a “sign of hope and of solidarity” in Brazilian society “inspired by their faith and confiding that the Risen Lord accompanies his disciples until the end of time (Mt 28,20)”. This implies being “instruments of unity and reconciliation, which is the mission of the Church in Brazil now more than ever”, the Holy Father emphasizes referring to the ongoing political and social tensions that are dividing the country in the present crisis. This is why “Christian communicators should be on the frontline in promoting a communication which builds bridges, seeks dialogue and overcomes ideological contradictions”.
The message, signed by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, therefore stresses their primary duty “to be witnesses of the truth”, reminding that they should be responsible for the communications they make, the information they share, the control that they can exert over fake news by exposing it (Cf Message for the 54th World Communications Day).
The Pope’s message was read at the opening of the on-line session by the President of the CNBB, Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte who, on his part, also reiterated the importance of an effective and efficient communication for the mission of the Church in Brazil.
A record number of 5,600 participants took part in this year’s “Mutirão de Comunicação”, which was co-organized by the Catholic Radio Network (RCR) of Brazil and the Brazilian section of Signis, the World Catholic Association for Communication. Focused on the theme “For an integral communication: the human in the new media environment”, the session was divided in six parts including conferences, round tables, presentations and reflections. The wide range of topics discussed included the relation between real life and digital life and its challenges for the Church in Brazil, communicating peace in times of fake news, the influence of the new media in society and Church, the challenges of the new media context for ecclesial communities in light of the “Fratelli tutti” and strategies for renewing Catholic communication in the post-pandemic era. The session reiterated the crucial importance of quality communication for the mission of the Church in Brazil.
By Vatican News staff writer
Bishops in Ethiopia have reiterated calls for an end to the violence in the nation’s Tigray region which has been ravaged by armed conflict since November last year.
The conflict in Tigray began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military incursion in retaliation for an attack on a federal army base by forces loyal to the regions’ dissident Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party. The ensuing violence has led to thousands of deaths, massive displacement and a worsening humanitarian situation. The UN has even warned that several hundred thousand people are at risk of starvation.
“It saddens our hearts hearing about war while we all would like to hear about peace and reconciliation,” they said in a statement published at the end of their ordinary Assembly, concerning the situation in the troubled Tigray region of the country.
In light of the widening conflict, the bishops point out that “the horror of war is neither a remedy for wrongs nor a solution to a crisis” because “war brings untold suffering and the price that innocent people pay is incalculable.”
“It is never too late to stop the violence”, the bishops said, inviting the parties to embrace dialogue as a path to peace.
They further insisted that the only way forward, for the good of the people, is peace and reconciliation, which helps “to satisfy the demands of truth and justice, to ask for and grant forgiveness, to restore mutual trust, to recognize others as our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are and how deep our disagreements are, and to settle any differences through dialogue and negotiation”.
The bishops went on to call on the authorities on the ground to allow access to humanitarian aid for people trapped in the conflict-stricken areas.
According to a recently-released UN Tigray region humanitarian report, the situation in the region remains dire. 5.2 million people are in need of assistance while supplies and personnel fall short in responding to their needs. In addition, stocks are depleting fast and road access to the region has been greatly restricted in recent times.
“As Pastors, we cannot but feel the anguish and pain that the people are going through. We identify with them and their anguish is our anguish,” the bishops said.
They also extended their gratitude to “the many people who have been working tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of the population” while calling for continued support so that “no one is forgotten or left out.”
The ordinary assembly, held from 13 -16 July brought together bishops from all dioceses of Ethiopia except Bishop Tesfassilasie Medhin of Ethiopia’s Eparchy of Adigrate, which is within the war zone of Tigray.
The bishops offered prayers for Bishop Medhin who could not join due to the situation in Tigray, and also for the clergy, religious men and women and the faithful who have been going through challenging times due to the conflict.
By Linda Bordoni
Authorities said bodies have not been recovered from the shipwreck, but survivors of the latest Mediterranean migration tragedy included migrants from Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia.
The International Organization for Migration said that “According to survivors brought to shore by fishermen and the coast guard, at least 20 women and two children were among those who drowned.”
The migrants, most of them from West Africa, had departed from Khums in Libya in a tiny boat in the hope of reaching Europe.
An IOM spokesperson noted that “Despite an increase in arrivals in Europe, there is no crisis of numbers, and arrivals remain manageable through better solidarity and improved governance and management of migration.”
Pope Francis, the Church and other religious leaders and faith-based organizations have tirelessly advocated for new EU legislation to safeguard the lives and dignity of migrants who undertake dangerous journeys in search of a better life.
But many European nations keep dragging their heels and only Pacts that are non-binding have been approved. Meanwhile, thanks to a recently renewed deal between Rome and Tripoli according to which Italy funds and trains the Libyan Coast Guard, tens of thousands of migrants rescued by Libyan ships have been returned to Libyan detention camps where they end up in appalling conditions, exposed to abuse and extortion. Others go missing and are unaccounted for, raising fears they may have been channeled into human trafficking networks.
In the first half of this year, the Libyan coast guard has plucked more than 13,000 people from the Mediterranean, exceeding the total figure for 2020, while earlier this month, the IOM said that the number of people who have died trying to make the crossing nearly doubled in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Hundreds of thousands have attempted the perilous crossing in the last years, most of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis described world hunger on Monday as “a crime that violates basic human rights.”
In a July 26 message to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the pope called for a “new mindset” in the battle against malnutrition.
“We produce enough food for all people, but many go without their daily bread. This ‘constitutes a real scandal,’ a crime that violates basic human rights,” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti.
“Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to eradicate this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies.”
The pope sent the message to the U.N. chief at the start of the Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit in Rome. The event, held on July 26-28, is seeking to build momentum ahead of the summit in New York in September.
The U.N. estimates that that nearly 690 million people — 8.9% of the world population — suffer from hunger, an increase of almost 60 million in five years.
“If we want to guarantee the fundamental right to an adequate standard of living and fulfill our commitments to achieve Zero Hunger, it is not enough to produce food,” wrote the pope, who returned to the Vatican on July 14 after undergoing colon surgery.
“We need a new mindset and a new holistic approach and to design food systems that protect the Earth and keep the dignity of the human person at the center; that guarantee sufficient food globally and promote decent work locally; and that feed the world today, without compromising the future.”
Pope Francis has consistently highlighted world hunger since his election in 2013.
He made a donation last year to the World Food Programme as the U.N. organization worked to feed 270 million people amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The pope told the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in June that the pandemic should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.
In his message to Guterres, who is a Catholic, the pope said: “We are aware that individual, closed, and conflicting — but powerful — economic interests prevent us from designing a food system that responds to the values of the common good, solidarity and the ‘culture of encounter.’”
“If we want to maintain a fruitful multilateralism and a food system based on responsibility, justice, peace and the unity of the human family is paramount.”
“The crisis we are currently facing is indeed a unique opportunity to engage in authentic, bold, and courageous dialogues, addressing the roots of our unjust food system.”
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By Lisa Zengarini
“Protecting all life creates peace” will be the theme of this year’s “Ten Days for Peace” initiative, the annual period of prayer held by the Church in Japan from 6 to 15 August to remember the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In a message for the occasion, Bishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ), explains that the theme is drawn from the motto of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Journey to Japan (23-26 November 2019), underlining the connection between that tragedy and the ongoing threat of nuclear war which is still present today.
The prelate notes that peace and the stability of the international community are still threatened today by armed conflicts, by the refugee crisis across the world and by growing tensions between the United States and China which are leading to a “new cold war”. In this context, he says, “we cannot but urge countries to continue their efforts for a patient dialogue, so as to build better relations”. Bishop Takami also remarks that, although the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on January 22 this year, there are still many countries that have not ratified it. “Both conflicts between countries and the existence of weapons of mass destruction are a threat to peace”, the message emphasizes. The president of the Japanese bishops also recalls that in other countries like Myanmar or Afghanistan, people are denied their basic human rights and peace by “deviant powers and forces” who “give priority to national security and wealth” over respect for human life.
The message further refers to the COVID-19 pandemic, reiterating the call for greater solidarity. Richer and stronger countries – Bishop Takami says – should support poorer countries, respecting the dignity of all lives equally so to “deepen mutual trust as brothers and sisters”, as called for by the Document on Human Brotherhood signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti”.
According to the prelate, in giving the highest priority to the protection of all lives, regardless of their backgrounds, “we promote peace”, because “life is not just the life of an individual, but is created by human relations: therefore, protecting the former also means protecting the latter. Peace is harmony between the lives of all”, the message concludes.
The “Ten days for peace” initiative was established by the Japanese Bishops in in 1982, following Pope John Paul II’s “Appeal for Peace at Hiroshima” (25 February 1981) during his Apostolic Journey to Japan, in which he emphasized that “remembering the past is engaging for the future”. During his visit to the Country in November 2019, Pope Francis further added that the possession of nuclear weapons is also immoral.
Donatien Nyembo Sj, Paule Valérie Mendogo and Vatican News English Africa Service.
The national event, which brought together more than 500 Catholic women from different parts of Cameroon, was held in the Diocese of Ngaoundéré, north-central Cameroon, Adamawa Plateau.
During the closing Mass of Sunday, 25 July, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Apostles in Ngaoundéré, the Catholic women pledged to plant a new seed of mutual love that would inspire other members, especially a new generation of members. They will also double up on accomplishing works of mercy within communities.
The local Ordinary, Bishop Emmanuel Abbo, addressed the women association and encouraged them to commit and dedicate themselves even more to the different apostolates in their dioceses. Bishop Abbo, nonetheless, admonished the ladies against the temptation of seeking power, prestige and honour at the expense of their calling as lay Catholics. He warned against unhealthy tendencies that undermine others.
National Chaplain of the Catholic Women in Cameroon, Father Giles Ngwa Forteh, for his part, expressed the wish to see a new generation of Catholic Women grow, one whose language and life would be anchored on the law of love.
“Rediscovering the love of God and sharing must be our goal. Indeed, the hatred we see around us clearly indicates that the human heart has become seriously hardened. Only the Word of God can soften that heart and make people take actions that can transform the world. God renews us every time we approach him,” he said.
By Robin Gomes
As Myanmar continues to reel under the triple disaster of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conflict and the collapse of the economy, resulting in starvation, unemployment, displacement and the deaths of hundreds due to the conflict and lack of medicine and oxygen, God is asking the people to reach out to others through “our five senses”, just as Jesus did when he fed the crowd multiplying the 5 loaves.
Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon made the call in his homily at Mass on July 25, drawing an analogy between the miracle of Jesus as narrated in John’s Gospel and Myanmar’s dire situation.
The impoverished nation has been thrown into an unprecedented crisis by the February 1 military coup, that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government. Since then, anti-coup protests and a civil disobedience movement have brought the economy to its knees, with prices of food and essential goods skyrocketing.
The military has re-ignited its old conflicts with armed ethnic groups, forcing some 211,000 to flee their homes.
The situation has been exacerbated by a devastating surge in the Covid-19 pandemic, with hospitals non-functional and an acute shortage of medical oxygen. As of Sunday, Myanmar recorded 355 deaths, its highest daily count, taking the total to 7,111. There were 4,998 fresh cases of infection, taking the total to 269,525. The country has over 77,000 active cases.
As hospitals are empty and healthcare practically non-existent, because of the strike and civil disobedience movement against the military junta, volunteers are going house-to-house to provide health care and collect bodies for burials.
Among the recent Covid deaths has been Bishop John Hsane Hgyi of Pathein, who died on July 22. Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), condoled his brother bishop saying the “amiable shepherd”, “compassionate pastor, a kind bishop, an erudite scholar and the ever-smiling accompanier of the weak and the vulnerable, fell a victim to the cruel virus”.
The Salesian cardinal said the Mass readings speak about the hunger of the Israelites in the desert and Jesus feeding the crowd. “After six months of unbearable suffering,” he noted that perhaps “many people are angry with God, for not coming to their aid”. Myanmar is experiencing “excruciating hunger” for food, medicine, medical care, oxygen and for peace based on justice. With the journey long and the “promised land” seeming to recede, murmurings and disunity appear to strengthen the hand of the evil.
The 72-year-old cardinal pointed out that God has greatly blessed Myanmar with rich natural resources and “a grace-filled people”. These resources are God’s five loaves to Myanmar to feed its 55 million people. Yet, he lamented, “God’s gift is still eluding our people.” The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that 3.4 million people are at the risk of chronic starvation in Myanmar.
What is needed is “the incarnation of God’s ‘compassion’ or ‘karuna’, which drew Jesus to human suffering. The cardinal said, Jesus “sees our people dying without oxygen, without medicine.” He sees our people waiting at the cemeteries to bury their dear ones, he sees the tears and brokenness of our displaced people.” “We pray that He gives us the five loaves of consolation, healing, peace, justice and prosperity.”
“God never remains silent. He comes at His time…” said the cardinal, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). “His response will start with each one of us. At this moment, when the pandemic rages, he said, God is asking the people of Myanmar to work the miracle of the five loaves through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
The cardinal urged the people not to shut their eyes but to see the suffering of the people with the compassionate eyes of Jesus. Like Jesus, they should hear and respond to the cry of thousands of people for help, for oxygen and medicine. Like Jesus, they should also taste and feel the sorrow of the people and reach out to them. Like the Good Shepherd, the Church should also be close to its sheep and smell like them, ministering to them in care centres and homes where the infected live. And finally, the Lord wants the people to reach out to the suffering with their touch.
By Alessandro De Carolis
At first sight one could have mistaken him for a visitor, perhaps an actor… one of the many guests who – before the Covid-19 pandemic – found themselves the corridors of the Palazzo Pio waiting to enter the studio for an interview. But on the Pope’s Radio, and then in the early days of Vatican News, Father Bernd Hagenkord was anything but a guest.
The illness that tore him away this morning from the affection of the many people who were close to him – besides his family, the Society of Jesus which he joined in 1992 at the age of 24 and his colleagues in the Vatican media – spread rapidly and incurably shortly after his return from Rome to Germany, where he was born on 4 October 1968 in Hamm, near Dusseldorf.
Father Bernd arrived in Rome in 2009, with a great interest in journalism, to take over the direction of the German-language programmes of the Vatican’s broadcasting station. A priest since 2002, he was ordained in Cologne and studied philosophy, theology, history and journalism in Hamburg, Munich and London. Cologne is the city where he prepared himself by studying Italian and doing an internship at Domradio, for the task assigned him by the Society of Jesus, among microphones and covrage of papal activities during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
During his ten years with the Radio, he was greatly appreciated by his fellow German-speaking reporters, who admired him not only for his professional but also his human qualities – he was often the one who offered to cover the busiest shifts, especially on major feasts, so that his colleagues, mothers and fathers, could be with their loved ones. But Father Bernd was highly esteemed by those in the other language sections as well, which at the Vatican Radio headquarters in Palazzo Pio – where dozens of languages and cultures coexist – means, in a certain sense, “other worlds.” He became the coordinator of the Jesuits working at Vatican Radio, which had been entrusted to the Society founded by St Ignatius until the reform of the Vatican Media desired by Pope Francis.
Father Bernd was very balanced, often ironic in his speech – but what especially stood out was his ability to mediate in a way that was both thoughtful and insightful about the issues to be resolved. That was one of the reasons why the new management asked him to take over the editorial team responsible for coordinating the work of all the language sections when the reforms redesigned the structure and balance of Vatican communication.
In September 2019, Father Bernd said good-bye to the world of Vatican journalism. Those who bid him farewell had no suspicion that his departure was about to become something more. In the church in Germany, Father Bernd immersed himself in the synodal journey, first as a spiritual guide, then also as an elected member of the ZdK, the largest association of German Catholics involved in the Synod with the Bishops’ Conference. He found time to teach journalism, until his strength was sapped by illness and exhausting treatment.
Father Bernd lived his last days with a discretion that is both innate and sought after, his mind occupied with what had struck him, and a piece of his heart that he felt had never left his beloved Rome and the Romans, remembered with stunning black and white photographs on his Instagram profile. On the door of his office, upon arriving in Rome, he had hung this sign: ‘Free space for faith.’ That sign is no longer there – but it is no longer needed. It is engraved in his legacy.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
Through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
By Lisa Zengarini
As debate mounted last week in France over a new bill tightening vaccine requirements for all healthcare workers and requiring a health pass to access certain public spaces, French bishops have joined widespread criticism against comparing the measure to Jewish persecution by Nazi Germany. Opponents to the bill have taken to the streets arguing that the bill is discriminatory and dictatorial and some demonstrators have gone as far as waring the Yellow Star badge imposed by the Nazi upon Jews. According to the bishops, however, the comparison expresses “a serious confusion of ideas”.
“The Shoah represents an absolute horror from which our political conduct must be judged, and not become a plaything for the benefit a cause”, the Bishops’ Conference (CEF) writes in a statement, emphasizing that anti-COVID vaccines are “the medical response available to deal with an epidemic which threatens to further paralyze economic life but, most importantly, social life and exchanges of affection and friendship.” “They do not deny the dignity of human beings by justifying their elimination,” the bishops say.
The statement further points out that “by making it compulsory for some and by imposing a health pass for certain activities, the Government is fulfilling its legitimate responsibilities under the control of the Parliament” and that it is up to the judicial bodies of the State of law to verify that these restrictions to personal freedom are “in accordance with the law” and “proportionate”.
The French bishops therefore urge citizens not to confuse certain freedoms, such as traveling or going out for a meal, with “the freedom to exist”, or the freedom to go to the cinema or to a café with “the freedom to praise God or not to praise Him”, even though, they note, “neither the State or citizens should ignore that all freedoms are connected.” “This epidemic makes us all feel responsible towards one another. It somehow announces unity of mankind and its intimate union with God,” the statement concludes.
The new restrictive measures were announced by President Emmanuel Macron on July 12 following the new wave of infections from Coronavirus connected with the more contagious Delta variant which has brought new cases to over 20,000 a day in France last week. The French Parliament subsequently approved the bill on July 19 making anti-COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all healthcare workers and requiring a health pass to access to museums, cinemas, swimming pools restaurants and other social venues, but also on trains and aircrafts, where people are required to show proof of either vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Other European countries, including Italy, have introduced similar measures, which have also brought demonstrations by anti-vax protesters.
By Lydia O’Kane
Under the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and hosted by the Italian government, the Pre-Summit on Food Systems will bring together the efforts and contributions of a global engagement process started in 2020 with the goal of transforming food systems, and paving the way for an ambitious and productive summit in September.
In a message to the Secretary General, Pope Francis says this important meeting “highlights how one of our greatest challenges today is to overcome hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition in the era of COVID-19.”
This pandemic, he adds, “has confronted us with the systemic injustices that undermine our unity as a human family,” while the poorest and the Earth itself “cries out for the damage we inflict on it through irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has placed in it.”
The Pope notes that while new technologies are developed in order to increase “the planet’s capacity to bear fruit,” we continue to “exploit nature to the point of sterilisation, thus expanding not only external deserts but also internal spiritual deserts.“
He denounces the “scandal” of hunger in a world that produces enough food for all people, adding that it is a “crime that violates basic human rights.”
Pope Francis underlines that it is everyone’s duty to combat “this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies.”
In this perspective, he says, the careful and correct transformation of food systems have an important role to play.
The Pope underlines that it is “not enough to produce food”; what is also needed is a “new mindset and a new holistic approach and to design food systems that protect the Earth and keep the dignity of the human person at the centre; that ensure enough food globally and promote decent work locally; and that feed the world today, without compromising the future.”
In his message, Pope Francis also highlights the need to “restore the centrality of the rural sector,” and reaffirm the agricultural sector’s priority role “in the political and economic decision-making process, aimed at outlining the framework of the post-pandemic ‘restart’ process that is being built.”
Small farmers and the family, the Pope points out, are “an essential component of food systems,” adding that policies must be put in place that “fully meet the needs of rural women, promote youth employment, and improve the work of farmers in the poorest and most remote areas.”
Pope Francis notes, “If we want to maintain a fruitful multilateralism and a food system based on responsibility, justice, peace and unity of the human family is paramount.”
He also emphasizes that “the crisis we are currently facing is indeed a unique opportunity to engage in genuine, bold and courageous dialogues, addressing the roots of our unjust food system.”
Concluding his message, the Pope underlines that throughout this important meeting, “we have a responsibility to realise the dream of a world where bread, water, medicine and work flow in abundance and reach the poorest first.”
He stresses, “The Holy See and the Catholic Church will put themselves at the service of this noble goal, offering their contribution, joining forces and wills, actions and wise decisions.”
Finally, Pope Francis expresses the hope this meeting for the regeneration of food systems will “set us on the path to build a peaceful and prosperous society, and sow the seeds of peace that will allow us to walk in true fraternity.”
By Linda Bordoni
Setting the stage for a culminating event in September in New York, a three-day Food Systems Pre-Summit kicked off in Rome on Monday highlighting the need to act together to find sustainable, affordable and inclusive models for a world in which no one is left behind.
The United Nations event (featuring three Rome-based UN agencies dedicated to food security – FAO, WFP and IFAD) involves experts from around across the globe working to harness the power of food systems and the involvement of people from all walks of life and expertise.
To find out more about what a Food System is, why we need a Summit, and what are the expectations for its outcome, Linda Bordoni spoke to Martin Penner, Deputy Head of the Global Media Team at the World Food Programme.
“A food system is everything that happens between food getting grown on a farm, and that food landing on your dinner plate,” Penner explained: It involves “agriculture, transport of food, storage of food, markets, shops supermarket… even your fridge! In short, it’s everything that happens between farm and fork.”
Penner went on to say that the Summit has been convened to assess the problems of the food systems, find solutions and address the main reasons that drive food insecurity and malnutrition because it is clear there is something very broken.
“There are 811 million people who go to bed hungry every night; at the same time there are 2 billion people who are overweight: these two things by themselves indicate that something is broken,” he said.
Food systems, he added, “account for a third of the greenhouse gases that get produced every year, while at the same time, a third of the food that we produce in the world (worth 1 trillion dollars) is wasted.”
All this, he continued, points to serious faults in the systems that have been compounded and exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
“What happened recently with Covid and the resilience of our food systems was severely tested, and in in some cases it didn’t pass the test: supply chains broke down, many countries became hungrier. In fact, according to our figures, during the Covid pandemic 149 million more people have become acutely food insecure,” he said.
Underscoring the need for global action, Penner said the Summit is an opportunity to look for ways to “fix what is a very complex global food system, and we need everyone involved.”
Although, he said it is often referred to as a UN Summit, he said participants really do represent every echelon of the system: the government, the private sector, individuals, organizations, civil society, and of course, farmers.
“Anybody who knows anything about food systems is invited and they will be taking part in these three days and what we really want to happen is that we develop some immediately actionable approaches, some tools that can start reshaping the world’s food systems,” he said.
Penner pointed out that the World Food Program (WFP) has much to offer because its mandate is to feed those in need and it works with broken food system the whole time.
“We feed at over 100 million people in 80 countries around the world every year and most of these people are in places where food systems are breaking or broken.” Thus, he noted, WFP has much expertise to provide and is very keen to do so.
He agreed the Church also has much to offer in the conversation. That’s why the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is present at the Pre-Summit keeping the focus on justice and peace issues and human dignity. Penner also said Pope Francis’s reiterated appeals and his teaching contribute to and affect the work of the UN agencies.
Everyone knows of the Pope’s strong support for efforts to eradicate hunger around the world. “I remember seeing him go on Twitter a few years ago and tweet the #ZeroHunger,” Penner recalled, “and even last month, at a conference in Rome he was talking about the very subject of food systems where he said ‘we must above all ensure that food systems are resilient, inclusive, sustainable and able to provide healthy and affordable diets for all. ‘You really can’t say it any better than that!”
Penner also highlighted another theme that is close to the WFP’s mission quoting Pope Francis who has repeatedly called for the development of an economy that is tailored for human beings and not motivated mainly by profit, but anchored in the common good.
“That is one of the points that we want to get across during this Pre-Summit: that food should be seen as a basic human requirement. It’s not a commodity or not only a commodity.”
The Pope, Penner also noted, has also been very vocal in pointing out that no one is saved alone, and he stressed that in order to save the current situation we all need to work together: “we are all on the same planet and we all rely on the same food systems and unless we work together on the food systems to fix them, they’re going to continue to be broken.
Everyone is invited to take part in the Pre-Summit. For info to log in and follow events click here.
By Vatican News staff writer
Recently-appointed as bishop of Rumbek in South Sudan, Fr. Christian Carlassare has offered prayers for peace in the conflict-ridden country, invoking the intercession of Our Lady to bring healing and change from a past of violence, division and poverty to a future of unity and prosperity.
He made this prayer on Sunday, at the shrine of Madonna dell’Angelo in Piovene Rocchette, Italy, where the faithful gathered to renew the vows made to Our Lady in 1631, as the people were delivered from the plague – one of the most virulent outbreaks of pestilence in Italy – and other disasters.
Bishop-elect Carlassare recalled Pope’s Francis gesture of kissing the feet of South Sudanese leaders when he invited them to Rome in 2019, and urged all South Sudanese to be won over by the Holy Father’s humility and love to “recognize the dignity of every person and work for unity.
“I know it is a long path and a demanding mission but this is the only path to life, and the mission of the Church,” he said. “May Mary intercede for us!”
Father Carlassare, who is presently undergoing a period of rehabilitation and treatment in Italy after suffering gunshot wounds in a recent attack, also seized the opportunity of the renewal of the vow to offer some of the bullets with which he was shot.
“I will take the chance … to offer some of the bullets I was shot with exactly three months ago,” he said. “I have always felt the protection of our Mother Mary, and now, even more, after all that has happened.”
“We look at South Sudan with sympathy, with a positive outlook and hope,” he said. “We acknowledge all peoples and communities that are striving for peace, and demand that all those groups that hold weapons illegally will abandon them and never resort to violence again.”
On the night of the 25–26 April, Carlassare was injured after being shot in the legs by unknown assailants who broke into his residence. The Italian Comboni missionary, who was appointed bishop in March, arrived in early April and had not even yet been ordained a bishop at the time of the tragic incident. He survived the assault and was rushed to hospital.
Recalling the attack in an interview with Fides news agency, Carlassare described it as “a dramatic moment” in which he had to entrust himself into God’s hands, “thinking that my work will end there.”
“This gave me freedom and the awareness that our witness is valid when we are faithful to the Gospel to the end, in our daily fidelity,” he said, adding that for the first three weeks after the incident, he was restricted to bed rest after a first simple “bandage” operation in Rumbek to stop the loss of blood.
Following this first operation, Fr. Carlassare underwent six different surgeries in Nairobi, Kenya, and only started walking with crutches a few weeks ago as he continues to recover. Now, he is in his hometown of Vincenza, Italy, and has to exercise in order to fully heal.
“I have no doubts about the desire to return to my South Sudan, people are waiting for me and, beyond the many problems, there is also great hope. And I want to be part of it,” Carlassare affirms.
“First of all, I have done what I could for my health, and I think I can come back as soon as possible,” he said, but stresses the importance of doing everything possible to resolve his case “and, perhaps even more crucial, that the diocese has an internal path of regeneration to guarantee safety and the possibility of working and making decisions.”
In the interim, an apostolic administrator has been appointed to provide for leadership and pastoral care, as the faithful await Carlassare’s return.
Meanwhile, authorities in South Sudan are still in search of the culprits in the attack, but have not put out any official statements yet. However, there have been several arrests and there are currently six people in prison who have been transferred from Rumbek to Juba. These six people, Fr. Carlassare explained, are part of a family that acted “in the interests of the clan that, in all likelihood, disagreed with my appointment.”
He further noted that any family who uses violence to pursue their own interests “are armed individuals who have chosen to commit these acts” and “it does not matter whether they are Christians or of other faiths.”
Father Carlassare added, “In the end they attracted a lot of resentment from the majority of the population, while there has been a real solidarity race towards me…a very positive reaction that gives hope that the population will take sides against senseless violence.”
South Sudan has suffered long periods of conflict, combined with famine, poverty and humanitarian emergencies. More recently, however, a peace agreement struck in 2018 seems to be holding, although the parties still struggle to maintain it.
Carlassare notes that the agreement is “a moment of great hope” for South Sudan, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, and makes us “look at the country with a little more perspective.”
However, he added, there are two elements that must be taken into account. The first is that “peace is always very fragile,” and is subject to limits of violence that undermine it. Thus, “it is a long journey that must be taken without being frightened of how far it can take us.”
The second “is the excessive circulation of weapons” which end up in the hands of civilians not controlled by the government.
Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
In his Angelus address on July 25, the pope noted that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad began in Japan on July 23.
“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.
“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”
The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.
The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.
McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.
“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.
Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.
Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”
“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.
“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”
“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”
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