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Pope Francis: St. Jerome gave ‘uncompromising witness to the truth’

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2020 / 02:18 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday highlighted the life and figure of St. Jerome in an apostolic letter for the 1,600th anniversary of the Doctor of the Church’s death.

St. Jerome “emerges as a model of uncompromising witness to the truth that employs the harshness of reproof in order to foster conversion,” the pope wrote Sept. 30. “By the intensity of his expressions and images, he shows the courage of a servant desirous not of pleasing others, but his Lord alone ... for whose sake he expended all his spiritual energy.”

The pope's letter, Scripturae sacrae affectus, detailed the life, work, and personality of St. Jerome, and considered how Catholics can learn from him today.

The anniversary of the saint’s death, Francis said, “can be seen as a summons to love what Jerome loved, to rediscover his writings and to let ourselves be touched by his robust spirituality, which can be described in essence as a restless and impassioned desire for a greater knowledge of the God who chose to reveal himself.”

“How can we not heed, in our day, the advice that Jerome unceasingly gave to his contemporaries: ‘Read the divine Scriptures constantly; never let the sacred volume fall from your hand’?” the pope asked.

Jared Staudt, an associate professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, told CNA that the pope's letter recognizes an important saint for contemporary Christians.

“I’m very happy to see Pope Francis highlighting the 1600th anniversary of Jerome’s death. There are certain personalities that rise above the ebb and flow of history. Jerome truly stands as a man for all times, and has much to teach us about learning, culture, and holiness. A feisty personality, who could enter into a strong disagreement, he remained above all a faithful man of the Church,” Staudt said.

“Francis has called for greater literacy of the Gospel and the great heritage of Catholic culture. Following St. Jerome, Catholics should enter more deeply into the study of the Bible, as well as the great works of classical and Christian literature, overcoming our culture’s lack of substance to be able  to serve as ‘credible interpreters and translators of our own cultural tradition,’” the theologian added.

In his letter, Pope Francis made a particular appeal to young people, challenging them to explore their intellectual and spiritual heritage as Christians.

“Christianity makes you heirs of an unsurpassed cultural patrimony of which you must take ownership,” he urged. “Be passionate about this history which is yours.”

The pope's letter said that many people in contemporary society lack religious literacy; that “the hermeneutic skills that make us credible interpreters and translators of our own cultural tradition are in short supply,” he argued.

Young people, he said, should be given the opportunity to learn “how the quest of religious truth can be a passionate adventure that unites heart and mind; how the thirst for God has inflamed great minds throughout the centuries up to the present time; how growth in the spiritual life has influenced theologians and philosophers, artists and poets, historians and scientists.”

Staudt affirmed the pope's recognition of the intellectual life.

“The intellectual life remains a crucial element of the Christian apostolate. Christ is the Word and our own minds must become attuned to his truth. St. Jerome reminds us in Catholic education of the importance of understanding words  and meaning so that we can enter into the revelation of the Word of God. Attention to the words of Scripture requires effort and is meant to lead us into an encounter of prayerful contemplation,” Staudt explained.

“St. Jerome used his extensive classical learning, purified by years of fasting and penance, at the service of the Church. With the huge spike in classical education in recent years, Jerome provides a model of integrating a robust intellectual life with an ardent pursuit of holiness,” the theologian explained. “His grasp of grammar and rhetoric were profound, yet he used them in humble service of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis said there are two dimensions which characterize St. Jerome and help his personality to be understood: one is his “absolute and austere consecration to God” and the other is his “commitment to diligent study, aimed purely at an ever deeper understanding of the Christian mystery.”

St. Jerome also serves as a model for monks and for scholars, “who should always keep in mind that knowledge has religious value only if it is grounded in an exclusive love for God, apart from all human ambition and worldly aspiration,” Francis noted.

Jerome lived from around 345 to 420. He spent much of his life in Rome or in the Holy Land, where he died.

The Doctor of the Church translated, among many other works, the books of Scripture into Latin, giving the Church what is known as the “Vulgate.”

“Francis points out that Jerome’s Vulgate stimulated the development of Christian culture. As Catholics return more and more to the study of Scripture, we can hope that this will reorder our minds, imaginations, and hearts to guide us in our own needed work of rebuilding. Like Jerome, we must translate and transmit the Gospel to our generation, allowing the Word of God to shape our efforts in the New Evangelization,” Staudt said.

In addition to his Scriptural translation, St. Jermone also wrote numerous letters on Scripture and is known to have used somewhat polemical language.

Pope Francis explained that “if, as a true ‘Lion of Bethlehem,’ he could be violent in his language, it was always in the service of a truth to which he was unconditionally committed.”

He added that the polemical dimension of the saint’s writings can be best understood if read in light of the authentic prophetic tradition of the time.

Jerome studied Scripture because it “led him to know Christ,” the pope also noted. “Jerome saw his studies not as a pleasant pastime and an end unto itself, but rather as a spiritual exercise and a means of drawing closer to God.”

The pope’s letter also urged Catholics to rediscover Scripture with St. Jerome as a guide, because “he leads every reader to the mystery of Jesus.”

In his writings, the saint did this, he stated, by “responsibly and systematically providing the exegetical and cultural information needed for a correct and fruitful reading of the Scriptures.”

St. Jerome had many skills, the pope said: “competence in the languages in which the Word of God was handed down, careful analysis and examination of manuscripts, detailed archeological research, as well as knowledge of the history of interpretation… This outstanding aspect of the activity of Saint Jerome is also of great importance for the Church in our own time.”

Pointing to Dei verbum, one of the central documents of the Second Vatican Council, dedicated to Divine Revelation, he said if “the Bible constitutes as it were ‘the soul of sacred theology’ and the spiritual support of the Christian life, the interpretation of the Bible must necessarily be accompanied by specific skills.”

“Sadly, the richness of Scripture is neglected or minimized by many because they were not afforded a solid grounding in this area,” he said.

“Together with a greater emphasis on the study of Scripture in ecclesiastical programmes of training for priests and catechists, efforts should also be made to provide all the faithful with the resources needed to be able to open the sacred book and draw from it priceless fruits of wisdom, hope and life.”

Catholic Florida State student ousted from student senate alleges religious discrimination

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).-  

A federal court heard arguments on Tuesday in the case of Jack Denton, the Catholic student ousted from Florida State University’s student senate in June.

Denton, the former head of the student senate, sued university and student officials Aug. 31, alleging that his religious freedom was violated when he was removed from his position for remarks he made in a private chat forum of Catholic students.

On Tuesday, at the Northern District of Florida federal court, lawyers for Denton and for university administrators and student representatives presented their arguments.

“Jack cannot be deprived of an educational benefit, the right to participate in the student senate on the same grounds as everybody else, simply because his beliefs are not popular on campus,” his attorney Tyson Langhofer, with the group Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA after the hearing.

“No student should ever feel forced to silence their deepest convictions” in order to keep a student government position, he said. “He [Jack] may not have popular beliefs. That doesn’t mean he can be excluded from participation and they can impose a religious test on him.”

Denton, a rising senior at the university, was removed from his position as head of the university’s student senate in early June over remarks he made in a GroupMe chat forum of the school’s Catholic student union in late May.

As students discussed racial justice and financially supporting various organizations, Denton outlined concerns with policy positions of the groups ACLU, BlackLivesMatter.com, and Reclaim the Block which he said conflicted with Church teaching.

Denton said that “BlackLivesMatter.com fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism,” while the ACLU “defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion.” The Black Lives Matter Global Network in September removed a page from its website which had previously promoted the positions Denton challenged in May.

The group Reclaim the Block, Denton said, “claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PD’s budgets.” The claim “is a little less explicit,” he said, “but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”

Later, in an interview with CNA, Denton said that he intervened in the GroupMe chat because he felt a “responsibility to point out this discrepancy, to make sure that my fellow Catholics knew what they were partaking in.”

One of the students in the forum took a screenshot of Denton’s comments and sent them to a member of the student senate. A student senate motion of no-confidence in Denton failed on June 3, but on June 5 the senate held another vote and removed Denton from office.

Langhofer told CNA on Tuesday that Denton’s removal was unlawful; the FSU student senate is a state actor by virtue of both its incorporation at a public university and its creation by a state statute. Denton could not be removed from this position simply for taking an unpopular policy stance, he said.

“There is very, very strong law with a lot of precedent saying very clearly that students don’t forfeit their religious freedom when they step on to a public university campus,” he said.

The defendants in the case—FSU president John Thrasher and two other officials, as well as the president and president pro tempore of the student senate—“don’t dispute that Jack was removed unconstitutionally because of his religious beliefs,” Langhofer told CNA. They did, however, dispute that they were personally liable in Jack’s case, he said.

Denton is pushing for a preliminary injunction on his removal, which the judge did not indicate when he would rule on it, Langhofer said.

In the seven-hour hearing which resulted in Denton’s removal, he showed “incredible courage and incredible resilience,” Langhofer said.

“Jack listened to every one of those students saying bad things about him simply because of his religious beliefs, and when he was given the opportunity to respond, what he said was, he said that every one of you are created in the image of God and you are loved, and you’re valued more than the entire universe,” Langhofer recounted.

 

Bishop: Claims that Church in Belarus being used by US 'complete nonsense'

CNA Staff, Sep 30, 2020 / 12:03 pm (CNA).- The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev on Tuesday denied reports from Russia's foreign intelligence agency that the Church in Belarus is being used by the US, calling them “complete nonsense, fake information.”

“Some media outlets published information provided by the head of Russia's foreign intelligence service Sergey Naryshkin. This is a fake, this is nonsense. He spoke about some provocations, about the fact that the United States, the CIA and other organizations are trying to use the Catholic Church to undermine the state system in our country. This is complete nonsense, fake information, lies that have nothing to do with the truth … This is information that should be treated with a touch of irony,” Bishop Yury Kasabutski said during his homily at a Sept. 29 Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Minsk.

Naryshkin is director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service. The Russian news agency Interfax reported Sept. 29 that Naryshkin had said, “the United States is also unceremoniously interfering in the religious situation in Belarus … The clergy of the Roman Catholic Church are being asked to openly criticize the Belarusian authorities and to use religious events, including sermons, prayers, religious processions, to conduct opposition political propaganda among believers.”

The Russian foreign intelligence director added that “According to the plan of the Americans, this should force Minsk to take harsh retaliatory measures against the Roman Catholic Church.”

Naryshkin said the Belarusian opposition is planning a “resonant provocation” during which a high-ranking cleric “would be arrested or even wounded or killed,” with the intention of increasing opposition sentiment among Catholics in the country.

Belarus has seen widespread protests in recent weeks following a disputed presidential election. Protests began Aug. 9 after president Alexander Lukashenko was declared to have won that day's election with 80% of the vote. Lukashenko has been president of Belarus since the position was created in 1994.

The US and the EU no longer recognize Lukashenko as the Belarusian president. Canada and the UK placed sanctions on Belarus Sept. 29.

Lukashenko secured a $1.5 billion loan from Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this month, and Putin has denounced “external pressure” on Belarus.

The president of the Belarusian bishops' conference, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev, has been exiled. His passport was invalidated, and he was blocked from returning from Poland by border guards Aug. 31. The archbishop has spoken in defense of protests following last month’s presidential election.

Lukashenko has suggested the archbishop might be a citizen of more than one country. The archbishop told CNA Sept. 1 that “today I was accused that I received from Warsaw some instructions, or something, but I didn’t visit Warsaw.” He said he had visited eastern Poland to celebrate the First Communion of a relative.

Bishop Kasabutski told Catholic.by Sept. 29 that “Our clergy do not receive any instructions from anyone, and not only of a political nature … No one makes any calls to the priests for an open statement during the divine services of one or another attitude to the authorities. This information has no real basis.”

He added that the claim the US or other states are trying to influence the Church “sounds completely unrealistic.”

“Perhaps these statements have something to do with the Church's position. Today the Church in Belarus speaks the truth about the situation in the country, opposes violence, encourages people to solidarity, unity, harmony, peace, and forgiveness,” the bishop reflected.

Bishop Kasabutski continued: “Maybe in this way we are preventing someone from implementing certain scenarios aimed at division in society, at the bloody development of events. Maybe someone is trying to use this situation to divide people on the principle of religion to accuse us of what we are trying to avoid by praying to God for peace and harmony in our society. But we do not succumb to such 'brainwashing' and remain faithful to the commandments of love left to us by Christ.”

He added that relations between Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox in Belarus are warm, and that “we now see a very strong solidarity of people regardless of religion.”

Protests have taken place across Belarus since the August election, and thousands of protesters have been detained. At least four people have died in the unrest.

Electoral officials said that the opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, earned 10% of the vote. The opposition claims that she actually garned at least 60% of votes.

Tsikhanouskaya was detained for several hours after complaining to the electoral committee. She and several other opposition leaders are now in self-imposed exile in Lithuania or other nearby countries.

Pompeo: Nowhere is religious freedom more under assault than in China

Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Rome Wednesday that the Chinese government is the world’s worst persecutor of religious believers and that the Church is in a unique position to stand up for those whose religious freedom is being oppressed.

“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than it is inside of China today,” Pompeo said Sept. 30.

“The United States can and does play its part in speaking up for those oppressed, although we too can do more. … But for all that nation-states can do, ultimately, our efforts are constrained by the realities of world politics. … The Church is in a different position. Earthly considerations shouldn’t discourage principled stances based on eternal truths. And as history shows, Catholics have often deployed their principles in glorious, glorious service of human dignity,” the secretary added.

The U.S. Secretary of State’s remarks at a religious freedom symposium came a day before he was expected to meet with Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Vatican to discuss the renewal of the Holy See’s provisional accord with China. 

Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, told journalists at the end of the conference that he was “surprised” that the U.S. official decided to publish an article on the Holy See’s provisional accord with China before his visit. 

“We have known for a long time the position of the Trump administration and that of Secretary Pompeo on this subject,” the cardinal added.

The cardinal said that the Vatican had decided to move forward with the agreement with China after thoughtful reflection and many years working toward the provisional accord. 

“We know that there is a lot of resistance … a lot of criticism,” Parolin said.

When asked by journalists if he expected that the Vatican-China deal would result in greater religious freedom in China, Parolin replied: “We are for the policy of small steps … With the policy of small steps, we believe that … even if at the beginning it does not seem to give great results, however, it is a step towards, in other words, the affirmation of greater religious liberty.”

Pompeo told CNA before his visit that he planned to use the meeting with Vatican officials to discuss human rights abuses in China and to urge the Vatican to speak out about Chinese religious persecution.

“We’ve spoken pretty clearly about the human rights situation in China that has deteriorated under General Secretary Xi Jinping for religious believers throughout the country,” Pompeo told CNA in an exclusive interview on Sept. 25.

“The Church has an enormous amount of moral authority and we want to encourage them to use that moral authority, to improve the conditions for believers, certainly Catholic believers, but believers of all faiths inside of China, and so that’s the conversation that we’ll have,” he said.

Speaking at the event organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See Sept. 30, Pompeo urged faith leaders to “find the courage to confront religious persecution.”

The U.S. Secretary of State pointed to Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg -- a Catholic priest who during World War II resisted the Nazi regime and helped Jewish families -- and to the Chinese martyrs and missionaries canonized by St. John Paul II as examples of a “bold moral witness.”

“An increasingly repressive CCP frightened by its own lack of democratic legitimacy works day and night to snuff out the lamp of freedom, especially religious freedom on a horrifying scale,” Pompeo said.

“The Chinese Communist Party has battered every religious community in China: Protestant house churches, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and more,” he said.

“Nor, of course, have Catholics been spared this wave of repression. Catholic churches and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed. Catholic bishops, like Augustine Cui Tai, have been imprisoned ... and Catholic lay leaders in the human rights movement, not least in Hong Kong have been arrested,” the U.S. diplomat added.

Immediately following Pompeo’s remarks, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, gave a speech focused on the importance of protecting freedom of conscience in the West.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that afterwards Gallagher affirmed that Pompeo’s visit sought to exploit the pope during the U.S. election campaign. But journalists present when the comments were made said that it was the reporter, not the archbishop, who used the word “exploit.” Gallagher responded by saying: “Well, that’s one of the reasons why the Holy Father is not receiving the Secretary of State.”

While the pope does not always meet with foreign ministers visiting the Vatican, the Holy See has reportedly told U.S. diplomats that the pope did not want to meet with an American political figure so close to the November presidential election.



Cardinal Parolin (pictured above) was not present at the symposium when Pompeo gave his speech, but came later to deliver the closing remarks, in which he did not mention China.

Parolin said earlier this month that the Vatican’s two-year provisional agreement with China had not expired and would not do so until October. The cardinal said that the Vatican expected to renew the interim deal on the appointment of bishops and that he hoped that the Chinese had the same intention.

The symposium in Rome focused on diplomatic tools to advance religious freedom, and included panel discussions with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh.

In his comments at the conference, Ambassador Brownback said: “I believe the key to peace … is the protection of religious freedom for all.”

Pompeo said that, as a Protestant Christian, he had been struck by Pope Francis’ call to be a Church permanently in a state of mission.

“Pope Francis has exhorted the Church to be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’ It’s a hope that resonates with this evangelical Protestant who believes, as the Holy Father does, that those of us given the gift of Christian faith have an obligation to do our best to bless others,” he said.

“I’m humbled too by those of you here who have spent your entire lives in service of God in full-time pastoral ministry, makes my job look easy,” the U.S. Secretary of State said.

Pope Francis recognizes miracle attributed to Italian laywoman who died in 1997

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause Tuesday of an Italian woman who died in 1997 after touching the lives of thousands of people despite suffering from progressive paralysis.  

The pope authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Sept. 29 to promulgate a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo, paving the way for her beatification.

He also authorized decrees relating to four priests killed during the Spanish Civil War and two founders of religious orders. 

This was the first time that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had promulgated decrees since its prefect, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, resigned Sept. 24. 

Gaetana Tolomeo was born on April 10, 1936, in Catanzaro, the capital of the Calabria region of Italy. Known to all as “Nuccia,” she was confined to a bed or a chair for the 60 years of her life. 

She devoted her life to prayer, especially the rosary, which she held at all times. She began to attract visitors, including priests, nuns, and lay people, who sought her advice.

In 1994, she started to appear as a guest on a local radio station, using the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and reach out to the imprisoned, prostitutes, drug addicts, and families in crisis.  

According to an Italian website dedicated to her cause, two months before her death on January 24, 1997, she summed up her life in a message to young people.

She said: “I am Nuccia, I am 60 years old, all spent on a bed; my body is twisted, in everything I must depend on others, but my spirit has remained young. The secret of my youth and my joy of living is Jesus. Alleluia!”

In addition to the miracle attributed to Tolomeo’s intercession, the pope recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Francesco Cástor Sojo López and three companions. The four priests, belonging to the Diocesan Laborer Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were killed “in odium fidei,” or in hatred of the faith, between 1936 and 1938. Following the decree, they may now be beatified.

The pope also approved the heroic virtues of Mother Francisca Pascual Domenech (1833-1903), the Spanish founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, and of Mother María Dolores Segarra Gestoso (1921-1959), Spanish founder of the Missionaries of Christ the Priest.

Trump and Biden clash over Barrett nomination, abortion, in fiery debate

CNA Staff, Sep 30, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The future of Roe v. Wade and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court were raised in Tuesday night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. 

While the 90-minute debate, held in Cleveland, Ohio, was marked by fiery exchanges from both candidates, with frequent interruptions during answers, both presidential candidates did offer some remarks on abortion and the Supreme Court.

Moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates about Trump’s recent nomination of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and for their thoughts about how Barrett might change the balance of the court. 

Trump, who answered first, said that Barrett was a “phenomenal nominee” who had the support of “very liberal people from Notre Dame and other places.” Barrett, said Trump, is “going to be fantastic.” 

“She’s going to be as good as anybody that has served on that court,” said Trump. The president defended his nomination of the judge during an election year, which has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers, who contrast the nomination with the Senate’s 2016 refusal to have a hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the court. Trump said that the Republican Party controls both the Senate and the presidency and therefore has the votes to confirm his nominee. In 2016, under President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party did not have the votes in the Senate to move forward with the confirmation process. 

“They had Merrick Garland, but the problem is they didn’t have the election so they were stopped,” said Trump. “And probably that would happen in reverse, also. Definitely would happen in reverse.”

Trump added that he was elected to serve as president for four years, not three years, and had the right to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court any time they arose during his four-year term. 

Biden said that the Senate should “wait” when it comes to confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court, saying that “The American people have a right to have a say in who the Supreme Court nominee is and that say occurs when they vote for United States senators and when they vote for the president of the United States.”

“They’re not going to get that chance now because we’re in the middle of an election already,” said Biden, noting that many people have already cast their votes. 

Biden was also asked if, should he be elected, he would support efforts to add justices to the Supreme Court beyond the nine now prescribed by law. Biden declined repeatedly to answer the question.

Biden said that the Affordable Care Act, legislation that was passed while he was serving as vice president, was at stake due to Barrett’s potential presence on the court. 

“And the justice--I’m not opposed to the justice--she seems like a very fine person,” said Biden. “But she’s written, before she went on the bench, which is her right, that she thinks that the Affordable Care Act is not constitutional. The other thing that’s on the court, and if it’s struck down, what happens? Women’s rights are fundamentally changed.” 

The former vice president, a Catholic and strong supporter of expanded access to abortion, also suggested that abortion rights could be at risk if Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court. 

“The point is that the president also is opposed to Roe v. Wade,” said Biden. “That’s on the ballot as well and the court, in the court, and so that’s also at stake right now.”

Trump pushed back at the apparent notion that overturning the Roe v. Wade decision was on the ballot this November, saying that “it’s not on the ballot.” 

“There’s nothing happening there,” Trump said, referring apparently to the issue of abortion at the Supreme Court. Trump did not elaborate.

Wallace said the conversation would eventually return to Roe v. Wade, but the topic was not again raised during the debate. 

Cardinal Pell arrives in Rome as financial scandal casts shadow over Vatican

Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell arrived in Rome Wednesday as financial scandals continue to cast a shadow over the Vatican.

The former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy was pictured in the Italian capital Sept. 30 on his first visit to the city since he left in 2017 for Australia to prove his innocence of abuse charges. 

The 79-year-old left Sydney International Airport on Tuesday evening and arrived in Italy following an overnight flight, sources close to the cardinal confirmed to CNA. 

On the day of Pell’s arrival, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica claimed in a front-page report that Vatican investigators had discovered that 20 million pounds ($26 million) had been withdrawn from an account reserved for use by Pope Francis.

In 2014, the pope asked Pell to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs. After charges of sexual abuse were brought by Victoria police, Pell took temporary leave of his role in 2017 to return to Australia and defend his name. 

Pell faced allegations from a single accuser related to his time as bishop of Melbourne. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement after he was initially convicted and given a six-year prison sentence, before being vindicated on appeal to the High Court.

Pell’s term of office as head of the Vatican’s financial secretariat expired during his time in prison, with Pope Francis naming Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, to succeed him in 2019.

The Australian cardinal returned to Rome less than a week after the dramatic resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Pope Francis asked Becciu to resign as prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals Sept. 24 after he was linked to an ongoing investigation of financial misconduct at the Vatican.

Becciu had worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, where, CNA has previously reported, he repeatedly clashed with Pell over the reform of Vatican finances.

The Italian cardinal held a press conference in Rome Sept. 25 at which he protested his innocence of financial wrongdoing.

Pell responded to the news of Becciu’s resignation with gratitude.

“The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments,” Pell wrote in a statement sent to CNA Sept. 25.

“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Pell said.

Salesians raise 8 million euros for families affected by pandemic

CNA Staff, Sep 30, 2020 / 06:59 am (CNA).- The head of the Salesians announced that the order has raised nearly 8 million euros to help thousands of families worldwide who have been financially affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Specifically, 7.9 million euros have been collected, a very significant amount that has reached 62 Salesian provinces around the world, in response to 143 projects in support of very hard-hit families, who have benefited from food and small salaries to support themselves,” said Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, Rector Major of the Salesians.

Fernández, who is the tenth successor of Fr. Don Bosco, founder of the order, spoke in a video message during his visit to Turin, where he is present for the opening of the ”Don Bosco House Museum” from October 2 to 4.

“I would like to tell you, in the name of Don Bosco, thank you for that solidarity, thank you for the good we do together,” he said to all those who donated.

“It’s been very beautiful because it has not only been about collecting money to help people, it’s also been about putting together reflections, concerns, ideas and initiatives to reach all parts of the world.”

Fernández stressed that many lives can be saved when people work together.

“For all this, in the name of Don Bosco, thank you very much for continuing to really help and change the lives of so many people,” he said.

The Salesians were founded by St. John Bosco, a 19th century Italian priest who had a particular love and apostolate for at-risk and underserved youth. Today, the order serves youth throughout the world primarily in schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.

 

Pope Francis calls for new economic model to rebuild post-coronavirus world

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis called Wednesday for a new economic model to help rebuild the world after the coronavirus pandemic. 

In his general audience address in the San Damaso Courtyard, within the Vatican’s apostolic palace, Sept. 30, the pope criticized “trickle-down theory,” which proposes that tax breaks for high-earners will ultimately yield economic benefits for the rest of society.

He said: “And certainly we cannot expect the economic model that underlies unfair and unsustainable development to solve our problems. It has not and will not, because it cannot do so, even though some false prophets continue to promise the ‘trickle-down’ that never comes.” 

He added: “You have heard yourselves, the theory of the glass: it is important that the glass is full, and then overflows to the poor and to others, and they receive wealth. But there is a phenomenon: the glass starts to fill up and when it is almost full it grows, it grows and it grows, and never overflows. We must be careful.”

Today’s general audience address concluded a catechetical cycle entitled “Healing the world,” which the pope launched Aug. 5. The cycle focused on how the Church’s social doctrine can help the world to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, which has killed more than a million people worldwide. 

The series of addresses touched on themes that he is expected to develop in his new encyclical, Fratelli tutti, which will be published on Sunday.

The audience began with a reading in several languages from Hebrews 12:1-2, in which St. Paul the Apostle urges Christians to keep their “eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”

Reviewing the catechetical cycle, the pope said: “In recent weeks we have reflected together, in the light of the Gospel, on how to heal the world that is suffering from a malaise that the pandemic has highlighted and accentuated. The malaise was already there: the pandemic highlighted it more, it accentuated it.” 

“We have walked the paths of dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity, paths that are essential to promote human dignity and the common good. And as disciples of Jesus, we have proposed to follow in His steps, opting for the poor, rethinking the use of material goods and taking care of our common home.” 

He continued: “In the midst of the pandemic that afflicts us, we have anchored ourselves to the principles of the social doctrine of the Church, letting ourselves be guided by faith, by hope and by charity. Here we have found solid help so as to be transformers who dream big, who are not stopped by the meanness that divides and hurts, but who encourage the generation of a new and better world.”



He challenged pilgrims, who were sat spaced apart in the courtyard as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to keep their eyes fixed on Christ. 

“Jesus, who renews and reconciles every creature, gives us the gifts necessary to love and heal as He knew how to do, to take care of all without distinction on the basis of race, language or nation,” he said.

To prepare for this healing mission, he explained, it was essential to “contemplate and appreciate the beauty of every human being and every creature,” recognizing Christ especially in the poor and suffering. 



He said that Christians were called to help society emerge from the pandemic in “a human way,” rather than a “mechanical way,” displaying the tenderness that is “the very sign of Jesus’ presence.”

He said: “A small virus continues to cause deep wounds and to expose our physical, social, and spiritual vulnerabilities. It has laid bare the great inequality that reigns in the world: inequality of opportunity, inequality of goods, inequality of access to health care, inequality of technology, education: millions of children cannot go to school, and so the list goes on.” 

“These injustices are neither natural nor inevitable. They are the work of man, they come from a model of growth detached from the deepest values ... And this has made many people lose hope and has increased uncertainty and anguish. That is why, to come out of the pandemic, we must find the cure not only for the coronavirus -- which is important! -- but also for the great human and socio-economic viruses.”

He continued: “We need to set to work urgently to generate good policies, to design systems of social organization that reward participation, care and generosity, rather than indifference, exploitation and particular interests.” 

“We must go ahead with tenderness. A fair and equitable society is a healthier society. A participatory society -- where the “last” are taken into account just like the “first” -- strengthens communion. A society where diversity is respected is much more resistant to any kind of virus.”

Concluding the address with a reflection on the kingdom of heaven, he said: “May God grant us to ‘viralize’ love and to ‘globalize’ hope in the light of faith.”



After his address, the pope offered a special greeting to new seminarians who arrived recently in Rome to begin their formation at the Pontifical North American College, as well as to deacons. 

He said: “May the Lord sustain their efforts to be faithful servants of the Gospel. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!”

Greeting Polish pilgrims, the pope noted that October is traditionally dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. 

“Be faithful to your custom of praying the rosary in your communities and especially in your families,” he said. “Reflecting every day on the mysteries of Mary’s life in the light of the salvific work of her Son, let her participate in your joys, your worries and moments of happiness. May God bless you through her hands!”

Moneyval evaluation begins at Vatican

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, Moneyval, began its two-week on-site inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City Wednesday.

According to a Vatican statement Sept. 30, “the scope of this phase of evaluations” is to assess “the effectiveness of the legislative and institutional measures” adopted by the Holy See and Vatican City in recent years.

This evaluation follows Moneyval’s first on-site visit to the Vatican in 2012, as well as three progress reports, the last of which was in December 2017, the statement said.

Moneyval carries out the same evaluations on all its member jurisdictions.

Carmelo Barbagallo, president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, described the inspection as “especially important.” “Its outcome may determine how the jurisdiction [of the Vatican] is perceived by the financial community,” he said on July 3.

After the 2012 visit, the Vatican agreed to comply with a set of “recommendations” from Moneyval, incorporating them into internal policies. The two bodies have issued periodic updates on the Vatican’s progress. 

The 2020 evaluation will likely be looking to see how well these recommendations have been incorporated by Vatican offices, and at the role of APSA, which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City.