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In UN message, Pope Francis decries abortion and family breakdown

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis told the United Nations Friday that denying the existence of human life in the womb through abortion does not solve problems.

“Unfortunately, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called ‘essential services’ provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic,” Pope Francis said in his address to the UN Sept. 25.

“It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child,” the pope said.

Speaking to the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly via a video message, Pope Francis said that the problem of today’s “throwaway culture” was rooted in a disrespect for human dignity.

“At the origin of this ‘throwaway culture’ is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society. Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself,” he said.

“It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity. The list of such violations is indeed lengthy, and offers us a frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future,” he continued. 

“As part of this picture, religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs. We Christians too are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture.”

Pope Francis urged world leaders to be especially attentive to the rights of children, “particularly their right to life and to schooling,” acclaiming the example of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani advocate for female education.

He reminded the UN that the first teachers of every child are his or her mother and father, adding that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”.

“All too often, the family is the victim of forms of ideological colonialism that weaken it and end up producing in many of its members, especially the most vulnerable -- the young and the elderly -- a feeling of being orphaned and lacking roots,” Pope Francis said.

“The breakdown of the family echoes the social fragmentation that hinders our efforts to confront common enemies,” he added.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the urgent need to “make every person’s right to basic medical care a reality” and exposed “the rapidly growing inequality between the super-rich and the permanently poor.”

“I think of the effects of the pandemic on employment … There is an urgent need to find new forms of work truly capable of fulfilling our human potential and affirming our dignity,” he said.

“In order to ensure dignified employment, there must be a change in the prevailing economic paradigm, which seeks only to expand companies’ profits. Offering jobs to more people should be one of the main objectives of every business, one of the criteria for the success of productive activity.”

Calling on the international community to “put an end to economic injustices,” the pope proposed instead an economic model that “encourages subsidiarity, supports economic development and invests in education and infrastructure benefiting local communities.”

The pope also renewed his appeals that the poorest and the most vulnerable be given priority in an effort to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines and for the forgiveness of debt burdens for the poorest nations.

For the first time in its history, the UN General Assembly is virtual this year, with world leaders delivering pre-taped remarks via video link due to the coronavirus restrictions on travel to New York. The UN is commemorating this week the 75th anniversary of its founding.

This was Pope Francis’ second speech to the UN General Assembly in the seven years since his election. It was the sixth time that a pope has addressed the UN, following Pope Paul VI in 1964, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and 1995, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

In his video message, the pope expressed strong support for multilateralism, that is, the partnership between multiple countries pursuing a common goal. 

“We need to break with the present climate of distrust. At present, we are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism, which is all the more serious in light of the development of new forms of military technology, such as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) which irreversibly alter the nature of warfare, detaching it further from human agency,” he warned. 

The pope said that recovery from the coronavirus pandemic presented a choice between two paths.

“One path leads to the consolidation of multilateralism as the expression of a renewed sense of global co-responsibility, a solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of peace and unity within the human family, which is God’s plan for our world,” he said. 

“The other path emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.”

Polish president discusses ‘promotion of the family’ with Pope Francis

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Polish President Andrzej Duda met with Pope Francis Friday during his first official trip abroad since his narrow election victory in July.

The Holy See press office said Sept. 25 that after his audience with the pope, Duda met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

“The cordial discussions took place in the context of the centenary of the birth of St. John Paul II and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the independent autonomous trade union Solidarność [Solidarity],” the statement said.

“Some topics of mutual interest related to the mission of the Church were discussed, including the promotion of the family and the education of young people.”

“Finally, attention turned to some international issues, such as the current health emergency, the regional situation and security.”

The Polish president’s official website reported that Duda was the first president to be received by the pope since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. His wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, also attended the audience.

The president’s website quoted Duda as saying: “The Holy Father, Francis, pointed out that in recent years we have conducted a very effective policy for the family. He thanked me so much for that. I was deeply moved by these thanks.”

“He mentioned all the programs we had launched and that we care about families raising children. I am glad that the Holy Father knows about it, that the Holy See knows about it.”

While it was not clear precisely which aspects of Poland’s family policy the pope was praising, the government increased child benefits significantly in 2016 with the “Family 500+” program.

Duda, who is associated with the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), won a second five-year term as president in July with 51.03% of the votes, with his challenger, Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, gaining 48.97%. The margin of victory was 422,630 votes in a country with a population of almost 38 million.

In the run-up to the election, Duda signed a “Family Charter” opposing same-sex marriage and adoption, and committing himself to the “protection of children from LGBT ideology.”

After his meeting with the pope, Duda attended Mass at the tomb of St. John Paul II, a native of Poland, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Afterwards, he laid a wreath before the tomb, wearing a black face-covering as protection against the coronavirus.

Duda had intended to travel to Rome May 18 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Polish pope’s birth, but was unable to do so because of the pandemic.

In a statement to journalists outside St. Peter’s Square, Duda said that he had discussed the situation in Belarus with Parolin. The country, which neighbors Poland, has seen widespread demonstrations since a disputed election Aug. 9. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference, was prevented from returning to Belarus after a trip to Poland Aug. 31.

Duda said: “Basically, we had a common opinion that all those who want real democracy, who want freedom, who want to live in an honest state, should be supported -- these people should have our support. But, of course, Belarus should decide about itself in free and fair elections.”

Analysis: The Becciu resignation, a beginning not an end

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 25, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- At around 6pm on Thursday, Pope Francis summoned Cardinal Angelo Becciu to a meeting, multiple sources tell CNA. In the hour before, the pope reportedly had been given an advance copy of a forthcoming news report on Becciu, his stewardship of Vatican finances, and new allegations that he used his position, and Church funds, to enrich his family.

Within an hour, the Holy See press office released a statement saying that the pope had “accepted Becciu’s resignation” from his role as head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saint and his rights as a cardinal. Becciu, by all accounts, had not even made it back to his nearby, recently renovated extensively, apartment in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio before the news was released.

Sudden “resignations” of this kind are not unknown at the Vatican – and Becciu himself has often been on the other side of the table, allegedly forcing, for example, the “resignation” of the Vatican’s first Auditor General, Libero Milone who was accused of “spying” on Becciu’s personal finances.

Like Milone, Becciu has since insisted that he did nothing wrong. Unlike Milone, who said Becciu threatened him with criminal prosecution if he did not leave his office quietly, the cardinal’s resignation marks a new beginning, rather than an end to his story.

After the news broke Thursday evening, multiple Vatican sources told CNA that both Vatican prosecutors and the Italian Guardia di Finanza are expected to lay criminal charges against Becciu. “I am innocent and I will prove it,” Becciu told an Italian newspaper Friday morning. The odds seem good that he will be given his day in court to make the attempt.

Becciu’s fall comes after nearly two years of reporting placing him at the center of several different, overlapping Vatican financial scandals.

Before his role at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Becciu served as the sostituto at the Secretariat of State, operating as a kind of papal chief-of-staff and de facto manager of the daily operations of the curia’s most powerful department.

Under his stewardship, the secretariat engaged in a number of highly speculative financial ventures, including dealings with Swiss banks known for their lax approach to money laundering, and Becciu was alleged to be personally responsible for stymieing a number of attempts at financial transparency and reform.

The former head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal George Pell, frequently found his efforts thwarted by Becciu.  A source told CNA that one occasion Becciu gave Pell – his superior – a formal “reprimand” for his attempts to bring transparency to the Secretariat of State. On another occasion, Becciu countermanded an audit of all Vatican finances ordered by Pell.

Since his vindication on sex abuse charges by the Australian High Court, Cardinal Pell had not commented on his former role, or the various financial scandals which have led to from and through Becciu’s office.

But after Thursday’s announcement that Becciu had “resigned” Pell issued a rare public statement, congratulating Pope Francis on what was in fact a summary sacking.

“The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances,” Pell said. “He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments.”

At the time of his election, Pope Francis was, indeed, widely hailed as a new broom that would sweep clean curial corruption. Since then, many have grown frustrated at the apparent lack of progress and the appointment, disappointment, and departure of reformers like Milone and Pell.

But while the Holy See has not officially acknowledged the reasons for Becciu’s departure, he has now become the first curial cardinal, at least in the modern era, to be dismissed for financial misconduct – something few would have predicted when Francis was elected in 2913.

While Becciu’s dismissal has taken many in the media by surprise, the drumbeat of reports in recent years has indicated that Vatican prosecutors were – at last – being given a free hand to pursue their work wherever it led.

In October 2019, several of Becciu’s former employees and closest collaborators at the Secretariat of State were the subject of a raid by investigators. By February, Becciu’s former deputy and effective right hand man, who had moved on to a position at the Vatican’s supreme court, was raided and suspended.

The arrest of Gianluigi Torzi, a key player in the London property deal that triggered the initial investigation into Becciu’s old department, was a major sign  prosecutors were intent on bringing charges, not just filing reports.

Perhaps the most significant development came in July, when a search and seizure warrant was served on Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione in a Roman hotel. That warrant was sought by Vatican prosecutors, but it was issued by an Italian magistrate and served by Italian state police, indicating that the investigation was sufficiently developed to convince Italian authorities to intervene.

But after generational attempts to bring order to Vatican finances, what makes this attempt different?

In addition to the spotlight which has fallen on Becciu and his collaborators over the last year, Vatican prosecutors have also had the unfortunate benefit of an acute cash crunch developing for the Holy See, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Bluntly put: When there is less money around, it is harder to hide what is missing.

At the same time, Moneyval, the EU Commission’s anti-money laundering watchdog, has made repeated inspections of the Vatican’s financial institutions – with another progress report due out in the next few months. While they have expressed satisfaction with some of the financial structural reforms brought in under Pope Francis, they have repeatedly noted the Vatican’s poor record of prosecuting criminal financial behavior, increasing the pressure on investigators to bring charges.

This pressure will have increased exponentially if Italian prosecutors plan to bring charges of their own: the Vatican simply cannot risk appearing to have shied away from bringing a case if the Italian courts get involved.

Becciu has insisted on his innocence, and demanded he be given the opportunity to prove it. Lucky for him, in this case, his desire may well align perfectly with those of the Vatican prosecutors and financial inspectors. A public trial of curial officials, headlined by a cardinal, may be the last thing many in the Vatican wanted or expected to see. But it may now become the next stage of a story that still has a long way to go.

Cardinal Becciu says he did not commit crimes, welcomes chance to ‘explain’

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2020 / 10:45 am (CNA).- The day after he was forced to resign from his Vatican job and to give up his rights as a cardinal, Angelo Becciu defended his actions and said he “is ready” to explain if called on by Vatican judicial authorities.

“I didn’t commit any crimes,” Becciu told journalists Sept. 25. “I received no communication on the part of the [Vatican] magistrates. I’m ready. If they want me to explain [my actions], I’ll explain.” 

“I’m maintaining my serenity,” he said. “I renew my trust in the Holy Father.”

Becciu spoke to journalists at an invite-only press conference near the Vatican Sept. 25. CNA obtained an audio recording of the press conference after it took place.

The cardinal responded to questions about actions he took while serving as “sostituto,” or the second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018.

New reports revealed that Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, and that he directed Vatican and Italian bishops’ money to go toward “loans” for projects owned and operated by his brothers. 

The speculative investments were made by financier Enrico Crasso, who, CNA has previously reported, was given by Becciu control over millions of euros in Vatican investment funds.

Becciu said Friday that he did not follow the actions of Crasso “step by step,” and that they met only once a year. According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.” 

“I don’t know” what Crasso was doing, Becciu said.

According to the cardinal, investing Vatican funds was in his job description at the Secretariat of State. “Sure, we made investments,” he said. “We made them with the desire to make them in the interests of the Holy See, not my personal interests.”

Crasso manages Centurion Global Fund, an investment fund used by the Secretariat of State, with links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals. As CNA reported, this is the same fund in which the Vatican Secretariat of State invested millions of euros, including with money donated to Peter’s Pence, an annual collection undertaken by the Holy See.

Reports show that the fund’s investments lost money while its managers, who include Crasso, recouped millions in fees.

Crasso also reportedly introduced Becciu to Lorenzo Vangelisti, CEO of Valeur Group, an asset management, advisory, trading, and real estate company.

Vangelisti was involved in the Vatican’s purchase of the Sloane Avenue property in London, together with the director of Valeur capital, Alessando Noceti, who worked previously for Suisse Credit in London.

Becciu denied that he knew either Vangelisti or Noceti. “I don’t know who they are,” he said. “I have never met them.”

The cardinal said that he and Pope Francis did not discuss the London property during their roughly 20-minute meeting Thursday. He also denied that any money from Peter’s Pence was used to purchase the property at 60 Sloane Avenue.

The cardinal described the meeting with the pope and his subsequent resignation as “surreal,” because “yesterday, until 6:02 p.m., I felt I was a friend of the pope, a faithful agent of the pope ... and then there, speaking, he tells me that he no longer trusts me.”

“That he no longer trusts me because he had seen reports from the [Vatican] magistrates that I had embezzled,” he said.

After the cardinal resigned as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, a position he had been in since September 2018, the pope asked him to also resign the “privileges” of cardinals, Becciu noted.  

The embezzlement reports, Becciu said, claimed that when he was sostituto he had misappropriated 100,000 euros to give to a cooperative owned by his brother, and which was part of the charity of his former diocese.

Becciu said he tried to explain the action to Pope Francis, saying that it was true he had gifted 100,000 euros, but it was sent to the Ozieri diocesan Caritas from Vatican funds intended for “various” charitable works, and thus was legitimate.

He said the accusation that the money had gone instead to his brother’s cooperative connected to Caritas “seemed strange” to him, and that when he called his brother and the bishop to ask about the money, they confirmed to him that it was in the Caritas accounts, yet untouched.

Asked if he thought that matter constituted a conflict of interest, since his brother works for the diocesan Caritas, the cardinal said, “a conflict of interest? I don't know if it really was a conflict of interest. I wanted to help the diocese, not my brother, the diocese.”

A press release from the Bishop of Ozieri and president of the diocesan Caritas, Corrado Melis, Sept. 24 said the diocese “has never been the beneficiary” of undue or illegitimate favors.

Becciu is also reported to have used his connections to help two other brothers, from the time when he was apostolic nuncio in Cuba and Angola.

He quibbled with details of the L’Espresso report, which said that his brother’s carpentry company was given ecclesiastical projects in the two countries. According to Becciu, in Angola his brother only helped to repair “two doors” at the nunciature, and in Cuba, his brother did the renovations at the nunciature because “it was difficult to find” materials in Cuba, so they imported them from Italy.

To his third brother, who owns a food and beverage distributor, called Angel’s, Becciu said “he never gave money, not mine nor that of the institution” of the Church.

He also indicated proof should be given or he “will sue for defamation.”

Becciu’s family released their own statement Sept. 25, calling the reports “unfounded and maliciously false…” as well as “slanderous, offensive and disparaging.” 

They said Francesco Becciu had carried out “some carpentry work on behalf of ecclesial entities” but they are “not attributable to Cardinal Becciu.”

New details emerge about Cardinal Becciu’s management of Vatican finances

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Following his resignation yesterday, new reports reveal details of how Cardinal Angelo Becciu managed Vatican financial affairs, developing a story CNA first broke last year.

Portfolio statements show that Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, and that he directed Vatican and Italian bishops’ money to go toward “loans” for projects owned and operated by his brothers.

Becciu resigned as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals Sept. 24.

The cardinal previously served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018.

After his resignation, Becciu told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero he was “shocked” and “troubled.” He called his resignation “a blow for me, for those who know and respect me, and for my family.”

CNA has reported that during his tenure as “sostituto,” Becciu used loans from several Swiss banks, including BSI and Credit Suisse, to at least partially finance the controversial purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. 

Becciu said Friday that the Vatican “found nothing” on him regarding the London building transaction, and other accusations “have no criminal offence.”

“Out of a spirit of obedience and out of love for the Church and the pope, I accepted his request to step aside,” he said. “But I am innocent and I will prove it. I ask the Holy Father to have the right to defend myself.” 

A new report by the Italian weekly L’Espresso showed that Becciu gave financier Enrico Crasso, a former manager of Credit Suisse, control over millions of euros of Vatican investment funds from the Secretariat of State and from the papal charity Peter’s Pence.

Crasso is also the manager of Centurion Global Fund, an investment fund used by the Secretariat of State, with links to two Swiss banks investigated or implicated in bribery and money laundering scandals. As CNA reported, this is the same fund in which the Vatican Secretariat of State invested millions of euros, including with money donated to Peter’s Pence. 

Reports show that the fund’s investments lost money while its managers, who include Crasso, recouped millions in fees. Centurion investment fund has been under investigation by Vatican authorities since December 2019.

According to L’Espresso, Crasso directed Vatican money into highly speculative funds with low return margins and based in tax havens.

The weekly said that Becciu also used Peter’s Pence money and funds from the Italian bishops’ conference to finance projects owned and operated by three of his brothers.

L’Espresso reported that Becciu obtained two loans from the Italian bishops’ conference to pay out two non-repayable loans of 300,000 euros each to Spes Cooperative in 2013 and 2015.

Spes Cooperative is the operational arm of the diocesan Caritas of Becciu’s former diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia. The owner and legal representative of Spes Cooperative is Becciu’s brother, Tonino.

In 2018, Becciu gave a third sum to Spes Cooperative of 100,000 euros from Peter’s Pence, of which he had control as “sostituto.” 

There appear to be questions around whether these funds were used for their ostensible charitable purposes.

The bishop of Ozieri and president of the diocesan Caritas, Corrado Melis, said in a statement addressed to Becciu Sept. 24 that the diocesan Caritas “has never been the beneficiary” of undue or illegitimate favor, and that it has “never used a single penny” of funds given for charitable works for other purposes.

Becciu himself denied any guilt, saying that he “may have made a mistake out of too much love for my diocese, but I do not see the crime. I am ready to shout the truth,” Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

A second instance of Becciu working in the favor of a brother reportedly occurred when he was papal nuncio in Angola and later in Cuba, when the carpentry company of Becciu’s brother, Francesco, was hired to furnish and repair several churches in the two countries.

Becciu also reportedly helped to bring in customers for Angel’s srl, a specialty food and beverage distributor, of which another brother, Mario, is majority partner and legal representative.

The Becciu family put out a statement Friday saying that news reports that members of their family received financial favors from their brother, the cardinal, were “unfounded and maliciously false, in particular for the imaginative and unprovable references to alleged donations from Peter’s Pence.”

Reportedly, the large proceeds of the companies of the Becciu brothers were later reinvested in low-risk safe-haven equity, holding and financial packages. Income generated from these investments was then reinvested in funds previously invested in by the Secretariat of State, such as the Centurion Fund. 

Through Crasso, Becciu also became acquainted with Lorenzo Vangelisti, CEO of Valeur Group, an asset management, advisory, trading, and real estate company.

Vangelisti was involved in the Vatican’s purchase of the Sloane Avenue property in London, together with the director of Valeur capital, Alessando Noceti, who used to work for Suisse Credit in London.

This was not the only time that Becciu has faced accusations that he used his position to benefit family members. CNA reported last year about the hiring of Becciu’s niece, Maria Piera Becciu, as the personal secretary of Fr. Franco Decaminada, the former president of an Italian hospital, also linked to a Vatican financial scandal.

Decaminada had approached Becciu in 2011, shortly after he started his role at the Secretariat of State, asking him for support on a proposal that the Vatican supply the failing Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), with 200 million euros.

Decaminada was then a senior member of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, the order which then owned and oversaw the IDI. He was arrested in 2013 and sent to prison for his part in the massive fraud and corruption around IDI’s collapse, and eventually laicized.

As reported by CNA in 2019, Becciu has also been accused of attempting to disguise millions of euros in loans on the Vatican balance sheets by canceling them out against the value of the London property, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014. 

The loans, acquired through Swiss banks, triggered an internal dispute between the Secretariat of State and Vatican financial authorities, in particular, with Cardinal George Pell, who was then responsible for the Secretariat for Economy.

In a statement following Becciu’s resignation Thursday, Pell said he hoped that “the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria.”

“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,” he said from Sydney, Australia.

What does it mean for Becciu to lose his rights as a cardinal?

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2020 / 07:15 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Thursday night that Cardinal Angelo Becciu had resigned from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals, but it did not specify which rights the cardinal had lost.

Examining previous cases of cardinals who have renounced their rights can give some idea of what this means for Becciu, who is embroiled in allegations of financial malpractice, which he denied at a press conference Sept. 25.

In 2015, Pope Francis accepted a similar renunciation from Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 admitted to serial sexual misconduct. As a result, O’Brien did not attend public ecclesiastical events and was not eligible to participate in a papal conclave.

At the time, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, explained that O’Brien had given up the rights and prerogatives outlined in canons 349, 353, and 356 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law. 

These canons concern a cardinal’s ability to participate in a conclave, a consistory, and to collaborate with the pope. 

The rights described in Canon 349 include the participation in the election of a pope as a cardinal elector and assisting the current pope in the work of the daily care of the universal Church.

Canon 353 addresses a cardinal’s ability to take part in ordinary and extraordinary consistories. 

A consistory is a council of cardinals that takes place when the pope needs the cardinals’ advice on some important issue, or to give solemnity to the pope’s decision. It often involves the creation of new cardinals. Pope Francis has used the consistory as a sort of advisory board on core issues, holding extraordinary consistories on issues of the family and curia reform.

Finally, Canon 356 states that cardinals are bound to actively collaborate with the pope, requiring them to live in Rome unless they hold the position of a diocesan bishop. 

It should be noted that when Theodore McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals on July 28, 2018, Pope Francis also additionally suspended McCarrick from the exercise of any public ministry and directed him to observe a life of prayer and penance, because of the grave allegations of abuse against him. 

While O’Brien, until his death in 2018, lived in similar conditions to those imposed on McCarrick, the Scottish prelate was allowed to keep his title of cardinal.

In McCarrick’s case, Pope Francis applied a suspension a divinis, which, according to canon 1333 of the Code of Canon Law, prohibits him from acts of the power of order and governance and from the exercise of the rights or functions attached to his office.

After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found McCarrick guilty of solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, McCarrick was laicized in 2019.

While three instances of cardinals losing their rights have all occurred in the past five years, this is not a new phenomenon, though still rare in Church history.

In 1927, French Jesuit Cardinal Louis Billot resigned from the College of Cardinals following a meeting with Pope Pius XI. His resignation was accepted by the pope eight days later. The two men disagreed strongly over the French monarchist movement Action française, which Pius condemned.

Billot’s resignation parallels Becciu’s situation in that it does not involve allegations of sexual misconduct.

Becciu served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. During his tenure in that position, he was linked to a number of financial scandals, most recently the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.

The Order of Malta has told CNA that it is awaiting official information as to whether Becciu will remain the pope’s personal delegate to the order as it undergoes reform.

As of Sept. 25, the Holy See has yet to clarify which rights Cardinal Becciu has resigned and Becciu remains technically a cardinal. 

Vatican Cardinal Angelo Becciu resigns from office and 'rights' of cardinals

CNA Staff, Sep 24, 2020 / 12:32 pm (CNA).-  

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who until today was prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has resigned from that office, and in an extremely rare move, from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals.

The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and has been connected to an ongoing investigation of financial malfeasance at the secretariat.

A statement from the Holy See press office Thursday said: “Today, Thursday, Sept. 24, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and related rights of the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.”

Becciu remains technically a cardinal, and the Vatican’s announcement did not specifically delineate what rights Becciu has resigned. In 2015, Pope Francis accepted a similar renunciation from Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 admitted to serial sexual misconduct. O’Brien did not subsequently attend public eccleiastical events, and was ineligible to participate in a future papal conclave. The Vatican press office could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

The cardinal himself has not yet responded to a request for comment from CNA.

The move was unexpected, and does not seem to have been long planned. Becciu had been scheduled to preside over the beatification of Ven. Carlo Acutis, which will take place in Assisi Oct. 10.

Becciu served as “sostituto,” or second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, from 2011 to 2018, when Pope Francis named him a cardinal and moved him to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. During his tenure in that position, he was linked to a number of financial scandals, most recently the Secretariat’s investment of hundreds of millions of euros with the Italian businessman Rafaelle Mincione and the controversial purchase of a London building.

CNA has previously reported that a substantial part of the $200 million used to finance the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a luxury development at 60 Sloane Avenue came through credit extended by BSI, a Swiss bank with a long track record of violating money-laundering and fraud safeguards in its dealings with sovereign wealth funds.

CNA has also reported that in 2015 Becciu seemed to have made an attempt to disguise the loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property purchased in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by new financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.

The alleged attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell. Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”

Becciu has previously defended the London investment as “accepted practice,” despite Vatican prosecutors staging raids on the offices of several of Becciu’s closest collaborators in the Secretariat, and despite the arrest of one of the businessmen involved.

CNA has also reported that Becciu was involved in a complicated series of events and financial transactions around the purchase of the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), an Italian hospital that collapsed in 2013 under 800 million euros of debt through theft and fraud.

In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.

Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.

When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.

In 2017, Becciu was also responsible for the dismissal of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone.

Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by Becciu, who accused the auditor of “spying” on the finances of senior officials, including Becciu. The then-Archbishop Becciu threatened criminal prosecution of Milone if he did not agree to leave his Vatican office quietly.

Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were perceived as a threat to the autonomy and business practices of long-time Curial officials. He said that he was dismissed on trumped-up charges after he uncovered evidence of financial misconduct under Becciu’s leadership.

Also in 2017, Becciu was involved in a complicated chain of events with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta that ended with the Grand Master of the Order being deposed, and Becciu being installed as special papal envoy charged with running the order.

At the center of that controversy were allegations that Vatican financial authorities had siphoned off more than 30 million euros from a 120 million euro bequest held in a Swiss bank account, in order to ease liquidity problems.

In February 2017, Pope Francis named Becciu as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order of Malta, with particular attention to the professed members. It is unclear if he will continue in the role.

Pope Francis created Becciu a cardinal on June 28, 2018. He was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Aug. 31, 2018.


Pope Francis blesses bell that will ring out in defence of unborn

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis blessed a large bell Wednesday that Polish Catholics hope will ring out in the defence of unborn life.

“May its ring awaken the consciences of legislators and all people of good will in Poland and the whole world,” Pope Francis said Sept. 23.

The Voice of the Unborn bell, commissioned by the Yes to Life foundation, is a symbolic bell to be used at Poland’s March for Life and other pro-life events. It is decorated with a cast an ultrasound image of an unborn child and a quotation from Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko: “A child’s life begins under the mother’s heart.”

In addition, the bell features two tablets, symbolizing the Ten Commandments. On the first are the words of Jesus, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law” (Matthew 5:17), and on the second is the commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

Pope Francis was the first person to ring the symbolic bell after giving it his blessing in a courtyard in Vatican City after his general audience.

The pope noted that the bell would “accompany events aimed at remembering the value of human life from conception to natural death.”

The bell weighs more than 2,000 pounds and is nearly four feet in diameter. It was cast from bronze Aug. 26 at the Jan Felczyński bell foundry in the southeastern city of Przemyśl, in the presence of civil and Catholic leaders, according to Polish media.

After its return from Rome to Poland, the bell will be installed at All Saints parish in Kolbuszowa, but will soon be transported again for use in Poland’s March for Life, planned to take place in October in Warsaw. 

“This bell is meant to stir consciences. The idea of ​​casting it was born at the beginning of this year, when I read the information that 42 million children in the world are killed every year as a result of abortion,” Bogdan Romaniuk, vice president of the Polish Yes to Life foundation, told the Polish Catholic weekly Niedziela. 

In Poland, the law allows abortion only in cases of rape, incest, threat to the mother’s life, or fetal abnormality. About 700 to 1,800 legal abortions take place each year.

Dr. Bogdan Chazan, the foundation’s president, said that he hoped the sound of the bell would serve as a “call to prayer” for the protection of unborn children.

Pope Francis: Subsidiarity means everyone has a role in healing society

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he is worried that large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than front-line healthcare workers in pandemic recovery and that the Catholic principle of subsidiarity is the solution.

“When a project is launched that directly or indirectly touches certain social groups, these groups cannot be left out from participating … the wisdom of the humbler groups cannot be set aside. Unfortunately, this injustice happens often in those places where huge economic and geopolitical interests are concentrated,” Pope Francis said Sept. 23.

“Let’s think of the grand financial assistance measures enacted by countries. The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy,” the pope said in Vatican City’s San Damaso Courtyard.

“Or let’s think about the cure for the virus: the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path. Everyone should be listened to, those who are at the top and those who are at the bottom, everyone.” 

Pope Francis explained that the principle of subsidiarity was necessary in these situations to ensure the best solutions. Subsidiarity is the idea, deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, that the authority closest to a local need is best suited to tackle the issue. It is opposed to all forms of collectivism and sets limits for state intervention. 

“To emerge better from a crisis, the principle of subsidiarity must be enacted, respecting the autonomy and the capacity to take initiative that everyone has, especially the least,” Pope Francis said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, according to the principle of subsidiarity, “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”

The pope underscored that the wisdom and contribution of individuals, families, associations, businesses, and the Church were all needed to revitalize society. 

“The principle of subsidiarity allows everyone to assume their own role in the healing and destiny of society,” he said.

Religious freedom and freedom of expression are a critical component that allow for these voices to be heard, according to the pope.

“In some societies, many people are not free to express their own faith and their own values, their own ideas: if they express them freely, they are put in jail. Elsewhere, especially in the Western world, many people repress their own ethical or religious convictions. This is no way to emerge from the crisis, or at least to emerge from it better,” Pope Francis said.

The pope’s reflection on subsidiarity was part of his series of weekly catecheses, launched in August, on Catholic social teaching. Entitled “Healing the World,” the pope’s message at his Wednesday audiences focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic in light of Church teaching. 

In previous weeks, Francis has spoken about the importance of solidarity and the common good. This week he noted that subsidiarity and solidarity were both needed for the good of society.

“This path of solidarity needs subsidiarity,” he stressed. “In fact, there is no true solidarity without social participation, without the contribution of intermediary bodies: families, associations, cooperatives, small businesses, and other expressions of society … This type of participation helps to prevent and to correct certain negative aspects of globalization and actions of countries, just as it is happening regarding the healing of people affected by the pandemic.”

“These contributions ‘from the bottom’ should be encouraged. How beautiful it is to see the volunteers during the crisis. The volunteers come from every part of society, volunteers who come from well-off families and those who come from poorer families. But everyone, everyone together to emerge. This is solidarity and this is the principle of subsidiarity.”

Another important component of subsidiarity, the pope explained, is that those with a higher responsibility look out for the good of those without adequate resources.

“After the great economic depression of 1929, Pope Pius XI explained how important the principle of subsidiarity was,” Pope Francis said.

“On the one hand, and above all in moments of change, when single individuals, families, small associations and local communities are not capable of achieving primary objectives, it is then right that the highest levels of society, such as the state, should intervene to provide the necessary resources to progress.”

“For example, because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people, families and economic entities found themselves and still find themselves in serious trouble. Thus, public institutions are trying to help through appropriate interventions. On the other hand, however, society’s leaders must respect and promote the intermediate or lower levels.”

At the end of his general audience, which took place on a rainy morning, the pope mentioned that he would bless a bell named “The Voice of the Unborn,” commissioned by the “Sì alla Vita” foundation.

“It will accompany the events aimed at remembering the value of human life from conception to natural death,” he said, noting a desire that its sound would awaken the consciences of legislators and all people of good will.

“During the lockdown, the spontaneous gesture of applauding, applause for doctors and nurses began as a sign of encouragement and hope. … Let’s extend this applause to every member of the social body, to each and every one, for their precious contribution, no matter how small,” Pope Francis said.

“Let’s applaud the ‘castaways,’ those whom culture defines as those to be ‘thrown out,’ this throwaway culture -- that is, let’s applaud the elderly, children, persons with disability, let’s applaud workers, all those who dedicate themselves to service. Everyone collaborating to emerge from the crisis.”

Palliative care is not enough -- Catholics must share Christ’s hope, says Vatican

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Palliative care for the dying is important, but medical interventions are not enough; Catholics have a responsibility to be with the suffering and to communicate the hope of Christ, a new Vatican document on euthanasia said Tuesday.

While palliative care is “essential and invaluable,” it is not enough, a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.

“Palliative care cannot provide a fundamental answer to suffering or eradicate it from people’s lives,” the congregation said. “To claim otherwise is to generate a false hope, and cause even greater despair in the midst of suffering.”

“Medical science can understand physical pain better and can deploy the best technical resources to treat it. But terminal illness causes a profound suffering in the sick person, who seeks a level of care beyond the purely technical,” it continued.

“Palliative care in itself is not enough unless there is someone who ‘remains’ at the bedside of the sick to bear witness to their unique and unrepeatable value. Pain is existentially bearable only where there is hope.”

The CDF presented the 45-page letter, Samaritanus bonus: on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life, at a press conference Sept. 22. It was approved by Pope Francis on June 25 and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. 

The letter reaffirmed Catholic teaching on a range of end-of-life issues, underlining the moral impermissability of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalling the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments. 

The Vatican document also pointed out what it described as cultural obstacles obscuring the intrinsic value of every human life: the notion of “dignified death” as measured by a person’s so-called “quality of life,” a false understanding of compassion, and an individualism which sees the other as a limitation or threat to one’s freedom.

So-called “compassionate” euthansia holds that it is better to die than to suffer, the CDF noted. “In reality, human compassion consists not in causing death, but in embracing the sick, in supporting them in their difficulties, in offering them affection, attention, and the means to alleviate the suffering.”

Cardinal Ladaria said Sept. 22 that “a compassion that is not accompanied by the truth, by respect for human life in all its phases of existence, is a compassion that is not just, is not right.”

Catholics need to know how to show authentic compassion and to witness to Christian hope, the CDF document argued.

“In the face of the challenge of illness and the emotional and spiritual difficulties associated with pain, one must necessarily know how to speak a word of comfort drawn from the compassion of Jesus on the Cross,” it said. “It is full of hope -- a sincere hope, like Christ’s on the Cross, capable of facing the moment of trial and the challenge of death.”

“The hope that Christ communicates to the sick and the suffering is that of his presence, of his true nearness,” the letter explained. “To contemplate the living experience of Christ’s suffering is to proclaim to men and women of today a hope that imparts meaning to the time of sickness and death. From this hope springs the love that overcomes the temptation to despair.”

The document said that Catholic priests and others should avoid any active or passive gesure which might signal approval for euthanasia and assisted suicide, including remaining in a room while the act is performed.

But to someone who is considering taking that action, the presence of a witness to truth, charity, and hope can be powerful, Ladaria said.

“The witness of Christians, the witness of Christian healthcare workers, the witness of all the Christian relatives of this person, etc. can be something very determinative” in helping a person to turn away from the decision to end his or her own life, he said.

Ladaria encouraged offering a “witness of presence” to those who were seriously ill and dying.

When a person sees no other hope than assisted suicide, “if he sees someone who clearly does not accept this solution, but is there beside him, and does not abandon him, and is next to him, maybe this can be a factor which helps him to reflect,” he said.

“I believe that in every man there is some reserve of hope,” the cardinal stated. Communicating the truth with charity, being present to someone who feels hopeless, could help them to think and reflect, it “makes this person see that there is, however, hope, there is hope. That hope never ends!”

Priestly ministry to the sick at the end of life, a symbol of the solicitude of Christ and the Church, “can and must have a decisive role,” and makes proper priestly formation vital in this area, Samaritanus bonus said. It also noted that because priests cannot always be present at a bedside, physicians and healthcare workers need formation in Christian accompaniment too.

“In this essential mission it is extremely important to bear witness to and unite truth and charity with which the gaze of the Good Shepherd never ceases to accompany all of His children,” it stated.