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Pope Francis: There is no option to be passive Catholics when it comes to evangelization

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from the popemobile in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that there is no option to be “passive subjects” when it comes to evangelization because every baptized Catholic has a mission to actively proclaim the Gospel.

“There are not those who preach, those who proclaim the Gospel in one way or another, and those who keep silent. No. Every baptized person … whatever his position in the Church or level of education in the faith, is an active subject of evangelization,” he said on March 8.

“Are you Christian? ‘Yes, I received baptism …’ And do you evangelize?” the pope asked.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

“By virtue of the baptism received and the consequent incorporation into the Church, every baptized person participates in the mission of the Church and, in it, in the mission of Christ the king, priest, and prophet,” he said.

In his weekly Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to reflect on the Second Vatican Council’s decree on missionary activity, Ad gentes (To the nations), which he said “reminds us that it is the task of the Church to continue the mission of Christ, who was ‘sent to preach the Gospel to the poor.’”

Quoting Ad gentes, he said: “‘The Church, prompted by the Holy Spirit, must walk in the same path on which Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice to the death, from which death he came forth a victor by his resurrection.’”

Pope Francis speaks in St. Peter's Square on March 8, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks in St. Peter's Square on March 8, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis added that preaching the Gospel should be done in community and should never be a solitary or individualistic task independent of the Church.

“Today we listen to the Second Vatican Council to discover that evangelizing is always an ecclesial service, never solitary, never isolated or individualistic,” he said.

He also warned of the temptation to follow “easier pseudo-ecclesial paths” or to “adopt the worldly logic of numbers and polls.”

The pope underlined that evangelizing the faith that one has received from the Church ensures “the authenticity of Christian proclamation.” He added that evangelization should always be done “in the community and without proselytizing because that is not evangelization.”

The livestreamed address was the seventh in Pope Francis’ cycle of catechesis on “the passion for evangelization” and the first general papal audience held outdoors in 2023.

Children joined Pope Francis in the popemobile as it made its way around St. Peter’s Square as pilgrims from around the world waved and cheered.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis shared a message for International Women’s Day, a holiday adopted by the United Nations in 1977.

Pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on March 8, 2023. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

“On International Women’s Day, I think of all women: I thank them for their commitment to building a more humane society through their ability to grasp reality with a creative gaze and tender heart. This is a privilege of women alone! A special blessing for all the women in the piazza. And a round of applause for the women. They deserve it!” Francis said.

The pope also encouraged people to continue praying for war-torn Ukraine during Lent.

“In these days of Lent, let us walk even more courageously in Christ’s footsteps, trying to imitate his humility and fidelity to the divine will,” he said.

“And please, dear brothers and sisters, do not forget the pain of the martyred Ukrainian people, they suffer so much. Let us always have them present in our hearts and prayers.”

A new(ish) statute for the Vatican bank: Here’s what it means

The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. / Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Mar 7, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a new statute for the so-called Vatican bank (officially the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR), but in fact, it closely resembles the regulation approved more than three years ago “ad experimentum” — on an experimental basis.

Evidently, the pope was satisfied with the results of the experiment. The intent is to align the rules of the IOR with last year’s apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium, which regulates the functioning of the dicasteries and entities of the Curia. 

The new statute does include some minor adjustments, such as redefining some of the offices of the institute. At the same time, it leaves certain critical issues unaddressed.

First, some background. The history of the IOR begins in 1942, when Pius XI erected the Institute for Works of Religion in Vatican City, absorbing into it the preexisting Administration for Works of Religion. Pius himself approved the IOR’s statute on March 17, 1941. Before the 2019 experimental statute, the IOR was regulated by a 1990 chirograph (papal letter) by Pope John Paul II. 

What is missing in the statute?

The supervisory framework to which the IOR belongs is not mentioned, nor is the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority (ASIF), which is the body that supervises the operations of the IOR. In short, it seems that the IOR remains a sort of institution in its own right, almost unrelated to the significant reform of Vatican finance Pope Francis wanted.

This impression is strengthened by the fact that the IOR can only accept deposits between entities and people of the Holy See and the Vatican City State. That wording already was present in the 2019 statute, which did not include other users of the IOR, such as dioceses and parishes, institutes of canon law, and embassies to the Holy See.

Both the supervisory framework and the variety of customers are mentioned on the institute’s official website, so, surprisingly, these are not included in the new statute.

What hasn’t changed is that the IOR remains autonomous as regards the selection of personnel and also salaries, which therefore differ from the general salary levels of the Roman Curia (article 27 of the statute).

It is striking, among other things, that the institute’s independence is not counterbalanced by the independence of the authority that supervises the IOR, the ASIF. The director of ASIF can propose an estimated budget and the hiring of personnel, for instance, but those decisions are subject to another entity, the Independent Evaluation Commission. That is not the case with the IOR.

The bodies of the institute remain the Commission of Cardinals, the Prelate, the Board of Superintendence, and the Direction.

Other key innovations made in 2019 remain in the new statute: the outsourcing of auditors, the increase in the size of the lay governing board from five to seven members, and some restrictions on the temporal extension of the offices.

What’s different about the new statute?

The direction of the IOR changes. In 2019, the institute was structured with a director and a vice director appointed by the Board of Superintendence with the approval of the Commission of Cardinals. With the new statute, the direction becomes a monocratic body. The director must submit to the Board of Superintendence every action that does not fall within his competence. 

Furthermore, the new statute says, “in case of urgency, the director general may be authorized to act outside their responsibilities by the president of the Board of Superintendence, who will hear at least one of the other members of the board. The determination, signed by the director general and with immediate effect towards third parties, must be submitted for ratification to the Board of Superintendence in its first useful meeting.”

The figure of the deputy director remains, but it is only a function that the general director can delegate from time to time.

The director, therefore, assumes broader powers and manages and administers the institute. The Board of Superintendence, on the other hand, has the task of defining the strategic lines, general policies, and supervision of the activity of the IOR.

The mandates all have a five-year term with the possibility of only one renewal, as defined by Praedicate evangelium, though the 2019 statute already established this.

The Commission of Cardinals and the Board of Superintendence will have a nonsimultaneous mandate. That is, they will not expire together. There will therefore be a time when the Superintendent Council will act with a new Commission of Cardinals and vice versa.

A provision on conflict of interest has also been inserted, according to which “each member of the Board of Superintendence refrains from participating in the votes relating to resolutions in which he has an interest, current or potential, on his behalf or behalf of third parties.”

The director general continues to be appointed by the Board of Superintendence and approved by the Commission of Cardinals, but from now on, “based on a short list of at least three suitable candidates.” He may be hired on a permanent or fixed-term basis, as already established. 

As for the Commission of Cardinals, the fact remains that the cardinals will elect their presidents and also choose the prelate of the IOR.

Rupnik concelebrated Mass in a basilica in Rome despite restrictions

Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, S.J., with the official image of the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome. / Screenshot from Diocesi di Roma YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2023 / 11:12 am (CNA).

Father Marko Rupnik concelebrated Mass at a basilica in Rome on Sunday despite restrictions prohibiting “any public ministerial and sacramental activity.”

The Jesuit priest and artist who has been accused of sexually and psychologically abusing consecrated women stood at the altar of the Basilica of Santa Prassede, a historic church popular with pilgrims located near the Basilica of St. Mary Major, at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass on March 5, according to the Italian newspaper Domani.

When asked about the Mass, Rupnik’s superior, Jesuit Father Johan Verscheuren, said that Rupnik is only allowed “to concelebrate Masses in the context of the Aletti Center, which is his inner circle, his community.”

In comments to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Verscheuren said that he had not been able to confirm the Italian media reports and preferred “not to make judgments about things that I am not absolutely sure about.”

Rupnik founded the Aletti Center, a school dedicated to the promotion of religious art in Rome, after his years in the Loyola Community of Slovenia, where he has been accused of abusing consecrated women.

Members of the Aletti Center were present at the Sunday Mass in the Roman basilica this week, which was also open to the public, according to ACI Prensa.

The Jesuit order has received accusations against Rupnik that span from 1985 to 2018 and include claims of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience.

According to current restrictions imposed by the Jesuit order, Rupnik is prohibited “from any public ministerial and sacramental activity,” banned from public communication, ordered not to leave Lazio, and “may not engage in any public artistic activity, especially in relation to religious structures (such as churches, institutions, oratories and chapels, exercise or spirituality houses).”

In addition to the Mass on Sunday, Italian media have also reported that Rupnik spoke on Jan. 22 to a visiting group at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran about his work renovating mosaics in the chapel of the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary.

Verscheuren told ACI Prensa that when the Jesuit order’s restrictions are violated, “a dismissal procedure for reasons of disobedience comes into action.”

“This is a procedure that takes several steps (and time), and the acts of disobedience must occur several times in succession before it can lead to a removal,” he said.

Pope Francis adds Hollerich and four other cardinals to his council of advisers

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich celebrates Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 10, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Mar 7, 2023 / 06:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed five new members to his council of cardinals advisers on Tuesday, including Synod organizer Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Canadian Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix.

The Vatican announced on March 7 the nine members of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals tasked with assisting the pope “in the governance of the universal Church.”

The pope has nominated Brazilian Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, Spanish Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella, and Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, to be new members of the council, along with Hollerich and Lacroix.

With the new appointments, Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, 80, and Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, 69, are no longer members of the Council of Cardinals. Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the 80-year-old retired president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, has been replaced by his successor.

The group of cardinal advisers, also referred to as the C9 for its nine members, was established by Pope Francis one month after his election in 2013 to advise the pope on the reform of the Roman Curia, particularly the new apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium, published last year.

The group continued to meet after the constitution’s publication and discussed the Synod on Synodality and the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at its last meeting in December.

The inclusion of Hollerich, a Jesuit who is one of the leading organizers of the ongoing Synod on Synodality, suggests that the council will continue to have a role advising the pope on the global synod process. 

The appointment also indicates the esteem the pope has for the 64-year-old cardinal archbishop of Luxembourg, whom he appointed in 2021 as the relator general of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Last fall, Hollerich said in an interview with Vatican media that he believes the possibility of Church blessings for same-sex unions is not a settled matter.

Three original members of the C9 remain in the council: American Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state. 

Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, who was appointed in 2020, will also remain in the council of advisers and Bishop Marco Mellino will continue to serve as the group’s secretary.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will be held on April 24 at the pope’s Vatican residence, Casa Santa Marta, at 9 a.m.

Here is the list of the nine members of the pope’s Council of Cardinals in 2023 (new members are in bold):

Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, 63, archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, since 2020, cardinal since 2016. Pope Francis hand-picked him as one of three papal appointees to the Synod of Bishops’ council following the synod on the family in 2015.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, 64, archbishop of Luxembourg since 2011, cardinal since 2019. Hollerich made his perpetual vows as a Jesuit in Tokyo, where he served as a chaplain of a German parish. He is currently the president of the European bishops’ commission.

Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix, 65, archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada since 2011, cardinal since 2014. He spent eight years as a missionary priest in Colombia with the Pius X Secular Institute and served as director general of the institute for nearly 10 years.

Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella, 76, archbishop of Barcelona since 2015, cardinal since 2017. He has served as the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference since 2020.

Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, 78, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State since 2021, cardinal since 2022. Originally from Spain, Vérgez has served in the Roman Curia since 1972 and is the first active member of the Legionaries of Christ to become a cardinal.

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, 63, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo, since 2018, cardinal since 2019. He is a professed member of the Franciscan Capuchin order.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, 68, Vatican secretary of state since 2013, cardinal since 2014. Before he became the Vatican’s top diplomat, Parolin served as the apostolic nuncio to Venezuela.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, 78, archbishop of Bombay, India, cardinal since 2007. He led the federation of Asian bishops’ conferences from 2010 to 2019. Original member of the Council of Cardinals.

Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, 78, archbishop of Boston since 2003, cardinal since 2006. He is a professed member of the Franciscan Capuchin order and is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Pope Francis: Look for the beauty of Jesus’ transfiguration in everyday life

Pope Francis waves to the crowd in St. Peter's Square on March 5, 2023, during his Sunday Angelus reflection. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 5, 2023 / 08:20 am (CNA).

During his Sunday morning Angelus address, Pope Francis urged the faithful to reflect on the miracle of the Transfiguration and to see the same beauty in the faces of the people we interact with every day. 

In the March 5 address, the pope discussed the “beauty” shown in Sunday’s Gospel reading of Matthew 17:1–9. In this passage, Peter and James and his brother John witness Christ “transfigured before them” with his face shining “like the sun” and his clothes “dazzling white” as he conversed with Moses and Elijah on the top of a mountain. 

Pope Francis said that we must “see the same beauty on the faces of the people who walk beside us every day,” such as family, friends, and colleagues. 

“How many luminous faces, how many smiles, how many wrinkles, how many tears and scars reveal love around us,” the pope said.

“Let us learn to recognize them and to fill our hearts with them. And then let us set out in order to bring the light we have received to others as well, through concrete acts of love diving into our daily occupations more generously, loving, serving, and forgiving with greater earnestness and willingness,” the Holy Father said. “The contemplation of God’s wonders, the contemplation of God’s face, of the Lord’s face, must move us to the service of others.”

Reflecting on beauty the apostles respond to in the Gospel account, the pope asked, “Of what does this beauty consist? What do the disciples see? A special effect? No, that is not it.

“They see the light of God’s holiness shining on the face and on the clothing of Jesus, the perfect image of the Father,” the pope continued.

“God’s majesty, God’s beauty is revealed. But God is love. Therefore, the disciples had been beholding with their eyes the beauty and splendor of divine love incarnate in Christ. They had a foretaste of paradise. What a surprise for the disciples!” he said. “They had the face of love before their very eyes for so long without ever being aware of how beautiful it was! Only now do they realize it with such joy, with immense joy.”

Pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus reflection on March 5, 2023. Vatican Media
Pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus reflection on March 5, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis warned against reducing the miracle to simply a “magical moment,” which he said would be “false, artificial, something that would dissolve into the fog of passing sentiment.” He said, rather, this demonstrates something deeper.

“Christ is the light that orients our journey like the pillar of fire for the people in the wilderness,” the pontiff explained. “Jesus’ beauty does not alienate his disciples from the reality of life but gives them the strength to follow him all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to the cross. Christ’s beauty is not alienating. It always brings you forward. It does not make you hide. Go forward!”

The Gospel reading also “traces a path for us,” according to Pope Francis. He explained how the passage “teaches us how important it is to remain with Jesus even when it is not easy to understand everything he says and does for us.” By staying with Christ, he said “we learn to recognize on his face the luminous beauty of love he gives us, even when it bears the marks of the cross.”

Near the end of his address, Pope Francis told people to ask themselves whether they “recognize the light of God’s love in our lives” and whether they “recognize it with joy and gratitude on the faces of the people who love us.” 

“Do we look around us for the signs of this light that fills our hearts and open them to love and service?” the pope told people to ask themselves. “Or do we prefer the straw fires of idols that alienate us and close us in on ourselves? The great light of the Lord and the false, artificial light of idols. Which do I prefer?”

Following his address, Pope Francis said he is continuing to pray for the victims of a Feb. 28 train accident in Greece, many of whom are young students. He said he is also praying for the victims of a Feb. 26 shipwreck near Crotone, Italy. The pope also welcomed pilgrims and asked people to continue praying for him.

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of March

Pope Francis at Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 22, 2023. / Vatican Media

Boston, Mass., Mar 3, 2023 / 12:22 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’s prayer intention for the month of March is for victims of abuse.

“In response to the cases of abuse, especially to those committed by members of the Church, it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is necessary but it is not enough,” the Holy Father said in a video released by the Vatican March 2.

“Asking for forgiveness is good for the victims, but they are the ones who have to be at the center of everything,” Pope Francis said.

“Their pain and their psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers — if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again. The Church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse of any kind. Nor when the abuse takes place in families, in clubs, or in other types of institutions,” the Holy Father added.

Pope Francis said the Church must serve as a model “to help solve the issue and bring it to light in society and in families.”

“The Church must offer safe spaces for victims to be heard, supported psychologically, and protected,” he said.

“Let us pray for those who have suffered because of the wrongs done to them from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering,” Pope Francis concluded.

The Vatican's initiative that promotes the Holy Father’s prayer intentions each month is called the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The video is available in 21 languages, according to its website. More information on the pope’s intention for this month can be found here.

What do Pope Francis’ latest financial measures mean?

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience on Ash Wednesday Feb. 22, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 2, 2023 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

A new rescript from Pope Francis will mean an increase in the cost of housing for senior Vatican officials, a belt-tightening measure that is part of a broader effort to centralize the assets of the Holy See.

Dated Feb. 13, the rescript was not published in the bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See but was instead pinned up inside the Vatican, where it was photographed and published for the first time in the blog Messa in Latino, and soon after publicized by Vatican News.

The document explains that Pope Francis has decided to abolish “any arrangement for the use of free or advantageous lodgings for cardinals, heads of dicasteries, presidents, secretaries, sub-secretaries, managers, and equivalents.” The prices of flats intended for other employees would not be affected.

Relatedly, on Feb. 20, Pope Francis reiterated in a motu proprio titled “The Native Law” that the assets of the Holy See belong to the Holy See. Prior to this, various Vatican entities have had complete autonomy over how they allocate and manage buildings. Now the pope has established, by law, that the management belongs solely to the institution of the Holy See, further centralizing the control of finances.

On the one hand, Pope Francis continues his fight against ecclesiastical privileges. But, on the other hand, he strikes a Vatican system that, albeit with limitations, had the advantage of making work in the Holy See accessible to all.

The rescript of Feb. 13

The rescript of Feb. 13 came following a hearing granted to the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Maximino Caballero Ledo.

The motivation for the decision, the document explains, is that of “meeting the growing commitments that the Holy See is facing for the fulfillment of the service of the universal Church and the needy” and, therefore, the need to “reserve to the Apostolic See more resources also by increasing the revenues of the real estate management.”

Apartments can no longer be for office use or outside the market price. It is also added that “the proprietary institutions will have to apply to the aforementioned subjects the same prices applicable to those who do not have an office in the Holy See or the Vatican City State.”

Exceptions can only be authorized by the pope, which makes every decision highly centralized.

Pope Francis’ choice affects a Vatican system that was born precisely to allow everyone — employees and department heads — to work in the most dignified way possible.

There are about 5,000 Vatican employees, split between the Vatican City State administration and the Holy See. They all receive a salary, which is generally modest. In the Vatican, there are 10 levels of remuneration, ranging from 1,300 euros per month for the first level to approximately 2,400 euros per month for the 10th level, which can be increased by 250 euros based on merit.

The cardinals of the Roman Curia currently have a remuneration of between 4,500 and 5,500 euros a month, which includes the 1,500 euros of the “cardinal dish” (“piatto cardinalizio”) due to every cardinal in the world. A bishop or archbishop head of a dicastery receives between 3,000 and 4,000 euros.

The reasoning is that these salaries could afford a market-priced rent. In reality, the Vatican apartments, especially those traditionally intended for dicastery heads or cardinals, are large in size, prestigious, and, in any case, in expensive areas. In many cases, it would take an official’s full salary to cover the full-market price.

For the Holy See, however, the important thing is that everyone could have the opportunity to work in the Vatican. Hence, the controlled price system is favored because the small Vatican City State has no taxes. Therefore, the employees have a net salary without taxes.

Responses to the economic crisis

The move is not the first tightening of Vatican finances under Pope Francis. In 2021, the pope established that, starting from April 1 of that year, the remuneration paid by the Holy See to the cardinals be reduced by 10%, while the income of the other superiors was trimmed by 8%. There was also a further 3% cut for salaries for clergy and religious in the 10 functional and non-management levels. Furthermore, seniority increases were also suspended until April of this year.

The provisions did not apply only to the institutions of the Holy See but also to the Vicariate of Rome; to the Chapters of the Vatican, Lateran, and Liberian Papal Basilicas; to the Fabbrica di San Pietro; and to the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori Le Mura.

In August 2021, Pope Francis decided to abolish the “token” (a sort of refund/salary) intended for members of the Chapter of St. Peter’s if the members of the chapter already had a salary or an income.

The Holy See real estate

How many properties are owned by the Holy See? The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which now has the entire administration of the Holy See in its charge, administers 2,400 flats and about 600 offices and commercial premises. The overall value of the Holy See real estate is estimated to be between 2 billion and 3 billion euros.

Seventy percent of the APSA houses are assigned to employees of the Holy See at a rent generally 40% lower than the market value of rental housing in the same areas. The remaining 30% is instead rented to outsiders who request it at a monthly rent 15% lower than the apartment’s market value.

The other Vatican body that manages real estate assets is the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the ancient Propaganda Fide. According to estimates, the dicastery owns about 500 apartments in about 60 buildings, managed so far independently by the central administration of the Holy See. They are rented at market price, according to a 2015 dicastery release. It should, however, be noted that the renovation costs of the buildings, when there are any, are borne by those who live there and that the property then returns to the availability of the Holy See.

How heavy is the economic crisis?

The lay employees of the Vatican are organized into an association with a dedicated and constantly updated website. One of the last posts said that the basic salary is being revised upward, with a maximum ceiling of 5%. However, the employees complained that the percentage did not consider the rent increase.

The APSA had notified several employees — with a registered letter dated Dec. 15, 2022 — that the rent would be adjusted to inflation, which varies from 8% to 10%. Therefore, the salary adjustment could not cope with the rent increase. Now, the tightening that concerns the heads of departments could have the same effect.

Will there be a future in which the Vatican secretary of state no longer lives in the Apostolic Palace? And how much should he pay in the lease? Or will some particular situations be part of the exceptions?

These are questions that remain open. However, the Vatican’s need, first of all, to accumulate capital should be noted. The annual budget has not yet been published — it usually happens at the end of July or the beginning of August — but there is already talk of a forecast of a liability that goes beyond 200 million euros.

Also adding to the expenses of the Curia was the crisis of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank.

Even the collection of Peter’s Pence was not optimistic. According to the numbers released on June 16, 2022, Peter’s Pence earmarked 55.5 million euros in 2021 to support the activities promoted by the Holy See in carrying out the apostolic mission of the Holy Father, and 9.8 million euros were instead allocated to projects of direct assistance to the needy. As a result, Peter’s Pence spent 65.3 million euros, only partially covered by funding, which settled at 46.9 million euros.

The measures, therefore, are designed to resolve a liability that promises to be very heavy. At the same time, however, they risk throwing the Vatican system into crisis. Who will ultimately be able to lead a dicastery? Who is supported by an excellent economic situation (personal or the result of donations), and who will have the pope’s approval to control expenses? Or, at the very least, this could be the case if there are no adjustments made to these latest decisions.

Pope Francis prays for victims of deadly train crash in Greece

Police and emergency crews search wreckage after a train accident in the Tempi Valley near Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023. At least 36 people were killed and another 85 injured after a collision between two trains caused a derailment near the Greek city of Larissa late at night on Feb. 28, 2023, authorities said. / Photo by SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Mar 1, 2023 / 11:02 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a message Wednesday saying he was praying for the victims of a train crash in northern Greece.

Authorities say at least 36 people died and more than 75 were hospitalized after two trains collided near the Vale of Tempe, a river valley about 235 miles north of Athens, just before midnight Feb. 28.

The cause of the crash between the passenger and freight trains is unknown. The stationmaster in the nearby city of Larissa was arrested by authorities on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Two other people were detained for questioning.

Rescuers were still searching the debris of several smashed train carriages on Wednesday. Multiple carriages were derailed and at least one caught on fire. Greece’s state broadcaster ERT reported that some people were thrown from the train by the impact and victims’ bodies were found 100-130 feet away from the crash site.

Pope Francis “was saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury caused by the train crash near Larissa, and he sends the assurance of his prayers to everyone affected by this tragedy,” a March 1 telegram to the bishops of Greece said.

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the loving mercy of God, [Pope Francis] offers heartfelt condolences to the families who mourn their loved ones,” the message continued. “To the injured, the emergency workers, and all those providing assistance, His Holiness imparts his blessing as a pledge of strength and solidarity in the Lord.”

Greece’s Minister of Transport, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned following the crash, calling it his duty “as a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly,” AP reported.

Pope Francis cuts free and discounted rent for cardinals, Vatican managers

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address on Feb. 26, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 1, 2023 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has cut housing perks for Vatican managers and cardinals in order to save the Church money.

Reuters and Vatican News reported March 1 that cardinals and other high-level positions at the Vatican will no longer be able to live in Vatican-connected apartments for free or at special prices.

The Vatican owns an extensive amount of real estate both in and outside Vatican walls. Apartments are principally managed by APSA (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

The pope’s decision to drop housing benefits for upper management was communicated in a note from the Vatican’s new prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Maximino Caballero Ledo. The note, called a “rescriptum ex audientia,” was posted in the San Damaso Courtyard inside Vatican City, according to Reuters.

The rescript, which was posted in the Vatican following a Feb. 13 meeting with Pope Francis, says housing perks for high-level Vatican officials are being cut to meet the growing needs of the Church in an economic context “of particular gravity.”

Ledo’s note asks “everyone to make an extraordinary sacrifice to allocate more resources to the mission of the Holy See, also by increasing revenue from the management of the real estate patrimony.”

The decision comes two years after Pope Francis announced he was cutting cardinals’ salaries by 10% in March 2021.

The pay of other high-ranking officials and employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State was reduced by 8%, and some clergy and religious employed by the Vatican had their salaries lowered by 3%.

Automatic raises for some Vatican officials and employees were also suspended for a period of two years. That measure is due to expire March 31.

According to the new housing decision, rental agreements already in course will be allowed to continue until their expiry.

New rental agreements will have to be offered at full price.

Only Pope Francis can grant exceptions to the new policy, the rescript says.

Cardinals, dicastery heads, presidents, secretaries, undersecretaries, managers, and auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota are all affected by the new housing policy.

The Santa Marta guest house where Pope Francis lives, as well as two other Rome guest houses that regularly host priests serving at the Vatican, will also need to comply with the change.

Pope Francis to visit Hungary in April

Pope Francis in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 12, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 27, 2023 / 05:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis will visit Hungary for the second time, from April 28-30.

According to the Feb. 27 announcement, the three-day papal trip to Budapest will include meetings with Hungary President Katalin Novák, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a private visit with children at the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute, and meetings with poor people and migrants, young people, clergy, academics, and members of the Society of Jesus.

Pope Francis returns to the central European country after a short visit in 2021 for the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

The pope spent just under seven hours in Budapest to celebrate the congress’ closing Mass on Sept. 12 before embarking on a three-day trip to the neighboring country of Slovakia.

Pope Francis met Orbán during his 2021 visit to Hungary and in the Vatican in 2022. Novák, who was elected president of Hungary in March 2022, met Pope Francis at the Vatican last August. A Christian wife and mother, Novák was formerly Hungary’s family minister.

Katolikus.ma also reports that Francis’ trip will focus on the topic of young people in advance of the Aug. 1-6 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, which the pope is also expected to attend.