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Posted on 07/13/2022 11:48 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 13, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Wednesday named three women to the Dicastery of Bishops, the Vatican office responsible for evaluating new members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
The two religious sisters and one consecrated virgin are the first women to ever be named members of the dicastery.
Sister Raffaella Petrini, a Franciscan, has been secretary general of the Vatican’s governorate, the second-ranking position in the government of the Vatican City State, since November 2021.
Sister Yvonne Reungoat, is superior general of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a branch of the Salesians. In 2019, the French sister was one of the first seven women to be named members of the Vatican department for religious orders.
Maria Lia Zervino, a member of the Association of Consecrated Virgins “Servidoras,” is president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. She is also a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Pope Francis also named four current cardinals, four cardinals-elect, and two archbishops to the dicastery July 13.
Benedictine Abbot Donato Ogliari, recently named abbot of Saint Paul Outside the Walls after eight years leading the abbey of Montecassino, was also appointed to the Dicastery for Bishops.
The members of the dicastery assist in choosing bishops for the dioceses. They analyze position papers, called ponenze, providing an opinion on candidates.
The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. Usually, the pope’s representative in a country, the apostolic nuncio, passes on recommendations and documentation to the Vatican. The Dicastery of Bishops then discusses the appointment in a further process and takes a vote. On being presented with the recommendations, the pope makes the final decision.
The Congregation of Bishops, a department of the Roman Curia, recently changed its name to the Dicastery for Bishops, in line with the new constitution that underpins the reform of the Vatican by Pope Francis.
Posted on 07/13/2022 11:35 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 13, 2022 / 04:35 am (CNA).
The Vatican’s “trial of the century”, scheduled to continue in September, has so far offered plenty of drama and raised numerous unanswered questions. One of the most sensitive, not just for Catholics who have donated money to the Vatican, is this: Was Peter's Pence used to finance investments like the now infamous London property deal?
Donations to Peter’s Pence fell by around 15% in 2021, a marked decrease. Nonetheless, around $47 million was collected last year, with the largest donor nations being the United States (29.3%), followed by Italy (11.3%), Germany (5.2%), Korea (3.2%), and France (2.7%).
The pious practice is said to have begun 1000 years ago under the Saxons in England. But when the Vatican confirmed it was selling its shares of a London property for $223 million in a July 1 statement, it made a point of saying the surprising losses incurred — estimated to run to a staggering $119 million — in no way touched “Peter’s Pence or the donations of the faithful.”
Why this clarification? Was money intended to aid the poor misused in the deal?
While the circumstances surrounding the property’s purchase are the focus of the ongoing trial in the Vatican courts, with accusations of fraud and embezzlement against 10 people, the question of how Peter’s Pence has been used requires a look behind the scenes.
The Vatican’s finances have come under scrutiny in recent years, and Pope Francis has ordered the removal of responsibility for financial funds and real estate assets from the Secretariat of State.
The Vatican’s economy prefect, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, acknowledged “that people have the right to know how we spend the money that is given to us”.
But in 2014, before this papal decision and a wider push for transparency, the Secretariat of State was looking to invest in an oil project in Angola, and then dropped that plan, instead looking at investing in London real estate. The current Vatican trial covers, amongst other concerns, the question of borrowed money and loans surrounding this deal.
In the hearing on June 20 last week, Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former Vatican official, explained in his interrogation that when he started working at the Secretariat of State, there was an Obolo Fund.
Obolo di San Pietro is Italian for Peter’s Pence.
Tirabassi told the court there originally was an office dedicated to the collection of donations at the Secretariat of State. He said these donations were “managed” by opening dedicated accounts with a whole number of banks.
According to Tirabassi, there were about "70-80 accounts" for this purpose at the Vatican’s own “bank”, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). Further accounts existed with the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) but also with Italian financial institutions like Credito Artigiano and Poste Italiane (the Italian Post Office banking system).
This tangled web of accounts was reduced over the last decades, streamlining management of the donations. To this end, a “Peter’s Pence account” — literally Conto Obolo — in the Secretariat of State was designated to hold the funds in one account.
However, whilst this account was still in place at the time of the London deal, it apparently no longer managed the actual Peter’s Pence donations, rather the resources of the Secretariat of State.
Asked about the London deal and Peter’s Pence in a June 2021 interview with Vatican News, Fr. Alves said “Peter's Pence investments were traditionally put together with investments from other funds assigned to the Secretariat of State. It was not easy to say that this part, these shares or this building belongs to Peter's Pence and this belongs to other funds.”
According to the figures on the 2021 Peter's Pence balance sheet, Peter's Pence allocated about $56 million in 2021 to support the activities promoted by the Holy See in carrying out the apostolic mission of the Holy Father and almost $10 million were allocated to projects that immediately help the needy.
In practice, the $56 million from Peter's Pence helped fund the $238 million expenses of the Roman Curia.
It is not surprising that most of the St Peter's Pence collection is destined for the Holy See.
This was the primary purpose of the collection, and has been for centuries, especially since the nineteenth century, after the fall of the Papal States. The goal, then, is precisely to support the Holy Father.
Posted on 07/13/2022 01:06 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Denver Newsroom, Jul 12, 2022 / 18:06 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis ruled out the possibility of staying in the Vatican or returning to Argentina in the event of an eventual resignation from the papacy.
In an interview with Univisión and Televisa broadcast July 12, Pope Francis said he would “surely not” stay in the Vatican if one day he resigned. He wouldn’t return to Argentina either, he added, because “I am the Bishop of Rome.” He said he would be “the Bishop Emeritus of Rome.”
Asked if he would reside at Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, the Holy Father said “that could be,” since he would like to retire “to hear confessions at a church.”
However, he said that “for the moment” he hasn’t considered resigning from the papacy.
The pope said he took the rumors about his possible resignation “quite well,” especially the theories that have surfaced about it in recent weeks.
He noted there were journalists who speculated about his upcoming trip to L’Aquila, Italy, where the tomb of St. Celestine V is located. Celestine V in 1294 became the first pope in the history of the Church to resign from the papacy. Pope Benedict XVI visited the tomb and left his pallium there in 2009, four years before his resignation.
Pope Francis said it was interesting to see how some put the events together as if they were “meta-messages,” including his calling a consistory in August, “where not even the dog is on the street in Rome,” because of summer vacations.
The analysis over his possible resignation made sense, he said, but was “pure coincidence.”
“I really don't feel like the Lord is asking me that right now. When I feel that the Lord is asking me, yes,” he said, regarding an eventual resignation from the papacy.
Pope Francis said the knee pain he has been experiencing for several months “scared me, in the sense of ‘think a little about what your future is going to be like now.’”
“Thank God it’s getting better; now I can walk, but I certainly couldn’t make the trip to the Congo, because (my knee) wasn’t working,” he continued.
“Now, 20 days later, I’ve made this progress,” he added.
However, he continued, “it never occurred to me to resign until recently, and the example that Pope Benedict gave us is so great, that if I see that I can’t (go on) or that I’m doing harm or am a hindrance, I hope that the strength of that example would help me make the decision.”
When asked about whether use of the title “pope emeritus” would become the norm in the Catholic Church, the Holy Father said that “history itself will force (the Church) to regularize it.”
Referring to Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said that “the first experience went quite well because he is a holy and discreet man, and he knew how to do it well. But for the future, it’s appropriate to explain things better.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Pope Francis considers it an ‘incoherence’ that President Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights
Posted on 07/12/2022 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Denver Newsroom, Jul 12, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis has described it as an "incoherence" that President Joe Biden, a Catholic, is in favor of legal abortion.
During an interview with Univisión and Televisa broadcast July 12, Pope Francis spoke about abortion and Biden's position, after being asked about whether to admit politicians who promote legal abortion to Holy Communion.
The Holy Father affirmed that there is scientific data that show that “a month after conception, the DNA of the fetus is already there and the organs are aligned. There is human life.”
“Is it just to eliminate a human life?” he then asked.
As for the defense of abortion by the U.S. president, Pope Francis stated that he leaves it to Biden’s "conscience.”
"Let (Biden) talk to his pastor about that incoherence," the pope said.
Though a Catholic, Biden has repeatedly supported abortion rights despite the Church’s teaching that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception.
Last week Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting abortion access in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the U.S.
The president called it “a moment to restore the rights that have been taken away from us, and the moment to protect our nation from an extremist agenda that is antithetical to everything we believe as Americans.”
In September 2021, Biden said he did not “agree” that life begins at conception.
"I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade,” he said at the White House, answering a reporter’s question on abortion. “I respect them — those who believe life begins at the moment of conception and all — I respect that. Don't agree, but I respect that,” he said.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington commented shortly afterward that “The Catholic Church teaches, and has taught, that life — human life — begins at conception. So, the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching.”
Gregory told a journalist in November 2020 that he would not deny Communion to a politician who supported the codification of legal abortion in federal law and the taxpayer funding of abortion. Biden supports both policies.
In June 2021, the parish council of the president’s Washington, D.C. parish, Holy Trinity, stated its agreement with Gregory “concerning the issues surrounding offering the Eucharist to American politicians.”
“Holy Trinity Catholic Church will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it,” the statement said.
“As a parish which has a long history of welcoming all, we concur with and support the pastoral approach of our Archbishop.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 07/12/2022 12:08 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, Jul 12, 2022 / 05:08 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed former Air Force chaplain and Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski to lead the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota.
The seat of the Diocese of New Ulm, which covers almost 10,000 square miles southwest of Minneapolis, has been vacant since August 2020, when Bishop John M. LeVoir resigned at age 74 for health reasons.
Zielinski, 57, has been bishop of Fairbanks since 2014. He will be installed in the Diocese of New Ulm on Sept. 27.
Before becoming a bishop, Zielinski served for 12 years as an Air Force chaplain; his final two years he was stationed at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks. He is an avid fisherman.
The Diocese of Fairbanks covers over 409,000 square miles in northern Alaska. The diocese with the largest geographical spread in the U.S., Fairbanks has around 11,500 Catholics and 46 Catholic parishes, only nine of which can be reached by car. The area’s total population is around 166,800.
The Diocese of New Ulm has 59 parishes and serves almost 51,000 Catholics.
Bishop Zielinski was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1964, and is the oldest of five children.
He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school. During his military career, he served tours of duty in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
While attending university in Ohio, he felt a call to the priesthood, and after a tour of duty in 1986, entered the seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1996 at the age of 31, and then served for a time in parishes in Empire and Maple City, Michigan.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, he felt a call to help those in the military, and his bishop allowed him to join the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
As a military chaplain, he was stationed at different Air Force bases across the U.S., and in Suffolk, England.
“As I leave the vast expanse of Northern Alaska, I am fully aware of the countless blessings I received from 46 parishes,” Zielinski said in a July 12 statement.
“The faithful of the entire Diocese of Fairbanks patiently helped form me to be the shepherd I am today,” he added. “Our Native Alaskan brothers and sisters have opened my mind and heart to the cultural beauty and richness of their traditional way of life.”
“I come to the Diocese of New Ulm with the same open heart and mind, eager to learn and encounter new blessings as I visit parishes and families in this beautiful prairie land of south and west-central Minnesota,” he said.
Posted on 07/12/2022 03:18 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 11, 2022 / 20:18 pm (CNA).
A bogus Twitter account using the name of Georg Bätzing, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, tweeted a false report Monday that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had died.
The account, using the handle @BischofBatzing, was later removed. Before disappearing, the same account posted that the false report on the passing of the still-living 95-year-old retired pope was the work of infamous Italian Twitter hoaxer Tommasso De Benedetti.
"Twitter works well for deaths," De Benedetti told The Guardian in 2012. "Social media is the most unverifiable information source in the world but the news media believes it because of its need for speed."
Posted on 07/11/2022 15:35 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2022 / 08:35 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said he is praying for Ukraine and working behind the scenes to help suffering Ukrainians.
“I unite spiritually with your suffering, assuring you of my prayers and involvement, which, considering the current situation, do not appear in the media,” the pope said in a July 11 letter to bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“I pray that your Church and your People, who are animated by the power of the sacraments and look to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, do not lose Christian hope in a better tomorrow.”
The pope’s letter was addressed to the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and to the Church’s bishops, while they are gathered in synod July 7-15.
The sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite currently has around 51 bishops in its synod. They carry out pastoral service throughout the world, including in the U.S. and Ukraine.
This month’s meeting is taking place in Przemyśl, a city in southeastern Poland just nine miles from Ukraine’s western border and 60 miles from Lviv.
The synod was set to be held in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, before Russia’s invasion and the outbreak of war almost five months ago.
Pope Francis said “the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme of ‘Synodality and Universality: experience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’ must have as its goal the good of the Church and each believer.”
“Moreover,” he advised, “it must be a place of meeting and mutual help on the common path of life, in the search for new means of accompanying the faithful.”
He recalled the example of the 20th-century martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001 during his trip to Lviv.
“But at this very moment we better understand the circumstances under which those martyrs lived and died, among whom were bishops, priests, monks, and nuns and the lay people who became victims of the Soviet communist regime,” he said. “Today, from heaven, they defend their own suffering people.”
“To their care I entrust all the Members of the Synod,” he said.
Posted on 07/11/2022 13:08 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2022 / 06:08 am (CNA).
As the Vatican’s historic trial revolving around a London property deal and allegations of corruption continues, the question of what Pope Francis himself knew has been raised in court by a defendant.
Interrogated on Thursday, July 7, Fabrizio Tirabassi, a former official of the Secretariat of State, said the pope had authorized the Secretariat to ask for a loan from the Institute of Works of Religion, commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank.
The money was meant to pay off the mortgage and take over the management of the Sloane Avenue property in London's affluent Knightsbridge district.
The Italian businessman Tirabassi is one of ten defendants in the unprecedented trial that began in July 2021. And he was not the only one to be heard in the latest hearing.
The broker and his company
Following his interrogation on Thursday, the Vatican prosecutor on Friday questioned Nicola Squillace, the lawyer of another businessman, Gianluigi Torzi.
Both Squillace and Torzi are also defendants in the trial, and both have been charged with embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering. Torzi has also been charged with extortion.
On Friday, in the trial’s 24th and latest hearing, the court heard from the lawyer of the broker about crucial details of the contract that transferred the management of the London luxury building from Torzi’s own company, the Luxembourg-based Gutt SA.
This contract –– actually, a memorandum of understanding –– plays an important role in the trial: It helps to shed light on a crucial chapter in the saga of how the Vatican ended up with an investment in London, involving a Luxembourg-based company. A saga that had begun, of all places, with the oil-rich African nation of Angola.
From Angola to London, from Athena to Gutt
In 2013, the Secretariat of State decided to invest 200 million euros (about $202 million) and explored the possibility of buying shares in an oil extraction company in Angola by name of Falcon Oil. At the suggestion of Credit Suisse, which managed the Secretariat of State's fund, the Vatican department entrusted the deal to the Italian broker Raffaele Mincione.
In 2014, he was considered an expert in this kind of deal. Today, he is also another defendant on trial in the Vatican – and has vigorously protested any claim of wrong-doing.
To carry out the Angola operation, Mincione set up his own fund, called Athena Capital, to which the Vatican transferred the sum of 200 million euros. However, the Angola deal fell through, and the Vatican, through Mincione’s Athena fund, agreed to have half of the money used to purchase shares in a luxury property project in London. The other half was intended for other investments.
Four years later, in 2018, the Secretariat of State decided they no longer wanted to have the London investment managed by Mincione. The Vatican re-purchased the real estate shares and they were handed over to the broker Gianluigi Torzi’s company Gutt SA.
Notably, Torzi kept a thousand shares for himself –– the only ones with voting rights.
Only after this final turn of events did the Secretariat of State decide to take direct control of the luxury property development: The Vatican moved to purchase Torzi’s shares – and this is the context of the interrogations of both Tirabassi and Squillace in the latest trial hearing.
Who knew of the voting rights?
In court, Tirabassi claimed that the Secretariat of State, and he, in particular, did not realize at first that the shares given to Torzi were the only ones with the right to vote, effectively giving Torzi control over the building.
Torzi’s lawyer said otherwise.
Squillace presented slides of seven draft contracts to the court, saying he worked on these to facilitate moving the investment from Athena to Gutt. He also claimed to have raised the question of the shares with Tirabassi, who had allegedly replied that everything was okay because the Secretariat of State had other, similar operations.
Tirabassi’s questioning in court also dealt with another crucial matter: The mortgage from London asset manager Cheyne Capital on the luxury property.
When the Secretariat of State decided to take control of the building in an apparent bid to save the investment, it also faced the mortgage sum, which ran to about $147 million. In order to service this payment, the Secretariat of State turned to the Vatican’s own “bank”, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), for a loan.
In fact the Sostituto, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, stated this was the obvious move, according to Tirabassi in court: "there was nothing more transparent than contacting one's internal institute.”
All the more surprising, then, that this move was not successful.
The loan that fell through
In court, Tirabassi said that the IOR’s director-general, Gianfranco Mammì, had personally spoken to Pope Francis about the matter. He also said the pope had approved the loan to the Secretariat of State.
Other documentation shows that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, had clearly said in meetings that he had had the pope's approval for the loan.
(Cardinal Parolin is not a defendant in the trial.)
According to Tirabassi’s version of events, a letter on May 24, 2019, from the president of the IOR, Jean Baptiste de Franssu, approved the loan and gave a green light to the money going to the Secretariat of State.
But only three days later, the green light turned to red: Tirabassi said the Vatican’s own watchdog, the Financial Information Authority (ASIF), had blocked the loan, authorizing instead a revised plan of the Secretariat of State to acquire the building.
The watchdog and the papal decision
ASIF exchanged information with foreign counterparts when it received a suspicious transaction report from the Secretariat of State.
Given its role is to also supervise the IOR, it was clear that ASIF would continue to monitor the flow of money.
One might even think that the procedure authorized by the Pope, given also the investigations that followed, effectively hindered the work of the watchdog. This question will probably be explored in the course of the hearings, and if so, in the context of the different points of view offered at the most recent hearings at the trial by Tirabassi on the one hand, and Squillace on the other: Tirabassi claimed to have been duped by Squillace and Torzi, and Squillace has always claimed to have given continuous information.
Tirabassi raised a further point about the decision-making processes in the Vatican, the question of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, then head of the administration of the Secretariat of State, signing agreements he was not authorized to sign off on.
Tirabassi spoke of the monsignor's desire to take charge of problems in order to avoid involving superiors. He also said that he distanced himself from Perlasca once he realized that Perlasca's behavior was potentially harmful.
On the other hand, Squillace stressed that he always thought that Perlasca could sign, especially the first agreement. This so-called framework agreement contained no obligations, but only reciprocal commitments, with an exclusivity upon expiry. "The Holy See could withdraw from that agreement at any time," he said.
At the hearing, Tirabassi said Perlasca "was very determined to give the management to Torzi."
How the trial continues
The interrogations will continue on 14 and 15 July. Then the trail resumes in September, with three consecutive hearings scheduled every two weeks –– and possibly with the first witnesses.
Court president Giuseppe Pignatone has spoken of 200 witnesses, but many of them may not be called due to developments so far.
While the current Vatican trial revolves around the Secretariat of State's investment in London real estate and the ten defendants, there are also at least two other lines of investigation: the Secretariat of State’s donation to Caritas in Cardinal Angelo Becciu's home diocese, and the consultant contract given to the alleged intelligence expert Cecilia Marogna.
Posted on 07/11/2022 12:21 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2022 / 05:21 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Monday invited young people to learn the story of Bl. Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who was imprisoned and killed for refusing to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
“Despite cajoling and torture, Franz preferred to be killed than to kill. He considered the war totally unjustified. If all the young men called to arms had done as he did, Hitler would not have been able to carry out his diabolical plans. To triumph, evil needs accomplices,” the pope said in a communication published July 11.
Francis’ message was sent to the EU Youth Conference, taking place in Prague, Czech Republic, July 11-13. The theme of the 2022 conference, which is for teens and young adults from the European Union, is “Working Together for a Sustainable and Inclusive Europe.”
The pope invited young people, in light of the war in Ukraine, “to get to know the extraordinary figure of a young objector, a young European with ‘a broad outlook,’” Franz Jägerstätter, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
“Franz was a young Austrian who, because of his Catholic faith, made a conscientious objection to the injunction to swear allegiance to Hitler and go to war,” Pope Francis said.
He explained that because of his “profound convictions,” when called to fight, Franz refused; “he felt it was unjust to kill innocent lives.”
The husband and father of four girls was eventually executed for his refusal to fight. Pope Francis pointed out that he was killed “in the same prison where his contemporary Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi, was also imprisoned and met the same tragic end.”
These two men were killed because they remained faithful to the ideals of their faith, he said.
The pope invited young people “to look upwards and beyond, to keep seeking the real meaning of your life, where you come from and where you are going, and the Truth, because we cannot live authentically if we do not seek the Truth.”
Though Ukraine is not part of the European Union, Francis urged the young adults taking part in the conference to commit themselves to promoting peace and the end of the war.
He said “it is legitimate to rebel” in cases like this, “where, as usual, a few powerful people decide and send thousands of young people to fight and die.”
The pope recalled that someone once said that “if the world were ruled by women, there would not be so many wars, because those who have the mission of giving life cannot make death choices.”
“In a similar vein, I like to think that if the world were ruled by young people, there would not be so many wars,” he added. “Those who have their whole life ahead of them do not want to ruin it and throw it away, but to live it to the full.”
He closed his message by asking young people to be “generous in generating new lives, always and only as the fruit of love.”
“The love of husband and wife, the love of family and children, but also love of Europe, so that it can be for everyone a land of peace, freedom and dignity,” he said.
Posted on 07/11/2022 08:11 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Jul 11, 2022 / 01:11 am (CNA).
The two new female members of the Dicastery of Bishops are likely two religious sisters already well-known in the Vatican, a source has told Catholic News Agency.
Pope Francis announced that he would soon appoint two women among the members of the Dicastery for Bishops in an interview with Reuters.
Up until now, members of the dicastery were rarely non-bishops, and certainly never women, even if they are as experienced as the two likely to be announced.
The members of the dicastery assist in choosing bishops for the dioceses. They analyze position papers, called ponenze, providing an opinion on candidates.
The view that only a bishop could provide such an analysis regarding a future bishop has been held for several reasons. First, there is a theological reason: bishops receive the same ordination as new bishops and, therefore, the same powers. Secondly, there is also a practical reason: only a bishop can know the challenges of a bishop's work.
With the reform of the Curia, however, a mandate is given by canonical mission and no longer by ordination. In other words, positions are to be appointed by competence.
A Vatican source told CNA that the two women most likely appointed to the department of bishops are Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati and Sister Mary Melone.
Sister Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati, 74, served as undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life from 2011 to 2018. She was the second sister to take up this post, after the pioneer Enrica Rosanna, who was number three in the dicastery for religious people from 2004 to 2011.
Currently, another female undersecretary is serving in the dicastery: Sister Carmen Ros Nortes, who has been number three since February 2018, after having worked in the dicastery since 1992. She could also be a likely candidate — even if the rumors consider Sister Spezzati to be the more likely appointment.
The other woman expected by insiders to become a member of the department of bishops is Sister Maria Domenica Melone, known as Sister Mary Melone. A Franciscan, Melone, 58, was the first female rector of a pontifical university, leading the Pontifical Antonian University from 2014 to 2019.
On July 16, 2014, she was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
She is one of the six women nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the new Study Commission on the women's diaconate.
On July 15, 2019, she was elected superior general of the Franciscan Sisters Angeline for the six years 2019-2025, and for this reason, she resigned as rector.
She is a prolific writer who wrote, in 2019, a paper on the role of women in the Church.
If the rumors are confirmed, they will be included in the dicastery that helps the Pope choose bishops around the world, except in mission areas, as those are instead under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery for Evangelization.