رابطة قدامى الإكليريكية البطريركية المارونية
- John L. Allen Jr.
Jul 1, 2020
ROME – Maybe there’s no single blueprint for reform, but one time-honored propeller for change often is the intersection of scandal and necessity. That certainly seems to be the case in Pope Francis’s Vatican with regard to finances, where at no time since 2013-14 have reform moves been rolling out so fast and furious as right now.
The difference is that seven years ago, the flurry of activity was mostly about new laws and structures. Today it’s more about application and enforcement, which is always trickier, because it means specific people could lose jobs or power and, in some cases, they could face criminal indictments.
The latest such development came Tuesday, when the Vatican announced that following a raid on the offices of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office that administers St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope has named Italian Archbishop Mario Giordana, a former papal ambassador to Haiti and Slovakia, as “extraordinary commissioner” of the fabbrica with the charge to “update its statutes, shed light on its administration and reorganize its administrative and technical offices.”
According to reports in the Italian press, the move comes after repeated internal complaints within the fabbrica about irregularities in contracting, raising suspicions of favoritism. The 78-year-old Giordana, according to Tuesday’s Vatican statement, will be assisted by a commission.
Despite the general stall related to the coronavirus over the last several months, it’s been drive time in terms of a financial reshuffle in the Vatican, with Tuesday’s shake-up merely the latest chapter.
Italy went into a nationwide lockdown on March 8, and since that time, Pope Francis has taken the following steps:
- Appointed Italian banker and economist Giuseppe Schlitzer on April 15 as the new director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, its financial vigilance unit, after the abrupt departure last November of Swiss anti-money laundering expert René Brülhart.
- Fired five Vatican employees on May 1 believed to have been involved in a controversial purchase of a piece of property in London by the Secretariat of State, which unfolded in two stages between 2013 and 2018.
- Convened a meeting of all department heads to discuss the Vatican’s financial situation and possible reforms in early May, featuring a detailed report by Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, named by Francis last November as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
- Shut down nine holding companies in mid-May based in the Swiss cities of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, all of which were created to manage portions of the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its land and real estate holdings.
- Transferred the Vatican’s “Center for the Elaboration of Data,” basically its financial monitoring service, from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) to the Secretariat for the Economy, in an effort to create a stronger distinction between administration and oversight.
- Issued a new law on procurement June 1, which applies both to the Roman Curia, meaning the bureaucracy governing the universal church, as well as to the Vatican City State. It bars conflicts of interest, mandates competitive bidding procedures, and centralizes control over contracting.
- Nominated Italian layman Fabio Gasperini, a former banking services expert for Ernst and Young, as the new number two official at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, effectively the Vatican’s central bank.
What’s driving this flurry of activity?
For one thing, there’s London.
The unfolding scandal has been a massive embarrassment, among other things calling into question the effectiveness of the pope’s reform efforts. It’s especially worrying since presumably, at some point this year the Vatican will face its next round of review by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, and if the agency decides the London debacle means the Vatican isn’t serious about compliance with international standards of transparency and accountability, it could be frozen out of currency markets and face significantly higher transaction costs.
For another, there’s the coronavirus.
The analysis presented to the pope and department heads by Guerreo suggests the Vatican’s deficit could balloon by as much as 175 percent this year, reaching almost $160 million, due to declining income from investments and real estate as well as drop-offs in contributions from dioceses around the world as they struggle with their own financial problems.
That deficit comes on top of several long-term structural weaknesses in the Vatican’s financial situation, most of all a looming pension crisis. Basically, the Vatican is over-staffed relative to its resources and struggles just to meet payroll, let alone setting aside the funds that will be necessary as today’s workforce begins to reach retirement age.
In other words, a comprehensive financial house-cleaning is no longer simple a moral desideratum, or a PR drive to avoid future public scandals. It’s a matter of survival, which almost always has the effect of clarifying thinking and lending a sense of urgency.
It remains to be seen how effective these new measures will be. For one thing, it will be important to see whether the review of the fabbrica follows the same script as so many other Vatican inquests into financial scandals, which is to identify a handful of Italian laity, either external consultants or direct employees, and blame it all on them, thereby insulating cardinals and other senior clergy from culpability.
Nevertheless, six months ago it was tempting to conclude that Pope Francis had given up on financial reform. Today, given the double whammy of scandal and debt, he definitely seems in earnest.
À l’occasion de la fête des saints Pierre et Paul, lundi 29 juin, le pape François a ouvert un nouveau front dans sa lutte pour assainir les finances du Vatican en demandant une enquête sur la Fabrique de Saint-Pierre, l’organisme qui, depuis le XVIe siècle, gère la basilique Saint-Pierre, plus grande église du monde.
The saints are usually celebrated on the day of their death (their birth into eternal life), but there are exceptions.
Nevertheless, the Church does celebrate three nativities in the liturgy: Jesus’ birth (December 25); Mary’s birth (September 8); and John the Baptist’s birth (June 24)
The birth of Jesus is obviously a central feast for Catholics, as it marks the day the world came to see the face of God-made-man. It is a feast complemented by the one nine months earlier, the Annunciation on March 25, when we celebrate the moment the Incarnation actually happened, when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb.
The celebration of Our Lady’s birthday is also a treasure for Catholics. And just as Christmas is linked to the feast nine months prior, so too the September 8 celebration of the Virgin’s birthday points nine months back, to December 8 — when we celebrate that from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, Mary had no sin. She is the Immaculate Conception.
The birthday of John the Baptist also is rich in symbolism. Again, we see the relationship of dates: John’s birthday is six months before the Christmas vigil because the Angel Gabriel told Mary that her kinswoman was in her sixth month of pregnancy, meaning John is six months older than Jesus.
John, of course, was a special beneficiary — along with his mother — of Mary’s care. Freshly pregnant with the Child conceived of the Holy Spirit, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant (that is, John the Baptist) leaped in her womb.” Elizabeth told her younger cousin what had happened: “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”
Church tradition holds that in the prenatal meeting of these tiny cousins, John was filled with the Holy Spirit and thus he was born already purified of original sin. (We see in Luke 1:15 how the Angel Gabriel told John’s father, Zechariah, this would happen: “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”)
In the slideshow below, you can see Herod’s Fortress, where tradition claims the Baptist was beheaded.
By Vatican News
“The publication of a Directory for Catechesis is a joyful event in the life of the Church.” These were the opening words of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization, during a press conference in the Vatican organized on the occasion of the release of a new Directory for Catechesis on Thursday.
Presenting the Directory, Archbishop Fisichella said the new edition, the third since the Second Vatican Council, is the result of a wide international consultation.
The new Directory for Catechesis was released in Italian on Thursday. It will be also published in other major languages.
Other speakers at the press conference included Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas and Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Delegate for Catechesis and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization respectively.
Archbishop Fisichella notes that “the need for a new Directory was born of the process of inculturation which characterizes catechesis in a particular way and which, especially today, demands a special focus.”
He cites the example of the global phenomenon of the digital culture, pointing out that the instruments created in the last decade manifest a “radical transformation of behaviors” that influence “the formation of personal identity and interpersonal relations.” This new model of communication and formation “also affects the Church in the complex world of education.”
Theological and ecclesial reasons have also contributed to the preparation of the new Directory. Fisichella recalls that several recent synods have consistently treated the theme of evangelization and catechesis. Pope Francis also picked up the theme in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium during the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Catechesis, therefore, must be united intimately with the work of evangelization and cannot be separated from it,” Fisichella affirms. This is because “Evangelization is the task that the Risen Lord has entrusted His Church in order to be, in the time of every age, the faithful announcement of his Gospel.”
“The heart of catechesis is the proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ,” Fisichella said. Jesus “surpasses the limits of space and time to present Himself to each generation as the good news offered to reach the meaning of life,” he added.
Fisichella points out that in light of Evangelii gaudium, the Directory supports a “kerygmatic catechesis” because “primacy belongs to evangelization, not to catechesis.”
Therefore, the proclamation of the person of Jesus (the kerygma) is also an proclamation of the mercy of God directed at the sinner, who is no longer excluded, but rather a privileged guest at the banquet of salvation.
Fisichella explains that the Directory unfolds by touching on various themes.
The first — mystagogy — is presented through two elements: a renewed appraisal of the liturgical signs of Christian initiation, and the progressive maturation of the formation process, which involves the whole community.
Another theme is the link between evangelization and the catechumenate. This highlights the urgency of a “pastoral conversion” to free catechesis from elements that prevent its effectiveness.
Reiterating Pope Francis’s words in Evangelii gaudium, when he encouraged formation using in the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis), Fisichella points out that the Directory “has placed the way of beauty as one of the ‘sources’ of catechesis.”
The Archbishop also highlights that the Directory strives to “insert us progressively into the mystery of the faith.” He points out that this characteristic cannot be limited to a single dimension; rather catechesis can guide us to accept and live the mystery “completely in our daily existence.”
In his intervention, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst said that the Directory is attentive to the signs of the times and interprets them in the light of the Gospel. He pointed out that it gives courage to the content of faith and underlines the importance of catechesis in the wider process of evangelization. He also hopes that many local churches would be inspired to develop their own diocesan directories based on this new Directory.
Concluding, Archbishop Fisichella said he hopes the new Directory will be of assistance for the “renewal of catechesis in the process of evangelization that the Church has not tired of carrying out.”
Hidden many times and then rediscovered, chopped into pieces and dispersed, the precious relic has taken many journeys.
After the death of Jesus, tradition claims that those who were trying to prevent the spread of Christianity hastened to make any of the objects involved in the crucifixion disappear, in an attempt to discourage those who would want to retrieve any relics. Tradition also claims that, at Golgotha, the cross was thrown into a hole in the ground, along with those the two thieves were crucified on. Arriving at the Holy Land 300 years later, the Empress ended up finding the three crosses, but which one belonged to the Lord? To find out, the bishop of Jerusalem had an idea: he made a sick woman, previously incurable, touch the wood, and upon touching one of the three she was healed straight away. Helena had no doubt at all: she had found Jesus’ cross. Immediately, she ordered the building of a church where it was discovered – which she called the Church of the Resurrection – and set off for Rome. According to Christian tradition, the relic was well preserved until 614 and visited by a multitude of Christians.
Later, the cross disappeared into the hands of the Persians. The relic would be their “trade off” in the event of any negotiations with the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantines). But in 630, Heraclius, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, had a resounding victory over the Persians, and triumphantly returned a part of the Cross to Jerusalem — the other part was left in Constantinople — where he himself placed it at Calvary. This event is commemorated by the Church on September 14, proclaimed as the feast of “The Triumph of the Cross” or “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.”
However, a few years later the Arab conquest began and Jerusalem came under Muslim rule. Up until the 10th century, the worshipers of the True Cross continued to exist, without suffering much harm. They even increased in territories that had remained Christian; in particular, Constantinople. When difficulties arose and the Christians were persecuted, the Cross was withdrawn from its setting and hidden once again. Ninety years later (in 1099) it reappeared once more and was reinstated in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. It became the symbol of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
However, that was just for the time being, as in 1187, the True Cross disappeared once again, and this time definitively, on the battlefield of Hattin, next to Lake Tiberius in Galilee. The crusaders had taken it with them to bring victory against the Sultan Saladin. However, they lost the battle, and Jerusalem fell into the hands of the sultan. The Cross disappeared without leaving a trace. Legend has it that Pope Urban III, on hearing the news, dropped dead.
In 1203, the fragment preserved in Constantinople suffered the effects of the Fourth Crusade, which left from the Republic of Venice in an attempt to recover Jerusalem but was diverted to Constantinople to topple the Byzantine Empire and found in its place an Eastern Roman Empire. The relics of the Palatine Chapel of Pharos were shared between the Venetians and the new empire. Nevertheless the latter, threatened from all sides and on the brink of bankruptcy, had to sell its treasures. St. Louis, in 1238, bought two fragments of the Cross, then in 1242 other relics, presumed to be the Instruments of the Passion (crown of thorns, the Holy Spear, the Holy Sponge …), which he had preserved in the Sainte-Chapelle, built for this purpose on the Île de la Cité, in Paris. But during the French Revolution (1794), the fragments of the Cross disappeared. Only a few fragments and a Holy Nail remain, and are conserved today in the treasury of the sacristy of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The Lignum Crucis
All the pieces of wood distributed or sold as relics across the globe over the centuries (especially since the Middle Ages) have been preciously conserved in a number of churches. According to various analyses and inquiries, the supposed “true” fragments of Jesus’ cross only make up in volume a tenth of the Cross; all the rest were determined to be of a questionable source. We refer to the likely relics as Lignum Crucis (“wood of the Cross”). The largest fragment is preserved in Greece in the monastery of Mount Athos; other fragments are in Rome, Brussels, Venice, Ghent, and Paris.
Check out the slideshow below to discover Christ’s Relics.