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Italy to return 23 million euros to Vatican bank

November 19th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In what the Vatican bank described as recognition that it has established serious measures to prevent money laundering, it announced the Italian government has promised to return 23 million euros ($29 million) that had been blocked for more than three years.

Even though the Italian government in 2011 said it was releasing the funds, the Italians believed “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved” and so held on to the funds, said a statement Nov. 18 from the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal name of what is commonly called the Vatican bank.

The Italian treasury police seized the funds, which the institute had deposited in a Rome bank, during a money-laundering investigation. The Vatican repeatedly insisted the deposit was legitimate and that the Vatican bank was committed to “full transparency” in its operations.

“The repatriation” of the funds was possible thanks to “the introduction of a fully fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013,” the Nov. 18 statement said.

The morning after the announcement of the money’s return, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named the Swiss lawyer Rene Brulhart to be president of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Agency. Brulhart had served as director of the agency since November 2012.

He succeeds Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, a canon lawyer and head of the Vatican human resources office; Pope Francis had named the bishop interim president of the agency in January.

The Financial Intelligence Authority monitors the financial and commercial activity of all Vatican entities, including the so-called Vatican bank, to ensure transactions cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.


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Pope condemns attack on Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshippers, policeman


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship,” after an attack in a synagogue left four worshippers, a policeman and the two attackers dead.

At the end of his general audience Nov. 19, the day after the attack on the synagogue, Pope Francis said he was following “with concern the alarming increase of tensions in Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land.”

Jewish worshippers covered in prayer shawls pray Nov. 19 at a synagogue in Jerusalem where two Palestinian militants killed four rabbis and a policeman. Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship.”  (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

Jewish worshippers covered in prayer shawls pray Nov. 19 at a synagogue in Jerusalem where two Palestinian militants killed four rabbis and a policeman. Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship.” (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

The pope offered prayers for the victims of the attack carried out by two Palestinian cousins from East Jerusalem and for all those suffering the consequences of the attack.

“From the depths of my heart,” he said, “I appeal to those involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and make courageous decisions in favor of reconciliation and peace.”

“Making peace is difficult,” he said, “but living without peace is a torment.”

Shortly after the early morning synagogue attack, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem called for an end to all violence in the Holy Land.

“We are praying and waiting. We are sad,” said Patriarch Twal. “We must, all people of responsibility, politicians and religious leaders, do our best in our positions to condemn this violence and avoid as much as possible the causes which lead other people to violence.”

The attack occurred in the Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem, which is popular with the Anglo-Orthodox Jewish community. Three of the dead worshippers had dual Israeli-American citizenship; one had Israeli-British citizenship.

The two perpetrators of the attacks were killed at the scene by Israeli police.

“Violence leads to more violence,” Patriarch Twal told Catholic News Service. He said he sent condolences to the families of all the victims of the recent wave of violence that has rocked Jerusalem as Israel moves toward expanding Jewish settlements in the area and Palestinians fear a Jewish presence on the shared holy site of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem’s Old City.

According to a tenuous and contested status quo agreement, Jews are allowed to visit the site where, according to Jewish tradition, the Biblical Jewish temple stood and, but they are not allowed to pray there. According to Muslim tradition, it is the site where Muhammad ascended into heaven.

A day prior to the synagogue attack, a Palestinian bus driver who worked for an Israeli cooperative was found hanged in his bus at the terminal. Israeli police called the death a suicide after a medical investigation, but the man’s family and the Palestinian media maintain that it was a lynching. Some have said the synagogue killings were in retaliation for his death.

“You can’t occupy and then think people (will be quiet),” Patriarch Twal said, referring to Israel occupation of Palestinian lands. “We are against any kind of violence either from a state group or private groups.”

“We are in a very bad situation and condemn the violence and assure the families who have lost loved ones of our prayers,” he added. “It is very sad.”

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land expressed “shock and horror” at the attack, calling it “horrendous.”

“Such murderous deeds, especially in a house of worship, are the ultimate abuse of religion,” said a statement from the council, which represents Israel’s chief rabbinate, the Palestinian Authority Shariah courts, and local Christian leaders. “We call on all religious political and civic leaders to do their utmost to prevent the local political conflict from being turned into a religious war, the consequences of which will be disastrous for all.”

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches general secretary, expressed concern and sadness over the attack.

“There is a particular horror in any such attack which takes place at a place of worship. I condemn this violence unequivocally, as I do all violence between the peoples and communities of this region which has seen so much bloodshed in the name of religion,” he said. “Violence, collective punishments and communal attacks can only further damage the prospects of peace and justice for all.’

Israelis were shocked by the attack on the worshippers, killed as they took part in the daily morning prayers at the popular neighborhood synagogue.

In past weeks, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has been sight of bloody confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians, and synagogues and mosques have been vandalized.

Over recent weeks, several Palestinians have been killed and injured in demonstrations in East Jerusalem, and several Israelis been killed and injured in attacks by Palestinians in the Jerusalem area and Tel Aviv.

Patriarch Twal said Jerusalem is a city of peace, not violence.

He said the recent attacks have shown that the walls built as a security barrier to separate the West Bank do not protect anyone from violence as long as there is occupation and injustice.

“There is no protection with walls. Only dignity and justice for all (will bring security,)” he said. “All this violence took place within the walls. We need more justice and comprehension.”

Patriarch Twal noted that Christians in the Holy Land were preparing to celebrate Christmas and expressed concern that pilgrims would be afraid to come because of the violence.

‘We hope that by Christmastime there will be no more revenge and no more killings,” he said. He asked for prayers for the peace of Jerusalem, the Holy Land and all its inhabitants, so Jerusalem could return to its vocation as the city of peace.

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.


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Cardinal Burke urges pope to take hot-button issues off table for next synod


Catholic News Service

LIMERICK, Ireland — A recently reassigned Vatican official has urged Pope Francis to take the issues of Communion for the divorced and remarried, cohabitation and same-sex marriage “off the table” for next year’s Synod of Bishops.

Addressing more than 300 delegates at the family and marriage conference in Limerick Nov. 15, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said these issues had distracted the work of the synod in its first session in October.

Warning that Satan was sewing confusion and error about matrimony, the cardinal patron of the Knights of Malta said, “Even within the church there are those who would obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy.”

The 66-year-old former archbishop of St Louis instead recommended that next year’s synod devote itself to promoting the church’s teaching on marriage.

Cardinal Burke also ruled out any easing of the restriction on Communion for those divorced and remarried without an annulment of their original marriage.

“I fail to be able to comprehend how, if marriage is indissoluble and someone is living in a state contradicting this indissolubility of marriage, the person can be admitted to holy Communion,” he said.

He urged the Catholic faithful to write to Pope Francis and Vatican and Irish church officials to make their views known.

Lashing out at the “so-called contraceptive mentality,” he warned it was “anti-life” and blamed it for “the devastation that is daily wrought in our world by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography” and the “incredibly aggressive homosexual agenda,” which he claimed could only result in “the profound unhappiness and even despair of those affected by it.”

Cardinal Burke said he was reduced to tears by attempts to introduce “so-called gender theory” into schools.

He warned that such theory was “iniquitous” and that exposing children to such “corrupt thinking” could not be permitted.

He said “society has gone even further in its affront to God and his law by claiming the name of marriage for liaisons between persons of the same sex.”

To applause, the cardinal said he refused to use the term traditional marriage for the marriage of a man and a woman.

“My response is, is there any other kind of marriage? I fear that by using that terminology that we give the impression that we think that there are other kinds of marriage; well, we don’t.”

Speaking ahead of the conference to RTE News, Cardinal Burke said he would refuse Communion to a Catholic politician who voted for same-sex marriage.

In his opening address to the conference, Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said the family needs to be rediscovered as the essential agent of evangelization.

However, he referred to the final message of October’s synod, to remind conference delegates that “people need to be accepted in the concrete circumstances of life.”


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Survey shows Latin Americans leaving Catholicism


Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Increasing numbers of Catholics in Latin America are abandoning the church in favor of evangelical congregations or nonreligious life, according to a new survey, making Pope Francis’ calls for renewed evangelization efforts in the region ever more urgent.

The Pew Research Center survey of 30,000 residents of 18 countries and Puerto Rico showed 69 percent of respondents confirming they were Catholic, even though 84 percent of people said they had been raised in the church.

The Catholic population has slipped sharply over the past century, when their numbers topped 90 percent. Evangelicals have pulled people away from parishes and into their church pews often by promoting what those converting would consider more attractive ways of worshipping the Lord, an emphasis on morality and solutions for their earthly afflictions, mostly poverty related, said Andrew Chesnut, religious studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Some Central American countries and Uruguay now have almost as many Protestants or religiously unaffiliated people as Catholics in their populations. If the trend continues, “even Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population on earth, will no longer have a Catholic majority by 2030,” said Chesnut, author of a book on evangelicals in Brazil.

The survey underscores the urgency of the pope’s pleas for action in Latin America, where Catholicism has been intimately associated with culture, governance and history for more than 500 years.

Pope Francis has called for Catholics to adopt a more missionary mindset and take their faith to people on the periphery of society, places where Protestants often find converts.

The Pew survey found evangelicals showing more enthusiasm for their faith, expressed by attending church services and praying more frequently, adherence to moral teachings and the level to which religion is important in their daily lives.

The level of enthusiasm “often is more demanding in terms of personal commitment,” said Chesnut, an academic consultant to the Pew survey.

Protestants now make up 19 percent of the Latin American population, while another 8 percent now profess no religious affiliation, a figure reaching 37 percent in Uruguay. Roughly half these people did not grow up in their current congregations or in nonreligious homes, according to the survey.

Some 65 percent of Protestants in Latin America belong to evangelical congregations.

“Christianity in Latin America is thoroughly ‘Pentecostalized,’ with 70 percent of Protestants and 40 percent of Catholics identifying as charismatic,” Chesnut said. “If it weren’t for Charismatic Renewal, Catholic decline probably would have been even greater.”

Some 81 percent of respondents cited “seeking a personal connection with God” as their main reason for switching to a Protestant church. Another 69 percent said they “enjoy (the) style of worship” at their new church and 60 percent “wanted greater emphasis on morality.”

In Brazil, where 60 percent of the population is Catholic, evangelical pastor Jay Bauman said the style of worship attracts people to Protestant congregations — along with the promotion of “prosperity Gospel” teachings by Pentecostals.

“You go in and there are services for healing and liberation, all sorts of things and even a message that basically is that Jesus Christ can renew your life, can change you,” said Bauman, director of Restore Brazil ministries in Rio de Janeiro.

“But what they add on to it … is: (God’s) going to make you rich or he’s going to make you prosperous,” he added.

Chesnut said services at World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro showed more of a charismatic style, and it is being adopted by Latin American Catholics in increasing numbers.

The 2013 election of Pope Francis, the first in Latin American to assume the papacy, was interpreted as a sign of the importance of the region to the Catholic Church and concern over its seeming loss of stature.

Pope Francis has proved popular among Catholics in Latin America, “but former Catholics are more skeptical,” with only majorities of ex-Catholics in Argentina and Uruguay expressing approval of the pontiff, according to the survey.

Even with Pope Francis being popular among Catholics, “that hasn’t necessarily resulted in a ‘Francis effect’ in terms of greater attendance at Mass and participation in church life,” Chesnut said.


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Ban of gender-based abortion passes first vote in British Parliament


Catholic News Service

British parliamentarians overwhelmingly approved a bill to criminalize the abortions of baby girls simply because of their gender.

The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill was approved 181-1 on first reading in a Nov. 4 vote in the House of Commons.

The bill was introduced by Fiona Bruce, a Conservative Party Member of Parliament, after abortion providers and the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, both insisted that sex-selective abortions were permitted under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Because the government has argued that such abortions are illegal, the bill has the purpose of ending the ambiguity by stating explicitly that such abortions are illegal.

The huge level of support for the bill was welcomed by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, within whose diocese Bruce’s Congleton district is located.

“It takes courage for a politician to oppose the culture of death in its many forms,” Bishop Davies said in a Nov. 4 email to Catholic News Service.

He added: “Congleton’s MP, Fiona Bruce, deserves the support of all who uphold the sanctity of human life in her efforts to protect the lives of the unborn in gender-based abortions.”

In a Nov. 4 statement, Bruce said the 1967 law was being interpreted too liberally and that “today Parliament agreed that more legislation is needed to silence those claiming that sex-selective abortion can be legal.”

“Never would Parliamentarians in 1967 have imagined that 47 years on, there would be dispute about whether their act permitted abortion where the baby was the a boy or a girl,” she said.

“If the social clause of the act permits sex-selective abortion, the time to revisit it is long overdue,” she continued. “Until then, today’s vote has given a clear signal that MPs are united in working toward a time when the words ‘it’s a girl’ are met with celebration rather than despair.”

The bill’s second reading is set for Jan. 23, though politicians believe it is unlikely to be given time for further debate in the present parliamentary session.

The outcry in Britain over gender-based abortions follows investigations by national newspapers, which found that women who did not want to have baby girls were offered abortions.


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Poverty was among synod’s main concerns, Philippine cardinal says

October 31st, 2014 Posted in International News


Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said the Synod of Bishops on the family was more than a series of discussions on divorce and gay unions and that the impact of poverty on families, especially in Asia, was a major concern of participants.

“Poverty is really affecting the Filipino family in a dramatic way,” Cardinal Tagle told reporters at an Oct. 30 news conference.

The prelate explained that while he was in Italy he was part of a forum on families and afterward a number of contract workers from the Philippines approached him in tears. Cardinal Tagle said one worker told him, “If it weren’t for hardship I would never have left my wife and children behind.”

The Philippines is among the world’s top countries that sends workers overseas. More than 9 million Filipinos, about 10 percent of the Philippines population, live overseas and about half of them migrated for work, the government has reported.

Cardinal Tagle said migration was a major concern in synod discussions.

“Couples separate not because they’re mad at each other,” the cardinal said. “They separate because they love their family and they bear the pain of separation just to find jobs elsewhere. So we ask, ‘What kind of pastoral care can we give for the (contract) workers to remain faithful to their families … and what can we do for those left behind?’”

Cardinal Tagle pointed to financial insecurity as a hindrance to marriage and a burden on family life. Young people are delaying marriage because of a lack of jobs in the Philippines and elsewhere and thoughts that they could not support a family, he said, adding that for those who have work, the breadwinner is focused on hanging on to the job and “putting the family second.”

The bishops also credited grandparents and extended family members for their roles in raising children because of the economic stresses placed on nuclear families.

Cardinal Tagle also reported on preparations for Pope Francis’ planned January visit to the Philippines. He said officials from the Vatican planned to visit in November to check on arrangements and that specific details of the trip would be released at the end of November of early December.

Cardinal Tagle also said the Philippine government is “very concerned” about security for Pope Francis during his Jan. 15-19 stay. The cardinal said the pope “deserves” the effort under way by the government and the military for his safety.

In September the Islamic State militant group that has occupied much of Syria and Iraq said it would target the pope, possibly during one of his overseas visits. In 1970, an attempt was made on Blessed Paul VI’s life during a visit to the Philippines. And in 1995, authorities uncovered a plot by al-Qaida members to assassinate St. John Paul II on his visit to the nation.


— By Simone Orendain

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Ottawa archbishop prays for shooting victims, tells Canadians to not be afraid


Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario — Recalling the words of St. John Paul II, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast called upon Canadians not to be afraid in the wake of the Oct. 22 shooting that left a Canadian soldier dead and forced lawmakers to barricade themselves inside their parliament offices.

Flags fly at half-mast on the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier, was shot and killed while on duty at the nearby National War Memorial. (CNS photo/Warren Toda, EPA)

Flags fly at half-mast on the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier, was shot and killed while on duty at the nearby National War Memorial. (CNS photo/Warren Toda, EPA)

In an email interview a day after the incident, Archbishop Prendergast noted that the violence occurred on the feast of St. John Paul and recalled the saint’s first words when he was elected pope in 1978 were, “Don’t be afraid! Open your hearts wide to Christ.”

“These words apply most appropriately to this present moment in our life in the nation’s capital, but they speak also to all Canadians,” the archbishop wrote.

Authorities said a gunman killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the army reserves from Hamilton, Ontario, who was guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial blocks from parliament. The assailant, whom police identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, made his way to the parliament where he fired multiple times before he was shot and killed.

“God is still the Lord of our lives and is at work in the hearts of the bystanders who attempted CPR, called the police and other first responders who showed themselves courageous in putting their lives at risk in a moment of crisis,” Archbishop Prendergast said. “We have much to be grateful for. To live with moral certitude is to presume people mean me/us well and we should live out of that conviction.

“And while remaining alert to signs of behavior that can be harmful, we need to go about our business as the friendly and welcoming people I have come to know Ottawans to be,” he said.

The morning of the shootings, Archbishop Prendergast was in Blessed Sacrament Church in Toronto celebrating the funeral of a friend when he first heard the news.

“As I went back to the sacristy, someone mentioned that there was a terrorist action going on in Ottawa in generic terms, that much of Ottawa was on lockdown and that I should check to see whether I could fly to Ottawa in the afternoon,” he said. He was planning on an afternoon flight to he could host his annual Archbishop’s Charity Dinner that evening. More than 700 tickets had been sold.

The archbishop and his staff decided to cancel the dinner in the wake of the shootings. He said the food that had been prepared was delivered to the Shepherds of Good Hope for distribution to Ottawa’s needy residents.

In a press release announcing the cancelation, Archbishop Prendergast offered prayers for the victims.

“Let us offer our prayers to God in support of those who have been most affected by today’s events. As we do, let us also thank God for the beauty of our country and for the blessings of peace and security which are the blessings bestowed upon Canadians,” the statement said.


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Polish church: Pray for priest kidnapped in Central African Republic


Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Poland’s Catholic Church has urged “constant prayers” for one of its missionary priests after he was kidnapped by rebels in the Central African Republic.

“We still await news of his fate,” Lidia Rutkowska of the Tarnow Diocese’s mission office told Catholic News Service Oct. 17. “In the meantime, we’ve called on all Catholics to be united in prayer for him, and to join solidarity marches after Mass on this Mission Sunday.” Read more »

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Hunger in a world of wasted food is a tragic paradox, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Providing food aid to people in need is not enough to eradicate world hunger, Pope Francis said.

An overhaul of the entire framework of aid policies and food production is needed so that countries can be in charge of their own agricultural markets, he said. Read more »

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Vatican official at U.N. meeting urges family-unity priority for migrants


GENEVA — Migrant families whose members are often separated pose unique challenges as globalization sweeps the world and deserve special consideration so that family unity remains a priority, a Vatican official told a United Nations meeting.

Children in families in which one or both parents migrate long distances for employment as well as the elderly and spouses left at home must become a “high priority in any migration policy debate,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said Oct. 8 during the 2014 International Dialogue on Migration of the International Organization for Migration.

“They are particularly vulnerable and hence should receive special protection,” he told the delegates.

He called for transnational efforts that cross international borders so that the needs of migrant workers are not forgotten in a world built around economic growth. Migrants deserve great respect because of the service and positive economic and social contribution they offer in their host countries, the archbishop added.

While migrant workers provide greater financial resources to their families, money alone will not compensate for the loss of human affection, the presence to influence values, integrity and personal behavior, Archbishop Tomasi explained.

He said policies and programs affecting migrating workers in all nations should maximize the remittances workers send home, limit the negative effects of migration and emphasis family ties as a primary concern.

Immigration reform measures being considered in countries must involve forming “the legal framework that helps keep families together,” Archbishop Tomasi said.

“By allowing children to emigrate unaccompanied, further problems arise as they are exposed to lawlessness and despair,” he said. “The family structure, however, should be the place where hope, compassion, justice and mercy are taught most effectively. Family is the basic unit of coexistence, its foundation, and the ultimate remedy against social fragmentation.”

The archbishop also outlined several measures that would help maintain family unit. They included allowing migrants who are restricted or prevented from traveling home to care for elderly parents or care for children should be allowed occasional leaves and benefit from special prices for travel; lower interest fees for transferring remittances home; speedier processes for obtaining visas for a spouse or close family member; and a greater availability of ad hoc family counselors in areas with a high amount of migrant workers.

“States and civil society are prompted by their own future to give priority to the family and thus make migrations a more positive experience for all,” he said.



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