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Pope to world’s priests: Go out into world and serve with God’s joy and love

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Priests extend their arms in prayer as Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A priest is called to be in the midst of his flock, protecting his people, searching for those who are lost and always serving those in need, Pope Francis told the world’s priests.

If a priest wants to overcome those inevitable moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom as well as discover his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, he said April 17 during the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He must also be a dutiful servant who listens to people’s need and builds a church whose doors are wide open, offering refuge for sinners, a home for the homeless, comfort for the sick and God’s word and joy for the young, he said.

Presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, Pope Francis blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

Deacons carried the sacramental oils in large silver urns to the main altar to be blessed by the pope.

Joined by more than 1,500 priests, bishops and cardinals, Pope Francis led them in a renewal of their priestly vows and a reflection on what it means to be a priest, in a homily that was lengthier than usual.

He focused on the meaning of being anointed through ordination, emphasizing that Holy Thursday was the day Jesus shared his priesthood with the apostles by anointing them with “the oil of gladness.”

“Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God,” the pope said.

He said it’s not an exaggeration, given the “grandeur of the gift granted us” to minister and serve, to say the priest is a very small person.

While “in that littleness we find our joy,” he said, being “little” without God spells danger.

“No one is more ‘little’ than a priest left to his own devices.”

Priestly joy must be sought and rooted in God’s love and it can find protection from evil in prayer to Mary, he said.

Otherwise a priest risks becoming “the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians,” unless Jesus gives him strength in the midst of his flock, he said.

Self-denial, forsaking earthly happiness and giving oneself to others mean the priest “has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself.”

Nor should the priest be trying to carve out his own identity because “there is no identity and consequently joy of life without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people,” he said.

“The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than exit signs, signs that say: Exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you.”

The people of God “will make you feel and taste who you are,” he said.

They will also be able “to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy” during those moments a priest finds himself feeling isolated, gloomy, listless and bored, “which at times overcome us in our priestly life and which I too have experienced,” the pope said.

With his infinite compassion “for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd,” Jesus calls people to his ministry, so that he can be present and work “in the person of his priests, for the good of his people.”

Like an attentive servant, the priest “makes the church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the street, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children,” he said.

The priest must be wherever there are people in need or searching; he needs to know how to listen, and feel driven by Christ to lift burdens with mercy and encourage hope with charity.

He asked that people pray for vocations so that when young people hear the call to religious life, they have “the stroke of boldness to respond willingly.”

He asked for prayers for the recently ordained, that they never lose the “joy sparkling” in their eyes as they “go forth to devour the world.”

He also prayed for elderly priests and those who have served many years, that they may “gather their strength and rearm themselves, get a second wind.”

 

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Vatican reverses ban on writings of late Italian priest

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After nearly half a century, the Vatican has dropped its veto on the writings of a popular Italian priest, and his role in the church is being re-evaluated, said the archbishop of Florence.

Father Lorenzo Milani was a heroic figure to many Italians for decades. Born in 1923 to a family of nonbelievers in the central region of Tuscany, he was converted to Catholicism in his late teens and then served as a parish priest in a small town of poor farmers and factory workers. When his book “Esperienze pastorali” (“Pastoral Experiences”) was published in 1958, its progressive tone scandalized many.

Don Milani wrote that the modernization of Italy was bringing “development but not progress,” and that the church had become less important to ordinary people “than the cut of a pair of trousers, a good snooze, making money, having a good time.” The church itself, he wrote, had become more involved in “ritual” than faith.

In December 1958, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judged the book “inopportune” and ordered it “withdrawn from commerce and not to be reprinted or translated.”

This action has been re-evaluated as based on “contingent situations,” said Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence in an extensive interview with the Catholic weekly Toscana Oggi. Father Milani’s book is being reprinted in recognition of its contribution to the Italian Catholic heritage, “and in particular the heritage of the Florentine church,” said the cardinal, who sent a copy of the book to Pope Francis last November.

“Today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tells me that circumstances have changed, and that there is no reason for that intervention to continue,” Cardinal Betori said.

“The book contained no doctrinal deviation, but it was considered too socially advanced to be read by Catholics,” Michele Gesualdi, president of the Don Milani Foundation and former president of the province of Florence, told the online magazine Firenze Post.

Don Milani died in 1967 at age 44. His role in the church is expected be honored at a 2015 national ecclesiastical conference in Florence, which Pope Francis is expected to attend.

 

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Thank God for salvation, kiss a crucifix during Holy Week, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus’ resurrection “isn’t the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn’t the happy ending of a film,” but is the result of the loving intervention of God, who wanted to give humanity hope and salvation, Pope Francis said.

In the middle of Holy Week, Pope Francis encouraged people to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At his weekly general audience April 16, the pope said Jesus willingly endured the most humiliating, most painful path to death: betrayal, mocking, being nailed to a cross “like the worst criminal.”

Watching Jesus suffer and die, the pope said, “we see the suffering of all humanity and we find the divine response to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. We often feel horror because of the evil and pain around us and we ask, ‘Why does God allow this?’ It hurts deeply when we see suffering and death, especially when it involves the innocent. When we see children suffering, it wounds our hearts.”

“This week it would do all of us good to look upon a crucifix, kiss the wounds of Jesus,” he said. “He took upon himself all human suffering.”

“We want God, in his omnipotence, to defeat all injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant victory,” the pope said. “But instead, he shows a humble victory. Humanly speaking, it seems to be a failure, but God is victorious precisely in that failure.”

Jesus’ death “is not an accident,” the pope said. “His death — that death — was already written. Really, we don’t have a full explanation; it is a bewildering mystery, the mystery of the great humility of God.”

During Holy Week, the pope said, Christians should meditate on the suffering of Jesus and recognize, “this is for me. Even if I was the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me.”

“When everything seems lost,” the pope said, that is the moment that God intervenes “with the power of the resurrection,” restoring hope to humanity with a father’s love.

God does the same thing in the lives of everyone who suffers, he said. When suffering seems unbearable and everything is dark, “that is the moment closest to the resurrection.”

“Jesus, who chose to live this life, calls us to follow the same path of humiliation,” Pope Francis said. “At the times in our lives when we cannot seem to find any way out of our difficulties, when we find ourselves in the deepest darkness … at the hour when we experience that we are fragile and sinful, it is precisely then, at that moment, that we should not mask our failure, but open ourselves to God with trust, just as Jesus did.”

Riding around St. Peter’s Square before the audience, Pope Francis picked up two young passengers and allowed the boys to ride in the back of the popemobile until he was ready to begin his catechesis.

A related video has been posted at http://youtu.be/HR5lZ7cw4bI.

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During Holy Week, pope asks, which Gospel character do you resemble?

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Preceded by young people and clergy waving tall palm branches, Pope Francis began his Holy Week liturgies by encouraging people to ask themselves which personality in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection they resemble most.

“Where is my heart? Which of these people do I resemble most?” Pope Francis asked April 13 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.

Pope Francis carries palms as he walks in procession at the start of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Joined by thousands of young people for the local celebration of World Youth Day, the pope set aside his prepared homily and instead urged people to adopt an exercise recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits: imagining themselves as one of the characters in the Gospel story.

Throughout the Holy Week liturgies — Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter vigil and Easter morning Mass — “it would do us good to ask one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord?” the pope said.

“Am I able to express my joy, to praise him?” the pope asked. “Or do I keep my distance? Who am I before Jesus who is suffering?”

Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Am I like Judas?” the pope asked. “Am I a traitor?”

“The disciples didn’t understand anything and they fell asleep while the Lord suffered,” he said. “Is my life one of sleeping?”

When Jesus was about to be arrested, one of the disciples cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant; “am I like that disciple who wanted to resolve everything with the sword?” the pope asked.

“Am I like those courageous women and like Jesus’ mom, who were there suffering in silence?” he asked.

Pope Francis did not offer explanations but asked people to let “these questions accompany us throughout the week.”

Prisoners from a jail in Sanremo, Italy, sent Pope Francis a new pastoral staff, which he used during the Mass. Carved out of olive wood, it featured a simple cross on top and elements from Pope Francis’ coat of arms: the official seal of the Society of Jesus, an eight-pointed star symbolizing Mary and the spikenard flower, a symbol of St. Joseph.

At the end of Mass, turning his attention to the young people, Pope Francis presided over the transfer of the World Youth Day cross from young representatives of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, site of World Youth Day 2013, to youths from the Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland, where the next international gathering with the pope will be held July 25-Aug. 1, 2016.

The hand-off of the cross marked the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s entrusting it to Catholic youths, asking them to “carry it throughout the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity,” Pope Francis said. Noting that he would declare Pope John Paul a saint April 27, the pope repeated an announcement made in February that St. John Paul, who began the World Youth Day celebrations, would become the gatherings’ “great patron.”

After the Mass and the recitation of the Angelus, the pope waded into the crowd, blessing many of the young people and posing for photographs with some of them.

 

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Pope Francis offers Passover greetings

April 11th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: ,

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VATICAN CITY — Offering Passover greetings to Rome’s Jewish community, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for his upcoming trip to the Holy Land.

With the approaching of the start of Passover at sundown April 14, the pope said he wanted to offer his “best wishes for peace” to Rome’s chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and the city’s Jewish community.

“May the memory of liberation from oppression by the powerful hand of the Lord inspire thoughts of mercy, reconciliation and fraternal closeness to all those who suffer under new forms of slavery,” the pope said in the message, which was printed on the Rome Jewish community’s Moked website.

“Turning my thoughts to Jerusalem, which I will have the joy of visiting” in late May, Pope Francis asked the community “to accompany me with your prayers.”

Moked said Rabbi Di Segni would respond to the pope’s message with one from the Jewish community for Pope Francis’ celebration of Easter.

 

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‘The devil exists’ and doesn’t want you to follow Jesus, pope warns

April 11th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A lot of people, even Catholics, think that talking about the devil is completely old-fashioned, but anyone who wants to follow Jesus needs to know that Satan exists and will keep putting up obstacles to faith, Pope Francis said.

“The prince of this world, the devil, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ,” the pope said April 11 during his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

Dante and Virgil confront demons in a Gustave Dore print of a scene from Dante’s “Inferno.” (Thinkstock)

“Maybe some of you might say: ‘But, Father, you’re so old-fashioned speaking of the devil in the 21st century.’” the pope said. “But, look, the devil exists. The devil exists even in the 21st century. And we shouldn’t be naive, should we?”

The devil tempted Jesus and he will tempt those who try to follow Jesus, the pope said. “We, too, are objects of the demon’s attacks because the evil spirit doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want Christian witness, he doesn’t want us to be disciples of Jesus.”

Pope Francis said the devil’s form of tempting people has three phases, “and we must know what they are in order to avoid falling into his trap.”

“Temptation begins small, but it grows,” the pope said. Then it “infects another, it is transmitted to another” and, finally, it includes self-justification so the person who gives in to temptation and sin doesn’t feel so bad about it.

When Jesus preached in the synagogue, the pope said, “immediately his enemies belittle him, saying, ‘But this is the son of Joseph, the carpenter, the son of Mary. He never went to university. What authority does he have? He never studied.’”

The temptation of belittling Jesus began to spread and more and more people expressed opposition to Jesus, the pope said. Then, to justify their attitudes, the priest says, “Don’t you know that it’s better that one man die to save the people?”

Pope Francis told those at the morning Mass that the sin of gossip follows the same pattern. One is jealous of another and feels a need to share it, and then that person shares the gossip with another and it goes on. “And we’re all tempted to gossip. Well, maybe one of you is a saint and isn’t tempted, but I have been tempted to gossip. It’s a daily temptation.”

The only way to overcome temptation is to follow Jesus more closely because he defeated the devil, Pope Francis said.

 

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Pope Francis apologizes for clerical sex abuse, promises tough sanctions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests —large in number, but not in proportion to the total — have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children,” Pope Francis said.

“The church is aware of this damage” and is committed to strengthening child protection programs and punishing offenders, he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau during a meeting April 11 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis leads a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 28. CNS/Paul Haring

The remarks appeared to be the pope’s first apology for the sex abuse scandal, following earlier statements affirming the Vatican’s work investigating and punishing perpetrators, and encouraging bishops to support abuse victims. The pope also has said the church deserves to be forced to make monetary settlements to victims.

In December, Pope Francis established a Vatican commission to promote improved child protections policies throughout the church.

Meeting with leaders of the International Catholic Child Bureau, an organization based in France and dedicated to defending children’s rights, Pope Francis said it was hard to believe “men of the church” would commit such horrors.

“We don’t want to take a step backward in dealing with this problem and with the sanctions that must be imposed,” the pope said. “On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong. You don’t play with children’s lives!”

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of defending children’s right “to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity,” which includes “maturing in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”

Parents have a right to determine the appropriate “moral and religious education” of their children, he said, and should not be subject to school curriculums that are thinly veiled courses of indoctrination into whatever ideology is strongest at the moment.

The pope said he wonders sometimes whether parents are “sending a child to school or to a re-education camp” like those run by dictatorial governments.

Obviously, he said, children need help in responding to the problems and challenges contemporary culture and the media raise. Young people can’t be kept in “glass jars,” but must be given the values that will help them evaluate what cultural trends respect their dignity and freedom and the dignity and freedom of others.

 

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Face life’s problems with God’s love and wisdom, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — People can choose either to tackle life’s challenges with the loving and wise heart of God or be driven by their own passions and interests, Pope Francis said.

All people, whether they know it or not, have access to the gift of the Holy Spirit, “who teaches us to see with God’s eyes, to feel with God’s heart, to speak with God’s words,” helping people build a peaceful and loving home, church and world, he said.

Pope Francis blesses a cross during his weekly audience at the Vatican April 9. The cross is made from wooden boards recovered from the wreckage of boats carrying migrants from northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 9, the pope began a new series of audience talks on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

He started the new series focusing on the gift of wisdom, which is not anything like the human wisdom that comes from study and experience, he said. The spiritual gift of wisdom “is simply this: seeing the world, situations, circumstance and problems with God’s eyes.”

Often people see the world and what goes on around them “according to our own liking or according to where our heart’s at,” colored by personal feelings of love, hate, envy and other emotions, he said.

“Let’s think about a mom at home with the kids, like when one kid is going after one thing, another wants something else and the poor mom runs back and forth dealing with the problems,” he said. “When moms get exhausted and they scream at their kids, is this wisdom? I’ll ask again: Is this wisdom? What do you say?” asked the pope, coaxing his audience to respond.

“No! Instead, when a mom takes the child and scolds him gently and says, ‘You don’t do this for this reason’ and explains with a lot of patience, is this God’s wisdom?” he asked. “Yes! This is what the Holy Spirit gives us in life.”

The pope said the same kind of wisdom can be used when couples fight. Often arguments end with one or both spouses ignoring each other or “they give each other dirty looks. Is this God’s wisdom?” he asked. “No. Instead you say, ‘Well, the storm has passed. Let’s make peace, hmm?” They start over and move forward in peace.”

This kind of wisdom cannot be learned from books or from others, and “we can’t wing it, we can’t get hold of it on our own,” Pope Francis said. “It is a gift of the Holy Spirit and for this reason we have to ask the Lord to give us the Holy Spirit and give us the gift of wisdom.”

The gift of wisdom also helps people distinguish between what comes from God and what doesn’t, “thus making the Christian a learned person,” he said. It doesn’t mean one knows the answer to everything or understands everything, but rather, this person has “a taste” for God, can sense his presence and his love and knows how God works in the world.

The gifts come when one keeps a close relationship with God, he said. “When we are in communion with the Lord, it’s like the Spirit transfigures our hearts and makes us perceive everything with his warmth and his liking.”

Before the audience, while he was riding in the popemobile greeting people and kissing children, a man from the crowd shouted out to the pope: “Francis! There is nobody like you!””

The pope, pointing at him, shouted back: “You, too! No one like you. There are no two people like you!”

At the audience, the pope blessed a 9-foot tall, 3-foot wide wooden cross made out of the wreckage of boats carrying migrants from northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island.

The 130-pound-cross is to be carried around Italy “to bring a message of solidarity and peace between communities, parishes, cultures, cities and faiths,” the Vatican newspaper said April 8.

Last July, the pope visited Lampedusa after seeing newspaper headlines describing the drowning of immigrants at sea. The island is often the first port of entry for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. The United Nations estimates that the dangerous sea crossings have cost the lives of more than 20,000 migrants in the past 25 years.

 

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Morning homily: Jesus offers the ‘mystery of mercy,’ doesn’t browbeat sinners, pops says

April 7th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When Jesus forgave the adulteress, he was not eradicating church law about the sanctity of marriage; rather, he helped her recognize her sin and commanded she go in peace and sin no more, Pope Francis said.

“God forgives, not with a decree, but with a caress, caressing our wounds of sin,” he said in his homily April 7 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

A woman blows a kiss as Pope Francis greets the crowd outside the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Rome April 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ homily focused on the day’s reading from the Book of John (8:1-11), in which the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman “caught in adultery” before Jesus and press him to say how she should be treated.

They tell him that, according to the law, “Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They asked to test Jesus, to entrap him and have some kind of charge to bring against him, the pope said.

He said it seemed that Jesus had only two ways to respond: He could have held to the letter of the law or dismissed the law outright.

“If Jesus had said, ‘Yes, yes, go ahead with the stoning,’ they would have told the people, ‘Hey, this teacher of yours who’s so good, look at what he has done to this poor woman.’”

“And if Jesus had said, ‘No, poor thing! Pardon her!’ they would have said ‘He’s not carrying out the law,’” the pope said.

The scribes and Pharisees cared nothing about the woman or adultery, “perhaps one of them was an adulterer. They didn’t care. The only thing they cared about was setting a trap for Jesus,” the pope said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

Jesus instead sees the law “and goes beyond it. He doesn’t tell them, ‘Adultery is not a sin.’” but neither does he condemn her with it, the pope said.

He tells the crowd, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And one by one, they go away, leaving behind just the woman and Jesus.

The pope said the fact that all the woman’s accusers left, unable to pretend they weren’t sinners, shows that “their bank account in heaven had a big balance against them.”

Jesus speaks to the woman as a confessor, asking her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

The pope said she doesn’t try to make excuses or deny what she did, but recognizes her sin.

When she replied, “No one, sir,” Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Jesus does more than forgive her sins, the pope said; he offers her “the mystery of mercy,” which “is something that’s hard to understand.”

Jesus shows mercy by defending the sinner from her accusers and enemies and “defends the sinner from a just condemnation.

“We, too, how many of us, perhaps should be going to hell, how many of us? That’s the just thing, to be condemned … and he goes beyond forgiving. How? With this mercy.”

Underlining the seriousness of breaking one’s marriage vows of fidelity, the pope said when the sacrament of marriage is “ruined with adultery, the relationship God has with his people is also soiled.”

Because of God’s mercy and forgiveness, a person’s sins are “set aside” like stars in the night sky, the pope said. All the stars are visible in the darkness, but when God, his mercy, love and tenderness appear — like the sun, “with so much light, you can’t see the stars.”

God “doesn’t humiliate, he doesn’t say ‘What did you do? Tell me?’” the pope said. He says, ‘Go and sin no more;” he’s directly “involved in our salvation,” “forgiving us, caressing us.”

 

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Pope decides Vatican bank will stay in business

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, accepting the recommendations of his international Council of Cardinals and other advisory groups, has decided the Vatican bank will continue to exist and has approved a plan to increase its transparency and accountability.

The Vatican press office issued a statement April 7 saying the pope “has approved a proposal on the future” of the Institute for the Words of Religion (IOR), the formal title of the bank. The Vatican, however, did not release details of the proposal.

In June 2013, Pope Francis established a commission to review the activities of the Vatican bank, asking the five commission members to study whether the bank was in harmony with the mission of the universal church.

During a news conference in July on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said some people had suggested the institute should be transformed into a “charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don’t know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission” studying the bank.

“Whatever it ends up being, whether a bank or a charitable fund, transparency and honesty are essential,” he said.

The pope spoke only a few weeks after the bank’s director and deputy director both resigned, following the previous month’s arrest of an account holder, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, on charges of fraud, corruption and slander. In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when new financial laws, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, went into effect.

While not providing details on proposed changes for the bank, the Vatican’s April 7 statement seemed intended to reassure the bank’s employees and clients that the institute would have a future.

“The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide,” the statement said. “The valuable services that can be offered by the institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry.”

The Vatican statement said Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy, has asked the bank’s president and management to finalize plans and procedures “to ensure that the IOR can fulfill its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See-Vatican City State.”

The plan, it said, will be given to Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, which is scheduled to meet in late April and again in July, and to the Council for the Economy, an international group of cardinals and lay experts appointed to set economic and financial policies for the Vatican and all its offices.

The Vatican statement also confirmed the continuing role of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority to ensure the Vatican bank cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

The “strict regulatory supervision and improvements in compliance, transparency and operations initiated in 2012 and substantially accelerated in 2013 are critical” for the bank’s future, the Vatican statement said.

At the end of 2012, the IOR had approximately 18,900 customers, about half of whom were religious orders. Vatican offices and nunciatures (Vatican embassies around the world) accounted for about 15 percent of the clientele, while about 13 percent of the accounts belonged to cardinals, bishops and priests, and 9 percent belonged to dioceses. Most of the remaining accounts were held by Vatican employees and religious education institutes, according to a report released by the bank in October.

 

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