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A visit with friends: Pope meets with Protestant Pentecostals

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — His voice breaking with emotion, Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal pastor in southern Italy and longtime friend of Pope Francis, welcomed the pope, “my beloved brother,” to his partially built church in Caserta.

Pope Francis said he knows some people were shocked that he would make a special trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.”

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, "but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Traettino told the pope his visit was “unthinkable until recently,” even though, he said, “even among evangelicals there is great affection for you. Many of us pray for you, every day. Many of us, in fact, believe your election as bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis told the Pentecostals that “the Holy Spirit is the source of diversity in the church. This diversity is very rich and beautiful. But then the same Holy Spirit creates unity. And in this way the church is one in diversity. To use a beautiful Gospel phrase that I love very much, reconciled diversity” is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the visit, the pope fulfilled one specific request of the Italian evangelical community by recognizing the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals.

“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” Italian news agencies quoted the pope as saying.

The Vatican had described the visit as “strictly private” and, except for Vatican media, reporters were kept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. In the new worship space of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation, still under construction, Pope Francis met with about 200 people, including members of Traettino’s congregation, other Italian evangelicals and representatives of Pentecostal ministries in Argentina and the United States, the Vatican said.

The pope and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s when Traettino was establishing ties between charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Traettino also appeared together at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006. Traettino was present June 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium when Pope Francis spoke to an international gathering of Catholic charismatics.

Meeting with Caserta’s Catholic priests and bishops from the Campania region July 26, the date originally scheduled for his visit with the Pentecostals, Pope Francis said he had not known that date was the city’s big celebration for the feast of St. Anne.

If he had gone to the Pentecostals that day, without celebrating the feast with Catholics, “the newspaper headlines would have been ‘On the patron feast of Caserta, the pope visits Protestants,’” he said. So, he asked an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to help organize the Mass “to remove this noose from around my neck.”

Pope Francis also gave the priests a glimpse into his thoughts about Catholic relations with the Pentecostals, which some people have found surprising, especially given how many Catholics in the pope’s Latin America have joined evangelical communities.

He told the story of a priest who went on mission in a remote area of Argentina and met a woman who told him the Catholic Church had abandoned her and her fellow Catholics.

“I need the word of God, so I had to go to the Protestant service,” the woman said.

The pope said the priest apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church, but recognized and respected the depth and sincerity of her faith.

“Every man, every woman has something to give us,” the pope said. “Every man, every woman has his or her own story and situation, and we must listen. Then, the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say.”

“Never be afraid to dialogue with anyone,” Pope Francis told the Caserta priests. Dialogue is not being defensive about one’s faith, although it can mean explaining what one believes. And it is not pressuring another to join one’s faith.

Pope Benedict XVI was right when he said, “The church grows not through proselytism, but through attraction,” Pope Francis said. And attraction is “human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, who handles the Catholic Church’s official relations with evangelicals and Pentecostals, told Vatican Radio July 22 that Pope Francis teaches that “to work for Christian unity you need brotherhood,” which is why he continues to nurture the friendships he established in Argentina. The iPhone video message the pope made in January with another Pentecostal friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, who died in a motorcycle accident July 20, “opened a door because it reached a really significant number of people,” Msgr. Usma said. “It’s an adventure that Pope Francis is asking us to establish. … He’s way ahead of us and we’re trying to follow this pattern.”

 

Resist the mafia, protect environment, pope tells southern Italians

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Resist mafia’s evil, protect environment, pope says

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Being Christian is putting God first in one’s life, which means having “the courage to say no to evil, violence and exploitation,” Pope Francis said, visiting another southern Italian town scarred by mafia crime.

In Caserta, about 130 miles south of Rome, Pope Francis did not denounce the Camorra, as the local mafia is known, but he told an estimated 200,000 people gathered for Mass July 26, “we all know the name of these forms of corruption and illegality.”

The area around Caserta is known in Italy as the “terra dei fuochi” (land of fires) because of the fires illegally set to burn garbage, including toxic waste. Acres of once fertile farmland in the area are now too polluted to use and residents report higher than normal cancer rates.

Pope Francis told the residents that if they are going to call themselves Christian, then they should demonstrate that by loving one another and “making a commitment to safeguard their life and their health, including by respecting the environment and nature.”

Before arriving in Caserta by helicopter, the pope was flown over the area. He told the crowd at Mass, “your beautiful land deserves to be cared for and preserved, which requires the courage of saying no to every form of corruption and illegality.”

Pope Francis originally had planned to make a private visit to Caserta July 26 to visit a Pentecostal pastor friend of his. But when the local bishop and residents heard, they informed the pope and Vatican officials that the date chosen was the feast day of the town’s patroness, St. Anne. The pope asked his aides to quickly organize the Mass and he postponed the visit to his friend until July 28.

The Mass was celebrated outside the Reggia di Caserta, an 18th-century royal palace. A locally loved statue of St. Anne holding the hand of her little girl, Mary, was placed to the side of the altar and blessed with incense by the pope at the beginning of the liturgy.

In his homily, the pope said, ‘Today is the feast of St. Anne; I like calling her the grandma of Jesus and today is a good day to celebrate grandmothers.”

“When I was using the incense, I noticed something very beautiful: the statue of St. Anne does not have a crown, but her daughter Mary is crowned,” the pope said. “St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a great job.”

At a time when bishops in southern Italy have been struggling to ensure popular feasts retain their religious significance and are free of mafia manipulations, Pope Francis also encouraged Catholics in Caserta to ensure their celebrations of St. Anne are “free of any outside influence and are an expression of the pure faith of a people who see themselves as the family of God and strengthen their bonds of brotherhood and solidarity.”

All is lost with war, especially children’s future, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It’s time to stop war, fighting and conflicts, which do nothing but kill and maim, leaving children unexploded ordnance for toys and lives without happiness, Pope Francis said.

“Never war! Never war! I think most of all about children, whose hopes for a dignified life, a future are dashed, dead children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who have the leftovers of war for toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Stop it, please! I beg you with all my heart! It’s time to stop!”

The Basha family -- Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The pope made his appeal after praying the noon Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square July 27.

The pope’s plea came as he recalled the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, which, with more than 37 million causalities, was one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Beginning July 28, 1914, the “Great War” left “millions of victims and immense destruction,” Pope Francis said.

The reigning pontiff at the time, Pope Benedict XV called it a “useless massacre,” which ended after four years in a fragile peace, Pope Francis said.

He said July 28 would be “a day of mourning” and a chance for people to remember the lessons of history.

“I hope people will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said, and will uphold “the rationale of peace through patient and courageous dialogue.”

Highlighting the crises in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine, the pope called for continued prayers so that the leaders and the people there would have the wisdom and will needed to choose peace with determination and face problems with “the tenacity of dialogue and negotiations.”

“Let’s remember that everything is lost with war and nothing is lost with peace,” he said.

He urged that all decisions be based on respect for others and the common good, not personal interests.

 

Archbishop Chaput says Pope Francis to visit Philadelphia next year – updated

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Catholic News Service

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in the U.S. next year, even though the Philadelphia archdiocese still has not received official confirmation from the Vatican.

Pope Francis plans to visit Philadelphia in September 2015. (CNS)

Pope Francis plans to visit Philadelphia in September 2015. (CNS)

Archbishop Chaput made the announcement July 24 before giving his homily during the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo.

“Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” said the archbishop as he invited his fellow Native Americans to the 2015 celebration being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27.

“The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week,” he said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 25 Pope Francis has expressed “his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.

“There has been no official confirmation by the Vatican or the Holy See of Pope Francis’ attendance at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “We still expect that any official confirmation will come approximately six months prior to the event.”

It said Archbishop Chaput “has frequently shared his confidence in Pope Francis’ attendance at the World Meeting and his personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence.”

“We are further heartened and excited” by Father Lombardi’s comments, it added. “While Archbishop Chaput’s comments do not serve as official confirmation, they do serve to bolster our sincere hope that Philadelphia will welcome Pope Francis next September.”

Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a September trip to North America also could include stops in Mexico, but Father Lombardi said that at this moment “nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia.”

“The fact that Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S. will bring him so close to our diocese is extraordinary exciting,” said a statement from the Diocese of Wilmington’s Communications Office. “Over the past year, the world has come to love and admire this humble pope. We are sure that American Catholics and particularly our friends in the neighboring Archdiocese of Philadelphia will welcome our Holy Father with open arms and show him great hospitality.”

— By Nancy Wiechec and from Diocese of Wilmington Communications Office.

 

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‘Doing anything this weekend?’ Pope surprises Vatican’s blue collar workers at cafeteria

July 25th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Taking the chef completely by surprise, Pope Francis unexpectedly showed up to eat with the Vatican’s blue collar workers at their cafeteria in the tiny city-states “industrial park.”

“He showed up, got his tray, silverware, he stood in line and we served him,” the cafeteria’s chef, Franco Paini, told Vatican Radio July 25.

Pope Francis talks with Vatican workers during surprise visit to Vatican cafeteriaHe acted “normally, like the humblest of the workers,” Paini said, his voice still trembling from the thrill. “Please forgive me, I’m still excited, you know?”

Wearing his white cassock and zucchetto, the pope grabbed an orange plastic tray and chose what he wanted from the array of prepared foods.

He got a plate of pasta without sauce; a portion of cod; a whole wheat roll; some au gratin vegetables; a few French fries; an apple; and a bottle of spring water, but not the fizzy, bubbly kind, witnesses reported.

“I didn’t have the courage to give him the bill,” said Claudia Di Giacomo, who was sitting behind the cash register.

Paini said the pope made everyone feel at ease. “We introduced ourselves, he asked how we were, what it was like working there, he paid us compliments; it was really nice.”

The cafeteria in the Vatican’s “industrial area” serves employees who work as technicians, electricians, plumbers, metalworkers, craftsmen, but also employees of the Vatican newspaper, L’ Osservatore Romano.

The pope sat down to eat at a table with workers from the Vatican pharmacy’s warehouse. Wearing dark blue uniform polo shirts, the men spoke to the pope about their jobs and the pope talked about his Italian heritage.

Table talk also included soccer and the economy, the Vatican newspaper reported.

The whole time the pope was eating and chatting, people were taking the inevitable selfie with their cameras, cellphones and iPads.

“Pope Francis wasn’t bothered a bit” by the constant clicking, “and continued to smile and eat, carrying out the conversation” with his tablemates, the paper said.

The pope didn’t stay for the full lunch hour, heading for the door after about 40 minutes. But he gave all the workers there his blessing and posed for a group photograph before he left in his assistant’s car to drive back to his residence at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Paini said the surprise visit was “totally a bolt out of the blue. Who’d have thought? The pope coming to eat with us? Hah! We were all caught off guard, but it was one of the best things that could happen to you.”

 

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Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“We want to make this delicate material more accessible, more understandable and easier for bishops to apply,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, council president, told the Vatican newspaper.

In the interview published July 24 in L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said his office has been working since 2008 to revise “Book VI: Sanctions in the Church,” a section of the Code of Canon Law.

The penalties and punishments offered by church law should be applied, he said.

“In the face of a negative action, which harms the good of a person and therefore the good of the church, penal law expects a reaction, that is the pastor inflicting a canonical penalty,” the cardinal said.

If a bishop does not react by imposing a punishment on a priest guilty of the crime of sexual abuse, he said, “in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed. A negative act necessarily must be condemned; it requires a reaction.”

At the same time, he said, the bishop must recognize that the infliction of a penalty is ultimately for the good of the abuser as well. Penalties in canon law are designed to “encourage the conversion of those who commit crimes.”

In a 2013 interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, council secretary, also spoke of the work of revising that section of canon law.

Bishop Arrieta had said the current Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, was written with such an emphasis on the role of the individual bishop in his local diocese that each bishop bore the full weight of deciding when and how to intervene and what sort of sanction or punishment to impose on the guilty.

The law ended up being too vague, and church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly, that the church appeared to be divided, he said.

The two chief concerns in the revised section, as in all church law, Bishop Arrieta said, are “to safeguard the truth and protect the dignity of persons.”

At the same time, the rules are more stringent, “if someone does this, he must be punished,” the bishop said. While it withdraws the discretionary power of the bishop in certain cases, he said, “it is for the good of the bishop.”

 

 

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Pope names Oblate priest to advise Christian unity council

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Among the new members and consultants Pope Francis named to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is Father John W. Crossin, the executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Although in February Pope Francis confirmed all of the council’s members and consultants until the end of their original five-year mandates, he named three new members and 10 new consultants to the council July 22.

Father Crossin, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, holds a doctorate in moral theology and master’s degrees in psychology and theology from The Catholic University of America.

He is past president of the North American Academy of Ecumenists and the Thomas More Society of Washington and he was the executive director of the Washington Theological Consortium before he started serving the bishops’ conference in 2011.

The pope named three bishops — two from Latin America and one from Germany — to be new members of the Vatican council and he appointed four laymen, five priests and one Chinese religious sister from Macau as consultants.

Many of the new consultants, including one from South Korea, are the ecumenical officers of their national bishops’ conferences.

The nun is Salesian Sister Maria Ha Fong Ko, who is from Macau. She studied in Italy and Germany and earned a doctorate in biblical theology. She teaches sacred Scripture and biblical studies at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium” in Rome and at the Holy Spirit Seminary of Hong Kong.

 

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Pope calls for prayers as Iraqi militants expel Christians from Mosul

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the last Iraqi Christians in Mosul fled the city, Pope Francis urgently called for prayers, dialogue and peace.

“Violence isn’t overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace” the pope said before leading thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silent prayer July 20.

An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad July 20. Pope Francis called for prayers, dialogue, and peace, as the last Iraqi Christians flee the Iraqi city of Mosul. (CNS photo/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)

An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad July 20. Pope Francis called for prayers, dialogue, and peace, as the last Iraqi Christians flee the Iraqi city of Mosul. (CNS photo/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)

“Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away,” he said, as he assured Christians in all of Iraq and the Middle East of his “constant prayers.”

The pope’s plea came as the last Christian families living in Mosul were forced from the city after facing increasing threats, violence and intimidation.

The Islamic State group, which has taken control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was threatening to kill any Christians who did not convert to Islam or pay a tax, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Vatican Radio.

The militants in Mosul also burned to the ground the building housing the Syriac bishop’s office, residence and library, and everything inside, he said July 19.

Islamic State fighters “have already threatened that if they don’t convert to Islam, all Christians will be murdered. It’s terrible! This is a disgrace for the whole international community,” he told the radio.

The international community must immediately halt all aid to the Islamic State group, he said.

“Whom are they getting their weapons from? From these extremist nations in the (Persian) Gulf, with the approval of Western political leaders because they need their oil.”

The patriarch said the world community must uphold human rights and the freedom of religion.

“We are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: We Christians weren’t imported, we’ve been here for millennia and, therefore, we have the right to be treated as human beings and citizens of these countries,” he said.

Patriarch Younan spoke with Pope Francis by telephone July 20 while visiting Rome and told him of the “disastrous” situation in Mosul.

The pope said “he was following closely and with anxiety the plight of Christians” in Mosul, the patriarch told Catholic News Service.

During their nine-minute phone conversation, the patriarch begged the pope “to continue intensifying efforts with the powerful of this world” and to warn them “that it is a mass purification based on religion which is underway in the province of Ninevah,” whose capital is Mosul.

“What a shame for the silence of the so-called civilized world” in response to the tragedy, the patriarch told CNS via email.

The Syriac patriarch was in Rome with Syriac Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul and Syriac Catholic Archbishop Ephrem Yousif Mansoor Abba of Baghdad, to meet with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign minister, and explain the plight of Christians in Mosul and surrounding areas.

The patriarch proposed that the Vatican call on its diplomatic corps members to urge their respective governments to take “appropriate measures in order to prevent further killing and abusing of Christians and other minorities in the name of a religion.”

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul told the Vatican’s Fides news agency that Islamic State fighters took possession of a Syrian Catholic monastery outside of Mosul, near Qaraqosh, July 20.

Earlier, militants occupied Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox cathedrals, removed the crosses at the front of the buildings and replaced them with the Islamic state’s black flag. Tombs and other places of worship were reported to have been desecrated, too.

Militants singled out homes belonging to Christians and marked them in red paint with the letter “N,” for “Nazarat,” which means Christian, as well as “Property of ISIS,” the Islamic State group, said Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad.

“Our worst fears have come true and we don’t know what to do,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.

Those who fled their homes with whatever possessions they could carry were then stripped of everything they owned by the militants at the city’s checkpoints, said Archbishop Jean Sleiman, the Latin-rite bishop of Baghdad.

The militants took people’s belongings, money, personal items “even their cars, leaving them with nothing and forcing them to walk miles under the sun to get to the first Christian villages outside the city where they’re welcomed,” he told SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako told AsiaNews that any dialogue with the extremists seemed impossible.

The militants are like “a wall” as they only repeat: “Between us there is nothing but a sword,” the patriarch said. He added that “there is no one of authority to face,” so people “don’t know where they come from and what they really want.”

Patriarch Sako said that as late as the end of June, 35,000 Christians had lived in Mosul, and more than 60,000 lived there before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. But now, “for the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”

“Iraq is heading towards a humanitarian, cultural and historical disaster,” he said in an open letter to Iraqis and the world July 17.

“It is shameful that Christians are being rejected, expelled and diminished” from a land they have shared together with their Muslim fellow citizens for 1400 years, the patriarch wrote.

He urged Muslims who support the Islamic State “to reconsider their strategy and respect the unarmed innocent people of all ethnicities, religions and sects.” He asked Iraqi Christians to be rational, “calculate their options well,” to come together in solidarity and be patient as they prayed “until the storm passes.”

Syriac Catholic Father Nizar Semaan of Mosul told Fides that world leaders must do something concrete, like “include these groups in the list of terrorist organizations” as well as “make public the names of the countries and forces that finance them.”

He said intelligence agencies and some governments “know where certain weapons and money that keep these groups going come from. It would be enough to stop the flow for a month, and these groups would not have any more force.”

Also, Sunni leaders and followers must help isolate the jihadist groups and declare a religious ruling against them, which “would certainly have a significant effect,” the priest said.

Contributing to this story was Doreen Abi Raad in Beirut.

 

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Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land conflict

July 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace.

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

The morning after Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the pope personally telephoned the two leaders July 18 to express “his very serious concerns about the current situation of conflict.”

Phoning Peres at 10 in the morning and Abbas at 11:30 Rome time, the pope told the leaders that the conflict was creating “numerous victims and was giving way to a state of serious humanitarian emergency,” the Vatican said in a written statement July 18.

The pope told the two presidents, whom the pope “considers to be men of peace and who want peace,” that constant prayer was needed.

He also urged them to “work hard at making sure all interested parties and those who have political responsibilities on the local and international levels dedicate themselves to bring an end to all hostilities, striving to foster a truce, peace and a reconciliation of hearts,” the Vatican said.

The pope assured the two leaders of his “constant prayers” as well as the prayers of the whole church “for peace in the Holy Land.”

Meanwhile, the pope also assured the parish priest of the Holy Family Church, the only Catholic parish in Gaza, of his prayers.

One of the pope’s secretaries sent an email around 7 p.m. July 17 to Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

According to the Vatican, the brief message said, “I accompany you all with my prayers. May the Holy Virgin keep watch over you.”

Holy Family Parish had been holding eucharistic adoration and celebrated a special Mass “to implore forgiveness, justice and peace for all,” according to Vatican Radio.

The priest has opened the parish school to “numerous families” who fled their homes in bombed neighborhoods, according to Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news service. The families “didn’t sleep a wink all night because of the bombing,” a Brazilian nun, identified only as Sister Laudis, told Fides.

“The houses were shaking, the children were crying,” said the nun who said she had spoken with Father Hernandez after leaving Gaza July 17 for Beit Jalla, a village near Bethlehem.

 

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Vatican bank issues detailed financial report

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — One week after publishing highlights of its 2013 financial statement, the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, released a 107-page, detailed financial report for the year.

The first statement, released July 8, said the institute’s net profit for 2013 was only 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) compared to 2012 net profits of 86.6 million euros ($117.7 million).

The detailed report released July 15 and published on the institute’s website, www.ior.va, is packed with charts, tables and explanations of the institute’s focus, its investment policies, the division of its assets and detailed information about its expenses, including contributions to employee pensions.

It also contains some curiosities:

• The main depository for the Vatican’s gold is the U.S. Federal Reserve, while medals and precious coins (valued at close to 9.9 million euros) are kept in IOR vaults. A “significant decline” in the price of gold meant that the value of the Vatican’s gold fell to 20 million euros in 2013 from almost 28.3 million euros in 2012.

• The bank’s officers have almost 3.2 million euros in four funds set up for charitable purposes, including one to support religious orders in missionary work. Only the “Fund for Holy Masses” reported distributing money in 2013; it gave out 59,000 euros.

• The institute is the sole owner of an Italian-registered company, SGIR, which has 21.7 million euros in equity. The report describes SGIR as a real estate company.

• Speaking of real estate, the report said the institute’s operating expenses included a “provision of 1 million euros payable to the owner of the building in which the IOR conducts business.” The bank is based in the 15th-century Tower of Nicholas V on the eastern edge of the Apostolic Palace.

• The bank has 250.7 million invested in external funds; 99 percent of the money is invested in funds that have their legal headquarters in Europe, while the remaining 1 percent are based in the United States.

 

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