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Former head of Vatican hospital guilty of abuse of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital’s foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

Giuseppe Profiti, second from right, former president of Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, and Massimo Spina, right, former treasurer of the hospital, are pictured during their sentencing at the Vatican court Oct. 14. Profiti was found guilty of illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation. He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and a 5,000 Euro fine. Spina was absolved of the charges. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 euros ($5,900) on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital’s former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14.

The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment’s refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, said in closing arguments that the deal reflected “opacity, silence and poor management” in the way Vatican assets were handled.

Cardinal Bertone, who was not asked to appear in court, had said he paid 300,000 euros from his own savings for the work; however, the hospital foundation also paid the construction company 422,000 euros. Cardinal Bertone also donated 150,000 euros to the hospital because of the loss they incurred.

Bandera had been asked to provide a six-figure “donation” to the hospital foundation, according to trial testimony. Spina testified he tried to get the “donation” from Bandera, but Bandera cited financial difficulties with the bankruptcy.

It’s not the first time Profiti faced charges of financial crimes.

He had been sentenced to six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of taking bribes and kickbacks at a different job. As president of Italy’s Liguria region, he was found guilty of the impropriety when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

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Women must not be subjugated, but eliminating differences between sexes ‘isn’t right,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While societies must find a way to overcome the subjugation of women, pretending there are no differences between men and women or even using technology to change a person’s sex is not the answer, Pope Francis said.

Using science “to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman, is not right,” the pope said Oct. 5, opening the Pontifical Academy for Life’s general assembly. Read more »

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Christians aren’t ‘whiny and angry,’ they find hope in the Resurrection, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Real hope lies in the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not just with one’s words but also in deeds, Pope Francis said.

Christians are called to be witnesses of the resurrection through “their way of welcoming, smiling and loving” instead of just “repeating memorized lines,” the pope said Oct. 4 during his weekly general audience. Read more »

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Pope names Cardinal Burke a judge on Vatican supreme court

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke a member of the Apostolic Signature, the church’s supreme court, which the cardinal headed as prefect from 2008 to 2014.

Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke a member of the Apostolic Signature, the church’s highest court, which the cardinal headed from 2008-2014. Cardinal Burke is pictured leaving a papal audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia at the Vatican in this Dec. 22, 2016, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Members of the Apostolic Signature serve as judges in the cases, which mainly involve appeals of lower-court decisions or of administrative decisions by other offices of the Holy See.

The appeals involve everything from challenges to the decisions of marriage tribunals to recourse against the dismissal of a religious, the transfer of a parish priest, the restriction of a priest’s ministry, removal of ministerial faculties, renovation of a parish church and dismissal from a teaching position.

Cardinal Burke’s nomination was met with surprise in some quarters because he continues to speak publicly about issuing a formal “fraternal correction” of Pope Francis over the pope’s teaching in “Amoris Laetitia,” his exhortation on the family. But the public criticism of the pope did not prevent Pope Francis in late 2016 from naming Cardinal Burke the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam. The results of the investigation and trial have not been announced.

The pope’s nomination of Cardinal Burke, 69, was announced at the Vatican Sept. 30. Also named to the Apostolic Signature were Cardinals Agostino Vallini, the retired papal vicar of Rome, and Edoardo Menichelli, retired archbishop of Ancona, Italy. Cardinal Vallini was prefect of the court from 2004 to 2008; as a priest, Cardinal Menichelli had worked at the Apostolic Signature for more than 20 years. Two others also were named members: Belgian Archbishop Frans Daneels, who retired as secretary of the court in 2016; and Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Willibrordus Maria Hendriks of Haarlem-Amsterdam, a canon lawyer.

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Diplomat’s recall not unusual, suspect should be put on trial, says expert

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection, speaks in early February at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome during a news conference launching the Center for Child Protection in Rome. At right is Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is,” said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.

The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a “digital era.”

The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official’s diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.

Father Zollner said, “I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships” and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.

However, he added, justice must be served and anybody “who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period.”

       

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Politicians must help people overcome fear of migrants, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Politics as service to the common good and the need to create spaces where citizens and migrants can meet and overcome fear were topics Pope Francis repeatedly returned to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Pope Francis greets people at the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in Bologna, Italy, Oct. 1. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Arriving in Bologna mid-morning Oct. 1, Pope Francis went to the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. He was given, and wore, a yellow ID bracelet with his name and a number, just like the migrants and refugees there wear.

Just four days after he kicked off Caritas Internationalis’ “Share the Journey” campaign to encourage Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story, Pope Francis told the 1,000 people at the hub, “Many people don’t know you and they’re afraid.”

The fear “makes them feel they have the right to judge and to do so harshly and coldly, thinking they see clearly,” the pope said. “But it’s not true. One sees well only up close, which gives mercy.”

“From far away, we can say and think anything, like easily happens when they write terrible phrases and insults on the internet,” the pope said.

But, he told them, “if we look at our neighbor without mercy, we run the risk of God looking at us without mercy.”

Pope Francis, after shaking hands with each of the migrants and refugees, said he saw “only a great desire for friendship and assistance.”

The integration of newcomers begins with knowing one another, he said. “Contact with the other leads to discovering the secret that each person carries and also the gift that he or she represents.”

“Each of you has your own story,” he said, and “this story is something sacred. We must respect it, accept it and welcome it, and help you move forward.”

“Do you know what you are?” the pope asked them. “You are fighters for hope.”

Too many of their peers never made it to Europe’s shores because they died in the desert or in the sea, he said. “People don’t remember them, but God knows their names and welcomes them to him. Let’s all take a moment of silence, remembering them and praying for them.”

Pope Francis had begun his Sunday early, arriving shortly after 8 a.m. in Cesena to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Pope Pius VI.

Meeting the public in the main square of the city of 97,000 people, Pope Francis focused on the obligations of both citizens and politicians in working together for the common good.

Cities and nations need “good politics,” which is a form of governance not enslaved to “individual ambitions or the highhandedness of factions,” he said. Authentic politics promotes collaboration and requires a balance of courage and prudence.

It “increases people’s involvement, their progressive inclusion” he said, and it “does not leave any category at the margins” nor does it “sack and pollute natural resources — these, in fact, are not a bottomless well but a gift given by God for us to use with respect and intelligence.”

The social teaching of the Catholic Church sees politics, when motivated by concern for the common good, to be “a noble form of charity,” he said.

Being a good politician means carrying a cross, he said, “because many times he or she must set aside personal ideas and take up the initiatives of others, harmonizing and combining them so that it really will be the common good that is promoted.”

A good politician, he said, must be morally upright, patient and strong enough to live with the fact that very little will be perfect.

“And when the politician errs,” he said, he or she should be strong enough to say, ‘“I made a mistake, forgive me.’ And go forward. This is noble.”

The pope had spoken about politics and immigration the previous day as well, meeting at the Vatican with mayors and other members of Italy’s national association of municipalities.

Pope Francis urged them to oppose “one-way streets of exasperated individualism” and “the dead ends of corruption,” as well as cities that move at two speeds: the express lanes of the rich and privileged and the barely passable alleys of “the poor and unemployed, large families, immigrants and those who have no one to count on.”

Cities should not be raising walls or towers, he said, but enlarging public squares, giving each person space and helping them “open to communion with others.”

“I understand the discomfort many of your citizens feel with the massive arrival of migrants and refugees,” the pope told the mayors, many of whom lead cities and towns that have welcomed hundreds of people.

The fear, he said, “finds its explanation in an innate fear of the ‘stranger,’ a fear aggravated by the wounds of the economic crisis,” but also by a lack of careful preparation for welcoming so many people throughout the country.

“This discomfort,” the pope said, “can be overcome by offering spaces for personal encounter and mutual knowledge. So welcome all those initiatives that promote the culture of encounter, the exchange of artistic and cultural riches and knowledge about the homes and communities of origin of the new arrivals.”

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Share the journey of hope with immigrants, Pope Franics says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The same hope that moves people to seek a better life for themselves and their loved ones also moves the hearts of men and women to welcome migrants and refugees with open arms, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie as he greets immigrants and representatives of Caritas Internationalis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 27. Caritas Internationalis was kicking off its “Share the Journey” campaign in support of immigrants. Next to the pope is Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Those who come to our land and we who go toward their heart to understand them, to understand their culture and language” embark on a shared journey that “without hope cannot be done,” the pope said Sept. 27 at his weekly general audience.

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to share the journey! Do not be afraid to share hope,” he said.

During the audience, Pope Francis launched the “Share the Journey” campaign, an initiative sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies.

The campaign encourages Catholics to understand, get to know and welcome refugees and migrants.

Continuing his series of audience talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on the enemies of hope who, like the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, “unleash so many misfortunes throughout the world’s history.”

However, he said, few people remember that at the end of the story, the final item unleashed from the box is hope, which is what “sustains life, protects it, cares for it and makes it grow.”

“If humankind had not cultivated hope, if they had not been sustained by this virtue, they would have remained in the caves and would not leave their mark in world history,” the pope said. Hope “is the most divine thing that exists in the human heart.”

While the poor tend to be “the bearers of hope,” he said, there are others, especially young men and women, who may have the “misfortune” of having everything, but who are not taught the “virtue of waiting and patience.”

“They are destined to the worst punishment: that of not desiring anything,” he said. “To close the door to desires, to dreams — they look young, but instead autumn has already fallen in their hearts. They are the youths of autumn.”

This emptiness of the soul, he added, is an obstacle to hope and leads Christians to fall into the temptation that ancient monks would call “the midday devil.”

“This temptation surprises us when we least expect it: the days become dull and boring,” and nothing seems worthy of one’s fatigue, he said. “This attitude is called sloth; it erodes life from within until it becomes an empty shell.”

Pope Francis urged Christians to keep hope alive and fight against desperation through Jesus “who can open wide the doors” and “look beyond the horizon.

“If Jesus conquered the world, he is able to conquer within us all that stands in the way of goodness,” the pope said. “If God is with us, no one can rob us of the virtue we absolutely need to live. No one will rob us of hope.”

     

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Vatican, former auditor give differing accounts of resignation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The first person to serve as the Vatican’s independent auditor said he was forced to resign after opponents of Pope Francis’ financial reforms mounted a campaign against him.

Pope Francis meets Libero Milone, then the Vatican’s auditor general, at the Vatican April 1, 2016. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

But the Vatican press office responded Sept. 24, saying Libero Milone, “going outside his competencies, illegally hired an external company to undertake investigative activities about the private lives of representatives of the Holy See.”

“This, besides being a crime, irremediably strained the trust placed in Dr. Milone,” the statement said. It added that the Vatican’s internal investigation of his actions was conducted with care and respect.

Without providing an explanation, the Vatican in June announced that Milone turned in a letter of resignation, which was accepted by Pope Francis. Milone had been in office just two years, although he had a five-year contract.

The position of auditor general was seen as a key component of Pope Francis’ efforts to reform Vatican finances and bring greater transparency in financial dealings. According to statutes issued by Pope Francis, the auditor general has the power to audit the books of any Vatican office and reports directly to the pope.

Milone, 68, an Italian accountant and expert in corporate risk management, was chairman of Deloitte Italy and served three years as a member of the audit committee of the United Nations’ World Food Program.

The Vatican statement Sept. 24 expressed surprise that Milone had gone to the news agency Reuters and other news outlets when, at the time he left the Vatican, he had agreed not to discuss the circumstances of his leaving.

Milone told Reuters his troubles had begun on the morning of Sept. 27, 2015, when he suspected that his office computer had been tampered with. He contacted an external company that had done work for him before to check for surveillance devices “because there are no such specialized people” in the Vatican.

The company discovered that his computer had been the target of an unauthorized access, and that his secretary’s computer had been infected with spyware that copied files, he told Reuters.

But Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Vatican undersecretary of state, told Reuters there was proof that the outside contractor had been helping Milone to spy on others, “including me.” The archbishop added, “If he had not agreed to resign, we would have prosecuted him.”

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Mercy can scandalize those who don’t see their own sin, pope says

September 21st, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating the feast of St. Matthew, the anniversary of the day when as a 17-year-old he said he was overwhelmed by God’s mercy, Pope Francis said it was interesting how many Catholics today seem to be scandalized when God shows mercy to someone.

Pope Francis gives the homily during morning Mass Sept. 19 in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta Sept. 21, Pope Francis looked in depth at the day’s short Gospel story of the calling of St. Matthew.

The story, the pope said, has three parts: “the encounter, the celebration and the scandal.”

Jesus sees Matthew, a tax collector — “one of those who made the people of Israel pay taxes to give to the Romans, a traitor to his country” — and calls him to follow. Jesus looks at him “lovingly, mercifully” and “the resistance of that man who wanted money, who was a slave to money, falls.”

“That man knew he was a sinner,” the pope said. “He was liked by no one and even despised.” But it was “precisely that awareness of being a sinner that opened the door to Jesus’ mercy. He left everything and followed.”

“The first condition for being saved is knowing you are in danger,” he said. “The first condition for being healed is feeling sick.”

In the Gospel story, Matthew celebrates by inviting Jesus for a meal. Pope Francis said it reminded him of what Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

But, the pope said, the Pharisees saw Jesus with Matthew and were scandalized that he would eat with tax collectors and sinners.

The Pharisees were people who continually repeated, “The law says this, doctrine says that,” the pope said. “But they forgot the first commandment of love and were closed in a cage of sacrifices, (saying), ‘We make our sacrifices to God, we keep the Sabbath, we do all we should and so we’ll be saved.’”

But, the pope said, “God saves us, Jesus Christ saves us and these men did not understand. They felt secure; they thought salvation came from them.”

In the same way today, he said, “we often hear faithful Catholics who see mercy at work and ask, ‘Why?’”

There are “many, many, always, even in the church today,” the pope said. “They say, ‘No, no you can’t, it’s all clear, they are sinners, we must send them away.’”

But, Pope Francis said, Jesus himself answered them when he said, “I have come not to call the just, but sinners.” So, “if you want to be called by Jesus, recognize you are a sinner.”

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Pope Francis admits mistake in approving lenient sanctions against priest abuser

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has endorsed an approach of “zero tolerance” toward all members of the church guilty of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Pope Francis address the commission this week and called Cardinal O’Malley a “prophet” in the church who has come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.(CNS /Paul Haring)

Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon.

“Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness,” he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly.

Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted to speak more informally to the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection.

The Catholic Church has been “late” in facing and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to “swim against the tide” because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness of the problem.

“When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem comes late,” he said. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have arrived late.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “the old practice of moving people” from one place to another and not fully facing the problem “lulled consciences to sleep.”

But, he said, “prophets in the church,” including Cardinal O’Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.

Typically when the church has had to deal with new or newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get handed over to another dicastery, he added.

Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are “grave” and because it also is grave that some have not adequately taken stock of the problem, it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have suggested.

However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the “many cases that do not proceed” with the backlog.

Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their diocese.

He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a minor “is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse” for an appeal. “If there is proof. End of story,” the pope said; the sentence “is definitive.”

And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal pardon to a proven perpetrator.

The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited, but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from “a sickness.”

The pope told the commission he has been learning “on the job” better ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he has now come to regret: that of agreeing to a more lenient sanction against an Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended.

Two years later, the priest abused again, and Pope Francis said he has since learned “it’s a terrible sickness: that requires a different approach.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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