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Top official defends Vatican employees against allegations of corruption

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is not “a den of thieves,” and such insinuations are an injustice to employees who are proud to serve the pope and the church, said Archbishop Angelo Becciu, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu (CNS file photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Archbishop Angelo Becciu (CNS file photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Necessary economic and administrative reforms and countermeasures have been taken to address any problems, he told the Italian weekly Panorama in an interview published in the issue dated Jan. 20.

“I must reiterate firmly that we are not a bunch of corrupt and incompetent people,” he said in a lengthy interview conducted at the Vatican Dec. 31.

“The Vatican is not a den of thieves. To represent it as such constitutes an absolute falsehood. I find it extremely unjust that our employees, proudly carrying out a service for the pope and the church, have gotten to the point, for some time now, of being ashamed to tell people they work here,” he told the weekly.

Archbishop Becciu, 67, has been substitute secretary for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State, a job similar to a chief of staff, since 2011.

A large portion of the Q & A interview focused on accusations of financial mismanagement illustrated in recent books by Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of “Avarice.”

The two authors are on trial at the Vatican for “soliciting and exercising pressure” on their alleged sources in order to obtain confidential documents and news. Also standing trial on accusations of forming an “organized criminal association” with the aim of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents” are Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See; and Nicola Maio, who had served as personal assistant to Msgr. Vallejo.

Archbishop Becciu said “stealing those documents was a crime, a deplorable act that does not help.”

“The right of journalists to publish news they come to have is not in question. The misgivings concern the way in which this news was obtained. There is a trial underway that will find out,” he said.

Regarding Msgr. Vallejo and Chaouqui, the archbishop said their “betrayal was a slap in the face to the Holy Father. They had sworn on the Gospel to not reveal to anyone what they saw, heard and read in carrying out their assignment” as members of the commission to reform Vatican financial practices.

When asked why money donated by the faithful for Peter’s Pence is being used primarily to fund the Roman Curia, only about two euro out of ten donated goes to charity, the archbishop said if the Vatican were to earmark, for example, 60 percent of the funds to charity “we would have to immediately fire 400 people” out of the current 4,000 Vatican employees. “We prefer not to load the Italian government with this further burden” of unemployment and to abide by the pope’s request to reform without layoffs, he said.

The charitable fund’s balance sheets are “public and approved by the Holy Father and the council of cardinals,” adding that it can be seen the money is used to support Vatican Radio, the Vatican newspaper and the various Vatican diplomatic representatives abroad who channel the pope’s financial support to mission churches and the poor.

The archbishop was asked to comment on the fact cardinals living in Rome reside in very large apartments while Pope Francis has chosen to live in a small set of rooms in a Vatican guesthouse. The archbishop said the apartments date back to the 1930s “when the cardinals were in effect considered princes of the church and were treated as such.”

He said Nuzzi’s suggestion of moving the cardinals into the more modest Vatican guesthouse would be “populist bordering on the ridiculous.”

There would be the problem of where to then house the priests who are living at the guesthouse, he said; “We would have to build another building to house them,” which would be a “huge waste” of resources, and all the large cardinal residences would be left empty.

When asked why the property would be left unoccupied, the archbishop said only Vatican citizens and employees are allowed to live in Vatican-owned properties.

“Imagine the pandemonium that would be let loose if by accident they ended up being rented to tax evaders or in any case individuals wanted by the law who could benefit from immunity” by living in Vatican City State instead of Italy, he said.

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Leaked documents won’t stop financial reforms at Vatican, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Leaked and published information about Vatican financial problems and irregularities were already known and are the reason “measures have already been taken that have begun to bear fruit,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 8. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 8. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

At his first public appearance since the release Nov. 5 of two books based on the leaked documents, Pope Francis assured Catholics that the leaks “certainly will not divert me from the reform work that I and my collaborators are carrying out with the support of all of you.”

After reciting the Angelus prayer Nov. 8 with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, the pope told the crowds he knew that some people were “disturbed by the news circulated in recent days about private documents of the Holy See that were taken and published.”

“Stealing documents is a crime,” the pope said. “It is a deplorable act that does not help.”

Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book, “Merchants in the Temple,” and Emiliano Fittipaldi’s book, “Avarizia” (“Greed’), cite documents written for or by a commission Pope Francis established to study the financial activity of Vatican offices and make recommendations for reforms and improvements. Both books focus on the irregularities uncovered.

The Vatican announced Nov. 2 the arrests of two members of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See. The monsignor and the laywoman are suspected of releasing confidential documents, which is a crime under Vatican law.

In his main Angelus address, Pope Francis focused on the day’s Gospel reading, the story of the widow who gave all she had, two small coins, to charity.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd to beware of the scribes who take the places of honor, recite lengthy prayers and yet mistreat the widows.

The scribes, the pope said, show signs of pride, greed and hypocrisy. “Under such solemn appearances, they hide falsity and injustice.”

“Today, too, the risk of assuming such attitudes exists,” the pope told the crowd. “For example, when one separates prayer from justice, because you cannot worship God and harm the poor.”

The poor widow in the Gospel could have given one coin to the temple and kept one for herself, the pope said. “But she did not want to give only half to God,” whom she loved with her whole heart.

“Jesus today tells us that the measure for judging is not quantity, but fullness,” the pope said. “You can have a lot of money, but be empty.”

“The difference between quantity and fullness is not a question of your wallet, but of your heart,” he said.

When Christians see someone in need, he said, they are called to deprive themselves in order to help, whether in terms of money, material goods or time and attention.

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New books offer spiritual reading options during Lent

February 16th, 2012 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Catholic News Service

Here’s a selection of recent releases that might be suitable for your spiritual reading during Lent, which begins Feb. 22: Read more »

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Spiritual practices get a fresh look

January 13th, 2012 Posted in Books Tags: , ,

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“Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor”by Jana Riess. Paraclete Press (Orleans, Mass., 2011). 179 pp., $16.99.

“Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux” by Heather King. Paraclete Press (Orleans, Mass., 2011). 160 pp., $16.99.

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Prayer and laughs: Books offer clues to what makes priests happy

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“Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests” by Stephen J. Rossetti. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Ind., 2011). 238 pp., $18.95.“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by James Martin, S.J. HarperOne (San Francisco, 2011). 247 pp., $25.99.

Two books published in October reflect on Catholic culture from quite different, unique viewpoints. Brian Welter reviews both books below.

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Hard lessons of living, dying and grief

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Catholic News Service

Hundreds of years ago, our Christian forebears sought to learn to die well. They even wrote guidebooks about the art of dying (“ars moriendi”), hoping to inspire others to achieve a sense of spiritual completion and fulfillment at life’s end.

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Looking at parish closures from different angles

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“The Grace of Everyday Saints: How a Band of Believers Lost Their Church and Found Their Faith” by Julian Guthrie. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, 2011). 288 pp., $25.

“No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns” by John C. Seitz. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass., 2011). 322 pp., $39.95.

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