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Boston auxiliary bishop reveals why he voted against Eucharistic document

Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jul 27, 2021 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

An auxiliary bishop of the Boston archdiocese on Sunday revealed why he voted against a motion of the U.S. bishops’ conference to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, said in a July 25 statement that he believed the Eucharistic document would lead to greater polarization. Bishop O’Connell published his statement in the bulletin of St. Theresa parish in North Reading, Massachusetts, as a response to a parishioner’s question about denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. 

During the U.S. bishops’ virtual spring meeting in June, they debated a proposal to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The proposed document outline covered the Church’s Eucharistic teaching on a number of points, including the need for Catholics to live out the Church’s teaching in public before and after receiving Communion. 

Some bishops critical of the proposal said it would be interpreted as a call to deny Communion to specific pro-abortion politicians, and would thus result in greater political polarization.

“I fear the whole process of writing the document will lead to more and more opportunity for some bishops and writers to further polarize our people,” Bishop O’Connell wrote. He said “it is not up to me (or you)” to deny anyone Holy Communion, adding that the decision rests with each individual bishop. 

In written responses to CNA’s questions after the publication of his letter, O’Connell said he sees the discussion of denial of Holy Communion to certain public figures as focusing too heavily on abortion, to the detriment of other issues.

The topic has been hotly debated in some quarters with the election of Joe Biden, a Catholic who supports abortion and attends Mass regularly, to the presidency. 

The June vote among the bishops on the Eucharistic document was conducted by secret ballot. The final results of the vote on whether to begin drafting the document - a motion which required only a simple majority to pass - was 168 bishops in favor, 55 opposed, and 6 abstentions. 

During the virtual meeting, several dozen bishops spoke explicitly for or against the proposal, but O’Connell is one of the few bishops to publicly reveal and explain his vote following the results. 

O’Connell acknowledged that although President Biden attends Mass regularly, some of his policy positions are at odds with Church teaching - most notably his support for taxpayer-funded abortion. 

However, he said, “I do not think a letter about the Eucharist is the correct place to address this issue.”

He noted that “there are more appropriate ways, and they are delineated in Canon Law.” He did not, in his letter, elaborate on what those more “appropriate ways” are. 

O’Connell told CNA he had in mind a bishop’s canonical authority to determine the pastoral response in his particular diocese. 

In his letter, Bishop O’Connell laid out several reasons why he voted against drafting the document in June. He said he believed the discussion ought to have taken place in person rather than during a virtual meeting. 

O’Connell elaborated to CNA that he did not feel comfortable expressing his concerns during the virtual meeting, and that he felt the discussion that took place was not adequate. 

While some bishops had moved to change the parliamentary rules of the meeting to allow for unlimited debate time on the motion of the Eucharistic document, that effort failed in a vote on Wednesday. Nevertheless, while debating the motion to draft the Eucharistic document, bishops were allowed to speak in their normal five-minute time slots long after the conference meeting was scheduled to wrap up on July 17.

“If we need to speak with each other about how individual bishops should approach public figures in their dioceses we should do that directly and in person and over time - not just make some vague reference to it in a document on the Eucharist,” Bishop O’Connell told CNA. 

“To me, putting this into the document distracts from anything else in the document and is a roundabout way of not having a serious discussion on this critical issue,” he said. 

A proposed outline of the Eucharistic document, made available to bishops in advance of the spring meeting, made no mention of public figures and Communion. However, the conference’s doctrine committee - charged with drafting the document - included a letter with the proposed outline, saying the document would include a “special call for those Catholics who are cultural, parochial, or political leaders to witness to the faith.”

O’Connell wrote in his letter that he has “no faith that the document finally produced would be read except for the section on Eucharistic Consistency and then, as with most things, through the lens of the politics of the media on either side of the question.”

The bishop did not lay out his own opinion of whether or not Biden should be admitted to Holy Communion, instead noting that “Canon Law leaves it to his individual bishop and pastor to speak with him and that is a private conversation.” 

Bishop O’Connell said he wished to refocus the conversation away from “who should be denied” the Eucharist, and toward “who should receive” the Eucharist. 

“As a priest and a bishop giving Holy Communion, I accept the humble ‘Amen’ of our Catholics as they approach the Altar and I leave judgement on specific individuals to the private conversations with their pastors,” he concluded. 

The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, and as such must be received worthily. 

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

The Catholic Church has always taught that abortion is a grave sin. In a 2004 memo to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that a politician consistently campaigning for and voting for permissive abortion laws constitutes formal cooperation with evil. Biden has publicly advocated for protection of abortion in law, including the codification of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide. 

The next canon, 916, exhorts the individual receiving Communion to be aware of his own worthiness, and to go to confession if conscious of grave sin.  

“I think we should further explore that Canon which applies to everyone including the President and take it out of politics,” Bishop O’Connell told CNA. 

“We are all unworthy to receive, let that unworthiness be the source of our unity,” he said. 

Other bishops, such as canon lawyer Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, have also emphasized the importance of personal discernment and examination of conscience on the part of all Catholics before they approach Holy Communion. 

“If they are conscious of grave sin, they shouldn't go to communion,” Paprocki told CNA in March. 

He noted that this is true not only for politicians, but for all Catholics. However, he added, a failure to consistently apply Canon 915 - that those persisting in “manifest grave sin” ought not be allowed Communion - causes confusion. It “gives rise to scandal, in that it leads to the impression that grave sins may not be so grave after all if there are no consequences for committing them,” he said. 

CNA asked O’Connell about the possibility of scandal in cases where a pro-abortion Catholic politician continually presents himself for Holy Communion, despite having been admonished by his bishop or pastor not to do so without first recanting his support for abortion. 

“Calling abortion ‘the’ preeminent issue instead of ‘a’ preeminent issue, allows other issues to go too far down the ladder - such as immigration, euthanasia, the rights of workers, priority for the poor, racism, torture,” O’Connell responded to CNA. The U.S. bishops’ conference has referred to abortion as a “preeminent priority,” due to the scale of abortions per year, the gravity of the evil and the effect of abortion on women and families.

“We need to preach the Magisterium to our people in its fullness and not be confined to one issue while acknowledging that abortion is indeed a key issue and a grave evil. There are politicians in both parties acting scandalously on many issues, but some look the other way because of their political alignment,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

In November 2020, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. told a reporter that he would not deny pro-abortion politicians Holy Communion if they were to present themselves for the sacrament at Mass. The new bishop of Biden’s home diocese of Wilmington has not yet publicly spoken on this issue. 

Cardinal Gregory reportedly withdraws permission for Tridentine Mass at National Shrine

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington has reportedly withdrawn permission for a solemn pontifical Mass that was to be offered August 14 in D.C.

A pontifical Mass is celebrated by a bishop in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The Mass, scheduled for the vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption, was to be offered by at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Paulus Institute, a group dedicated to promoting the sacred liturgy, organized the event, which was to be broadcast by EWTN. On its Facebook page on July 27, the institute announced that permission for the Mass was rescinded by the Archbishop of Washington.

"Cardinal Wilton Gregory has withdrawn the permission he had given to Archbishop Thomas Gullickson to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn Mass on August 14," Donna Bethell of the Paulus Institute said in a statement to CNA on Tuesday. Cardinal Gregory, she said, "cited Traditionis custodes as the reason, without further specificity."

The Archdiocese of Washington did not immediately respond to a confirmation request by CNA on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Pope Francis’ July 16 apostolic letter Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the liturgy”), it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in his own diocese.

The Aug. 14 Mass at the shrine was to be celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, titular archbishop of Bomarzo and retired papal nuncio to Switzerland.

In a July 16 letter to priests, Cardinal Gregory said he would “prayerfully reflect” on the pope’s letter “in the coming weeks,” in order “to ensure we understand fully the Holy Father's intentions and consider carefully how they are realized in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

"In the interim, I hereby grant the faculty to those who celebrate the Mass using the liturgical books issued before 1970 to continue to do so this weekend and in the days to come, until further guidance is forthcoming,” he stated.

The pope’s letter further stated that if groups wish to gather for the Traditional Latin Mass in a bishop’s diocese, he is to determine that they believe in the validity of the liturgical reform of Vatican II and the Church’s Magisterium. He is further “to designate one or more locations” where attendees of the Traditional Latin Mass may gather, but that the locations must not include “parochial churches.”

Although the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located within the territorial bounds of the Archdiocese of Washington, it is not a diocesan church. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, as Washington archbishop, is ex officio chairman of the shrine’s board of directors.

This article was updated on July 27 with a statement from the Paulus Institute.

At least 12 priests in Mexico have died from COVID-19 in two months

Dominican Nuns of the St. Catherine of Siena Monastery in Mexico City / Dominican Nuns of St. Catherine of Siena/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 27, 2021 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

The most recent report from the Catholic Multimedia Center (CCM) shows that at least 12 priests and a Mexican nun have died from the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico in the last two months.

In total, five bishops, 232 priests, six men religious, nine women religious and 12 deacons have died in Mexico during the pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara has been the hardest hit, with 25 priests who have died of the disease.

In its analysis, the CCM noted the absence of "an official report of bishops who have been vaccinated" against COVID-19 in Mexico.

In addition, the organization points out the "absence of a census by diocese and archdiocese that allows a general overview of permanent deacons, priests, local ordinaries and auxiliary bishops, as well as nuns who have been vaccinated."

"This is a great void given the need to verify the guarantees that allow a safe return to the churches and also of those who are in charge of a community,” the CCM report states.

According to figures from the Mexican government, as of July 25, more than 2.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country, with more than 238,000 deaths. Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 109,000 active cases in the country.

The government classifies the intensity of the pandemic according to red, orange, yellow and green traffic signals. During the first half of July, 19 out of 32 states were classified in the less restrictive epidemiological green category; now, only three states are classified thus.

Currently, the state of Sinaloa on the central Pacific coast is in the red zone, while 13 states are in the orange zone and 15 are in the yellow zone.

According to the Mexican Ministry of Health, as of July 24, more than 23.9 million people had received full doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The government’s goal is to have over 107 million people fully vaccinated by December, out of an estimated total population of 130.2 million.

Catholic sisters dedicate lives to telling the elderly ‘You’ll never be alone’

Sr. Constance Veit, LSP / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Ahead of the inaugural World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly this past Sunday, the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor described how the order cares for the elderly as people of inherent dignity and worth.

Sister Constance Veit, the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, told EWTN News In Depth on July 23 how she and her sisters live “to assure the elderly that they'll never be alone, they'll never be abandoned.”

“First of all, we say to them, each of us says to them, ‘I will always be with you,’” she explained. “But then, we hope that our presence will be a reminder to them that God is always with them. It doesn't stop with us, but our whole hope and our whole effort is to bring the presence of Christ to them.”

Sister Constance said she rejoiced over the first annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, instituted by Pope Francis on Sunday, the feast day of Jesus’ grandparents, Saints Joachim and Anne. She explained what the day meant for the elderly and for the Little Sisters, an order that runs homes worldwide for the elderly in need. 

She defined the Little Sisters as an “international congregation” with homes for the elderly worldwide “where we welcome them into our home and they become family to us.”

“To see the elderly being honored and recognized in this way is a very deep joy for me,” Sr. Constance said during an interview with EWTN News In Depth on July 23. “It’s something I've noticed about Pope Francis's pontificate from the beginning, how often he speaks about the elderly and how often he encourages young people to connect with their elders.”

She had the opportunity to thank the pope personally in 2015, when he visited the United States.

“I rehearsed all day what I was going to say to him, and what I said to him was to thank him for the attention that he’s bringing to the elderly,” she recalled.

She said that Pope Francis’ focus on the elderly touched her in a personal way.

“By my vocation, as the Little Sister of the Poor, I've given my life to the Church and to the elderly – specifically to the elderly – because that's our sole apostolate.” 

The Little Sisters of the Poor began in France in 1839, when the order’s founder, Saint Jeanne Jugan, offered her bed to an elderly woman who was blind and lying paralyzed in the cold. Today, the order serves in 30 countries, with 27 homes in the United States.

Because the sisters care for the low-income elderly, they trust in God for financial support. While many homes in the U.S. are eligible for Medicaid and might draw from other forms of income -  such as pensions from the residents - that still “usually only covers about half of our expenses,” Sr. Constance said.

“For the rest, we have a tradition since the beginning of the congregation of going out into the community and begging for alms,” she said. Today, this is mostly accomplished through the mail or online, she said, but there are still sisters “who go out on a regular basis out into the community to markets, to businesses to ask for gifts in kind.”

These donations, she said, are “really what sustains us.”  

According to Sr. Constance, God “always seems to come through” financially. But now, the sisters are facing a new challenge: the challenge “in the area of caregivers.”

“The ongoing challenge just, I would say pre-pandemic and let's hope post-pandemic that it comes to an end, there is a certain amount of ageism in society,” Sr. Constance cautioned. 

She noticed a shortage in healthcare workers and caregivers for the elderly.

“There are real shortages in the workforce, with geriatric-trained physicians, social workers, psychologists, nurses, all the way down to the level of nursing assistants, who are the real ones who do the bulk of the hands-on care in our homes,” she said.

While it’s a complex issue, she said that caregivers are “not recompensed enough” and “there aren't incentives to go into geriatrics.”

“It's not encouraged enough for people to choose eldercare as a profession, and so, increasingly, as the elderly population is growing and growing by leaps and bounds, it's going to become more of a crisis, the lack of care of trained caregivers,” she said.

But the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly gave her hope.

“For me, I'm using it as an opportunity to raise people's awareness of the gifts that the elderly can offer,” she said. 

Pope Francis “has three key words with the elderly: dream, memory, and prayer,” Sr. Constance said, as she summarized the gifts that the elderly can contribute. 

With “dream,” she said, “I think what he means by that is that the elderly still have a vision or a dream about what they wish for life, for society, for the world” and that they should “share that with young people, to inspire young people.”

And with memory, Sr. Constance stressed that the elderly can help young people “have a sense of history and memory” or “a memory to help them appreciate where we come from, how we got to where we are, the impact of events.”

The elderly can also change the world through prayer, she said.

“That is really beautiful because even an elderly person who's living alone, who might be housebound, who might be isolated, they might not have direct contact with younger people, but they can always offer their prayers for the needs of the world,” Sr. Constance said. 

“That's what we tell our residents, particularly those who are very infirm,” she said: “they still have the opportunity to offer their sufferings and their sacrifices for the needs of the world.” 

Gold medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz inspires the Philippines with her victory and Catholic devotion

Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz proudly displays her Olympics gold medal and the Miraculous Medal, a devotional medallion depicting the Virgin Mary. / Hidilyn Diaz's Instagram Stories

Manila, Philippines, Jul 27, 2021 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

Philippine Catholic bishops congratulated the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, not only for her victory but for her show of faith and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Diaz's triumph came in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event on July 26. She also set an Olympic record after lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms.

After completing her final lift in a very close competition, Diaz held her hands to her face, burst into tears and clutched at her Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging from her neck.

“Thank you, Lord, thank you Lord,” she cried repeatedly after the winning lift.

Later on the podium at the medals ceremony, Diaz pointed heavenward after singing the Philippine national anthem, then made the Sign of the Cross before stepping down and shouting “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines!”)

Diaz’s inspirational victory and public display of her Catholic faith touched the hearts of church leaders and Filipino Catholics watching from home and quickly went viral on social media.

“We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the country’s bishops’ conference. “Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and her deep Catholic faith.”

Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila said Diaz has given inspiration to all Filipinos.

“Thank you, Hidilyn, for the tremendous honor you have bestowed on our country,” he said via Church-run Radio Veritas.

“Your success gives light, inspiration, and hope to all of us, especially in these difficult times,” he continued. “Thank you for the testimony of your strong faith in God and deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thank you for reminding us that there is no real success if it does not come from God.”

In a media interview on July 27, Diaz said her Miraculous Medal was given to her by friends before she departed for Tokyo earlier this month.

“They prayed a novena for nine days before my competition," she told reporters, adding that she prayed a novena herself and is grateful for all the support her “prayer warriors” have given her.

A novena is a popular Catholic spiritual devotion consisting of the recitation of a set form of prayer for nine consecutive days, in petition for a divine favor or in preparation for a liturgical feast or as participation in an important event such as a Year of Jubilee.

Diaz said the religious medal is “a sign of our prayers and faith in Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” adding that her faith in God is the major reason for her success. 

Diaz is the fifth of six children of a poor trike driver in a small village in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga.

In previous media interviews, the future Olympic gold medalist said that when she was a child she wanted to be a banker so that her mother would stop complaining about the lack of money.

A cousin, however, introduced the then-10-year old girl to weightlifting by training her with makeshift barbells made from plastic pipes with cast concrete weights at either end.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the bishops’ conference said Diaz’s victory showed that Filipinos can rise up to any challenge with God's help.

“[S]he has shown to us that the Filipino can. We can rise up from all challenges in life. We can surmount all obstacles," said the bishop.

Catholic priest attacked with glass bottle while praying at cathedral in Scotland

St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. / Gastao at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Edinburgh, Scotland, Jul 27, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest escaped without injury on Monday after he was attacked by a man wielding a glass bottle as he prayed at a cathedral in Scotland.

The archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh said on July 27 that the “violent and unprovoked assault” took place at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh after the man asked the victim if he was a priest.

“Yesterday morning (Monday 26 July) a priest sitting alone praying in a pew at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh was subject to a violent and unprovoked assault by a man carrying a glass bottle,” said the archdiocese.

“Just prior to the attack the man had asked him if he was a priest. When the priest replied that he was, the man attempted to hit him on the head with the bottle, before chasing him to the back of the cathedral.”

“The bottle broke on the ground and the man continued using it in his assault. The priest managed to fend him off with a chair before the attacker ran out of the cathedral. The priest escaped without injury.”

The archdiocese, which covers Scotland’s capital city and surrounding areas, urged anyone with information to contact Police Scotland.

According to Scottish media, a spokeswoman for the national police force said that officers were called at 9:35 a.m. on July 26 following a report of a 35-year-old man being assaulted.

“Officers attended and the victim did not require hospital treatment,” she said, adding that police inquiries were ongoing.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Scotland “for a very short time” in November, a spokesperson for the country’s bishops’ conference confirmed earlier this month.

The pope is likely to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, on Nov. 1-12.

Catholics are a minority in Scotland, comprising just 16% of the total population of 5.5 million people. But the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in 2019 that Catholics were “disproportionately targeted in terms of religiously aggravated offending.”

In 2018, there were four assaults on priests in Scotland, the Catholic Parliamentary Office said.

The Scottish government report “Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2017-2018” found that Catholicism was “the religion that was most often the subject of reported abuse, with 319 charges for 2017-18,” out of a total of 642 charges.

Another report, “Hate Crime in Scotland 2019-20,” said that there were 660 religiously aggravated charges recorded in 2019-20 -- 24% higher than in 2018-19.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published data in November documenting more than 500 hate crimes against Christians in Europe in 2019.

Incidents included attacks against Catholic priests, arson attacks on Catholic churches, the destruction of images of the Virgin Mary, vandalism of a pregnancy counseling center, and the theft of consecrated Eucharistic hosts from tabernacles.

In total, there were 595 incidents against Christians documented by OSCE. Of these, 459 were attacks against property, and 80 were attacks against people.

Cardinal Becciu present at first day of Vatican finance trial

Giovanni Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, pictured June 27, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Cardinal Angelo Becciu was present Tuesday on the first day of a major Vatican finance trial to defend himself of charges of embezzlement and abuse of office.

Becciu is one of 10 defendants in what is the Vatican’s largest trial for financial crimes in the modern era. The cardinal is going before the Vatican tribunal for the first time since Pope Francis changed norms in April to allow cardinals and archbishops to be tried by lay judges.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In a statement through his lawyer July 27, the cardinal said he that he was “calm” and awaited the continuation of the trial in order to prove his innocence of all the accusations against him.

“Cardinal Becciu, after today’s hearing, renews his confidence in the Tribunal, the impartial judge of the facts hypothesized only by the Promoter of Justice, as yet without any confrontation with the defense and with a view to the presumption of innocence,” the statement from lawyer Fabio Viglione said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Defendant Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and is charged with extortion and abuse of office, was also present at the seven-hour hearing on Tuesday. The remaining eight defendants were absent but represented by their lawyers.

The hearing took place in a multipurpose room of the Vatican Museums recently adapted for use by the court. The next audience was scheduled by the court for Oct. 5 after several of the defense lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Some 30 lawyers attended the hearing, with some making motions and raising complaints about procedural issues.

In this trial, the Vatican court of first instance is made up of a three-judge panel consisting of tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone, and two Italian law professors: Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

According to a Vatican judge, only Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi’s absence from the courtroom July 27 was justified, due to him being under precautionary measures in the U.K. while awaiting extradition to Italy at the request of Italian authorities.

At the center of the case on trial is the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. It was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Vatican prosecutors maintain that the deal was problematic and designed to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions of euros.

Becciu resigned as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals on Sept. 24, 2020.

The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the powerful curial department at the center of the investigation of financial malfeasance.

Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, Becciu’s former chief deputy at the Secretariat of State, was also investigated as part of the London property scandal, but is not among the defendants in this summer’s trial.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Vatican prosecutors identified Perlasca’s testimony, provided over the course of several interviews, as being important for reconstructing “some central moments” in the affair.

But at Tuesday’s hearing, a defense lawyer argued that Perlasca’s testimony from five interviews, in which he had no lawyer present, should be considered “inadmissible.”

A Vatican prosecutor argued that the depositions were legitimate because they were videotaped and “voluntary.”

Becciu said in a statement he will be suing Perlasca and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, another person questioned by investigators, “for slander for the very serious and completely false statements made during the investigations to the Promoter of Justice.”

The cardinal told journalists in the courtroom at the end of the hearing that he is “obedient to the pope who sent me to trial, I have always been obedient to the pope, he entrusted me with many missions in my life, he wanted me to come to trial and I am coming to the trial. I am calm, I feel calm in conscience, I have the confidence that the judges will be able to see the facts well and my great hope is the certainty that they recognize my innocence.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Other defendants in the finance trial include several employees of the Secretariat of State: Fabrizio Tirabassi, who oversaw investments, will be tried on charges of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office.

Mincione has been charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation, and self-money laundering.

Torzi, who was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican’s purchase of the London property in 2018, has been charged with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

His associate, the lawyer Nicola Squillace, faces the same charges minus extortion.

Enrico Crasso, who managed investments for the Vatican for over 25 years, was investigated on suspicions he was working together with Mincione and Tirabassi to defraud the Secretariat of State.

Crasso, who is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund in which the Holy See is the principal investor, faces the most charges: corruption, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, self-money laundering, fraud, abuse of office, falsifying a public document, and falsifying a private document.

The Vatican has also charged three corporations owned by Crasso with fraud.

Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, is accused of embezzlement after a Vatican investigation into reports that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in connection with Becciu, and that she had spent the money on luxury goods and vacations.

Marogna acknowledged receiving the money but insisted that the funds went to her Vatican security consultancy work and salary.

Marogna’s Slovenian-based company, Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, D.O.O., is also being brought to trial on the charge of embezzlement.

The last two defendants are René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, who previously led the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog.

Di Ruzza is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and violation of confidentiality.

Brülhart is being prosecuted for abuse of office. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

Coptic archbishop: Condemning persecution of non-Christians follows the example of Christ

Archbishop Angaelos / Courtesy photo.

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Christians around the world must speak out against all religious persecution - including against the Muslim Uyghurs, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London told CNA during a recent summit on international religious freedom.

“As Christians who live as part of persecuted communities, we understand the pain of persecution, and if we cannot accept it for ourselves, we should never accept this for anyone else,” Archbishop Angaelos of London told CNA in a July 15 interview about global religious persecution.

The archbishop, who has become a leading voice on global religious persecution, was scheduled to address the recent 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., but was unable to attend due to pandemic-related travel restrictions in the United Kingdom. He spoke on the phone with CNA about what he had planned to tell the summit. The July 13-15 event featured religious and civic leaders from around the world, as well as survivors of religious persecution.

It is “utterly reprehensible and unacceptable” that “we still many millions of people around the world deprived of their very basic right to believe or not to believe," he said, pointing to significant advances in other parts of society such as technological progress.

Last year, Angaelos signed a statement against China’s “potential genocide” of the Uyghurs, a largely-Muslim population in northwest China. More than 75 religious leaders signed the document – including two Asian cardinals, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Burma, and Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, Indonesia. The leaders called for prayer and solidarity with the Uyghurs, as well as “action to end these mass atrocities.”

Archbishop Angaelos explained his decision to join other voices in condemning China’s atrocities.

It was “Our Lord Himself Who, having seen the world’s suffering, then took flesh and came to resolve that suffering, and shared in our suffering, to raise us above that,” he said. Thus, “we too must look at the suffering of others and continue to do what we can to alleviate it.”

Christians in certain countries have suffered egregiously in recent years, the archbishop said, pointing to a “major exodus” of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as attacks on Christians in Nigeria, China, and Pakistan.

However, he emphasized, non-Christian communities have been targeted for persecution as well, such as the Uyghurs in China, the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, Baha’is in Iran, and Yezidis in Iraq.

Christians must speak out against persecution of any community, he said, not only as a matter of justice but also as a practical means of protecting all religious communities.

“Human rights violations are always a cascade,” he said. “There’s a start with one particular group, and then the group that is persecuting will move to the next, what they perceive to be a soft target, and the next, and the next.”

Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been targeted through church bombings and attacks on pilgrims in recent years - although the overall “scale” of persecution there has decreased during the recent pandemic, Archbishop Angaelos told CNA.

However, he noted, Coptic Christian women and girls have still been abducted and forcefully converted, and some Christian communities have experienced a deprivation of resources during the pandemic.

“We might be in a slightly better place, and yet, of course, we know that we have such volatile settings, it doesn’t take much to set things off and it doesn’t take much for communities to be demonized and vilified,” he said.

The Coptic Orthdox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church which rejected the Council of Chalcedon of 451. It followers were historically considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox.

Christians in the West can help the persecuted by spreading awareness of their plight, Archbishop Angaelos said.

“When things fall off the top of our newsfeeds and are no longer headlines, they are easily forgotten. And what we need to do is to keep the issues alive, even with awareness, with speaking, with keeping our eye on spots where there is violation against people,” he said.

Dutch Catholic bishop: Traditionis custodes appears to be a ‘declaration of war’

Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands. / Danny Gerrits - wikiportret.nl via Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, Jul 27, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A Dutch Catholic bishop has launched a strongly worded attack on Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting Traditional Latin Masses, saying that the document seemed to be a “declaration of war.”

In an essay posted on his blog on July 22, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts described the pope’s intervention as “dictatorial,” “unpastoral,” and “unmerciful,” and argued that it would benefit the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a breakaway traditionalist group.

The comments by the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch, in the southern Netherlands, contrast with those of other European bishops who have broadly welcomed the motu proprio, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras in France.

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which entered into force on July 16, the day it was released, said that it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The document made sweeping changes to Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which had acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 without having to seek their bishop’s permission.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is referred to variously as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

The Dutch bishop’s essay was entitled “A malicious ukase from Pope Francis.” An “ukase” was a proclamation with the force of law issued by the czar of Russia.

“Pope Francis promotes synodality: everyone should be able to have their say, everyone should be heard,” Mutsaerts wrote.

“There was little question of this in his recently published motu proprio Traditionis custodes, a ukase that should put an immediate end to the Traditional Latin Mass.”

“In doing so, Francis strikes Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s motu proprio which gave ample space to the old Mass.”

Mutsaerts, 63, suggested that the pope’s decision indicated that he was “losing authority.”

“This was already evident earlier when the German bishops’ conference took no notice of the pope’s advice regarding the synodality process,” he wrote, referring to clashes between the Vatican and German Church officials over the “Synodal Way.”

“The same occurred in the United States when Pope Francis called on the bishops’ conference not to prepare a document on receiving Holy Communion in a dignified way,” he said, alluding to the dispute over “Eucharistic coherence” within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He continued: “The pope must have thought that it would be better not to give advice, but an injunction, now that we are talking about the traditional Mass.”

“The language used looks very much like a declaration of war.”

Mutsaerts, who was named a bishop by Benedict XVI in 2010, confirmed his authorship of the blog post in a July 26 email to CNA.

Asked if he was concerned about the Vatican’s response to his essay, he told CNA: “No, I am not concerned. I don’t think Rome worries about the opinion of an unknown auxiliary bishop in this tiny country. They have other matters to worry about.”

He added that he had never celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass himself.

“And I am not old enough to know it from my youth, so my comments have nothing to do with nostalgia or anything of that kind,” he said.

Mutsaerts has published outspoken posts on his blog, “Paarse Pepers” (Purple Peppers), since 2019. Previous posts have included sharp criticism of the Amazon synod, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, and “cancel culture.”

The number of Catholics in the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people bordering Germany and Belgium, has fallen sharply in recent decades. But Catholics remain the nation’s biggest religious group.

The diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch has the largest number of Catholics of any diocese in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Catholic blog In Caelo et in Terra.

In his essay, the bishop argued that Pope Francis took a radically different approach to the Traditional Latin Mass to his predecessors.

“Pope Francis slams the door hard by means of Traditionis custodes. It feels like treason and is a slap in the face of his predecessors,” he wrote.

Mutsaerts argued that Sacrosanctum concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was a “conservative document” that did not sanction many liturgical changes that followed.

“Only 17% of the prayers of the old missal (Trent) are found in the new missal (Paul VI). It is then difficult to speak of continuity of an organic development,” he wrote.

He continued: “Pope Francis is now pretending that his motu proprio stands in the organic development of the Church, which utterly contradicts reality. By making the Latin Mass practically impossible, he is finally breaking with the centuries-old liturgical tradition of the R.C. Church. Liturgy is not a toy of popes, but is the heritage of the Church.”

He argued that the small number of places where the Traditional Latin Masses are celebrated attract large, devout families.

He said: “Why does the pope want to deny people this? I come back to what I said earlier: it is ideology. It is Vatican II, including its implementation with all its aberrations, or nothing!”

“The relatively small number of believers (which is growing, by the way, as the Novus Ordo collapses) who feel at home with the traditional Mass must and will be eradicated. That is ideology and evil.”

He said that if the goal was to evangelize, then Tridentine Masses should be maintained.

He wrote: “From this day on, the Old Mass may not be celebrated in parish churches (where then?), you need explicit permission from your bishop, who may only allow it on certain days, and for those who will be ordained in the future and want to celebrate the Old Mass, the bishop needs permission from Rome. How dictatorial, how unpastoral, how unmerciful do you want it to be!”

Cardinal Marx won’t rule out offering resignation for a 2nd time

Cardinal Reinhard Marx. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Munich, Germany, Jul 27, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said that he cannot rule out asking Pope Francis to accept his resignation for a second time.

The Catholic archbishop of Munich and Freising discussed the possibility of a second resignation offer in a letter issued on July 23 and read out in churches in the archdiocese at the weekend, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I do not understand my service as a bishop as an office that belongs to me and that I have to defend, but as a mission for the people of this archdiocese and as a service to the unity of the Church,” he wrote.

“Should I no longer be able to fulfill this ministry, then it would be time -- after consultation with the diocesan bodies and also the abuse appraisal commission and the affected persons’ advisory board -- to decide for the good of the Church and offer my resignation from office once again.”

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

In the letter to his flock, Marx said that he was surprised by the pope’s decision but fully accepted it.

“After Pope Francis’ letter of response, I am renewing my yes to my ministry as archbishop of Munich and Freising. Together with my staff and diocesan bodies, I will reflect on what it means not to simply go back to business as usual, as previously stated in my declaration,” he wrote.

The cardinal, who was appointed archbishop in 2007 by Benedict XVI, said that he remained in shock over the depth of the abuse crisis.

“Since 2010, however, the shock that this terrible thing was perpetrated by officials and employees of the Church, and that we bishops may not always have seen or wanted to see that intensively enough, has not gone away for me,” he wrote, referring to the year that the sex abuse scandal broke in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

He continued: “My decision to resign from office, which I made after careful consideration, was intended as a sign that I have to take responsibility for all this personally and as an official, including also for what happened in the past, because as a bishop I represent the Church.”

In April, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin on April 30.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

It also noted that in the next few months the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl is expected to release a study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, including during Marx’s time as archbishop.

Concluding his message to his archdiocese, Marx wrote: “But now, with great readiness, I say again a new yes to my mission here in our archdiocese and ask you for your prayers and your trust.”

“I am convinced: We need reform and renewal in and for the Church, but we also need a sense of the unity of the people of God, which becomes visible in diversity. Let us walk this path together in our archdiocese.”

“As your archbishop, I am undertaking this journey with you and would like to continue to make my contribution so that we can master the great challenges that lie ahead. With God’s help, we can succeed.”