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Cardinal Becciu at center of Vatican financial investigation

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 09:51 am (CNA).- The recent raid of Vatican offices is connected to an investigation into charges that Vatican money financed the development of luxury properties in London, and led to a windfall for the Vatican’s investment managers, according to an Oct. 14 report from Financial Times.

According to Financial Times, Vatican police and prosecutors are investigating the possibility of improprieties in a 2014 $200 million investment made through Athena Capital, a Luxembourg investment fund, which financed a stake the development of luxury apartment project in London. That investment, along with a nearly $50 million 2018 investment in the same property, has raised questions about the internal control of Vatican money held in international banks and investment vehicles, especially after repeated efforts to bring financial practices in line with international practices and standards.

The Financial Times reported that the Vatican’s 2014 and 2018 investments were authorized by Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, who was from 2011 until 2018 the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and was in 2018 appointed to head the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper. Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.

When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.

In 2017, Becciu was also responsible for the dismissal of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone.

Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by Becciu, who accused the auditor of “spying” on the finances of senior officials, including Becciu. The then-Archbishop Becciu threatened criminal prosecution of Milone if he did not agree to leave his Vatican office quietly.

Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were perceived as a threat to the autonomy and business practices of long-time Curial officials. He said that he was dismissed on trumped-up charges after he uncovered evidence of financial misconduct under Becciu’s leadership.

In May 2018, the Vatican quietly announced it had dropped all charges against Milone.

Also in 2017, Becciu was involved in a complicated chain of events with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta that ended with the Grand Master of the Order being deposed, and Becciu being installed as special papal envoy charged with running the order.

At the center of that controversy were allegations that Vatican financial authorities had siphoned off more than 30 million euros from a 120 million euro bequest held in a Swiss bank account, in order to easy liquidity problems.

On Oct 1, 2019, Vatican prosecutors authorized a raid within the Secretariat of State’s offices. Documents and devices were seized, though the Vatican did not indicate what exactly had prompted the investigation.

The next day, a confidential memo was leaked announcing the suspension of five Vatican employees, including two officials: Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

On Oct. 14, the Vatican announced that Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican City State’s national police force had resigned, apparently because the leak of the confidential memo took place under his command. The Vatican press office said that Giani “bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of events.”

Vatican officials have not yet commented on the Financial Times’ report.

Experts offer advice to help people confront anxiety over gun violence

IMAGE: CNS photo/Briana Sanche pool via Reuters

By Patricia Montana

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Firearm attacks have changed society in the United States as mass shootings have become more frequent and the public is forced to face the psychological consequences, often silently.

More than half of American adults consider mass shootings a latent threat, a Reuters/Ipsos survey in August discovered. Many respondents reported experiencing a sense of insecurity with increased levels of anxiety.

"This situation puts you on alert because you never know when or where the next massacre will happen. There is an imitation effect and it is happening very frequently," one respondent said.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said recent mass shootings reveal a terrible truth.

"We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception," they said in a statement after a pair of early August attacks in Texas and Ohio. "They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face."

Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive website show that as of Oct. 10 in the United States there have been 326 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured. The shootings accounted for 363 deaths and 1,329 wounded, leaving countless families mired in pain.

After a white supremacist shooter in El Paso, Texas, sought to "kill as many Mexicans as possible" Aug. 3, fear is especially strong among Hispanic families. Mental health hangs in the balance, experts said.

"I feel that the focus of the attacks and racism is directly against us," said Edith Castillo, executive director of the Catholic Charities program El Programa Hispano in Gresham, Oregon.

Castillo, a mental health counselor, does not mince words in blaming President Donald Trump's rhetoric and federal immigration policy for some of the violence, especially against Latino people.

It's not a stretch to say that terms such as "invaders" can spark criminal actions against Hispanics, Castillo said.

"Many people have been fleeing places with a lot of violence in search of a place that gives them peace and quiet, but people are afraid of the current situation," said Elsa Tzintzun, a mental health counselor at El Programa Hispano. "This causes immigrants to feel isolated and marginalized."

Even those who were not present during an attack are affected by news reports, she said, explaining that trauma becomes an invisible and silent companion.

In 2014, after a shooting at Reynolds High School in suburban Portland, which left two students dead and a teacher wounded, El Programa Hispano offered psychological support. It was then that staff began to wonder how young people were affected by such incidents.

Tzintzun explained that after violent events it is normal for people to feel anxious and afraid; children may begin to behave differently and the changes can dampen their performance in school. The counselor listed irritability, nightmares, insomnia, tremors, sadness, apathy and lack of concentration as symptoms of fear.

Post-trauma symptoms do not necessarily mean people will develop a chronic problem, she said.

In Hispanic culture, many people think psychologists serve only those with severe mental illness or the rich, Tzintzun said. Mental health professionals who speak Spanish are also difficult to find, she said.

The professionals at El Programa Hispano offered several strategies to help manage stress and anxiety caused by violent events:

-- Physical and emotional care by eating well and on time, exercising and adequate and restful sleep.

-- Take time to pray or meditate together as a family and strengthen religious traditions.

-- Create support groups with family and friends or with community or church groups.

-- Have an action plan to increase the feeling of security, organize personal documents, have a power of attorney for your children and designate a trusted person to take charge if necessary.

-- Strengthen cultural identity by embracing one's origin, customs, traditions and values.

-- Seek counseling assistance from mental health professionals.

Tzintzun also offered suggestions on how parents can help their children:

-- Dialogue is essential, so devote time to talk -- such as during a daily meal -- to allow family members to share concerns, ask questions and discuss emotions.

-- Reaffirm safety by allowing children and young people to express their fears and concerns and help them to feel well and safe; a good way to combat fear is by providing information and cautioning children against becoming consumers of political rhetoric.

-- Limit television, internet and cellphone time in order to reduce exposure to violence and death, which can cause anxiety and distress.

-- Observe changes in behavior: Tell children that after events such as shootings it is normal to feel different; let them know that such feelings can cause misunderstandings or create tensions among family or friends. Establish guidelines that help promote respect and tolerance in the family.

-- Strengthen training in values because continuing a faith tradition can help in mental health crises.

"I think that the family is the first school of life and if a child has a solid formation in faith and values, that helps them develop a stable base for managing their emotions and facing life," Castillo said.

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Montana is editor of El Centinela, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Vatican security chief resigns following leak of internal document

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press.

The Vatican announced Oct. 14 that the pope accepted the resignation of the 57-year-old Vatican police chief who, although "bears no personal responsibility" for the leak, "tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the church and faithfulness to Peter's successor."

The pope accepted Giani's resignation, and in a conversation with him, "expressed his appreciation to the commander for his gesture."

"Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani's 20 years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father," the Vatican said.

Giani's resignation comes two weeks after L'Espresso, an Italian magazine, published what it said was an internal Vatican police notice about the "cautionary suspension" of five individuals after a raid Oct. 1 on offices in the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority.

The suspension order, which was signed by Giani, featured photos of one woman and four men, including Msgr. Mauro Carlino, head of information and documentation at the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Financial Intelligence Authority.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, had confirmed Oct. 12 that the pope ordered an investigation into the "illicit distribution of a document for internal use by the security forces of the Holy See."

The seriousness of the leak, "in the words of Pope Francis, is comparable to a mortal sin since it is detrimental to the dignity of people and to the principle of the presumption of innocence," Bruni told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

In an interview released by the Vatican shortly after the announcement, Giani said the leak caused the pope "serious pain" and that as commander, "I, too, was ashamed of what had happened and of the suffering caused to these people."

"For this reason, having always said and witnessed that I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend that of the pope, with the same spirit I decided to relinquish my duty so as not to damage the image and activity of the Holy Father in any way," he said.

Giani said that in the fallout over the leak, the pope continued to show him the paternal concern, which has "marked the special relationship that I have had with him since the beginning of his pontificate." He also said the pope took into consideration "personal difficulties" he had been facing, particularly his "desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children."

A former officer in the Italian intelligence service, Giani began his Vatican career in 1999 during St. John Paul II's papacy, serving as deputy police chief under his predecessor, Camillo Cibin.

In 2006, he was appointed as Inspector General of the Vatican Gendarme Corps and had been a constant presence as personal bodyguard to Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis at the Vatican and during papal trips abroad.

Reflecting on his career protecting the lives of three popes, Giani said that despite "the moment of personal uncertainty I am living through," divine providence will "show the way, which is certainly the path of the Lord," and described his 20 years of service as "an honor."

"If I close my eyes, I see endless scenes of the almost 70 international apostolic trips that I have followed, of countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and of so many private moments with the three pontiffs," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his testimony of the loyalty, honor and fidelity with which I have done my service helps me to face the future and the new tasks that I may take on, within the scope of my skills, with serenity after this extraordinary experience," Giani said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Vatican City security head resigns after confidential memo was leaked

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The head of the Vatican City State’s national police force has resigned, after a confidential internal memo was leaked to the press that announced the suspension of some Vatican officials and employees and restricted their access to the Vatican.

The suspended officials were connected to an Oct. 1 raid of some Vatican offices, part an unspecified investigation overseen by a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in the Vatican City court system.

The Vatican press office said that Domenico Giani, Commander of the Vatican’s Gendarmerie, was not personally responsible for the leak.

“In order to assure the proper serenity to the ongoing investigation, coordinated by the Promoter of Justice and carried out by the Gendarmerie, since the perpetrator of the external circulation of the order - reserved to the staff of the Gendarmerie and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard - remains unknown, and although the Commander bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of the events, Domenico Giani has tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the Church and faithfulness to Peter’s Successor,” an Oct. 14 announcement from the Vatican press office said.

The memo’s leak was “prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the Gendarmerie,” the announcement added.

Giani was Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and had been a part of the Vatican’s security and police force for more than 20 years. The memo, issued Oct 2, was signed by Giani and published by L’Espresso.

The memo was issued after the Oct. 1 raid of offices within the offices of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Among the suspended employees is Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

Two other men and one woman were also listed as suspended in the memo. During the raid, documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works - commonly called the Vatican Bank - and the Office of the Auditor General, concerning a series of financial transactions "carried out over time," an Oct. 1 Vatican statement said.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

Pope Francis approved new governing documents for the Vatican Bank last summer, transitioning the bank from its practice of using internal auditors to the use of an external auditor to review the bank’s finances and transactions. The bank has a long history of complex financial transactions, has faced scandals, and been criticized for a lack of financial transparency.

The pope has made reforms at the Vatican Bank a priority of his pontificate.

The Oct. 14 statement said that Pope Francis spoke “at length” with Giani when the official presented his resignation, and “expressed his appreciation to the Commander for his gesture, an expression of freedom and institutional sensitivity, which honours Commander Giani and the work he has carried out with humility and discretion in the service of the Petrine Ministry and the Holy See.”

The press office said that Giani had brought “undisputed professionalism” to the Vatican Gendarmerie, a police and security force of more than 100 officers, which Giani led since 2006.

The Vatican Gendarmerie collaborates with the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which is responsible for the personal protection of Pope Francis. The Gendarmerie oversee general security operations in the Vatican City State, along with criminal investigations and counterterrorism operations. 

Details about the nature of the investigation at the Secretariat of State have not yet been forthcoming.

 

Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for 'Saints' goes viral

IMAGE: CNS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church's newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints' football team.

After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope's official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: "Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession."

However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints' fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team's game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon," a Twitter user said, sharing the pope's tweet. "Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas."

"Time to put 10k on the #Saints," another Twitter user wrote.

Other fans were elated that Christ's vicar on earth was in their corner. "Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it," another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team's "Who Dat" chant.

However, people rooting for other football teams couldn't hide their dismay. "We lost the pope!" a Twitter user tweeted to the New England Patriots.

But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints' own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars.

"Couldn't lose after this," the Saints' account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. "#Blessed and highly favored."

A Vatican official confirmed Oct. 14 that use of the hashtag to trigger the "hashflag" -- the fleur-de-lis -- was a case of "accidental evangelization," but hoped that "maybe someone who didn't know will become aware that there are other 'saints' to pay attention to."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Struggling with the Rosary? Try these five simple tips!

Although the Rosary is an extremely popular prayer, many individuals struggle with it. Even those devoted to Mary sometimes find it to be a challenging and frustrating devotion. Is it possible to overcome the dryness and distractions often associated with the Rosary, or is it best to accept the fact that it isn’t for everybody? […]

The post Struggling with the Rosary? Try these five simple tips! appeared first on Catholic Digest.

Copy Desk Daily, Oct. 14, 2019

NCR Today: The Copy Desk Daily highlights recommended news and opinion articles that have crossed the copy editors' desks on their way to you.

We are all toiling in the shadow of St. John Henry Newman

Distinctly Catholic: How large is Newman in the landscape of Catholicism? The return to the sources in mid-20th-century theology could have happened in any one of a dozen different ways, but one of the principal ways that it did occur was through his pen.

Nigerian, other African bishops stand against xenophobia in South Africa

Violent riots have targeted stores owned by foreigners in South Africa. "It is xenophobia, plain and simple," said the Johannesburg archbishop, one of numerous Catholic leaders to condemn the attacks.

St. Callistus I

Pope Callistus I is celebrated in churches throughout the world as a saint and martyr on October 14. The saint caused a major controversy, including a schism that lasted almost two decades, by choosing to emphasize God's mercy in his ministry. However, the early Pope's model of leadership has endured, and his martyrdom in the year 222 confirmed his example of holiness. Because no completely trustworthy biography of Pope Callistus I exists, historians have been forced to rely on an account by his contemporary Hippolytus of Rome. Although Hippolytus himself was eventually reconciled to the Church and canonized as a martyr, he vocally opposed the pontificate of Callistus and three of his successors, to the point of usurping papal prerogatives for himself (as the first “antipope�). Nevertheless, his account of Callistus' life and papacy provides important details. According to Hippolytus' account, Callistus – whose year of birth is not known - began his career as a highly-placed domestic servant, eventually taking responsibility for his master's banking business. When the bank failed, Callistus received the blame, and attempted to flee from his master. Being discovered, he was demoted to serve as a manual laborer in Rome. Thus, under inauspicious circumstances, Callistus came as a slave to the city where he would later serve as Pope. Matters went from bad to worse when he was sent to work in the mines, possibly for causing a public disturbance, if Hippolytus' account is to be trusted. However, Callistus may also simply have been sentenced due to a persecution of Christians, as he was among the many believers eventually freed on the initiative of Pope St. Victor I. During the subsequent reign of Pope Zephyrinus, Callistus became a deacon and the caretaker of a major Roman Christian cemetery (which still bears his name as the “Cemetery of St. Callistus�), in addition to advising the Pope on theological controversies of the day. He was a natural candidate to follow Zephyrinus, when the latter died in 219. Hippolytus, an erudite Roman theologian, accused Pope Callistus of sympathizing with heretics, and resented the new Pope's clarification that even the most serious sins could be absolved after sincere confession. The Pope's assertion of divine mercy also scandalized the North African Christian polemicist Tertullian, already in schism from the Church in Carthage, who also erroneously held that certain sins were too serious to be forgiven through confession. Considered in light of this error, Hippolytus' catalogue of sins allegedly “permitted� by Callistus – including extramarital sex and early forms of contraception - may in fact represent offenses which the Pope never allowed, but which he was willing to absolve in the case of penitents seeking reconciliation with the Church. Even so, Callistus could not persuade Hippolytus' followers of his rightful authority as Pope during his own lifetime. The Catholic Church, however, has always acknowledged the orthodoxy and holiness of Pope St. Callistus I, particularly since the time of his martyrdom – traditionally ascribed to an anti-Christian mob - in 222.  St. Callistus' own intercession after death may also have made possible the historic reconciliation between his opponent Hippolytus, and the later Pope Pontian. The Pope and former antipope were martyred together in 236, and both subsequently canonized.