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Archbishop Cordileone: New COVID church closures violate right to worship

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2020 / 09:07 pm (CNA).- As surging COVID-19 cases lead to new restrictions in the San Francisco area, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said the treatment of churches is discriminatory and violates the right to worship.

“[W]orship is both a natural and a Constitutional right. My people want to receive the Body and Blood of Christ; they need it, and have every right to be free to do so,” the archbishop said in a November 28 statement.

He criticized a new health order from the state of California placing San Francisco and San Mateo Counties into a more restrictive tier of coronavirus restrictions, resulting in a ban on indoor worship services.

The health order treats religious worship as a “non-essential” activity, while allowing hair and nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors to remain open, Cordileone noted.

“This is precisely the kind of blatant discrimination to which the Supreme Court gave injunctive relief in New York,” he said, referencing a decision Wednesday which blocked New York from similarly closing houses of worship while allowing secular retail venues to remain open.

Cordileone criticized the government for “demoting worship” by designating it as “non-essential.” He stressed that the archdiocese has been meticulous about following regulations regarding masks, social distancing, ventilation and sanitation measures. He said indoor worship services have not resulted in any known cases of COVID-19 transmission in San Francisco.

“But the government still chooses to treat worship as less important than shopping for shoes,” he continued.

The archbishop recognized concerns over rising COVID hospitalizations, and said he is discerning the proper course of action, with advice from his fellow bishops, archdiocesan lawyers, and infectious disease specialists.

Cordileone has been an outspoken critic of San Francisco’s restrictions on religious worship, which he described as “an insult” and “mocking God.” In September, he led Eucharistic processions outside city hall, with banners reading, “Free the Mass!” A petition calling for the lifting of Mass restrictions has drawn more than 40,000 signatures.

Until Sept. 14, public worship in San Francisco was restricted to 12 participants outdoors, with indoor services prohibited. Restrictions were gradually loosened, allowing 50 people at outdoor worship services. However, only one person at a time was allowed inside a house of worship, regardless of the building’s size.

On Sept. 25, the U.S. Department of Justice warned San Francisco officials that the city’s restrictions on public worship may be unconstitutional. The DOJ noted that other venues where people share enclosed spaces - such as gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares - were being allowed to operate at 10-50% capacity, provided that sanitary measures and 6-foot distancing were followed.

Days later, the office of San Francisco's mayor announced that places of worship would be permitted to hold services indoors at 25% capacity, up to 100 people. The change was attributed to a decline in COVID-19 cases.

Cordileone thanked the mayor for the changes at the time, but said further changes were needed.

“California’s limit of no more than 100 people inside of a house of worship regardless of the size of the building is still unjust,” he said in late September. “We want and we intend to worship God safely: with masks, social distancing, sanitation, ventilation, and other such safety protocols. But we will not accept believers being treated more severely than other, comparable secular activities.”

California’s church service limits earlier this year were challenged by a Pentecostal church, which argued houses of worship were being unfairly treated more strictly than other secular venues, including restaurants, hair salons, and retail stores.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state of California. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the court lacks the expertise and authority to second guess the decisions of elected officials in the context of public health decisions during a pandemic.

In advocating for a safe reopening of indoor Masses, Cordileone has cited an article on Mass attendance and COVID-19, authored Aug. 19 by doctors Thomas McGovern, Deacon Timothy Flanigan, and Paul Cieslak for Real Clear Science.

They said in their article that there is no evidence that church services are higher risk than similar activities when guidelines are followed, and no coronavirus outbreaks have been linked to the celebration of the Mass, despite more than 1 million Masses being celebrated across the United States since the lifting of shelter-in-place orders.

Even while protesting the city’s apparent unequal application of health restrictions, the archbishop has encouraged his priests to lead their parishes in following the city’s guidelines.

“Do not show a lack of compassion for people who are afraid of catching a disease that is quite deadly to many people with comorbidities and the elderly, which we Catholics should particularly respect and protect,” he stressed earlier this year.

Advent at Home: How Catholics are preparing for a season of joy - even in 2020 

Denver Newsroom, Nov 28, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- Wry jokes and memes about the decided awfulness of the year 2020 - with the pandemic, ensuing lockdowns and economic distress, as well as civil unrest in a turbulent election year - are well known to just about anyone on social media.

Now, Christians find themselves entering into Advent, a season that is supposed to be one of joyful preparation for the celebration of Christmas, as well as preparation for the eventual Second Coming of Christ.

Much like Easter 2020, which landed almost exactly one month after the country shut down in March, this Advent and Christmas season will likely look quite different than normal. With coronavirus cases resurging in many parts of the country, access to the sacraments and Mass may be restricted or blocked, and family plans and other seasonal events canceled.

CNA talked to several Catholics about how to still enter into this Advent season, and live it well, from home.

“What I love most is that Advent is designed to shake us; to wake us up to the extraordinariness of the ordinary,” Fr. Ryan Kaup, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. “God became man, but then the next day, Mary had to change diapers and shortly after flee for their lives.”

Kaup said his favorite book for the Advent season is “Advent of the Heart”, a collection of reflections written by Fr. Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and eventually killed for his work with the resistance.

The reflections, written by someone experiencing intense suffering, can prompt Catholics today to think about how God may be trying to shake them during these unprecedented times, Kaup noted.

“One of my favorite quotes from Advent of the Heart is: ‘Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken...So now, God lets the earth resound, and now He shudders it, and then He shakes it, not to call forth a false anxiety…he does it to teach us one thing again: how to be moved in spirit. Much of what is happening today would not be happening if people were in that state of inner movement and restlessness of heart in which man comes into the presence of God the Lord and gains a clear view of things as they really are.’”

Kaup said this quote can be a good starting point of reflection for Catholic families and individuals for Advent.

“Where is God shaking me in my life? Where is He calling my family to refocus on the profound simplicity of the ordinary?” he said.

The Gospel reading on the Sunday before the start of Advent this year is about the corporal works of mercy, Kaup added, which can be a different way to use the tradition of the Advent calendar, by “thinking of one corporal work of mercy that you can perform each day, as an individual or as a family.”

The Sunday before Advent is also celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King, Kaup noted, which invites Catholics to see that “as the things we have placed our hope and security in, these goods that can become idols in our lives, fall by the wayside, we recognize that the only sure foundation in our lives is Jesus Christ. His Kingdom of power, love and peace is where we can live at all times - recognizing that living in his kingdom means we are free from the greatest evil, sin itself.”

“I don’t pretend to completely know the mind of God, but maybe, in part, that’s what He’s telling us: you may be suffering from many things, but you can be free from the power of sin through the incarnation. Do we recognize the greatness of that gift?” he said.

Sr. Katherine Marie Chiara McCloskey, HMSS, said she has been meditating on the image of the Holy Family as Advent approaches.

“With all the uncertainty and the craziness in the world right now, I think a lot of us need comfort and nurturing right now,” she said. “And so you can go to Mary and Joseph and let them be mom and dad to you...if I'm having a day where I'm just really not okay, I’m going to let Mary and Joseph take care of me.”

While Advent and Christmas are joyful liturgical seasons, she added, that doesn’t mean that Catholics should ignore any suffering they are experiencing.

“You have to feel your feelings. The worst thing you can do is suppress them. Jesus wants authenticity, he wants to know how you're really doing. I think about the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem - that wasn't easy. God really wants us to tell him how we're really doing,” she said.

McCloskey said that it is also important to have a place prepared for prayer, especially if Masses are restricted or canceled.

“Create a place (for prayer) wherever you're living, whether it's a house or apartment...or for some people like myself, I like to be outside,” she said.

Sr. Kathryne of the Holy Trinity Lopez, HMSS, said that she would encourage Catholics to select one priest or ministry that speaks to them and follow their Advent homilies or reflections.

“I recommend only choosing one to avoid information overload,” she said.

Lopez added that Advent during a pandemic can help Catholics evaluate what they are really waiting for.

“St. Bernard of Clairvaux talks about this third coming of Christ - his coming into our daily lives. And so I really want to challenge us to have a deeper Advent season,” she said. “What are we waiting for? Are we just waiting to get out of quarantine, waiting to just be ‘free again,’ to go back to what we knew, or are we waiting for (Christ) to come, are we preparing for him?”

On their website this year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has compiled numerous resources that Catholics can use for Advent at home, including prayers, saint biographies, and activities, as well as social media posts and bulletin inserts for parishes.

Allison Rubio, the marketing and content coordinator for the USCCB, said she and her team hoped that the resources would be a source of hope and connection for people during this pandemic Advent season.

“We've been thinking a lot about Easter, which was very different. So with this pandemic continuing into the Advent season, how do we ensure that the faithful are still being reached? And how do we help parishes who have maybe cut down on staff or are working remotely and they don't have that collaboration that they're used to?” she said.

The resources include more traditional things, like an Advent calendar and a blessing for the family Nativity scene. It also includes ideas for new traditions, like creating a Gift of Hope Tree, in which a family thinks about what kinds of gifts Jesus’ family may have needed, as a poor family with a new baby. Those gifts are then placed on the tree, and then donated to Catholic Relief Services for families in need.

“I hope that people find them very useful and that they can bring some sense of community to their Advent season this year,” Rubio said.

Dr. Jared Staudt serves as the director of formation for the Archdiocese of Denver’s offices of evangelization and Catholic Schools, and is a husband and father of six children. Staudt told CNA there are many ways that Catholics can prepare at home for the coming of Christ.

“Advent is a time to trace the story of salvation history so that the coming of Jesus makes sense as the culmination of a long preparation,” he said.

One way to learn more about salvation history is by creating a Jesse Tree, which traces the coming of Jesus through the old testament, he said, and children can help make the ornaments for the tree in order to engage their imaginations. Reading the book of the Prophet Isaiah can also be a helpful way to see the different ways Jesus’ coming was prophesied, he added.

Sacrifices can also be offered during Advent, as it is also a penitential season, Staud noted.

There are also several feast days throughout the season that Catholics can celebrate, Staudt said, including the Immaculate Conception and feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“On December 13, we celebrate a saint of light, St. Lucy. It’s a day of candles and crowns, wearing white and red for her purity and martyrdom, and for special food, such as St. Lucy buns. Advent is also a time to reclaim Santa Claus, who arose from the traditions surrounding the gift-giving St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6. He is the patron saint of children for providing a dowry for three destitute young girls, dropping gold down their chimney. Traditionally boys would dress up like bishops and there’d be a procession of the saint (laying the foundation for today’s parades). Putting out their shoes for a gift from their patron saint will brighten up Advent for our kids,” he said.

He added that while it’s tempting to start listening to Christmas music, there are many Advent hymns and carols that can help prepare Catholics for Christmas.

“In England, it’s traditional to have lessons and carols, and it’s also popular to listen to Handel’s Messiah (as the first of its three parts focuses on the coming of Christ). There are a lot of great Advent albums, but I would recommend Advent at Ephesus from the Benedictines of Mary Queen of the Apostles,” he said.

Fr. Edward Looney, a priest in Door County, Wisconsin, told CNA that he would encourage Catholics to take advantage of the ways social media can connect them to Advent resources they may not have had access to otherwise, such as online talks and retreats.

Looney said he recommended an online advent pilgrimage with Parousia Media in Australia, as well as an online three-day Marian retreat starting on Sunday, Nov. 29, with Father Joel Laramie from the World Apostleship of Prayer. The retreat is being recorded and will be available all Advent. For reading, Looney recommended Oriens: A Pilgrimage through Advent and Christmas by Fr. Joel Sember.

Looney added that Catholics who are feeling discouraged by this year can meditate on the message of Advent which is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

“Whatever it is that we’re going through during this Advent season, we want to prepare for Christmas. We don't want to ignore it because then, what spiritual benefit is that to us, if we just ignore it? So we want to engage the season, and it's a unique year unto itself,” he said.

“God is with us, so we can't forget that. We can't forget that God is with us right now in this moment and He hasn't abandoned us. That He's with us in our suffering, He's with us in our pain and everything. And if that means right now, I'm lonely, I'm sad, I'm angry - whatever it is, acknowledge that God is with you right now.”

 

Pope Francis to new cardinals: May the cross and resurrection always be your goal

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals Saturday, urging them to remain vigilant lest they lose sight of their goal of the cross and resurrection.

“All of us love Jesus, all of us want to follow him, yet we must always be vigilant to remain on the road,” Pope Francis said at the consistory Nov. 28.

“Jerusalem always lies ahead of us. The cross and the resurrection are … always the goal of our journey,” he said in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the seventh consistory of his pontificate, Pope Francis created cardinals from Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Among them is Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, who became the first African American cardinal in the Church’s history. He received the titular church of St. Mary Immaculate in Grottarossa.



Archbishop Celestino Aós Braco of Santiago, Chile; Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy; and Fra Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi also joined the College of Cardinals.

Pope Francis placed a red hat on each cardinal’s head and said: “To the glory of almighty God and the honor of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of the Holy Roman Church.”

Each of the newly elevated cardinals received a ring, and was assigned a titular church, tying them to the Diocese of Rome.



In his homily, the pope warned the new cardinals of the temptation to follow a different road than the road to Calvary.

“The road of those who, perhaps even without  realizing it, ‘use’ the Lord for their own advancement,” he said. “Those who – as Saint Paul says – look to  their own interests and not those of Christ.”

“The scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ‘eminence,’” Francis said, warning them of the “many kinds of corruption in the priestly life.”

Pope Francis encouraged the cardinals to reread St. Augustine’s sermon number 46, calling it a “magnificent sermon on shepherds.”

“Only the Lord, through his cross and resurrection, can save his straying friends who risk getting lost,” he said.



Nine of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and thereby eligible to vote in a future conclave. Among them are Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, who became secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in September, and the Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who was named prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in October.

The cardinals who participated in the consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica all wore face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two cardinal-designates were unable to attend the consistory because of travel restrictions. Cardinal-designate Cornelius Sim, the Apostolic Vicar of Brunei, and Cardinal-designate Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, in the Philippines followed the consistory via video link and will each receive a biretta, cardinal’s ring and title connected with a Roman parish from their apostolic nuncio “at another time to be determined.”



Italian Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, received a red hat in St. Peter’s Basilica while wearing his Franciscan habit. Cantalamessa, who has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, told CNA Nov. 19 that Pope Francis had permitted him to become a cardinal without being ordained a bishop. Aged 86, he will not be eligible to vote in a future conclave.



Three others who received the red hats are unable to vote in conclaves: Emeritus Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico; Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer Emeritus to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva; and Msgr. Enrico Feroci, parish priest of Santa Maria del Divino Amore at Castel di Leva, Rome.

Pope Francis and the 11 new cardinals present in Rome paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery following the consistory. Each new cardinal was introduced to the pope emeritus, who gave them a blessing after together singing the Salve Regina, according to the Holy See Press Office.



With this consistory, the number of voting cardinals comes to 128, and the number of non-voters to 101 for a total of 229 cardinals.

The woman who lived for 60 years on the Eucharist alone

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2020 / 03:48 am (CNA).- Servant of God Floripes de Jesús, better known as Lola, was a Brazilian laywoman who lived on the Eucharist alone for 60 years.

Lola was born in 1913 in Minas Gerais state, Brazil.

At the age of 16, she fell out of a tree. The accident changed her life. She was left paraplegic and “her body changed - she no longer felt hungry, thirsty or sleepy. No remedy was effective,” said Brazilian priest Gabriel Vila Verde, who recently shared Lola’s story on social media.

Lola began to nourish herself with just one consecrated Host a day. She lived that way for 60 years, Vila Verde said. In addition, “for a long time, she remained in a bed without a mattress, as a form of penance.”

Faith in the laywoman’s sanctity grew, and thousands of pilgrims came to see her at her home, the priest continued. In fact, “a visitors’ signature book from the 1950s recorded that 32,980 people visited her in just one month.”

Vila Verde said Lola would give the same request to all who came to see her: Go to Confession, receive Communion, and complete the First Friday devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

When Archbishop Helvécio Gomes de Oliveira of Mariana asked Lola to stop receiving visitors and to “live a life of silence and privacy,” she obeyed.

“The bishop allowed the Blessed Sacrament to be exposed in Lola’s room, where Masses were also held once a week. Daily Communion was provided by lay ministers,” Vila Verde said.

The priest stressed that Lola dedicated her life to praying for priests and spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was known for saying, “Whoever wants to look for me, finds me in the Heart of Jesus.”

Lola passed away in April 1999. Her funeral was attended by 22 priests and some 12,000 faithful. She was declared a Servant of God by the Holy See in 2005.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

French bishops launch second legal appeal to reinstate public Masses for all

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The French bishops’ conference announced Friday that it would submit another appeal to the Council of State, calling a proposed 30-person limit on public Masses during Advent “unacceptable.”

In a statement issued Nov. 27, the bishops said that they “have a duty to ensure the freedom of worship in our country” and therefore would file another “référé liberté” with the Council of State regarding the latest government coronavirus restrictions on Mass attendance. 

A “référé liberté” is an urgent administrative procedure that is filed as a petition to a judge for the protection of fundamental rights, in this case, the right to freedom of worship. The Council of State both advises and judges the French government on its compliance with the law.

French Catholics have been without public Masses since Nov. 2 due to France’s strict second lockdown. On Nov. 24, President Emmanuel Macron announced that public worship could resume Nov. 29 but would be limited to 30 people per church. 

The announcement elicited a strong reaction from many Catholics, including several bishops.

“It is a totally stupid measure that contradicts common sense,” Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris said Nov. 25, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro. 

The archbishop, who practiced medicine for more than 20 years, continued: “Thirty people in a small village church, we understand, but in Saint-Sulpice, it’s ridiculous! Two thousand parishioners come to certain parishes in Paris, and we're going to stop at 31 … It’s ridiculous.”

Saint-Sulpice is the second largest Catholic church in Paris after the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. 

A statement issued by Paris archdiocese Nov. 27 argued that the government measures could have “easily have allowed the resumption of Mass in public for all, while applying a rigorous health protocol and guaranteeing the protection and health of all.”

In addition to filing the “référé liberté,” a delegation of French bishops will also meet with the prime minister on Nov. 29. The delegation will include Archishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference.

The French bishops’ initial appeal earlier this month was rejected by the Council of State on Nov. 7. But in response, the judge specified that churches would remain open and that Catholics would be able visit a church near their homes, regardless of distance, if they carried out the necessary paperwork. Priests would also be allowed to visit people in their homes and chaplains permitted to visit hospitals.

France has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than two million recorded cases and over 50,000 deaths as of Nov. 27, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Following the Council of State’s decision, the bishops proposed a protocol of reopening public liturgies at a third of each church’s capacity, with increased social distancing.

The bishops’ conference statement asked French Catholics to abide by the government’s rules while the outcome of their legal challenge and negotiations are pending. 

In recent weeks Catholics have taken to the streets in major cities across the country to protest against the public Mass ban, praying together outside their churches.

“May the use of the law help to calm the spirits. It is clear to all of us that the Mass cannot become a place of struggle … but remain a place of peace and communion. The first Sunday of Advent should turn us peacefully to the coming Christ,” the bishops’ statement said.

New archbishop takes helm of Canadian Catholic archdiocese

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A new archbishop took the helm in the Canadian archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Friday.

The Vatican announced Nov. 27 that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation by Archbishop Anthony Mancini on his 75th birthday. 

Mancini is succeeded by Archbishop Brian Dunn, who has served as coadjutor archbishop since April 2019.

Dunn was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1955. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1980, he was assigned to parishes in the Diocese of Grand Falls. He moved to Ottawa in 1988 to complete his doctoral studies at Saint Paul University. 

In 1991, he was assigned to parish ministry, serving also as vice-chancellor and chancellor of Grand Falls diocese. He became a faculty member at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario, in 2002 and dean of studies three years later. 

Pope Benedict XVI named Dunn auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario in July 2008.

Benedict XVI named him the bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, a year later, replacing Raymond Lahey, who was charged with the importation of child pornography in 2009 and dismissed from the clerical state in 2012. Dunn was installed as bishop of Antigonish on Jan. 25 2010.

Dunn took part in the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in Rome. 

He spoke at the synod of the need to evangelize victims of clerical abuse. He also called for “a deliberate and systematic involvement and leadership of women at all levels of Church life, e.g., permitting women to be instituted as lectors and acolytes and the institution of the ministry of catechist.”

On April 13, 2019, Pope Francis appointed Dunn as the coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth. He continued to serve as apostolic administrator of Antigonish diocese until a new bishop was appointed in Dec. 2019. 

Mancini was born in Mignano Monte Lungo, Italy, on Nov. 27, 1945, and emigrated to Canada with his family.

He was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Montréal in 1970 and appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese on Feb. 18, 1999.

Mancini was mentioned in a report published this week by Pepita G. Capriolo, a former Quebec Superior Court justice, on the Church’s response to complaints against the clerical abuser Brian Boucher, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2019.

Mancini was appointed to lead the archdiocese of Halifax and serve as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Yarmouth on Oct. 18, 2007. The two dioceses were merged later to form the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.

Mancini also served as apostolic administrator of Antigonish diocese on Sept. 26-Nov. 21, 2009, after Lahey’s resignation and before Dunn’s appointment as ordinary of the diocese.

A Mass of thanksgiving for Mancini’s ministry and Dunn’s succession was due to take place Nov. 27 at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Halifax, at 12:15pm local time. The archdiocese said that the Mass would be livestreamed for those unable to attend because of coronavirus restrictions.

Swiss court orders full access to records for Vatican financial investigation

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Vatican investigators have been granted full access to Swiss banking documentation related to long-time Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso. The newly announced decision by a Swiss federal court is the latest development in the ongoing financial scandal surrounding the purchase of a London building by the Secretariat of State in 2018.

According to Huffington Post, the decision was issued on Oct. 13 but only published this week. The documents to be turned over to the Vatican include financial records of the company to Az Swiss & Partners. Az Swiss owns Sogenel Capital Holding, the company Crasso founded after leaving Credit Suisse in 2014.

Although the company sought to block full access to its records by Vatican investigators, Swiss judges ruled that “when foreign authorities ask for information to reconstruct criminal asset flows, it is generally considered that they need the entirety of the relative documentation, in order to clarify which persons or legal entities are involved.”

Vatican prosecutors have been working with Swiss authorities since filing letters rogatory in December last year. Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

CNA has previously reported that, in response to the Holy See’s request for cooperation in its investigation into Vatican finances, Swiss authorities have frozen tens of millions of euros in bank accounts and sent banking documents and records to Vatican prosecutors.

Crasso, a former banker at Credit Suisse, has been a long-time financial advisor to the Vatican, including introducing the Secretariat of State to the businessman Raffaele Mincione, through whom the secretariat went on to invest hundreds of millions of euros and purchase the London building at 60, Sloane Avenue, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018.

Huffington Post reported on Nov. 27 that the Swiss decision also quoted the Vatican’s original rogatory request as citing "investment schemes that are neither transparent nor compliant with normal real estate investment practices," pointing back to the controversial London deal.

Specifically, Vatican investors noted that the pledging of Vatican funds on deposit in Swiss banks, including Peter’s Pence, to secure hundreds of millions of euros in loans from the same banks “represents strong circumstantial evidence that it represented a ploy to avoid making [the transactions] visible.”

Prosecutors contend that the use of liquid assets as collateral to secure loans from the banks for investments, instead of investing Vatican money directly, appears designed to shield the investments from detection and scrutiny.

In November last year, CNA reported on a similar instance in 2015, when then sostituto at the Secretariat of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu allegedly attempted to disguise $200 million loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.

CNA also reported that the attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell.

Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”

Crasso’s Centurion Global Fund, in which the Secretariat of State was the largest investor, is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were “no secret.” 

In an Oct. 4 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing “confidential” accounts for Becciu’s family.

Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers. 

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions “step by step.”

According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.”

‘My Jesus’: Martyred Italian nun saw Christ in young people

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A religious sister who knew Venerable Maria Laura Mainetti said the woman, who was murdered 20 years ago as part of a Satanic ritual, made the ordinary extraordinary by her love, and found joy in her service to young people, whom she called “my Jesus.”

The 60-year-old Mainetti was stabbed to death by three teenage girls in the town of Chiavenna, Italy, in 2000. In May, Pope Francis declared Mainetti to be a martyr, killed “in hatred of the faith.” She will be beatified on June 6, 2021, the 21st anniversary of her murder.

Mainetti was a sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross for more than 40 years, where she knew Sr. Beniamina Mariani, who is her biographer and the postulator of her beatification cause.

Mariani told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language partner, that Mainetti “lived in humility, simplicity and joy the gift of herself to God and to her brothers and sisters.”

The postulator described Mainetti’s day as “a continuous relationship in prayer, at the beginning and at the end of the day and with those whom she called ‘my Jesus’: children, young people, people in difficulty.”

In her biography of the slain religious sister, Mariani wrote that when she was among young people, Mainetti felt “at ease and loved to entertain them both in scheduled meetings and in casual ones.”

Mariani shared the statements of two young students who knew Mainetti when they were guests of the Immaculate Institute, a residence for girls.

One wrote that “in her hands, the ordinary day-to-day became like GOLD because she LOVED it. She was attracted to Jesus because she saw him.”

Another said: “In a terrible time when I had no family, she was the only person who loved me, looked after me ... she spent the nights beside my bed, while I was crying in despair, she never abandoned me, she believed in me.”

Mariani said when Mainetti was young, her answer to a spiritual director’s question about what she wanted to do with her life was “I want to make my life something beautiful for others.” And the postulator confirmed that she really did this.

Sr. Mainetti was always smiling, Mariani said, noting that someone in Chiavenna used to call her “Sr. Smile.”

“She was a happy woman!” she continued, adding that the sister’s message to young people would be: “I am very happy, above all because every day I discover God’s love for me, despite my limitations, and then I try to see it in the faces of my brothers and sisters whom I meet every day, with particular attention to the more disadvantaged or those in difficulty.”

Mainetti was a “small, humble grain that silently turned into a vibrant tree, under whose branches many people, the most different, will find comfort,” Mariani said.

Artist offers to restore beheaded statue of Virgin Mary in Germany

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 10:20 am (CNA).- An art restorer in Germany has offered to restore a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary in Regensburg free of charge.

Known as the “doll doctor” for his work restoring dolls, Marcel Offermann said that he was moved by the news on Oct. 22 that vandals had beheaded a statue of the Virgin Mary in a Jesuit church in Straubing, Germany.

“Since I repair dolls, sacred figures, and statues by trade, I decided to preserve the Madonna from the fate of Mary Stuart and restore it to its original state,” Offermann said in an interview with ACI Stampa Nov. 27.

“I immediately called Mgr. Johannes Hofmann, parish priest of St. James in Straubing, to whom the statue belongs. Now we are in constant contact. He seemed very relieved when I offered to repair the statue.”

Offermann, a Catholic from the German city of Neuss, also works as an emergency room doctor and has been treating COVID-19 patients during the coronavirus pandemic. 

While a job like this does not leave him with much spare time, he said that, for him, offering to repair the statue was “a matter of conscience.”

“For more than 20 years, in my ‘doll clinic,’ I have been restoring and repairing sacred figures or nativity statues throughout the archdiocese of Cologne and beyond. For me, it’s a matter of conscience,” he said.



Offermann plans to work on the decapitated statue during the Christmas season to have it ready for the new year.

“First, we will dry the statue,” he explained. “The figure will stay a week in the drying chamber to remove the moisture from the material. Then we will remove the chips and grind each piece. Then we will fix the head using brackets.”

“We will fill the interstices with plaster. We will file any protrusions of the applications and we will work the whole structure, even Mary’s dress. … Finally, we will apply a base coat and after it has dried, we will apply two or three layers of color. Lastly, a passage of transparent fixative.”

Hate crimes against Christians and Catholic churches are once again on the rise in Europe. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe published data last week documenting more than 500 hate crimes against Christians in Europe in 2019.

In Germany, Catholic churches have been targeted with anti-Christian graffiti and arson attacks.

On Nov. 26, another statue of the Virgin Mary in a public square in Venice was decapitated overnight. 

The local parish is organizing a community rosary to be prayed at the statue on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Believers and all people of goodwill should reflect and distance themselves from those who, out of superficiality and ignorance, or by deliberate choice, offend the dearest feelings of those who live and inhabit our city with them,” the Catholic Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, said.

Patriarch of Venice calls for prayers of reparation after Virgin Mary statue decapitated

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A statue of the Virgin Mary in a public square in a suburb of Venice, Italy, was vandalized Thursday night.

“The head was decapitated and the hands of the monument lopped off” in the early hours of Nov. 26, according to a notice from the City of Venice.

The statue is located in a greenspace at the center of a roundabout in the Venice municipality of Marghera. The act was caught on video surveillance cameras and the perpetrator has been identified and stopped by police.

Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, called the act of vandalism “a gesture that offends our city, our history and our values.”

Brugnaro condemned the “cowardly act, which aims to hurt our sensibility” and said that workers had been instructed to quickly repair the statue.

In March, the mayor visited Venice’s Basilica of Our Lady of Health to say a prayer consecrating the city to the Virgin Mary. The prayer was written by the Catholic Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia.

Moraglia said Nov. 26 that he was saddened by the vandalism of the Mary statue, calling it an offensive gesture “not only for Christians but for the whole city.”

He also noted that the damage to the statue took place a few days after the feast day of Our Lady of Health, “a festival so dear and rooted in the hearts of Venetians.”

Moraglia asked people to say a prayer of reparation “for the offense inflicted on the Mother of the Lord and also for those who have become protagonists of this insane gesture.”

The local parish is organizing a community rosary to be prayed at the statue on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Believers and all people of goodwill should reflect and distance themselves from those who, out of superficiality and ignorance, or by deliberate choice, offend the dearest feelings of those who live and inhabit our city with them,” the patriarch said.