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Vatican draws attention to sacrifice of seafarers, requests prayers

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2019 / 11:49 am (CNA).- The prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development urged prayers Sunday for seafarers, fishermen, and maritime workers, by whose work some 90% of the world's goods are transported.

“Though we do not realize it, the work of seafarers is essential for our daily lives,” Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote in a message for “Sea Sunday,” July 14.

This is because “most of the possessions that we have in our houses, the television, the fridge, the washing machine, computer and phone, not to mention the fuel for our cars, the clothes we wear, and many other items are all made in distant parts of the world and brought to us by seafarers,” he said.

In his message, Turkson underlined the need to consider and reflect upon the importance seafarers and fishermen have on the comfort and well-being of others.

“The faithful are requested to remember and pray for the 1.5 million seafarers who criss-cross the oceans and the seas, transporting almost 90% of goods from one nation to another,” the cardinal said.

He noted that hazards faced by seafarers can include depression brought on by isolation and living in confined spaces, a delayed salary, exploitation, tough working conditions, threat of piracy or terrorist attack, and lack of proper rest.

Turkson acknowledged that with the ratification and implementation of some international legislation conditions aboard many vessels have improved, though he underlined that in some parts of the world, there are still “unscrupulous ship owners” who take advantage of a lack of law enforcement.

“In the faces of seafarers from different nations, I invite you to recognize the face of Christ in
your midst,” the cardinal said. “In the confusion of languages, I recommend you to speak the language of Christian love that welcomes everyone and excludes no one.”

In his message, Turkson praised the work of Apostleship of the Sea, or Stella Maris, a Catholic organization which provides pastoral care for seafarers and their families.

The organization will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020, and will hold its world congress in Glasgow Sept. 29-Oct. 4 of that year. Glasgow was the location of the first meeting of Apostleship of the Sea in 1920, when they discussed a revival of ship-visiting in riverside parishes. The group’s constitution was approved by Pius XI in 1922.

Turkson said: “I would like to encourage the chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea during their daily ship visits to be vigilant and approach each seafarer and fisher with the same committed spirit that animated the pioneers of our ministry.”

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development released a prayer for the occasion of “Sea Sunday.”

Pope Francis: Judge your own heart first – not that of those in need

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2019 / 05:36 am (CNA).- Helping a person in need requires compassion toward their situation, Pope Francis said Sunday, encouraging Catholics to think first about their own hardness of heart, not the sins of others.

“If you go down the street and see a homeless man lying there and you pass by without looking at him, or you think: ‘Eh, the effect of wine. He’s a drunk,’ do not ask yourself if that man is drunk, ask yourself if your heart has hardened, if your heart has become ice,” the pope said July 14.

The true “face of love,” he continued, is “mercy towards a human life in need. This is how one becomes a true disciple of Jesus.”

In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on the parable of the Good Samaritan, which he called “one of the most beautiful parables of the Gospel.”

“This parable has become paradigmatic of the Christian life. It has become the model of how a Christian must act,” he said.

According to Pope Francis, the parable shows that having compassion is key. “If you do not feel pity before a needy person, if your heart is not moved, then something is wrong,” he warned. “Be careful.”

Quoting the Gospel of Luke, Francis said: “‘Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.’ God, our Father, is merciful, because he has compassion; he is capable of having this compassion, of approaching our pain, our sin, our vices, our miseries.”

The pope noted a detail of the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is that the Samaritan was considered an unbeliever. Jesus uses a man of no faith as a model, he said, because this man, in “loving his brother as himself, shows that he loves God with all his heart and with all his strength – the God he did not know!”

“May the Virgin Mary,” Francis prayed, “help us to understand and above all to live more and more the unbreakable bond that exists between love for God our Father and concrete and generous love for our brothers, and give us the grace to have compassion and grow in compassion.”

After the Angelus, the pope reiterated his desire to be close to the Venezuelan people, who he said are facing trials in the continued crisis in the country.

“We pray the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties involved, so that they can, as soon as possible, reach an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region,” he said.

 

Italian Cardinal Paolo Sardi dies at age 84

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2019 / 04:35 am (CNA).- Cardinal Paolo Sardi, who served under five popes, died Saturday at Gemelli Hospital in Rome after a short illness.

The 84-year-old Piemontese cardinal had been retired from his work in the Secretariat of State, where he coordinated the office which edits papal speeches and texts.

He most recently had served as pro-patron and then patron of the Sovreign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, a position he held from June 2009 to November 2014.

In a letter of condolence to members of Sardi's family July 14, Pope Francis praised the cardinal's "priestly spirit, his theological preparation, his gifts of intelligence and wisdom... through which he has given a valuable contribution to the magisteriums of St. Paul VI, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI."

Thanking God for Sardi's witness in his service to the Holy See, Francis said he joins his prayers to those of the many Catholics who would join the cardinal at his daily Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, often said at the altar of St. Pope John XXIII.

"Faithful to his episcopal motto, 'Esto Vigilans,' he has been good and vigilant, therefore we hope that, accompanied by the Virgin Mary, the saints Peter and Paul, and the Holy Bishop Guido of Acqui, he will be welcomed into the eternal reward of heaven," the pope prayed.

In 2012, Sardi was accused alongside two others, in an article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, of being complicit in the leaking of sensitive papal information to the media, in the event now referred to as "Vatileaks."

At the time of the article's publication, the Vatican denied the claims, releasing a statement from the Secretariat of State expressing "firm and total disapproval of those publications, which are not based on objective criteria and seriously damage the honor of the people concerned, who have served the Holy Father faithfully for many years."

Then-papal spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed Sardi and the others were called to testify before a commission, but emphasized that it in no way indicated suspicion of "shared responsibility or 'complicity.'"

Sardi, who was born in the northern Italian town of Ricaldone in 1934, used to say that above all, his parents, who raised him to have a deep faith, taught him "humility and honesty." He also had the example of several priests in his extended family.

Sardi studied at a local seminary and in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he received a license in theology. He was ordained a priest in 1958.

Sardi returned to Rome to study canon law, finishing a degree in 1963. He then taught moral theology at a seminary in the diocese of Acqui while serving at various parishes.

He later attended the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan for a degree in jurisprudence, continuing to teach moral theology at a seminary in Turin.

During this time he wrote a book on the history of the Church's teaching on abortion.

In 1976, Sardi was asked to come to the Vatican to work in the Secretariat of State in the section for general affairs. He was made head of an office in 1990 and in 1992 became vice assessor, coordinating the office which collaborates in the editing of the pope's speeches and texts.

He was ordained a bishop by St. Pope John Paul II in 1997, who said in his homily: "I pray for you, Mons. Sardi, that, named apostolic nuncio with special assignments, you will continue to yet work beside me in the Secretariat of State. I congratulate you for the service performed until now, I wish you to continue in the same way, with the same zeal."

From October 2004 to January 2011 Sardi served as Vice-Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.

He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in a November 2010 consistory.

Vatican will open two ossuaries next week in continued cemetery investigation

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2019 / 08:37 am (CNA).- The Vatican has found two ossuaries believed to maybe belong to the German noblewomen whose tombs were found empty earlier this week.

According to Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, the ossuaries will be opened for testing July 20, in order to determine if they belong to Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe and Duchess Charlotte Frederica, who both died in the 19th century.

The women's tombs and monuments, located in the Teutonic cemetery on Vatican extra-territorial property adjacent to Vatican City State, were opened July 11 in an attempt to find a clue to the 1983 disappearance of an Italian teen, Emanuela Orlandi.

That the tombs were found empty of any human remains, including the women supposedly buried there, was considered an unseen twist in the mystery of the missing Orlandi.

Gisotti said July 13 documents had been found confirming that in the 1960s and 1970s an extensive renovation of the Teutonic College and the cemetery was carried out.

Staff examined the rooms of the college adjacent to the empty tombs, finding two ossuaries placed under the pavement via hatches in the floor.

"These were immediately sealed for subsequent examination and detection of the bone materials lying therein," Gisotti stated. The ossuaries are scheduled to be opened on the morning of July 20, in the presence of scientific experts.

Emanuela Orlandi was the daughter of an envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance at age 15 has been one of Italy's biggest unsolved mysteries and the subject of international intrigue, including suspicion about the Vatican’s role, since it occurred.

Vatican tomb investigation uncovers empty graves

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2019 / 10:35 am (CNA).- The opening of two tombs on Vatican property revealed both graves to be completely empty, providing no answers in the unsolved disappearance of an Italian girl 36 years ago, the Vatican reported Thursday.

“The research has given negative results: no human findings or funerary urns were found,” stated Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti July 11.

The tombs, located on Vatican extra-territorial property adjacent to Vatican City State, were opened in an attempt to find a clue to the 1983 vanishing of Emanuela Orlandi.

Orlandi was the daughter of an envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance at age 15 has been the subject of international intrigue, including suspicion about the Vatican’s role, since it occurred.

The Vatican authorized the opening of the graves after a request by Orlandi’s family, which had last year received an anonymous letter suggesting a clue could be found near a large statue of an angel in the Teutonic College cemetery.

The tombs opened were those of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who died in 1840.

Charlotte's monument bears an inscription indicating it was erected in 1848 by her son, Frederick VII of Denmark.

According to Gisotti, von Hohenlohe’s tomb revealed an empty underground compartment of approximately 13 by 12 feet. The opening of the sarcophagus of Charlotte also revealed no human remains. Relatives of both women were informed of the discovery.

The Vatican’s next step following the discovery, Gisotti explained, will be to look into documentation about structural renovations that took place in the cemetery at the end of the 1800s and in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The opening of the graves was performed by the Vatican construction staff and overseen by a forensic anthropologist and his team, the Vatican gendarmerie, and by the Vatican tribunal’s promoter of justice.

Members of Orlandi’s family, and their lawyer, were also present.

Vatican to open tombs in connection with decades-old cold case

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2019 / 10:06 am (CNA).- Authorities will open two tombs in a cemetery on Vatican property Thursday in order to perform testing in connection with the unsolved disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi in June 1983.

Orlandi was the daughter of an envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance has been the subject of international intrigue, including suspicion about the Vatican’s role, since it occurred. After multiple investigations, Orlandi’s case was closed in 2016.

The exhumation of the tombs in the cemetery of the Teutonic College, located on Vatican extra-territorial property adjacent to Vatican City State, was authorized after a request by Orlandi’s family.

According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the mother and brother of Orlandi requested the tombs be opened after receiving an anonymous message claiming the graves near a large statue of a pointing angel could contain clues to the 15-year-old girl’s disappearance.

Interim director of the Holy See press office, Alessandro Gisotti, stated last week the exhumation will take place July 11 in the presence of the case’s lawyers and Orlandi’s relatives and the relatives of the people buried in the graves concerned.

The opening of the tombs will be overseen by a forensic anthropologist and by the Vatican gendarmerie. Gisotti said that as the Vatican has no jurisdiction over the investigation of Orlandi’s case, the exhumation and forensic and DNA testing will be performed only in order to determine if Orlandi’s body was buried on Vatican property.

Speculation about Orlandi's disappearance reignited last October when human bone fragments were discovered during the renovation of a building connected to the Holy See’s nunciature in Rome, though DNA testing found the remains to be from a male who died sometime between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

The tombs to be opened are those of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who died in 1840.

Sistine Chapel Choir director ceases duties

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2019 / 06:33 am (CNA).- Fr. Massimo Palombella has ceased his position as director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, according to the Vatican. The music teacher had been under investigation for financial fraud.

A July 10 statement said Pope Francis recently accepted Palombella's request to end his service and that the decision was made together with the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations and the Salesian order, of which Palombella is a member.

Palombella "is now available to the Salesian Congregation for the new ministry that will be entrusted to him," it stated.

The end of Palombella's 9-year tenure with the choir comes after news of a financial scandal involving the Sistine Chapel Choir broke in July 2018.

In September 2018, the Holy See press office confirmed the scandal, reporting that Pope Francis had authorized an investigation, still ongoing, into the "economic-administrative aspects" of the choir.

The allegations were of reported money laundering, aggravated fraud against the Vatican City State, and embezzlement, accusing the choir manager Michelangelo Nardella and Palombella.

According to reports, Nardella and Palombella allegedly transferred some concert proceeds to an Italian bank account and used the money for personal expenses.

No other information about the investigation, or whether it has concluded, has been made public.

In January, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, which among other things, moved the Sistine Chapel Choir to be under the administration of the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations instead of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household and Nardella.

Fr. Guido Marini, master of ceremonies of papal liturgies, was tasked with the choir's management and with drafting its new statues.

It was announced by interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti July 10 that with the conclusion of Palombella's service, the interim leadership of the choir has been entrusted to Fr. Marcos Pavan, who is the director of the Pueri Cantores, or boy choir, section of the Sistine Chapel Choir.

Known officially as the Cappella Musicale Pontificia Sistina, the choir is comprised of 20 professional singers from around the world, as well as a treble section made up of 35 boys aged 9-13, called the Pueri Cantores.

With a 1,500-year history, the Sistine Chapel Choir is believed to be the oldest active choir in the world.

Palombella has conducted the Sistine Chapel Choir since 2010.

 

Holy See waives diplomatic immunity for accused nuncio to France

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2019 / 11:07 am (CNA).- The Holy See has announced it has revoked the diplomatic immunity of the apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, clearing the way for the diplomat to face criminal charges in that country.

In a July 8 statement, interim head of Vatican communications Alessandro Gisotti confirmed that the archbishop’s immunity had been waived.

“I can confirm that the Holy See renounces jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the Apostolic Nuncio in France, Msgr. Luigi Ventura, by virtue of the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on diplomatic relations, for the purposes of criminal proceedings concerning him,” Gisotti said. 

Ventura, 74, is accused of having inappropriately touched a young male staffer of Paris City Hall during a Jan. 17 reception for the New Year address of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. That accusation has been under investigation by Parisian authorities for several months.

In March France's Minister of European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, called on the Vatican to waive immunity and allow the inquiry to reach a conclusion.

“At this point, [Ventura] benefits from diplomatic immunity, but the Holy See is clearly aware of the serious accusations that have been brought against the apostolic nuncio and I don't doubt for a second that the Holy See will do the right thing,” Loiseau said at the time.

On Monday, Gisotti confirmed that the decision had been communicated to French authorities last week, calling the move “an extraordinary gesture.” Gisotti also confirmed that the Ventura had agreed “to collaborate fully and spontaneously with the French judicial authorities,” and that he has freely participated in the preliminary phase of the investigation.

Ventura has served as nuncio to France since 2009. The statement from the Vatican did not make clear if he would formally remain in post during the remaining phases of the investigation or any subsequent trial.

After the initial allegation was made against in Ventura in March, he faced a second accusation of sexual misconduct against an adult male relating to his time in Canada in 2008.

Christian Vachon, who was 32 at the time of the alleged incident, claims Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice during a banquet held at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec.

Diplomatic immunity, which allows diplomats in a country to do their work without fear of interference from the host country's laws or lawsuits from the host country, is covered by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

The standard diplomatic protections can be removed by the diplomat's home country, in special circumstances and at the country’s discretion.

In recent years, the Holy See's practice has generally been to recall diplomats accused of civil crimes in their host countries. Once back in Vatican City, they are tried both civilly and canonically, and may later be stripped of diplomatic immunity so they can also be prosecuted by the host country.

In April 2018, Vatican police arrested former diplomat Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, who faced charges related to child pornography in both the United States and Canada, where he had served in diplomatic posts for the Holy See.

Capella was recalled from the Washington Nunciature in September 2017 after the Vatican was informed by the US State Department that there was a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a member of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

The Holy See declined a State Department request to wave immunity in Capella’s case. However, information regarding the findings of the US State Department was passed along to the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice. Following a 2018 Vatican civil trial, during which he admitted viewing child pornography, Capella was sentenced to five years in prison. A subsequent canonical trial, currently underway, may result in his dismissal from the clerical state.

Ventura was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brescia in 1969. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1978 and has served in Brazil, Bolivia, and the United Kingdom. From 1984 to 1995 he worked at the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States.

After his episcopal consecration in 1995, Ventura served as nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chile, and Canada, before his transfer to France.

Pope Francis names women members of consecrated life congregation

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday appointed 23 new members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, among them six women religious superior generals and one head of a women’s secular institute.

The July 8 nominations, which include cardinals, bishops, and the superior generals of several male religious communities, breaks with past practice in including women.

Demonstrating Pope Francis’ increased attention to putting women in leadership within the Vatican, the appointments follow the 2014 nomination of Sr. Irma Luzia Premoli, superior general of the Comboni Missionaries, as a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Premoli’s appointment was the first time a superior general of a female institute was named a member of a congregation.

The six women superior generals are Sr. Kathleen Appler of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; Sr. Yvonne Reungoat of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (also known as the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco); Sr. Françoise Massy of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary; Sr. Luigia Coccia of the Comboni Missionaries; Sr. Simona Brambilla of the Consolata Missionaries; and Sr. M. Rita Calvo Sanz of the Company of Mary Our Lady.

Olga Krizova, general president of the Don Bosco Secular Institute, was also nominated.

Pastor bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution regulating the Roman Curia which will soon be replaced, says the ordinary members of a congregation are cardinals and bishops, though “according to the specific nature of certain dicasteries, clerics and other faithful can be added to the body of cardinals and bishops.”

Other new members of the Dicastery for Consecrated Life include Cardinals Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of Rome; Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life; Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid.

Five bishops and seven superior generals of male institutes were also nominated.

Pope Francis: Migrants are people, not just a social issue

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2019 / 04:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis called Monday for an end to the rhetoric which views migrants as something ‘other,’ saying they are human beings and among those Christ has commanded his disciples to love and assist.

“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said July 8. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

In a homily, the pope said his thoughts “go out to those ‘least ones’ who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them.”

“These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary,” he stated.

“In the spirit of the Beatitudes we are called to comfort them in their affliction and offer them mercy,” he urged, “to sate their hunger and thirst for justice; to let them experience God’s caring fatherliness; to show them the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.”

He explained that Jesus taught his disciples the need for a “preferential option for the least,” who should be given “the front row in the exercise of charity.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica July 8 to mark the 6th anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa, a small Italian island 90 miles off the coast of Tunisia.

Because of its location, Lampedusa has been the first port of entry for many African migrants coming to Europe, thousands of whom have tried to reach the island by boat in recent decades –including more than 20,000 who have died at sea in the attempt.

During his 2013 visit to the island, Pope Francis said these deaths occur “all too frequently” and that they “come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”

“I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated,” he said July 8, 2013.

At Monday’s Mass, Francis reflected on trust in God above all else, noting that the security offered by the world “has little worth.”

God “is our refuge and our strength, our shield and our armor, our anchor in times of trial,” he said.

“God alone opens up heaven for those who live on earth,” he said, adding that “Only God saves.”

Pope Francis noted the day’s first reading from Genesis, when Jacob lays down to rest, and in his dream sees a ladder reaching up to heaven with God’s messengers going up and down it.

The image of Jacob’s ladder recalls that in Jesus Christ the connection between heaven and earth “is guaranteed and is accessible to all,” he said.

“Yet climbing the steps of this ladder requires commitment, effort and grace. The weakest and most vulnerable must be helped,” he continued, adding that it is the role of Catholics to take “under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded.”

He concluded his homily by thanking those who assist migrants for their “beautiful example of humanity, gratitude and solidarity,” stating that “this is a tremendous responsibility, from which no one is exempt if we wish to fulfil the mission of salvation and liberation in which the Lord himself has called us to cooperate.”