Suspended audit reveals power struggle at the Vatican

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2016 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The recent suspension of an audit of Vatican finances by a major accounting firm shed light on a lively debate within the Sacred Walls about the balance of power between the Secretariat of State and the Secretariat for the Economy. The debate is, in fact, a result of the Curia reform begun by Pope Francis. The international auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) was hired Dec. 5 by the Secretariat for the Economy to audit the Vatican’s 120 financial departments’ books and check if they had been filed according to international accountability standards. The auditing was suspended April 12 by the Secretariat of State, with two letters by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and by his deputy, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu. The letters reportedly claimed that proper procedures had not been correctly applied. No official statement from the Holy See Press Office confirmed or dismissed the presence of the letters, or the suspension. A spokesperson of the Secretariat for the Economy, however, stressed Apr. 21 that Cardinal Pell, the prefect, “was bit surprised at the Archbishop’s letter, but anticipates that, after discussion and clarification on some issues, the work of PwC will resume shortly.” The Cardinal’s spokesperson also underscored that “the work of the internal auditor, which covers all the areas, has not been interrupted.” The same day, Archbishop Becciu said in a TV interview that the PwC contract “was suspended, not rescinded,” and emphasized that the contract was not signed by the body in charge of it; that is – according to him – the Council of Cardinals. However, the Council of Cardinals is charged with advising the Pope about issues on Church government and Curia reform: it is not an official body with the capacity for signing contracts. The Secretariat for the Economy then delivered a release April 22 in which it clarified that “the PwC contract is with the Council for the Economy which, as is clear in its Statutes, is the competent body for the appointment of external auditors.” The Secretariat for the Economy also stressed that “the Council is the competent body – not the Secretariat of State, and certainly not the C9, which is an advisory body for the Holy Father and operates without any formal role in the governance of the Holy See,” and pointed out “that the PwC contract was signed by the Chair of the Council’s Audit Committee and co-signed by the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, following a unanimous resolution of the Council to appoint PwC and a direction to proceed.” All of this cut and thrust revealed an on-going discussion within the Vatican Walls about the competences of the new dicasteries. On one side, the Secretariat of State is working to maintain its central position among the Curia dicasteries. Its position has been threatened by the Secretariat for the Economy, created in 2014 to have financial oversight over all Vatican City and Holy See institutions. Yet in the course of Francis’ pontificate, the Secretariat of State has step by step regained importance. In a letter to Cardinal Parolin dated Oct. 14, 2015, Pope Francis underscored that the “status quo” of the Curia offices had to be respected until the reforms were completed, which means the Secretariat of State is still the central body of the Curia. As the Secretariat of State gained importance, the Secretariat for the Economy lost some of its impact. The work of the Secretariat for the Economy was at first slowed down by the drafting of its statutes, and afterwards by resistance from elsewhere in the Curia. However, it is simplistic to read the facts as the struggle between an opaque Italian bureaucracy and a transparent Anglo-Saxon style, as some English-language media have suggested. The path to Vatican financial transparency and accountability has always found resistance, and Cardinal Pell’s Secretariat has simply become the perfect target for acts of resistance. Who is it that doesn’t want the procedures carried forward? This is the recurrent question in Vatican financial bodies. According to a source familiar with Vatican finances “this kind of resistance comes out at the mid-ranks, while the top ranks exploit the resistance to reinforce their position.” So, some internal resistance fell in the dialectic between the Secretariat for State and the Secretariat for the Economy. The fact that both of those are called “Secretariat” is important, as they are formally put on par with one another. The presence of the Secretariat for the Economy might diminish the impact of the Secretariat of State, and a balance of power has yet to be achieved. Taking advantage of the fact that Cardinal Pell, an Australian, is a real decision maker, the old guard of the Curia are able to slow the implementation of his decisions with procedural excuses. The case of the PwC suspension is revealing. According to CNA’s source, PwC was hired by the Council for the Economy, which made the decision by an unanimous vote. However, the Secretariat of State claimed the need for further control, and raised issues for discussion, such as: given that Vatican City is a sovereign state, and not a company, is it even proper that its financial books undergo external auditing? The issue of sovereignty is crucial for the Holy See, which has fought recently to be independent of any secular power: sovereignty has helped the Church to act independently throughout the world, without depending on any secular power, and to be able to have an independent voice in the international scene, thus being able to advocate for human rights and the common good without being accused of any partiality. Sovereignty is not just a notion: the Holy See’s sovereignty insists on the independent, albeit small, territory of the Vatican City State, which like any other independent nation has its internal jurisdiction and legislation, and is involved in international relations. This sovereignty implies that the Vatican dicasteries are considered on par with the ministries of any other country – which includes a level of confidentiality in handling their budgets. For Cardinal Pell, the real challenge is to introduce international accountability standards within a state system: to find a balance between the needs of a manager and those of a governor. When this balance is upset, Cardinal Pell’s will for financial transparency may be stymied by fears that the Holy See could lose something of its sovereignty. The fracas over the suspension of the PwC audit shows that the discussion is not over, and the tensions between the Vatican’s secretariats will continue. This discussion is the first notable rebound of Pope Francis’ Curia reform. If the discussion is not resolved, there well may be other rebounds, further affecting the progress of reform. Read more

How Christian women suffer worse persecution than men

Santa Ana, Calif., Apr 25, 2016 / 04:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent global survey reveals that the rise of radical Islamic extremism is the primary reason for the persecution of Christians around the world – and many of the victims are women. … Read more

The insidious danger behind ‘family balancing’

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2016 / 04:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years, expectant parents have relied on ultrasounds to find out the sex of their unborn baby.   But now, technology allows them to pick the sex of their child before he or she even ent… Read more

Pope pays surprise visit to Earth Day celebration

Rome, Italy, Apr 24, 2016 / 04:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis encouraged Christians to courageously venture into the metaphorical deserts of the world during a surprise visit to an Earth Day celebration in Rome Sunday. “There are so many d… Read more

Pope to teens: There isn’t a phone app for love and happiness

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2016 / 07:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Freedom does not come from things we possess or from doing whatever we want, Pope Francis said Sunday in his homily for the Jubilee for boys and girls. Rather, true freedom and happiness can only be found in the love of Jesus.   “Your happiness has no price,” the Pope said during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.” “That is because love is a free gift which calls for an open heart,” he said. “It is a noble responsibility which is life-long; it is a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams!” Francis challenged the young teens to not “be content with mediocrity,” or believe those who equate importance with the sort of toughness shown by heroes in films, or by wearing the “latest fashions.” “Don’t believe those who would distract you from the real treasure, which you are, by telling you that life is beautiful only if you have many possessions.” Delivering his homily to the over 90,000 people overflowing the Square, Pope Francis assured the teens that, because of their friendship with Christ, they are never alone. “Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself.” “The biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us, from feeling that we are all alone,” he said. “The Lord, on the other hand, is always with you and he is happy to be with you.” Moreover, Jesus calls young people to follow him, just as he did the first disciples, the Pope added. “Jesus is waiting patiently for you. He awaits your response. He is waiting for you to say ‘yes’.” The Jubilee for boys and girls, geared specifically towards young teenagers, is the latest initiative for the Holy Year of Mercy, which began on December 8. The three-day event started Saturday with the sacrament of reconciliation in St. Peter’s Square – where Pope Francis himself heard confessions — followed by a youth rally in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. In his homily, Pope Francis stressed that love is the “Christian’s identity card,” and is “the only valid ‘document’ identifying us as Christians.” “If this card expires and is not constantly renewed, we stop being witnesses of the Master,” he said. Those who wish to be Jesus’ disciples, to be “his faithful friends,” and to “experience his love,” must learn how to love from him. Going off the cuff, the Pope said that Jesus’ “true friends” stand out because theirs is a “genuine love that shines forth in their way of life,” through “real actions.” “Those who are not real and genuine and who speak of love are like characters is a soap opera, some fake love story,” he said. “Before all else, love is beautiful, it is the path to happiness,” Pope Francis said, but he warned that this path is also demanding and “requires effort.” The Pope gave the example of everyone who has given us a gift, invested time, and sacrificed for our sake. He cited in particular the sacrifices made by the parents and group leaders who organized the pilgrimages to Rome for this weekend’s Jubilee for boys and girls. “To love means to give, not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities.” Addressing the teens present at the Mass, Francis acknowledged their “growing desire to demonstrate and receive affection.” “The Lord, if you let him teach you, will show you how to make tenderness and affection even more beautiful,” the Pope said. Moreover, this love is not possessive, but allows the other person freedom. “There is no true love that is not free!” he said in unscripted remarks. Today’s “consumerist culture” reinforces the temptation to “’have to have’ what we find pleasing,” the Pope said. “Yet when we hold on too tightly to something, it fades, it dies, and then we feel confused, empty inside.” “The Lord, if you listen to his voice, will reveal to you the secret of love. It is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them and waiting for them.” Pope Francis acknowledged the teenagers “great longing for freedom,” but warned that freedom does not mean “doing whatever you want.” This interpretation of freedom “makes us self-centred and aloof, and it prevents us from being open and sincere friends.” “Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good,” he said. “The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort.” Pope Francis stressed that love is more than a “sweet poem” we study and memorize, but a “life choice” which must be practiced. “Love is nurtured by trust, respect and forgiveness,” he said, adding that we grow in love through Jesus, who “gives us himself in the Mass, he offers us forgives and peace in Confession. There we learn to receive his love, to make it ours and to give it to the world.” “And when loving seems hard, when it is difficult to say no to something wrong, look up at Jesus on the cross, embrace the cross and don’t ever let go of his hand. He will point you ever higher, and pick you up whenever you fall.” “Throughout life we will fall many times, because we are sinners, we are weak,” the Pope said, again going off script. “But there is always the hand of God who picks us up, who raises us up. Jesus wants us to be up on our feet!” Pope Francis concluded his homily by speaking about the capability of young people towards “acts of great friendship and goodness,” and challenged them to live their “youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work.” “Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice,” and whose daily routine consists of the works of mercy. “Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life, champions of life! In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus.” Towards the end of Mass, Pope Francis delivered his Regina Caeli address, during which he praised the youth for their “joyful and boisterous witness,” encouraging them to “go forward with courage.” The Pope also remembered Saturday’s beatification in Burgos, Spain of the priest Valentín Palencia Marquina who, along with four others, were martyred for their faith during the Spanish Civil War. “We praise the Lord for these courageous witnesses and to beseech their intercession to free the world from all violence,” he said. Pope Francis also expressed his concern for bishops, priests and religious – Catholic and Orthodox alike — who have been kidnapped in Syria. He prayed that God in his mercy would touch the “hearts of the kidnappers,” and release “our brothers and sisters” back to their communities. Leading into the Marian prayer, he asked everyone to pray for these, and all victims of kidnapping through the world. After reciting the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis once again addressed the young people in the crowd. “You have celebrated the Jubilee (for boys and girls): Now back home with the joy of your Christian identity. Standing, head held high, and with your ID card in your hands and in your heart!” Read more

How to be a pilgrim in Rome during the Jubilee of Mercy

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2016 / 05:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While Rome is always a popular destination for tourists, with millions of visitors annually, the Eternal City this year will be swarming with even more sightseers who want to make a pilgrimage to the city’s Holy Doors for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Holy Year, which takes place Dec. 8, 2015-Nov. 20, 2016, will draw countless pilgrims to Rome, which is why Vatican journalist Joan Lewis decided to write a field guide for visitors, called “A Holy Year in Rome: the Complete Pilgrim’s Guide for the Jubilee Year.” “The idea for the book came to me the very day Pope Francis announced it – March 13, 2015,” said Joan Lewis, Rome bureau chief for EWTN Global Network.   For pilgrims traveling to Rome, the Holy Year of Mercy “is a profoundly rewarding spiritual journey, an occasion to gain special graces and indulgences such as when you walk through the holy doors of the four papal basilicas,” she told CNA. The book offers pilgrims a font of information, such as the unique benefits of the Holy Year, how to visit the seven pilgrim basilicas, and useful tips on navigating the city. It also includes the Bull of Indiction, the papal announcement, and other documents relevant to the Jubilee. Having walked the cobblestone streets of Rome for more than 20 years, Lewis has navigated pilgrims through past holy years – she wrote a small volume on the Jubilee Year in 2000. After receiving a positive response, she was asked by many of her readers to write another road map for the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy. “I’ve dedicate many pages to the history of Jubilees, with a lot of fascinating information, such as the churches and bridges and hospices and hospitals that were built because of an approaching Holy Year,” Lewis said. “I’ve also dedicated a lot of pages to fascinating and helpful tips for tourists – how to visit Vatican City, get tickets for papal events, reserve tickets to the Vatican Museums… and I have a section with a great list of restaurants,” she continued. Lewis said this Holy Year is extra special because Pope Francis extended the benefits of the Jubilee to every diocese around the world, encouraging parishioners to make mini-pilgrimages to their local Holy Doors during the year. In addition, Lewis explains throughout her book the various liturgical customs that are unique to the Jubilee Year, such as the significance of the opening of the Holy Doors at the papal basilicas in Rome and throughout the world. She also details a calendar of events and different monthly celebrations in Rome that commemorate certain groups of people, such as missionaries, confessors, or catechists. “February, for example, dedicated to confessors, brought the remains of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic to St. Peter’s Basilica for veneration,” Lewis noted. Living just a five-minute walk from Vatican City, Lewis says she “feels a huge closeness to the Church itself,” especially when she can see the dome of St. Peter’s from her living room. One of her favorite aspects of the Jubilee Year is participating in “all the special Holy Year events,” as well as meeting pilgrims from around the world. “I love hearing their stories and knowing why they are in Rome and how they react to being in the presence of the Holy Father,” she reflected, saying they often “undergo great difficulties just in traveling to Rome.” Although her book is meant as a pilgrim’s guide to Rome during the Holy Year, Lewis notes that her writings are not limited to travelers in Italy. “I believe any pilgrim in their own diocese will find this helpful because I give the history of the Jubilee Years. I bring you in writing to Rome, Vatican City, Castelgandolfo, the catacombs – so many interesting places,” she said.   “Even if you cannot visit Rome in person, you can visit virtually.”Photo credit: feliks via www.shutterstock.com. Read more

Pope urges teens to practice works of mercy

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2016 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has challenged young people to commit to practicing the corporal works of mercy in order to recognize the face of Jesus in each other. “As you know, the works of mercy are simpl… Read more

This statue of Mary was untouched by the devastating Ecuador earthquake

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Apr 23, 2016 / 04:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Everything collapsed around it, but the glass case with the statue of our Lady of Light remained intact after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16. The statue was ho… Read more

Pope hears confessions at Jubilee event for teens

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2016 / 06:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday heard the confessions of young people in St. Peter’s Square as part of this weekend’s Jubilee for Boys and Girls, an event which is expected to draw tens of thousands of teenagers from around the world.   Sitting on simple chairs out in the open along with other priests just within the Square’s colonnade, the Pope offered the sacrament of reconciliation to 16 boys and girls between 11:30am and 12:45, the Vatican press office said. More than 150 priests were in the square to hear confessions, according to Vatican Radio.       This is not the first time Pope Francis has heard the confessions of pilgrims. Most recently, the Pope took part in a penance service during the March 4 “24 Hours for the Lord.” The Jubilee for Boys and Girls, which is the latest initiative for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, is directed specifically towards young teenagers. The event began at 11am on April 23 with confessions continuing through to the afternoon, at 6pm, in St. Peter’s Square. Later in the evening, the young people will make their way to Rome’s Olympic Stadium for a youth rally, during which Pope Francis will deliver a video message to those taking part in the event. On Sunday, the Pope will preside over Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the teenagers taking part in the event. The event officially concludes Monday, which is an Italian national holiday. According to the Jubilee for Mercy website, pilgrims over the course of the three days “will be able to hear witnesses describing their deep experiences of the Works of Mercy in seven piazzas in the City Center of Rome.” The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year which December 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Read more

Was Shakespeare a secret Catholic?

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2016 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the playwright, poet, and actor widely considered to be the most influential literary figure in the English language. Yet, there’s one mystery which continues to elude scholars to even this day: what exactly was Shakespeare’s relationship with the Catholic Church? And, could he have been a secret Catholic, forced to conceal his true religious identity in an era of persecution? At the time of Shakespeare’s writing, Britain was in a period of religious upheaval. Its people were still caught in the crossfires of the English Reformation that had begun decades earlier when Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England. Shakespeare, like many of his contemporaries, outwardly followed the State-imposed religion, since it was illegal at that time to practice as a Catholic in England. However, scholars say he nonetheless maintained strong sympathies with the Church of Rome. Shakespeare’s writings “clearly points to somebody who was not just saturated in Catholicism, but occasionally argued for it,” said Clare Asquith, an independent scholar and author of a book on Shakespeare called “Shadowplay:The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.” He “was definitely putting the Catholic point of view to an intellectual audience,” she said. An example of this relationship with Catholicism comes out in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a play which scholars say captures the sense of conflict experienced by the population as the country transitioned to the Church of England. “Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, dramatizes the position of all these people, torn apart like Hamlet, having to play a part like Hamlet, pretend they were irresponsible, perhaps mad, and yet, having to make a decision about what to do about this,” Asquith told CNA/EWTN News. She said that this conflict is particularly represented through the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Act I. “Everything about the ghost is the old order, which has been displaced by a brand new tudor State with the monarch as the head of the Church, which was still highly, highly contentious,” she said. “I think scarcely anyone in England went along with it at that point. They did superficially, out of self-interest, and it gradually did produce a creeping secularism.” Hamlet’s mother, who has married his uncle very soon after the King’s death, represents the “England that has given into the new order, reluctantly,” while urging Hamlet to go along with it, Asquith said. “On the other hand, he has his father saying: ‘No, Hamlet. Stand up against it. You must do something about it.’” Author of “Through Shakespeare’s Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays,” scholar Joseph Pearce takes this conflict win Hamlet a step further by saying the play is speaking out against England’s persecution of Catholic priests. “The play illustrates the venting of Shakespeare’s spleen against the spy network in England which had led to many a Catholic priest being arrested, tortured and martyred,” said Pearce, who is director of the Center for Faith and Culture in Nashville, Tennessee and author of three books on Shakespeare. “The Ghost of Hamlet’s father is clearly a Catholic in purgatory who exposes the wickedness of the usurping Machiavellian King Claudius.” Pearce reiterates that more people at that time had Catholic sympathies than is commonly believed. “Although the anti-Catholic laws made it necessary for any writer, Shakespeare included, to be circumspect about the way that they discussed the religious controversies of the time,” he said, “it is clear that Shakespeare’s plays show a great degree of sympathy with the Catholic perspective during this volatile time.” People want Shakespeare to be an enlightened secular humanist, and they are not going to move an inch in the direction of him being committed in a religious sense at all. While scholars agree that Shakespeare’s writings indicate sympathies for the Catholic cause, definitive proof from his life that he was a covert Catholic are harder to come by. In fact, Asquith said, there is even resistance among the academic community regarding his possible relationship with the Catholic Church, despite the vast evidence from the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. “The fact that that line of research, that way of reading late-16th century literature has been so rejected by Shakespeare scholars, means that they would fight tooth and nail to resist any fact that indicated he was Catholic,” she said. “People want Shakespeare to be an enlightened secular humanist, and they are not going to move an inch in the direction of him being committed in a religious sense at all.” That said, Asquith explained there are only a few pieces of hard biographical evidence which point to the possibility of Shakespeare being Catholic. She referred to two separate instances in which Shakespeare’s contemporaries refer to him as a “papist” – a term used to describe Catholics because of their allegiance to the Pope. The first of these was in 1611, when the Protestant and government propagandist John Speed attacked Shakespeare for a parody he had written about Protestant martyr John Oldcastle, calling him a papist. The second instance came around 60 years after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, in which Protestant clergyman Richard Davis is quoted as saying he had died a papist. These two references to Shakespeare being a papist “are the only two real facts that I can see,” Asquith said. However, she added that there are other clues from his life which may point to his Catholicism. For instance, his daughter Susanna had been brought before the court of the Recusant because she, like many Catholics, refused to take the oath of supremacy – i.e. swear allegiance to the reigning monarch as head of the Church of England. Asquith noted that Susanna was married to a Puritan, the religious denomination which also refused to take the oath of supremacy. A final detail about Shakespeare’s life which Asquith says potentially points to his relationship with the Catholic Church is the purchasing of the Blackfriars Gatehouse in London in 1613, which he immediately leased out as a safehouse for Catholics. For Pearce, this detail is the most compelling evidence of Shakespeare’s Catholicism. According to his book on the subject, the property would be used to harbor Catholic priests and fugitives, among other activities. Moreover, the brother of the tenant, John Robinson, entered the seminary of the Venerable English College in Rome, which was established when training for the priesthood in England became illegal. “Shakespeare’s purchasing of the Blackfriars Gatehouse, a house well known as a base for the Catholic underground, would be enough to prove Shakespeare’s Catholicism,” he told CNA. In studying the social and political dynamic of the period, Asquith said it is important to know about the alternative or “revisionist history of Shakespeare’s time, and to read his work in the light of that history. “It really was much more of a battle for the soul of England than we have realized for the last three or four hundred years,” she said, in reference to her 2009 book Shadowplay. “Shakespeare was commenting on breaking news, on momentous history as it was unfolding, and was addressing various key players along the way,” she said. “What all the intellectuals of his day wanted: religious toleration. They didn’t want secular humanism. They wanted, really, freedom to practice either reformed Christianity or Catholic Christianity.”Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com. Read more




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