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Vatican adds seven invocations to Litany of St. Joseph

St. Joseph carrying the Child Jesus on the left arm by Pieter van Lint. / Public Domain.

Vatican City, May 1, 2021 / 07:50 am (CNA).

The Vatican's divine worship office announced Saturday the addition of seven new invocations to the Litany of St. Joseph.

The seven invocations, in Latin, are Custos Redemptoris, Serve Christi, Minister salutis, Fulcimen in difficultatibus, Patrone exsulum, Patrone afflictorum, and Patrone pauperum.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote a letter to the presidents of bishops' conferences May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, explaining the inclusion of the new invocations.

"On the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, published the Apostolic Letter Patris corde, with the aim 'to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal,'" the congregation said.

"In this light," it added, "it appeared opportune to update the Litany in honor of Saint Joseph, approved by the Apostolic See in 1909, by integrating seven new invocations drawn from the interventions of the Popes who have reflected on aspects of the figure of the Patron of the Universal Church."

The additions to the Litany of St. Joseph were approved by Pope Francis.

The bishops' conferences will be responsible for the translation and publication of the updated litany in their local languages, the divine worship congregation stated. Bishops' conferences can also, according to their own prudential judgement, introduce other invocations by which St. Joseph is honored in their countries.

A litany is a type of repetitive, petitionary prayer, often invoking the intercession of the saints or the Virgin Mary under different titles approved by the Church.

The new invocations of St. Joseph can be translated in English as Guardian of the Redeemer, Servant of Christ, Minister of Salvation, Support in Difficulties, Patron of Refugees, Patron of the Afflicted, and Patron of the Poor.

Pope Francis to Catholic associations: ‘The Lord counts on your boldness’

Pope Francis meets with the national council of Italian Catholic Action at the Vatican, April 30, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that Catholic organizations must beware of “the trap of organizational charts” and prioritize docility to the Holy Spirit.

“We must be very careful not to fall for the illusion of functionalism. The programming, the organizational charts serve, but as a starting point, as an inspiration. What brings forth the Kingdom of God is docility to the Holy Spirit … the freedom of the Gospel,” Pope Francis told the leaders of Catholic Action on April 30.

“It is sad to see how many organizations have fallen for the trap of organizational charts: all perfect, all perfect institutions, all the necessary money, all perfect... But tell me: where is the faith? Where is the Spirit?”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis met with the national council of Italian Catholic Action at the Vatican on the occasion of its national assembly, taking place online from April 25 to May 2.

“The pandemic has left many projects up in the air. It has asked everyone to deal with the unexpected. Welcoming the unexpected … means remaining docile to the Spirit,” the pope said.

“Docility to the Spirit is revolutionary because Jesus Christ is revolutionary, because the Incarnation is revolutionary, because the Resurrection is revolutionary,” he added.

The pope said that the lay people of Catholic Action could help the Church and all of society “rethink together what kind of humanity we want to be, what land we want to inhabit, what world we want to build.”

“I entrust to you those who have been most affected by the pandemic and those who risk paying the highest price: the little ones, the young, the elderly, those who have experienced fragility and loneliness,” he said.

Pope Francis meets with members of the Chemin Neuf Community at the Vatican, April 30, 2021. / Vatican Media.
Pope Francis meets with members of the Chemin Neuf Community at the Vatican, April 30, 2021. / Vatican Media.

The pope also met with representatives of the Chemin Neuf Community on April 30. The charismatic Catholic community, founded by Jesuit Fr. Laurent Fabre in 1973, is known for hosting retreats for married couples and young people.

“I invite you to remain firm in your convictions and in your faith. Never forget that Christ is alive and that he calls you to walk courageously after him. With him, be that flame that revives hope in the hearts of so many young people who are discouraged, sad, and without prospects,” Pope Francis said.

“May you generate bonds of friendship, of fraternal sharing, for a better world. The Lord counts on your boldness, your courage, and your enthusiasm.”

Is the Vatican’s new judicial activism good for the Holy See?

St. Peter's Dome. / dade72 via Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Experts attending the Moneyval plenary assembly in Strasbourg, France, this week approved a highly anticipated report on the Holy See.

Moneyval, the committee of the Council of Europe which assesses countries’ compliance with international financial transparency standards, is expected to publish its report in the coming weeks.

The Vatican judicial system prepared for Moneyval’s evaluation with reform and seemingly never-ending investigations over a Secretariat of State investment in London that have not led to any prosecutions.

The reform is about new measures, provisions, and treatment for Vatican tribunal officials. But it also in practice shuts down the appeal court of the Vatican City State -- a significant change in the way cases are handled.

The investigations concern the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a luxury property in London in 2018. This became the focus of scrutiny after a report by the Institute for the Works of Religion (also known as the IOR or “Vatican bank”).

Following a probe, six Vatican officials were suspended. Five of them were not renewed in their positions. But a year and a half later, the investigation is continuing and no prosecutions have been announced.

These two knots -- the effectiveness of reforms and of investigations -- will be crucial for Moneyval’s evaluation of the Holy See/Vatican City State.

The Holy See joined Moneyval’s evaluation rounds in 2011. Since then, Moneyval has issued one comprehensive report and three progress reports on the Holy See’s financial system and juridical framework.

The next progress report will scrutinize the effectiveness of the Vatican judicial system.

The question is whether the office of the Vatican prosecutor has adopted Moneyval’s previous recommendations -- and if so, how.

In 2016, the Vatican tribunal established a special section against economic and financial crimes. Up to 2018, the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority disseminated 27 reports in six years for alleged money laundering to the Vatican prosecutor. Nine of the cases were dismissed and six others were under the motion of dismissal.

At the inauguration of the Vatican judicial year in 2019, the Vatican prosecutor Gian Piero Milano said that the Financial Intelligence Authority had issued six reports, while two of the previous reports were dismissed.

In its most recent progress report, in 2017, Moneyval noted that “the overall effectiveness of the Holy See’s engagement with combating money laundering depends on the results that are achieved by the prosecution and the courts.” It also stressed that “the results on the law enforcement/prosecutorial/judicial side two years after the last review remain modest.”

The Vatican City State tribunal has shown notable activism in the last year and a half. In the end, the tribunal took the lead in the operations, according to a process that some internal observers have described as a “Vaticanization of the Holy See.”

To understand this better, let’s look at the London property issue.

The investment was signed, entrusted to brokers, and finally “restructured” because the signed agreements did not fully protect the Holy See. It was necessary to cut out the intermediaries, pay them the amount stipulated in the contract, and ask for liquidity from the IOR to refinance the investment. The IOR at first said yes. Then it backtracked, issued a complaint, and the pope authorized the Vatican’s promoter of justice to proceed summarily.

All this led to the suspension of six Vatican officials. Five of them were exposed to the public with the publication of a note from the Gendarmerie, which ended up in the newspapers. The officials’ houses were also searched, and one wonders whether everything took place in agreement with the Italian authorities.

In short, it is the Vatican City State judges who have taken command of the operations, establishing an unprecedented leadership of the state.

The state serves to sustain the Holy See. Yet the Vatican City State is an absolute monarchy where the pope decides and establishes what he wants. But the Holy See is an international entity that signs treaties and conventions on human rights and justice, which finds its credibility eroded by this new judicial activism.

This is the Vaticanization of the Holy See, carried forward in an Italian way. The Vatican tribunal is chaired by a retired Italian prosecutor, Giuseppe Pignatone. There are two promoters of justice (Alessandro Diddi and Roberto Zannotti) and one promoter of applied justice (Gianluca Perone) who serve as lawyers in Italy.

Yet Vatican magistrates recently have run into difficulties with their colleagues on the Italian side.

One case concerned the extradition request for Cecilia Marogna, nicknamed “the lady” of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is accused of misusing money from the Secretariat of State, where the cardinal used to work.

She was arrested in Italy and spent two weeks in prison. Italy’s Supreme Court later annulled the provision.

Then there was the search of the house of Fabrizio Tirabassi, one of the suspended Vatican officials. A Rome court later declared that the search warrant was “void” because it was an “informal” warrant, with “evident and substantial illegitimacy profiles, starting with the fact that the search order was ordered directly by the public prosecutor without going through the scrutiny of a judge.”

These words call into question the Vatican juridical system itself. The pope is a supreme judge who can instruct, make, and undo the processes.

An English judge has thought of this. Revoking the provision that had frozen the funds of Gianluigi Torzi, one of the intermediaries in the London property deal, the English judge Tony Baumgartner questioned the work of Vatican prosecutors, arguing that their reconstruction of the facts was subject to mischaracterization or misinterpretation.

This situation all started in June 2020 with Torzi’s arrest at the Vatican, where he had gone to answer questions from the Vatican police. Raffaele Mincione, an Italian citizen and the other broker involved in the London investment, was taken from a hotel and held in custody in Italy. He filed two lawsuits against the Holy See.

In three cases then -- Marogna, Tirabassi, and Torzi -- the Holy See’s requests have been overturned because of procedural defects.

This raises a series of questions that will undoubtedly catch Moneyval’s attention.

First: can a Vatican court be made up of part-time judges? They are experts, but certainly not in everything. Until now, the fact that the judges were part-time was justified by the small number of trials. But nowadays, everything has changed. Financial reform has brought new specializations and projected the Vatican system into the European system. Are part-time judges able to lead complex investigations such as those on the London property?

It is not even necessary that the judges be Italian. Knowledge of the Vatican legal system -- which is not a copy of the Italian code but comes from a legal code of 1899 -- and fluency in Italian would be enough. Judges from outside Italy could internationalize the Vatican system.

But Pope Francis has seemingly chosen the path of maintaining preferential relationships with Italy.

The second question: is this judicial activism good for the Holy See? The Holy See, in effect, sees its credibility undermined by a judicial system that does not understand the institutional consequences of its actions. The searches at the Financial Intelligence Authority and the Vatican Secretariat of State not only had a questionable justification; they also aroused the concern of international organizations.

In November 2019, the Egmont Group, which brings together financial intelligence units worldwide, decided unanimously to suspend the Holy See from the safe circuit of suspicious transaction reports. The Holy See then returned to the closed Egmont circuit in January 2020 after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Vatican tribunal. If there was a need for a memorandum of understanding, there was clearly a need for guarantees.

The Vatican’s anti-corruption commitment thus also shows limits and generates doubts about how justice is administered.

Alongside the topic of investigations and trials, there are recent judicial reforms that must also be considered.

One of the issues is that Vatican magistrates come out strengthened by the reforms. This can be seen through a symbolic detail of the revised law: that even after retirement, the judges will keep “all rights, assistance, welfare, and guarantees provided for citizens.” They have also been given extensive autonomy in investigating and condemning.

The reform also jeopardizes the appeal system. In February this year, Pope Francis appointed a promoter of justice for the Vatican Court of Appeal, the Italian magistrate Catia Summaria, to fill a post vacant since 2020. At the same time, two other judges were also appointed to the Court of Appeal.

But just three days after this announcement, Pope Francis signed a motu proprio bearing “changes in matters of justice,” which, in fact, significantly reduced the role of the Court of Appeal. Indeed, in practice, it seemed to eliminate the role of the promoter of justice.

How? Consider the pope’s changes and compare them to the original version of the CCCLI law (351), the new judicial system promulgated by the pope on March 16, 2016.

In the original law issued in 2016, paragraph 351 stated that “the office of the promoter of justice carries out the functions of the public prosecutor and the others assigned to it by law in autonomy and independence.”

The new text specifies that “the office of the promoter of justice exercises autonomously and independently, in the three levels of trial, the functions of the public prosecutor and others assigned to it by law.”

The law also says: “In appeals, the functions of public prosecutor are exercised by a magistrate of the office of the promoter of justice, designated pursuant to Article 13, paragraph 1.”

In short, there is no mention of the promoter of justice of the Court of Appeal, but only of a single promoter of justice.

These are issues that will not go unnoticed. In its report, Moneyval may highlight the need for full-time and professional judges and will likely once again notice a disparity between reports of suspicious transactions and prosecutions.

Moneyval will at least acknowledge that there is a will to change things. However, the reform and the trials are not good advertisements for the Vatican judicial system.

Pope Francis changes law to allow Vatican City court to judge cardinals, bishops

Vatican City flag waiving over St. Peter's dome - Bohumil Petrik / CNA

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Friday amended part of a law issued last year regulating Vatican City’s judicial system, now allowing the court of first instance to rule on criminal trials of bishops and cardinals.

The law previously said that cardinals and bishops could only be judged by the final court of cassation for the civil judicial system, which is the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

The prior law meant that criminal trials of cardinals and bishops were judged by other cardinals. With the April 30 update, Vatican City judges -- typically lay people -- will be competent to rule on the cases.

The amendments were issued by Pope Francis in an apostolic letter “amending the jurisdiction of the judicial bodies of Vatican City State,” issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”).

In the preamble, the pope referenced Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which says that “there is true equality among all with regard to the dignity and action common to all the faithful in building the Body of Christ.”

He also quoted Gaudium et spes, Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which says that “all men have the same nature and the same origin; all, redeemed by Christ, enjoy the same vocation and the same divine destiny; it is therefore necessary to recognize more and more the fundamental equality of all.”

“The awareness of these values ​​and principles, which has progressively matured in the ecclesial community, today calls for an ever more adequate compliance with them even in the Vatican system,” Francis said.

In the update, Pope Francis repealed article 24 of a law issued on March 16, 2020, which declared that “the court of cassation is the only competent to judge, with consent of the Supreme Pontiff, the Most Eminent Cardinals and the Most Excellent Bishops in criminal cases.”

In the 2020 norms, Law CCCLI, the pope grounded Vatican City civil law in the Church’s canonical legal system, making the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the curia’s highest canonical appeals court, the final court of cassation for the civil judicial system.

The court of cassation consists of the cardinal prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, currently Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, plus two cardinal members of the signatura and two or more judges appointed for three-year terms.

The court of cassation is usually ruled by a bench of cardinal judges but can include other judges if circumstances require.

In the April 30 amendment, Pope Francis added a paragraph to article 6 of the 2020 law, stating that “in cases involving the Most Eminent Cardinals and the Most Excellent Bishops ... the tribunal [court of first instance] shall judge with the consent of the Supreme Pontiff.”

The amendment makes note of the exception to this rule contained in canon 1405 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that only the pope can judge cardinals and bishops in penal cases regarding spiritual matters or a violation of Church law involving sin and the imposition of ecclesial penalties.

Pope Francis appoints new bishop of President Biden’s home diocese

Bishop-elect William Koenig of Wilmington. / Courtesy photo.

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed Friday a new bishop of Wilmington, the home diocese of President Joe Biden.

The pope selected Msgr. William Koenig to lead the Diocese of Wilmington, which covers the state of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, upon the retirement of Bishop William Francis Malooly at the age of 77.

Bishop-elect Koenig, 64, is a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, where he served as the vicar of clergy after more than 10 years as rector of St. Agnes Cathedral. His episcopal ordination is scheduled for July 13 at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington.

“I express my deep gratitude for the trust placed in me by His Holiness, Pope Francis in appointing me the 10th Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware,” Koenig said.

“I am especially grateful for my family who, when I was still an infant, presented me for Baptism and nurtured the new Life of the Risen Christ that came about through this Sacrament.”

“I am grateful for the priests, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Rockville Centre whose faith-filled example has enabled me to say ‘yes’ to God’s calling to be a priest and now a bishop.”

The pope also appointed a new bishop of Colorado Springs, a diocese that spans 10 central and eastern counties of Colorado. Fr. James Golka, of the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, will succeed Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, 76.

Golka, 54, is currently the vicar general and rector of Grand Island’s Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced both appointments on April 30.

Bishop Malooly, who has been Biden’s home bishop since 2008, will introduce bishop-elect Koenig at a live-streamed press conference at 10:30 a.m. local time.

Born in Queens in 1956, Koenig attended Catholic schools and Cathedral College in New York before entering seminary at the age of 23.

He earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, in 1983 and later a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 26 on May 14, 1983.

He served at the parishes of St. Edward the Confessor and St. James parish before becoming director of vocations for the Diocese of Rockville Centre from 1989 to 1996.

Koenig was the pastor of St. William the Abbot parish in Seaford from 2000 to 2009 and then rector of St. Agnes Cathedral from 2009 to 2020. He was given the title monsignor in 2007.

Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre welcomed the appointment of Msgr. Koenig to lead the Diocese of Wilmington.

“Bishop-elect Koenig is a seasoned and experienced pastor who is known for his pastoral charity, his humility, and his sincerity. He radiates an evangelizing spirit of joy and gentle interior peace that is the fruit of a deep prayer life and years of serving parishioners in a wide range of parishes, ministries, and apostolates on Long Island,” he said.

He added that Koenig is “a champion of Catholic education, Catholic social justice teaching, and the Gospel of human life.”

“He is a Good Samaritan priest servant to youth, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the refugee. He is known for being a priest’s priest who has the respect, trust, affection, and esteem of priests of every age and generation.”

Bishop-elect James Golka of Colorado Springs is originally from Nebraska. He attended Creighton University in Omaha.

After graduating in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theology, he spent a year as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer serving in Native American Missions in South Dakota.

He entered St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota and was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1994, for the Diocese of Grand Island.

Golka speaks both English and Spanish. He served as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish from 2001 to 2006 and then pastor of St. Patrick’s parish and Catholic school for the next 10 years.

He directed a diocesan youth summer retreat program and was also a Holy Land pilgrimage director. He served as the rector of the cathedral since 2016 and vicar general since 2018. The date of Golka’s episcopal ordination is yet to be announced.

The bishop-elect will be introduced to his new diocese at a press conference at 10 a.m. local time, live-streamed on the Diocese of Colorado Spring’s Facebook page.

Pope Francis praises Venezuela’s ‘doctor of the poor’ ahead of beatification

The tomb of José Gregorio Hernández in the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria in Caracas, Venezuela. / Guillermo Ramos Flamerich via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a video message for the beatification on Friday of José Gregorio Hernández, a Venezuelan doctor who served the poor during the Spanish flu pandemic.

“The beatification of Dr. Hernández is a special blessing of God for Venezuela, and invites us to grow towards greater solidarity with one another, to produce all together the response of the common good so necessary for the country to revive, to be reborn after the pandemic with a spirit of reconciliation,” the pope said in the message sent April 29.

“In the midst of all the difficulties, I ask all of you who love Dr. José Gregorio so much to follow his admirable example of selfless service to others,” he said.

Pope Francis sent the message on the eve of the April 30 beatification in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, had planned to preside over the beatification Mass but canceled the trip to Venezuela on April 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The beatification of Dr. José Gregorio takes place at a particularly difficult moment for you. Like my brother bishops, I know well the situation you are undergoing, and I am aware that your prolonged suffering and anguish have been aggravated by the terrible COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting us all,” Pope Francis said.

Venezuela, a country of almost 29 million people bordering Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana, is in the midst of a years-long political and economic crisis.

In his video message, the pope said repeatedly that he would like to visit Venezuela, emphasizing that he was praying for “reconciliation and peace” in the country.

Francis urged Venezuelans to “seek the path of national unity” by “putting the common good before any other interest.”

“And I ask the Lord that no external intervention prevents you from following this path of national unity,” he added.

Pope Francis said: “I sincerely believe that this moment of national unity, around the figure of the people’s doctor, constitutes a particular moment for Venezuela and demands that you go further, that you take concrete steps in favor of unity, without letting yourselves be overcome by discouragement.”

“Following the example of Dr. José Gregorio, may you be able to recognize each other as equals, as brothers, as children of the same homeland.”

José Gregorio Hernández was born on October 26, 1864, in the town of Isnotú in the Venezuelan state of Trujillo. He lost his mother at the age of eight.

Hernández studied medicine in Caracas and received government funding to continue his studies in Paris in 1889 for two years.

After returning to Venezuela, he became a professor at the Central University of Caracas, where he started each lesson with the sign of the cross.

Hernández attended daily Mass, brought medicine and care to the poor, and made a profession as a Third Order Franciscan.

He eventually discerned a monastic religious vocation and gave up his professorship to enter a cloistered Carthusian monastery in Farneta, Italy, in 1908, with the name of Brother Marcelo.

After nine months, he fell ill, and his superior ordered him to return to Venezuela to recover. In Caracas, he received permission to enter the Santa Rosa de Lima Seminary.

He moved to Rome for three years to study theology at the Pius Latin American College, but again became ill and was forced to return to Venezuela in 1914.

Hernández concluded that it was God’s will for him to remain a layman. He decided then to promote sanctification as an exemplary Catholic by being a doctor and giving glory to God by serving the sick.

He devoted himself to academic research and deepened his dedication to serving the poor, particularly during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

One day, as the doctor went to pick up medicine for an elderly poor woman, he was hit by a car. He died in hospital on June 29, 1919, after receiving the last rites.

Catholics in Venezuela have welcomed Hernández’s beatification as an inspiration for other lay people.

The National Council of Laity of Venezuela sent a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency, expressing joy over “the first Venezuelan layman to be raised to the altars.”

“In this Year of the Venezuelan Laity, we hope that the heart of each person is animated by such an exemplary figure and that we live as authentic disciples giving daily witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,” it said.

The lay Catholic association emphasized that Hernández “faced many difficulties during his life, including the pandemic of the so-called Spanish flu of 1918, which caused the death of many Venezuelans. However, he never tired in his eagerness to serve the Lord by giving himself to others.”

“[God], help us to renew the faith of this nation consecrated to the Blessed Sacrament and to understand the dignity of baptism that has purified us and committed us to our neighbor. Inspire us so that we often entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who has renewed us, so that we can be aware that through the blood of Christ we are redeemed,” it said.

Pope Francis: St. Catherine of Siena is a gift to the Church and humanity

Detail from Saint Catherine of Siena, from the circle of Baldassare Francheschini (17th century).

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

On the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the “great female figure of faith” would continue to inspire more joyful and fervent witness.

“The Holy Father hopes that, especially in the context of the 560th anniversary of the canonization of the Sienese Saint, the example of such a generous disciple of Christ will foster in all an ever more joyful and fervent witness to faith and charity to promote the civilization of love,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram on behalf of the pope, published April 29.

The Vatican Secretary of State sent the telegram to Cardinal Augusto Paolo Lojudice, the archbishop of Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino, expressing the pope’s good wishes to Catholics in the archdiocese during their three-day celebration of their hometown saint.

Pope Francis “joins in the common thanksgiving to the Lord for having given the Church and humanity such a great female figure of faith, who constantly calls the Church and all men of goodwill to Gospel values,” he said.

St. Catherine of Siena is a Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Europe. She played a pivotal role in ending the Avignon exile of the successors of Peter in the 14th century.

Born in Siena in 1347 on the feast of the Annunciation, she exhibited an unusually independent character as a child and an exceptionally intense prayer life.

When she was seven years old, she had the first of her mystical visions, in which she saw Jesus surrounded by saints and seated in glory. In the same year, she vowed to consecrate her virginity to Christ.

When, at the age of 16, her parents decided that she should marry, she cut off her hair to make herself less appealing, and her father, realizing that he couldn’t contend with her resolve, let her have her way.

She joined the Dominican Tertiaries and lived a deep and solitary life of prayer and meditation for the next three years in which she had constant mystical experiences, capped by the end of the three years with an extraordinary union with God granted to only a few mystics, known as “mystical marriage.”

St. Catherine suffered many periods of desolation alongside her mystical ecstasies, often feeling totally abandoned by God. She also tended to the sick, poor, and marginalized, especially lepers.

Her Dialogue, a spiritual classic, records her visions, which she dictated in a state of mystical ecstasy.

God called her to a more public life while she was still in her 20s, and she corresponded with many influential figures, advising, admonishing, and exhorting them to holiness, including the pope himself, who she also rebuked when she saw fit.

She helped achieve peace when the Holy See and Florence were at war. While on her deathbed, she made possible the healing of the great schism between the followers of the legitimate pope, Urban VI, and those who opposed him.

She died in Rome on April 29, 1380, at the age of 33, and the stigmata appeared on her incorrupt body after her death. She was canonized by Pope Pius II on June 29, 1461.

She once said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”

Pope Francis sends condolences after death of South Korean Cardinal Cheong

Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk. / Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul.

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his condolences Thursday after South Korean Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk died at the age of 89.

The cardinal served as a bishop for more than 50 years in Korean dioceses, including 14 years as acting archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang.

He is remembered for his passion for evangelization, pro-life advocacy, knowledge of canon law, service to the poor, and efforts to bring peace and unification to the Korean peninsula.

Cardinal Cheong died on the night of April 27 in St. Mary’s Hospital, where he had been receiving medical care since February. His body is being kept in a glass coffin in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral until his funeral on May 1.

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the current archbishop of Seoul, offered a midnight Requiem Mass in the cathedral on April 27. He remembered his predecessor as someone who “wanted the Church to be the light and salt of society, and practiced a pastoral ministry that emphasized the values of life and family.”

“Cardinal Cheong gave out everything he had to churches and the poor. He donated his organs to devote himself to helping the weak," he said.

Cheong was born into a Catholic family in Seoul in 1931, at a time when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. He was baptized four days after his birth, and the cardinal once said that his mother took him with her to daily Mass during his early childhood.

His father left the family after the liberation of Korea in 1945 to go to North Korea, where he went on to become a vice minister, according to the Korea Herald.

Cheong was admitted to Seoul National University, the top university in South Korea, to study chemical engineering in 1950, but his studies were interrupted by the start of the Korean War.

During the war, he served as an interpreter in the South Korean National Defense Corps. In the office of a U.S. Army chaplain, he found a book on St. Maria Goretti that helped inspire him to decide to become a priest.

After studying for the priesthood at Catholic University of Korea, he was ordained on March 18, 1961.

Cheong studied in Rome from 1968 to 1970, obtaining a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Urban University.

Upon his return to South Korea, he was consecrated bishop of Cheongju at the age of 39 and took the episcopal motto, “Omnibus Omnia,” meaning “All things to all people”.

He spent the next 28 years serving as bishop of Cheongju, where he helped to establish Kkottongnae, the largest Catholic charitable organization in South Korea.

Cheong led the years-long effort to translate the 1983 Code of Canon Law into the Korean language and published more than 50 books during his lifetime, including 15 commentaries on canon law.

He served as president of the Korean bishops’ conference from 1996 to 1999.

St. John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal in 2006.

From 1998 to 2004, the cardinal was president of the Korean bishops’ conferences Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, which worked toward bringing about the peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula.

He then launched the Catholic Life Committee in 2005 and advocated for investment in adult stem cell research.

The cardinal retired as archbishop of Seoul in 2012 but continued to write and publish books.

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal Yeom expressing his condolences upon the death of Cardinal Cheong.

“United with you in thanksgiving for Cardinal Jin-suk’s many years of service to the Church in Korea and to the Holy See, I join all assembled for the solemn funeral Mass in commending his noble soul to the compassionate love of Christ the Good Shepherd,” the pope wrote.

“To all who mourn the late cardinal’s passing in the sure hope of the Resurrection I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Risen Lord.”

In anti-corruption law, Pope Francis seeks to quash Vatican ‘envelope’ culture with ban on gifts over $50

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica. / Luxerendering/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2021 / 04:50 am (CNA).

As part of a sweeping new anti-corruption law, Pope Francis on Thursday declared that officials of the Roman Curia should no longer accept personal gifts with a monetary value over 40 euros (about $50).

The new rule appears to be an effort to quash the Vatican “envelope” culture, in which large monetary donations are made to bishops and cardinals working in the Roman Curia.

These gifts have been blamed for contributing to corruption in the Church when they were used between high-level Church officials to seek favors, most notably in cases like that of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The new directive says that Vatican officials must not “accept or solicit, for oneself or for subjects other than the Entity in which they serve, for reasons or on the occasion of one’s office, gifts, presents or other benefits of a value exceeding 40 euros.”

Pope Francis’ April 29 apostolic letter, issued in the form of motu proprio (“on his own impulse”), added this rule to the General Regulation of the Roman Curia, along with other requirements ensuring that Vatican personnel who handle the Vatican’s economic affairs are not involved in financially corrupt or illegal behavior.

In the motu proprio on “provisions on transparency in the management of public finance,” Pope Francis said that, “according to Scripture, fidelity in small things is related to fidelity in important ones.”

Referencing Luke 16:10, he added, “just as being dishonest in matters of little consequence is also related to being dishonest in important matters.”

The pope said that the new law was intended to bring the Holy See and Vatican City State further in line with international best practices on corruption and financial transparency, building off of his May 2020 motu proprio on transparency in the awarding of public contracts.

The new measures were necessary to “prevent and fight, in every sector, conflicts of interest, methods of patronage, and corruption in general,” Francis said.

He added that those who work in or are connected to the Vatican “have a particular responsibility to make concrete the fidelity of which the Gospel speaks, acting according to the principle of transparency and in the absence of any conflict of interest.”

Under the new regulation, the cardinals leading dicasteries or other offices, and senior management and administrators of the Holy See and Vatican City State, whose jobs require handling money, will be required to sign a document every two years attesting that they and their finances are not connected to crime.

In the statement, they must declare that they do not hold shareholdings or interests in companies that operate “with purposes and in sectors contrary to the Social Doctrine of the Church.”

They must also attest that all goods owned by them originate from lawful activities and are not the profit or product of crime. In addition, they must say that they have never been convicted of a crime and are not under any criminal trial or investigation for crimes of corruption, fraud, terrorism, money laundering, tax evasion, trafficking, exploitation of minors, or participation in a criminal organization.

The employee or official must also declare that they do not hold any cash or investments, including shareholdings or interests, in companies and businesses on a list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, or in countries considered at high risk for money laundering or terrorist financing.

The declaration will be held in the Secretariat for the Economy’s employee files and a copy will be kept in the Secretariat of State. The Secretariat for the Economy is authorized to verify the truth of the statements and false declarations will be subject to “a serious disciplinary offense.”

The new regulations must be enforced within 90 days of the law’s publication.

Pope Francis to launch rosary ‘marathon’ for end to pandemic

Pope Francis prays at the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens May 30, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday will lead a rosary to begin a month-long prayer marathon for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pope’s rosary will be broadcast live from the Gregorian Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica at 6 p.m. Rome time on May 1.

Situated directly to the west of the Holy Sacrament Chapel, the Gregorian Chapel contains the relics of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, a Doctor of the Church, as well as a 7th-century icon of Our Lady of Help.

The rosary kicks off a month of daily rosaries prayed at Catholic shrines around the world for the intention of an end to the coronavirus pandemic and the resumption of work and social activities.

Families, teens, and young adults from Rome and the surrounding region will lead the rosary together with Pope Francis.

During the event May 1, Pope Francis will also bless rosaries to be sent to the 30 Marian shrines participating in the daily live-streamed prayers.

Among these are the shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the United States, Our Lady of Częstochowa in Poland, the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary in South Korea, Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in the Philippines, Our Lady of Knock in Ireland, the Virgin of the Poor at Banneux in Belgium, Notre Dame d'Afrique in Algeria, Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima in Portugal, and Our Lady of Health in India.

Participating shrines in Italy include the Holy House of Loreto and Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei.

The other global shrines are Jesus the Saviour and Mother Mary in Nigeria, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Our Lady of Lujan in Argentina, Our Lady Queen of Peace at Medjugorje in Bosnia, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Australia, Our Lady of Lourdes in France, Meryem Ana in Turkey, Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre in Cuba, Our Lady of Nagasaki in Japan, Nuestra Señora de Montserrat in Spain, Notre Dame du Cap in Canada, the National Shrine Our Lady Ta’ Pinu in Malta, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Mexico, Mother of God in Zarvantysia in Ukraine, Altötting in Germany, and Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon.

Pope Francis will also close the month of rosaries by leading the prayer in the Vatican Gardens May 31.

The initiative, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, is in response to a request from the pope.

“Pope Francis wishes to involve all the shrines around the world in this initiative, so that they may become vehicles of the prayer of the entire Church,” a press release said. “The initiative is being conducted in the light of the biblical expression: ‘Prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God’ (Acts 12:5).”

The Vatican’s evangelization office said it had “extended this invitation to all the shrines around the world, in order to promote the diffusion of the initiative in the relevant regions, so as to reach priests, families, and all the faithful, inviting them to join in this prayer of intercession and hope to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

All Catholics are invited to participate in the daily rosaries however and wherever they are able, the press release said.

A liturgical guide, available in English, Spanish, and Italian, can be downloaded from the website of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.