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« Reply #30 on: May 17, 2013, 07:12 AM »

Pope Francis attacks 'cult of money' in reform call

Pontiff says politicians need to be bold in tackling the root causes of the economic crisis

Lizzy Davies in Rome
The Guardian, Friday 17 May 2013   

Pope Francis has hit out at unbridled capitalism and the "cult of money", calling for ethical reform of the financial system to create a more humane society.

In an impassioned appeal, the Argentinian pontiff said politicians needed to be bold in tackling the root causes of the economic crisis, which he said lay in an acceptance of money's "power over ourselves and our society".

"We have created new idols," he said in a speech in the Vatican. "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."

Attacking unchecked capitalism, the pope said the growing inequality in society was caused by "ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good".

Francis, who as a priest in Buenos Aires experienced his country's financial crisis, has made the rejection of riches and luxury the hallmark of his two-month pontificate. Days after his election as the Roman Catholic church's first non-European pope, he spoke of his desire for a "poor church".

On Thursday, he said: "A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules."

Ethics, he said, were too often dismissed as a nuisance. "There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone," he said. "Money has to serve, not to rule."

The Vatican's own source of economic strife, the once scandal-ridden Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) commonly known as the Vatican Bank, is itself reportedly preparing to implement certain reforms to put its troubles behind it.

Vatican Radio said the bank's new president Ernst von Freyberg told employees the institution was to launch its own website and publish an annual report in a bid to enhance transparency.
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« Reply #31 on: May 21, 2013, 06:26 AM »

Vatican denies video shows exorcism by Pope Francis

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 7:15 EDT

The Vatican on Tuesday denied that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism after an Italian religious television channel said footage of the pontiff blessing a boy in a wheelchair showed he had.

“The Holy Father did not intend to perform any exorcism,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement, after the claims by TV 2000, which is owned by the Italian bishops’ conference.

“As he often does with sick and suffering people who are presented to him, he simply intended to pray for the suffering person,” Lombardi said.

The channel quoted exorcists saying there was “no doubt the pope was either reciting a prayer for freeing from the devil or performing an exorcism.”

The footage recorded by Vatican television shows the pontiff briefly laying both hands on the boy’s head during a Pentecost ceremony on Sunday.

The boy is seen shaking for a few seconds.

TV 2000, which has previously aired claims that the pope’s predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI also exorcised the devil, is to broadcast a special programme on Friday devoted to “the pope’s struggle against the devil and his seductions”.

Exorcism is an ancient practice of driving out demons from a person or place, and exists in several religions including in Roman Catholicism, where it is treated with huge scepticism by many believers.
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« Reply #32 on: May 22, 2013, 06:55 AM »

May 21, 2013

Exorcist Says Pope Helped ‘Liberate’ Man


VATICAN CITY — A dispute over whether Pope Francis performed an exorcism intensified on Tuesday, with a well-known exorcist insisting that Francis helped “liberate” a Mexican man possessed by four different demons despite the Vatican’s insistence that no such papal exorcism took place.

The case concerns a 43-year-old husband and father who traveled to Rome from Mexico to attend Francis’ Mass on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. At the end of the Mass, Francis blessed several wheelchair-bound faithful as he always does, including a man described by the priest who brought him as being possessed by the devil.

Francis laid his hands on the man’s head and recited a prayer. The man heaved deeply a half-dozen times, shook, then slumped in his wheelchair.

The images, broadcast worldwide, prompted the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference to declare that according to several exorcists, there was “no doubt” that Francis either performed an exorcism or a simpler prayer to free the man from the devil.

The Vatican was more cautious. In a statement Tuesday, it said Francis “didn’t intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him.”

The Rev. Gabriele Amorth, a leading exorcist for the diocese of Rome, said he performed a lengthy exorcism of his own on the man Tuesday morning and ascertained that he was possessed by four separate demons. Rvenerand Amorth told RAI state radio that even a short prayer, without the full rite of exorcism being performed, is in itself a type of exorcism.

“That was a true exorcism,” he said of Francis’ prayer. “Exorcisms aren’t just done according to the rules of the ritual.”

The Rev. Juan Rivas, the priest who brought the man, took the Vatican line, saying it was no exorcism but that Francis merely said a prayer to free the man from the devil.
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« Reply #33 on: May 23, 2013, 06:56 AM »

Pope Francis calls on Christians to accept the good works atheists perform

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 22:59 EDT

Citing biblical scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned those who sought to drive a wedge between atheists and believers.

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God,” he said according to Vatican Radio. “That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

In the homily of his morning Mass, the Pope also added that nonbelievers could be redeemed through good works despite their lack of faith.

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” he said.

“If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

It is not the first time Pope Francis has voiced solidarity with atheists. In March, he said atheists and nonbelievers could be “precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

Father James Martin, a member of the Jesuit order, told the Huffington Post that such teachings had long been a part of the church.

“But rarely do you hear it said by Catholics so forcefully, and with such evident joy,” he added. “And in this era of religious controversies, it’s a timely reminder that God cannot be confined to our narrow categories.”
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« Reply #34 on: May 26, 2013, 07:06 AM »

May 25, 2013

Francis’ Humility and Emphasis on the Poor Strike a New Tone at the Vatican


VATICAN CITY — He has criticized the “cult of money” and greed he sees driving the world financial system, reflecting his affinity for liberation theology. He has left Vatican officials struggling to keep up with his off-the-cuff remarks and impromptu forays into the crowds of tens of thousands that fill St. Peter’s Square during his audiences. He has delighted souvenir vendors near the Vatican by increasing tourist traffic.

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, has been in office for only two months, but already he has changed the tone of the papacy, lifting morale and bringing a new sense of enthusiasm to the Roman Catholic Church and to the Vatican itself, Vatican officials and the faithful say.

“It’s very positive. There’s a change of air, a sense of energy,” said one Vatican official, speaking with traditional anonymity. “Some people would use the term honeymoon, but there’s no indication that it will let up.”

Beyond appointing eight cardinals as outside advisers, Francis has not yet begun making concrete changes or set forth an ambitious policy agenda in a Vatican hierarchy that was gripped by scandal during the papacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict, who resigned on Feb. 28, is now living in a monastery inside the Vatican.

But Francis’ emphasis on attention to the poor, and a style that is more akin to that of a parish priest, albeit one with one billion parishioners, is already transforming perceptions. He has chosen to live not in the papal apartments but rather in the Casa Santa Marta residence inside the Vatican, where he eats dinner in the company of lower-ranking priests and visitors.

“There are differences, but differences of style, not content,” said Giovanni Maria Vian, editor in chief of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, comparing Francis with Benedict.

In his speeches, “his style is simple and direct. It’s not elaborately constructed and complex,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

He has repeatedly returned to the euro crisis and the suffering it has caused in Greece and the Catholic countries of Southern Europe.

“If investments in the banks fail, ‘Oh, it’s a tragedy,’ ” he said, speaking extemporaneously for more than 40 minutes at a Pentecost vigil last weekend, after a private audience with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the architect of Europe’s austerity policies. “But if people die of hunger or don’t have food or health, nothing happens. This is our crisis today.”

In a recent speech to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Francis also spoke of the need for more ethics in finance.

“The financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis,” he said, adding: “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

Father Lombardi said that the pope had called him before that speech. “He said, ‘Pay attention, this is important. I want people to understand it’s important,’ ” he said.

Francis’ speeches clearly draw on the themes of liberation theology, a movement that seeks to use the teachings of the Gospel to help free people from poverty and that has been particularly strong in his native Latin America. In the 1980s, Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, led a campaign to rein in the movement, which he saw as too closely tied to some Marxist political elements.

Francis studied with an Argentine Jesuit priest who was a proponent of liberation theology, and Father Lombardi acknowledged the echoes. “But what is clear is that he was always against the strains of liberation theology that had an ideological Marxist element,” he said.

While Benedict generally delivered only carefully prepared speeches and rarely used the first person, Francis has a more conversational tone, with frequent mentions of his own personal and family history. In his Pentecost remarks last weekend, he cited biblical verses, but he also said with a smile that he sometimes dozed off while praying and recalled how he had been inspired to enter the priesthood by the simple faith of his mother and grandmother.

Francis improvises so often that Vatican communications officials have trouble keeping up with him. “We’re all learning,” Father Lombardi said.

Vatican Radio often rushes to provide transcripts, including of the homilies the pope delivers at Mass each morning in a chapel frequented by employees of Vatican City State. He arrives early and prays with the parishioners before putting on his vestments. Afterward, “he greets everyone personally,” Father Lombardi said.

The faithful love it. “I feel like I am a new Catholic since he became pope,” said Attilio Cortiga, 59, a public employee from the southern Italian region of Campania, who got up at 1 a.m. to travel to Francis’ weekly audience on Wednesday. “I came because I feel he is very close to us ordinary people. His words touch anybody’s heart.”

Vatican watchers say that Francis has been drawing above-average crowds, even for the early months of a new papacy.

“The economy has picked up again here,” said Marco Mesceni, 60, a third-generation vendor of papal memorabilia outside St. Peter’s Square. “It was so hard to sell anything under Benedict. This pope attracts huge crowds, and they all want to bring back home something with his smiling face on it.”

Francis has also been enjoying far better press than Benedict ever did. “He does not suffer from the prejudices that unfortunately Benedict immediately had against him,” said Mr. Vian, the newspaper editor. He argued that many of Benedict’s missteps, with other faiths and more progressive Catholics, and the scandals that plagued his papacy, came as much from perceptions of the pope as from reality.

The new pope has done things that might well have caused more controversy on his predecessor’s watch. On May 12, Francis celebrated a Mass at St. Peter’s to canonize two Latin Americans and 800 people who were killed in Otranto, in the southern Italian region of Puglia, in 1480 after they refused to convert to Islam at the hands of Ottoman Turkish invaders. The 800 were sainted as Christian martyrs, which does not require evidence of two miracles.

“If Benedict had done that, maybe the polemics would have mounted,” Mr. Vian said, alluding to the previous pope’s strained rapport with the Muslim world. It was, in fact, Benedict who ordered the canonization of the 800, but the announcement drew little attention — it came in the same speech when he shocked the world by saying he would retire.

The previous pope, a theologian, often warned of the “risks” facing the church, and reminded Catholics of the ways “that we’re on the wrong path,” Father Lombardi said. That was important, he said, but sometimes a change of emphasis is good. “To be told repeatedly about how God’s love and mercy can transform the hearts of people, there was a need for that,” he added.

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.
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« Reply #35 on: Jun 07, 2013, 06:56 AM »

June 7, 2013

Francis Gets Personal: 'I Didn't Want to Be Pope'


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has revealed that he never wanted to be pope and that he's living in the Vatican hotel for his "psychiatric" health.

Francis got very personal Friday as he met with thousands of children from Jesuit schools across Italy and Albania. Answering their questions one by one, Francis told them the decision to become a priest had been difficult for him and that he had suffered "moments of interior darkness" when "you feel dry, without interior joy."

But he said he went ahead because he loved Christ.

One of the most touching moments came when Teresa, a bright-eyed redhead no more than six, asked Francis flat out if he had wanted to be pope.

After joking around, Francis replied: "I didn't want to be pope."


Pope Francis forgoes summer holiday

Unlike predecessors, Argentinian pope will not spend significant time in retreat at pontifical estate in Castel Gandolfo

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Thursday 6 June 2013 16.28 BST

He has given up the papal palace and renounced the red shoes. Now Pope Francis has made arguably his biggest sacrifice yet: he won't be going away for a summer holiday.

The Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said that, unlike his predecessors, the Argentinian pontiff would not be spending significant periods of time away from his modest home at the Vatican's Domus Santa Marta guest house during July and August.

While his predecessors made a habit of escaping the usually stifling summer conditions in Vatican City for the cool air of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, Francis is expected to only visit the pontifical estate once in July to celebrate a mass.

With its villas and working farm, the peaceful hilltop town was the destination that emeritus pope Benedict XVI initially chose to retreat to when he resigned from the papacy in February. He has now returned to the Vatican, where he is living in quiet seclusion in a converted monastery.

Despite Francis's decision to stay closer to home – which Lombardi said echoed his preferences as archbishop of Buenos Aires – the pope will be relaxing his schedule over the summer.

In a statement, the Vatican said there would be no general audiences on a Wednesday during July. But much of that month is likely to be spent in preparation for his first foreign trip as pontiff, which, fittingly enough for the Roman Catholic church's first Latin American head, will be a week-long visit to Brazil for World Youth Day 2013.

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« Reply #36 on: Jun 12, 2013, 07:06 AM »

Pope Francis 'admits that gay prelate network exists'

Leaked notes from private meeting show pontiff speaking about a 'stream of corruption'

Lizzy Davies in Rome and agencies
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 June 2013

The pope has admitted the existence of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, reports published on Tuesday said.

According to leaked notes of a private conversation with Catholic officials at the Latin American Conference of Religious (Clar), Francis was asked about being in charge of the Roman curia, the Chilean website Reflexión y Liberación reported. According to site, the Argentinian pontiff, speaking in his native Spanish, said the task was difficult as, alongside "holy people", there was also "a stream of corruption". He was then quoted as adding: "The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do."

Clar later confirmed its leaders had written a synopsis of the pope's remarks and said it was greatly distressed that the document had been published. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he had no comment to make on the remarks made in "a private meeting". The text follows repeated claims that there are a significant number of influential gay clerics within the Vatican.

The speculation peaked in February when, soon after Benedict XVI resigned, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica claimed he had decided to step down after receiving a dossier investigating the Vatileaks scandal containing details of a network of gay prelates, some of whom were vulnerable to blackmail.

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« Reply #37 on: Jun 15, 2013, 06:47 AM »

Pope Francis is emerging strongly from the Vatican's 'gay lobby' crisis

If leaked talks on the matter are anything to go by, the Catholic church has an ambitious and surprisingly straightforward pontiff

Posted by
Andrew Brown   
Friday 14 June 2013 16.51 BST     

According to notes from a conversation between Pope Francis and catholic officials that were leaked earlier this week, the pontiff believes in the existence of a "gay lobby" and a "stream of corruption" inside the Vatican.

Reading the transcript of his remarks, what's astonishing is not so much that he wants a revolution in the Vatican – everyone outside it wants one now – but his ambition to turn so much more upside down. He told his visitors, representatives of the Latin American nuns and monks, that it's time to "flip the tortilla": "Money is not the image and likeness of God. Only the person is the image and likeness of God. It is necessary to flip it over. This is the gospel."

The transcript that has emerged, while not reproducing all his words, was an account of them agreed by the delegation immediately afterwards and has not been denied – in fact the organisation involved apologised that it had been leaked, which seems to confirm its accuracy.

The headline news was of course the description of the "gay lobby". This appears to be further confirmation of the rumours that the secret investigation into the Vatileaks scandal conducted last autumn by three cardinals, found involvement of significant gay networks within the Vatican. The arrival of this report on Pope Benedict's desk seems to have been the last straw that precipitated his resignation. One of his most trusted advisers is fingered in many of these rumours.

All this is known to everyone concerned with Catholic church politics yet not much spoken about. Francis's remarks, as recorded, have something of the same taken-for-granted quality. He starts by saying that "in the Curire are also holy people, yes, really, there are holy people." You have to love that "really", and the fact that the pope feels it necessary to say that there are holy people somewhere in the Vatican. Then he says "there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true … The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do."

Although most reports have followed the original translation and used the term "gay lobby", "network" may be the better term in English. One of these networks does function as a lobby for traditionalist rightwing Catholicism. But lobby groups are nothing new at courts.

What makes this so serious for the Vatican is that any sexually active Catholic priest is a potential blackmail victim, and priests who know of one another's activities can be bound into unhealthy networks by an atmosphere of guilty secrets. There have always been gay priests, bishops, and even cardinals, but in the past 30 years they seem to have formed an increasing proportion of the clergy, as the rule of celibacy becomes harder to enforce and falls into general contempt.

This kind of semi-clandestine network festered within the Church of England for many years, and did a great deal of damage. Only once radical groups started to out bishops who voted against their own inclinations did it reach the present agonised stalemate, in which there is open and reasonably honest disagreement.

In the notes published, Francis made only passing reference to this lobby. He did make it clear that the committee of eight cardinals he has appointed are there for the job: "I am very disorganised, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the commission will move it forward. There is Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is Latin American, who is in front of it, there is Errázuriz, they are very organised. The one from Munich [Cardinal Marx] is also very organised. They will move it forward."

In a similar vein, he urged the visitors not to take too much notice of the intrusive Vatican bureaucracy. "Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing. But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward. Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up."

This is very strong stuff, considering that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, made his name as the man in charge of the CDF, the Vatican's department for enforcing orthodoxy.

The Francis who emerges from these notes is a straightforward man, who nonetheless believes himself chosen by God. The first of these qualities is unusual in popes. Above all, he has very little patience with religion as a matter of observances or feelings. He mocks traditionalists (who hate him). "The gospel is not the old rule, nor [New Age sentimentality]. If you look at the destitute, the drug addicts, human trafficking ... this is the gospel. The poor are the gospel."

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« Reply #38 on: Jun 20, 2013, 06:19 AM »

June 20, 2013

Pope Blames Speculation, Corruption for 'Scandalous' Food Crisis


ROME — Pope Francis said on Thursday that financial speculation and corruption were keeping millions of people in hunger and the financial crisis could not be used as an alibi for failing to help the poor.

The speech was the latest in a series of criticisms by the Argentinian pontiff, the first Latin American pope, of what he has called "the dictatorship of the economy" and the spread of consumerist values.

"It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous," he said in a speech to participants of a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Rome.

Francis has made repeated calls to tackle poverty and focus on the needs of the poor since he succeeded Pope Benedict in March. He has made it his mission to rejuvenate an institution reeling from scandals, including widespread sexual abuse by priests, and losing people to other faiths.

"A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table," he said.

"There is a need to oppose the shortsighted economic interests and the mentality of power of a relative few who exclude the majority of the world's peoples." he said.

Speaking earlier this month ahead of the G8 summit of world leaders, Francis denounced what he called a culture of waste in an increasingly consumerist world and said throwing away good food was like stealing from poor people.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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« Reply #39 on: Jun 23, 2013, 06:41 AM »

Vatican agrees to inquiry into Cardinal O'Brien's sexual conduct

Dismay among Britain's Catholics as church says cardinal's successor must lead investigation

Catherine Deveney   
The Observer, Sunday 23 June 2013

The Vatican has finally acceded to demands for a formal inquiry into Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who resigned from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February following allegations of sexual misconduct.

An apostolic visitation, a high-level inspection in which the "visitator" is given authority directly by the pope, will take place in the diocese, which has been accused of having had a "gay mafia" during the cardinal's tenure.

News of the apostolic visitation came via the papal nuncio, Antonio Mennini, in a meeting with one of the complainants, a former priest known as "Lenny" who accused the cardinal of making sexual advances to him when he was a seminarian. "The archbishop told me the holy see had decided there would be an investigation into all of the allegations. Anyone affected would be able to give evidence. If it is judged that there is sufficient evidence, then it would go to another, deeper process in Rome," said Lenny.

Lenny expressed relief that the facts would finally be examined.

"I am glad the Catholic church has faced up to the need for a process to determine the truth," he said. "If this story had not gone public in the Observer in February, if there had not been consistent calls for action, we would not have got to this point. But it's now important to scrutinise the scope and remit of the visitation.

"It must address Keith O'Brien's behaviour, but also examine whether any promotions were awarded to the cardinal's cronies."

However, Lenny was dismayed by the nuncio's insistence that the visitator should be the new archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. O'Brien's successor is expected to be announced this month and there is widespread speculation that he will be a Scot currently working in Rome.

"I told Archbishop Mennini that the process was not likely to reach the truth if it was conducted by the new archbishop, whoever that turns out to be. Priests are hardly likely to be completely frank with someone who holds their lives in his hands for years to come. I hope the nuncio rethinks."

"It would be ridiculous to appoint the cardinal's successor," agreed Tom Doyle, a senior canon lawyer who worked at the nunciature in Washington before representing abuse victims all over the world in cases against the Catholic church.

"The whole point is that it's someone from outside. If they appoint O'Brien's successor to lead the investigation, they are going to look like fools."

The cardinal's resignation and removal from Scotland for six months of prayer and penance had cast doubt over an inquiry.

In a statement in March, he acknowledged: "My sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal." The admission suggested that his behaviour had covered a long period, but because it was non-specific the allegations have subsequently been minimised.

Mennini's only public pronouncement has been that the cardinal made mistakes but had also done "a lot of good". "He didn't say anything about Keith's victims," said Lenny. "I told him that was deeply offensive and hurtful."

"It's blame-shifting," said Doyle. "Hitler created the autobahn and Mussolini made the trains run on time. That's not the point.

"Probably good was done while O'Brien was in charge, but the fact is that people's lives were seriously, seriously harmed by him. That's certain."

Senior figures in Rome say the apostolic visitation is a way of dealing not just with the cardinal but with the more general accusations of moral malaise sweeping the church in Scotland.

"Given that the Cardinal O'Brien case seems to be a salient feature of a larger network of dysfunction, an apostolic visitation could be a very appropriate way of addressing the larger problem," said Father Robert Gahl, an associate professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Doyle, who was involved in several apostolic visitations in Washington, is less convinced. Ireland's apostolic visitation in 2011, following widespread child abuse cases, was a "total farce", he said.

"I don't think an apostolic visitation will achieve much. In my experience of sexual abuse – which dates back 30 years – the only significant truth that has ever arisen has been when totally independent investigations have been carried out.

"In America, it's been grand juries. In Ireland, it's been statutory commissions. If they are really looking into alleged abuse by Keith O'Brien, the only way to do it is to appoint outside investigators who have free rein. But they won't."


Pope forces out Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Benedict forced resignation of Britain's most senior Roman Catholic in attempt to minimise the impact of allegations

Severin Carrell and Sam Jones   
The Guardian, Monday 25 February 2013 21.28 GMT   

The pope has forced the abrupt resignation of Britain's most senior Roman Catholic as the church made a frantic attempt to minimise the impact of allegations of "inappropriate acts" committed by Cardinal Keith O'Brien against fellow priests.

O'Brien stood down as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh the day after the Observer published accusations by three serving priests and a former priest about his conduct towards them during the 1980s.

He issued a statement in which he ambiguously apologised for "any failures" and to those he had "offended", and announced that he would no longer travel to the Vatican to help select a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who retires at 8pm on Thursday. O'Brien had been due to be the only British cardinal with a vote.

The cardinal revealed in his statement that he had been asked by the outgoing pope to stand down immediately. Already due to retire next month, the cardinal stated: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today."

Senior Catholics said his resignation was intended to stop the allegations turning into a crisis. The church is already under pressure over unrelated abuse and corruption scandals in other dioceses.

Professor John Haldane, one of Scotland's senior Catholic theologians and an adviser to the Vatican, said O'Brien's decision was "shocking and sad" but, given the timing of the allegations and the "inevitable" media interest, it was not a surprise. "He would not want that burden to fall upon the church and the pope at what is obviously a critical moment in the life of the Roman Catholic community," Haldane said.

But the move led critics to demand that other cardinals at the centre of scandals over failures to report sex abuse by priests – including Roger Mahony, emeritus archbishop of Los Angeles, and Seán Brady, the primate of all Ireland – "recuse" themselves from the papal conclave, citing O'Brien's decision as a precedent.

Insiders said O'Brien's abrupt departure had left the Scottish Catholic church, which he had led for 10 years, disoriented and shocked. One source said it meant that only three out of eight Scottish dioceses now have full-time, permanent bishops in charge.

In a detailed statement, O'Brien said: "I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.

"I also ask God's blessing on my brother cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect his successor. I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."

That statement did not repeat his earlier denials at the weekend rebutting the allegations. After he failed to appear on Sunday to take a mass at St Mary's cathedral celebrating Pope Benedict's eight years as pontiff, his deputy hinted that O'Brien was considering his future.

In another sign the Vatican is anxious to appoint Benedict's successor quickly and smoothly, the Vatican announced on Monday that the pope had changed the rules governing the conclave so that it could begin its deliberations immediately after he formally stands down on Thursday.

The move means cardinals no longer have to wait 15 days before beginning the conclave after the papacy becomes vacant on Thursday. That means a new pope could be elected before the end of Lent.

The four complainants went public with their allegations against O'Brien at the weekend in protest at his involvement in selecting the next pope. The four men had urged him to resign immediately, arguing that they wanted the conclave electing the new pope to be "clean".

In early February, the four submitted their detailed allegations against the cardinal, which date back to the 1980s, in a letter given by an intermediary to the pope's ambassador to the UK, Antonio Mennini.

On 11 February, Pope Benedict surprised the world by announcing he was stepping down, citing his own ailing health. On 18 February, O'Brien disclosed in his resignation statement, the pope accepted his retirement request but said it was "nunc pro tunc", in order words, "now, but to take effect later".

In a pre-recorded interview broadcast by BBC Scotland last Friday, in which he also surprised many in his church and outside by calling for priests to be allowed to marry, O'Brien confirmed that he expected to retire on St Patrick's day, his birthday.

The following evening, the Observer published the allegations against him. Those included claims by one man, then an 18-year-old seminarian, that O'Brien had made an inappropriate approach one night; allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a second man, a priest; and of "unwanted behaviour" after a late night drinks session by another priest. The third priest also alleged "inappropriate contact" after night prayers.

In his statement on Monday, O'Brien implied he had been told to resign immediately, stating: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, 25 February 2013, and that he will appoint an apostolic administrator to govern the archdiocese in my place until my successor as archbishop is appointed."

Many observers assumed O'Brien would press ahead with his plans to attend the conclave: the allegations were about 30 years old, unproven and he had denied them. Experts said he was obliged, as one of only 117 cardinals eligible to vote, to take part.

Professor Tom Devine, a prominent Catholic, said O'Brien's resignation was "the gravest single public crisis to hit the Catholic church in Scotland since the Reformation and its effects in the short term are incalculable".

O'Brien had been "a courageous leader of his flock, well liked and respected," he said. Devine added, however, that some perspective was needed: the church had survived crises for centuries and was larger than a single man.

He said O'Brien's accusers should make themselves known "in the cause of transparency and indeed fairness to all. [If] Catholicism in Scotland is to move on from this tragic affair, a number of serious questions urgently require frank and honest answers from all concerned".


Cardinal Keith O'Brien: how Britain's Catholic leader fell from grace

Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned just 36 hours after we reported complaints of inappropriate behaviour by three priests and an ex-priest. Now the story has plunged the church deep into crisis

Catherine Deveney   
The Observer, Saturday 2 March 2013 20.37 GMT   

What is it about a gold mitre, a flowing robe, a flash of cardinal red that so clouds our judgment? It is as if we believe these things hold a kind of magic. Don them and the wearer becomes pure and invincible. No human urges, no troublesome sexuality. Some people are naively enthralled by hierarchy. Priest, good. Bishop, better. Cardinal, best of all. The four complainants in the Cardinal O'Brien affair, who have accused him of inappropriate behaviour, haven't rated much sympathy within this strange moral hierarchy. "Who are they?" I have been asked all week. "Where are they?" has been another frequent question. But I have rarely been asked: "How are they?"

A narrative has begun to be embroidered on the cardinal's magic mitre. A fairytale. He is named but his accusers are not, and therefore the accusations are invalid. Let us be clear about one thing: the three priests, and one former priest, who have made complaints are not anonymous. They have given sworn, signed statements to the papal nuncio. The unnerving thing about the hunt to "out" these men (my phone has not stopped ringing with offers to "make it worth my while") is that it suggests people who have suffered traumatic events have no rights over how to tell their story, or how much information is made public. We demand not just that the appropriate authorities know names – we, the public, should know them, too.

In purely human terms, the story of Cardinal O'Brien's resignation is tragic. He had spent a lifetime reaching the upper echelons of his church, but after allegations of inappropriate behaviour made in the Observer last Sunday his fall from grace took just 36 hours. Not one of the four complainants takes any satisfaction from that. This is not about the exposure of one man's alleged foibles. It is about the exposure of a church official who publicly issues a moral blueprint for others' lives that he is not prepared to live out himself. Homosexuality is not the issue; hypocrisy is. The cardinal consistently condemned homosexuality during his reign, vociferously opposing gay adoption and same-sex marriage. The church cannot face in two directions like a grotesque two-headed monster: one face for public, the other for private.

There have been some misunderstandings about the timing of this tale: ridiculous accusations about the complaints spoiling the cardinal's retirement and having "the whiff of payback" for petty jealousies. Then it was suggested that this was all a conspiracy to prevent Keith O'Brien going to the conclave.

But in many ways this story was overtaken by events. The four complainants made their statements to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, around 8 or 9 February. On 11 February the pope resigned. The first response the complainants received from the nuncio said O'Brien should continue to go to Rome because "that will make it easier to arrange his retirement to be one of prayer and seclusion like the pope". The complainants recognised church subtext. In a message to me one wrote: "This is saying, 'leave it to us to sweep it under the carpet and you can forget about it. It will fade away as if we have dealt with it.' Not acceptable."

On 22 February, the cardinal gave an interview to the BBC about going to the conclave. He also said that church rules on celibacy should be reviewed. Informally, the men heard that the church was unhappy about that interview. Action would be taken. The cardinal would not go to Rome.

So did the church act because it was shocked by the claims against the cardinal or were they were angry he had broken ranks on celibacy? Two days later, the Observer published the story.

But why had the men waited so long to report allegations dating back to the 1980s? The answer is that people who have suffered trauma are not public property. They have the right to come to terms with it in their own time and express it in their own way, when they are ready. Being ready can simply be a collision of circumstances. Often, it's as straightforward as realising you are not the only one.

Sometimes as a journalist, you hold one piece of a jigsaw puzzle for a very long time. Gradually, you pick up another piece, and then another, until the picture clicks together and makes sense. I had known one element of this story for years: the former priest's. Let's call him Lenny. Now married, Lenny had been approached by the cardinal while a seminarian. Lenny says the cardinal was his spiritual director and used bedtime prayers as an opportunity to make advances to his young student.

"I knew myself to be heterosexual," he says, "but I did say to others that I thought it would be easier to get through seminary if you were gay."

Last month I received a call from Lenny. He was very shaken. He had had a conversation with a priest – we'll call him Peter – whom he hadn't spoken to for years. Peter told Lenny about an inappropriate relationship the cardinal had instigated with him. Two other priests were drawn in: Kenny and John. Both had experienced unwanted advances from the cardinal.

"I'd never wanted to 'out' Keith just for being gay," says Lenny. "But this was confirming that his behaviour towards me was part of his modus operandi. He has hurt others, probably worse, than he affected me. And that only became clear a few weeks ago."

Last week there were claims the cardinal did not know details of the allegations. How could he respond, the implication was, if he did not know what he was being accused of? That was simply untrue. Last Saturday, the day before the Observer printed the story, the cardinal did not respond to calls and messages left for him. The Scottish Catholic Media Office was approached. Peter Kearney, the communications director, asked for the allegations to be put in writing. They were. In that email, four separate allegations were outlined. At the end, a direct question was posed: "Is it true that the cardinal has broken his vow of celibacy?" The allegations could not have been more specific.

Kearney certainly seemed to understand at the time. His response was brief: "The cardinal is consulting his lawyers. These claims are contested and should not be published." But I had four statements that described the cardinal attempting to touch, kiss, or have sex with people in his care.

"He started fondling my body, kissing me and telling me how special I was to him and how much he loved me," one had written. One of the statements was five pages long. Given the strength of the evidence we had, the Observer chose to publish the story.

There have been many questions about the four complainants that cast doubt on them and their motives. So let me tell you about the men I have come to know. They are men of conscience and integrity who desperately want to do "the right thing". Men who love the church but recognise that the way it covers up scandal and hides wrongdoing is damaging. On a personal level they are funny, kind, spirited, generous, conventional and unconventional in different measures. But above all they are brave. Peter wrote to me saying it had been the worst week of his life. He couldn't eat, couldn't sleep. Each of those men spoke out knowing it could ruin their lives. Some of them were trying to work out what order they might be able to take refuge in if the church disowned them for speaking.

The biggest sin in the Catholic church has historically been "scandalising the faithful". That is why the abhorrent cover-ups of child sex-abuse scandals have been part of the church's history. They shield their own – and if you speak against them, you stop being their own. Archbishop Tartaglia of Glasgow – who caused outrage last year when he linked the tragically premature death of David Cairns MP to his homosexual lifestyle – publicly said prayers for the cardinal at mass in Edinburgh after being named as the cardinal's temporary replacement. He invited the cameras in while he did it. It is right that the cardinal is given adequate support. It is not right if the church pretends that he is the victim in this. The gold mitre, the cardinal's robes, do not make him more worthy of support than the men in ordinary clerical collars.

It seems there is a great deal of displacement activity going on in the Scottish Catholic Church. It is not the behaviour of the four complainants that should be concentrated on. It is the behaviour of the cardinal. How big a crisis this is for the church lies in its own hands. The signs so far do not suggest a new era of openness. But, as the church itself proclaims, redemption is always possible for a sinner.

Priests tell me there is a "gay culture" in the Scottish Catholic church – but not an open, healthy one. In some ways, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise. The church has always had a deeply cynical side when it comes to sexual morality. Lenny recalls being a young priest, accompanying an older priest who would rise to great heights in the church. The older man was drunk and was ranting about men who left the priesthood. Why leave to have sex? Why didn't they just visit a sauna and go to confession in the morning?

A cardinal does not resign overnight over trivia. Some people have questioned, though, whether his alleged behaviour constitutes abuse. After all, this involves adults, not children. One commentator even suggested it's all just a scandalous homophobic plot. That completely misunderstands the nature of the power a spiritual director has over his seminarians and a cardinal has over his priests. Lenny gave up his priesthood when O'Brien was promoted to be his bishop. He did not want to be in his power. "He harmed me in so many ways," he explained.

And ask Peter if this story involved abuse. Peter has undergone long-term psychological counselling. His experiences with the cardinal are part of his records. Peter admits he even contemplated suicide. And still people are shouting "Reveal yourself!"

Why should he?

A few nights ago Lenny had a dream. He and his fellow complainants were in a cold, damp church, searching for a piece of scripture for a funeral. The Bible they were looking in was tattered. They could not find the words. When he woke, Lenny knew exactly the passage they had been hunting for: Ecclesiasticus 2. He wants the words read at his own funeral, to be acknowledged in the end as a priest.

"My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord,
Prepare yourself for an ordeal…
…Since gold is tested in the fire
And chosen men in the furnace of humiliation."

There is the superficial gold of the mitre, and then there is solid gold. The church has to learn the difference. When Lenny told the others his dream, one said he, too, had dreamed about their situation. His dream had been simpler. Keith O'Brien had asked their forgiveness for his behaviour. All of them had granted it.

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« Reply #40 on: Jun 26, 2013, 06:26 AM »

June 26, 2013

Pope Names Commission of Inquiry Into Vatican Bank


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Wednesday named a commission of inquiry to look into the activities of the troubled Vatican bank amid a new money-laundering investigation and continued questions about the secretive institution.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Francis has intervened to get to the bottom of the problems that have plagued the Institute for Religious Works for decades. On June 15, he filled a key vacancy in the bank's governing structure, tapping a trusted friend to be his eyes inside the bank with access to documentation, board meetings and management.

On Wednesday, he named a commission to investigate the bank's legal structure and activities "to allow for a better harmonization with the universal mission of the Apostolic See," according to the legal document that created it.

He named five people to the commission, including two Americans: Monsignor Peter Wells, a top official in the Vatican secretariat of state, and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and current president of a pontifical academy.

U.S. cardinals were among the most vocal in demanding a wholesale reform of the Vatican bureaucracy — and the Vatican bank — in the meetings running up to the March conclave that elected Francis pope. The demands were raised following revelations in leaked documents last year that told of dysfunction, petty turf wars and allegations of corruption in the Holy See's governance.

The commission is already at work. Its members have the authority to gather documents, data and information about the bank, even surpassing normal secrecy rules. The bank's administration continues to function as normal, as does the Vatican's new financial watchdog agency which has supervisory control over it.

The announcement came amid a new embarrassment for the Vatican in which prosecutors from the southern city of Salerno have placed a senior Vatican official under investigation for alleged money-laundering. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed Wednesday that Monsignor Nunzio Scarano had been suspended temporarily from his position in one of the Vatican's key finance offices, the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Scarano has said he did nothing wrong.

The Vatican bank was founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to manage assets destined for religious or charitable works. Located in a tower just inside the gates of Vatican City, it also manages the pension system for the Vatican's thousands of employees.

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« Reply #41 on: Jun 28, 2013, 06:26 AM »

Vatican bank cleric arrested in €20m corruption inquiry

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, accused of trying to help friends bring millions of euros into Italy from Switzerland by plane

Reuters in Rome, Friday 28 June 2013 11.56 BST   

A senior Vatican cleric suspected of trying to help rich friends bring millions of euros into Italy illegally has been arrested as part of an investigation into the Vatican bank.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican's financial administration, is involved in another investigation by magistrates in southern Italy. He was arrested in a parish in the outskirts of Rome and taken to the city's Queen of Heaven jail, his lawyer, Silverio Sica, said. Also arrested in the investigation were a member of Italy's secret services and a financial broker.

Sica said Scarano was accused of being involved in an attempt to help friends bring €20m (£17m) into Italy from Switzerland by plane, in league with the secret service agent and a financial intermediary.

The lawyer, who had access to the charge sheet, said the money never left Switzerland. Detectives identified the secret service agent as Giovanni Zitto and the broker as Giovanni Carenzio. It was not clear what role the bank had, if any, in the latest developments.

A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said Vatican authorities were willing to co-operate with the investigation, but had so far received no official request. He said the AIF, the Vatican's financial authority, was monitoring the case and would take action if necessary.

The arrests came two days after the Vatican announced Pope Francis had set up a commission of inquiry into the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, which has been hit by a numerous scandals over the years.

Scarano worked for years as a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. He was suspended from his duties several weeks ago when he was placed under investigation by magistrates in the southern city of Salerno, his home town.

In that inquiry, Sica said wealthy friends had donated money to Scarano to help him build a home for the terminally ill. According to the lawyer, his client wanted to use that money to pay off his mortgage so he could sell a property in Salerno and use the proceeds to construct the facility.

In an apparent attempt to cover his tracks, Scarano has been accused of taking €560,000 in cash out of his account in the Vatican bank a little at a time, usually €10,000 and giving it to friends who then gave him cheques. He deposited the cheques into a separate bank account to pay off the mortgage.

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« Reply #42 on: Jul 02, 2013, 05:50 AM »

Vatican bank promises sweeping change as senior staff resign

Director and deputy director step down just three days after the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano over corruption allegations

John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian, Tuesday 2 July 2013   

Sweeping changes at the top of the Vatican's scandal-ridden bank were announced on Monday night following the arrest of a senior church official in the latest of a string of scandals to have hit the institution.

The bank's recently appointed president, Ernst von Freyberg, said its two top officials – the director and deputy director – had both resigned. He thanked them for their "personal dedication" but added: "It is clear today that we need new leadership."

The departures came three days after the arrest of an official in another Vatican financial department, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano. The Italian authorities said he was a suspect in two inquiries involving alleged corruption and money laundering respectively.

Transactions made through Scarano's accounts at the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) – popularly known as the Vatican bank – are central to both investigations. The IOR, which does not lend money and is thus not technically a bank, was set up in 1942 to handle the deposits mainly of church organisations and individual clerics. But accounts are known to have been opened for outsiders and the IOR has repeatedly been at the heart of financial scandals, often involving alleged money-laundering.

A statement said the director, Paolo Cipriani, and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, had offered to step down "in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See." Three years ago, Cipriani was placed under investigation, together with the bank's then-president, for alleged violations of Italy's anti-money-laundering laws. Police seized €23m (£20m) from an IOR account at a Rome bank. But the money was later released and neither Cipriani nor the then-president has since been charged.

In a separate case, the 61-year-old Scarano, who was a banker before he became a priest, was arrested at the same time as a former intelligence officer and a financial broker. They are accused of plotting to bring €20m into Italy from Switzerland, where it had allegedly been stashed away by a family of Neapolitan shipowners seeking to avoid Italian tax.

Yesterday, Scarano was questioned for three hours by a judge in Rome, who must decide whether to confirm his arrest. Scarano's lawyer, Silverio Sica, acknowledged that the scenario mapped out by prosecutors is true, the Associated Press reported. But he said the defence would contest the corruption accusation on technical grounds. "We cannot deny the facts," Sica said. "But for us, there aren't the technical reasons for the corruption accusation, and we believe that he did this to help out his friends."

Scarano is also under investigation on a money laundering charge, which he has denied.

Since his election in March, Pope Francis has dropped several hints that the IOR is top of his "hit list" for reform. At the end of last month, he appointed a special commission to investigate the bank, with powers to overrule its client secrecy norms.

The IOR said von Freyberg would temporarily take over the job of director. It also announced the appointment of a new acting chief risk officer with the task of overseeing compliance with international regulations and unspecified "special projects". The first occupant of the job will be Antonio Montaresi, an Italian who has had similar responsibilities in various US banks.

The statement said the banking consultancy, Promontory, had been working since May "to strengthen the Institute's anti-money laundering programme". Elizabeth McCaul, CEO of Promontory Europe and former New York Superintendent of Banks, had been asked to act as a special adviser, together with the firm's chief operating officer, Raffaele Cosimo. Their job will be to support the management.

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« Reply #43 on: Jul 03, 2013, 07:49 AM »

Italian police probe more suspicious Vatican bank transfers

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 7:32 EDT

Italian police have found 13 suspicious money transfers through the Vatican bank, a newspaper said Tuesday, reporting that a senior cleric arrested last week allegedly offered his own accounts to transfer money for his friends.

The Corriere della Sera daily said that the suspect operations which have triggered money laundering controls totalled more than 1.0 million euros ($1.3 million) and were similar to a larger 23-million-euro transfer that led to an investigation that is shaking up the bank.

It also quoted from documents in the investigation against Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the senior Vatican accountant held as part of a sweeping probe of the scandal-plagued Vatican bank.

Scarano is suspected of allowing his friends to use his own accounts at the bank, formally known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR).

“He is a real screen in front of the actual economic beneficiary of the operation and he interrupts the traceability of the money,” it said.

He apparently had access to various IOR accounts in Italy and abroad, as well as to deposits of the agency that manages the Vatican’s assets (APSA) where he worked, the report said, citing police.

Scarano has been arrested on suspicion of trying to transfer 20 million euros on behalf of the D’Amico brothers, who own a fleet of oil tankers.

His lawyers say Scarano has rejected the charges.

The paper said that inquiry will likely wrap up within days and prosecutors are expected to apply for charges against the bank’s then director general Paolo Cipriani and his deputy Massimo Tulli, who both resigned earlier this week.

What has been hailed as a potential revolution by many religious watchers began with the appointment last month of cleric Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca to oversee the IOR’s management — effectively placing one of Francis’s trusted allies in a key position to report to him.

Last week, the 76-year-old pontiff followed this by installing a special five-member commission tasked with investigating the bank and reporting their findings directly back to him personally.

The commission’s first report is expected in October, and may spark wider reforms of the bank.

The IOR, which does not lend money, handles funds for Vatican departments, Catholic charities and congregations as well as priests and nuns living and working around the world.

It manages assets of around 7.0 billion euros ($9.3 billion).

Rene Bruelhart, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority, said in May there had been six reports of suspicious financial activity in the Vatican last year and three requests of information from foreign authorities, although he did not give any details.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #44 on: Jul 04, 2013, 05:55 AM »

07/03/2013 06:20 PM

Pope's Reform Path: Francis Shakes Up Church Establishment

By Hans-Jürgen Schlamp in Rome

It appears Pope Francis truly wants to change the Catholic Church. He's reforming the Vatican Bank first, but he's also circumventing the old guard wherever he can. The establishment is up in arms.

A cardinal in Rome earns about €3,000 ($3,888) a month, even less than a pastor in Germany. But a cardinal's life in Rome is a lot more expensive -- with visits to restaurants and shopping at boutiques for the upscale clothing men of the church are expected to wear, not to mention their jewelry and the antiques they display in their apartments. So it's good to have friends who can treat you or otherwise provide support now and then.

Friends are also happy to give a cardinal a hand -- and not just out of religious considerations. A cardinal can be helpful in both political and business terms. So it's not surprising that a symbiotic relationship between parts of the Curia and the upper class around the world has formed -- one that brings together the establishment, luxury and power. It's a nice little tradition that new Pope Francis would like to put an end to. For the Catholic establishment, though, it is nothing less than a catastrophe.

A 'Sick' Church of 'Theological Narcissism'

Even before his enthronement as pope, when he was still a cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had spoken clearly about this. During his speech to the cardinal conclave, he warned that, "When the church does not emerge from itself to evangalize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick." He warned of "self-referentiality" and "theological narcissism." He also criticized a "mundane church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself." And it appears the Argentinian pope meant this criticism seriously. In fact, he demonstrates that every day.

Instead of wearing a gold cross, he has one of steel. And he lives in a sparsely furnished apartment in the Santa Marta guest house rather than in the Apostolic Palace. Instead of taking his seat in the Vatican concert hall to listen to classical music, he recently remained at his desk working on the final version of his decree for the church-state's own Institute for Religious Works (IOR) bank. With his signature, he created a powerful special papal commission to review the bank's activities. He also said the new commission must change everything at the Vatican Bank, as it is also known. He said the Vatican certainly needed a bank, but its areas of business should only reach a "certain point."

A Papal Bank with Mafia Contacts

For decades now, the IOR has been in the headlines for one scandal after the other. At the beginning of the 1980s, it was at the center of one of the darkest crime thrillers in postwar Italian history. The scandal surrounded billions in business with the mafia, and a Vatican banker was hanged from a London bridge by a killer commando.

But the chain of scandals never let up. When, in autumn 2010, fresh suspicions of money laundering to the tune of triple-digit millions emerged, then Pope Benedict XVI promised stricter rules for his financial managers. In fact, though, nothing changed. In the so-called Vatileaks scandal, secret documents that had been smuggled out of the Vatican shed light on bizarre intrigues inside the papal state. Often, the Vatican Bank played a role in those intrigues. Benedict XVI was appalled, but also overwhelmed. He failed to prevail over the powerful cardinals who backed the IOR. His resignation was the logical outcome.

German Baron Takes Helm of Bank

His successor is taking more decisive action. First, he fired Nunzio Scarano, the top accountant in the Vatican office that oversees Vatican property and investments, after he was accused of money laundering and corruption and arrested. Then, practically overnight, he forced out IOR Director Paulo Cipriani and his deputy. Now the bank will be led by Ernst von Freyberg, a German baron and former consultant, member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the president of the IOR supervisory board since mid-February.

Between now and October, Pope Francis wants to ensure clarity and also determine how the financial institute will handle its duties in harmony with the "church's mission" in the future. A that point, a new structure will be created for the bank and a new boss will be appointed.

"Did we actually vote for someone who really believes in what he preaches?" some within the Curia are now whispering. Once again, Francis has taken them fully by surprise. In an almost demonstrative manner, he has been excluding the Vatican apparatus in every way he can. Most recently, this happened with the trip the pope announced he would take on Monday to the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, first learned of the planned trip through a papal press release. And instead of the kind of months of advance-team work used by heads of the Catholic Church for trips in the past, Francis has dispensed with that. Instead, the eccentric Argentinian pope ordered his staff to prepare a plane so that he could fly there in the morning and be back by midday.

Thousands of refugees have arrived at Lamedusa each year in desperation after making the journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa in small, dangerous boats. Francis wants to pray together with them and also throw a wreath into the sea to commemorate those who have lost their lives trying to make it to Europe. The pope has announced that he doesn't want to meet with the mayor or other authorities. He also also ordered church officials to stay away.

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