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« Reply #90 on: Sep 30, 2013, 05:35 AM »

Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to become saints

Pope Francis announces decision to canonise two predecessors after second miracle is attributed to John Paul

Sam Jones and Lizzy Davies, Monday 30 September 2013 12.12 BST   

Pope John XXIII, the pontiff who called the landmark Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II, who crisscrossed the globe during his 26 years as leader of the Roman Catholic church, will be declared saints next spring, Pope Francis has announced.

The decision to canonise the pair had been expected since July, when Francis approved a second miracle attributed to John Paul, clearing the path for the fastest canonisation in modern times.

During a meeting with cardinals inside the Apostolic palace on Monday, the pope revealed that the canonisations would take place on 27 April next year.

When his predecessor, Benedict XVI, began John Paul's beatification process a month after the Polish pontiff died in 2005, the Vatican said the usual five-year waiting period was to be waived because of "exceptional circumstances".

In 2011, after a first miracle had been attributed to John Paul, he was beatified by Benedict in a ceremony attended by several hundred thousand people in St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets.

According to the Vatican, that first miracle concerned the inexplicable recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who was apparently dying of Parkinson's disease but was cured after she and her fellow nuns prayed for the intercession of the late pope. He himself died of the disease in April 2005.

Three months ago, Francis approved a second miracle – the case of Floribeth Mora, a 50-year-old Costa Rican woman who said she was cured of a brain aneurysm after a photograph of John Paul appeared to speak to her during his beatification. Her doctor told reporters that the aneurysm disappeared for no apparent reason.

Although loved and admired by many Catholics for energising the church, promoting inter-faith dialogue and helping to hasten the demise of communism, John Paul II has been accused by critics of failing to tackle the sex abuse allegations against priests that emerged during his papacy. Others feel that it is simply too soon to make him a saint.

Francis's decision to canonise John XXIII even though the Italian pope has been credited with only one miracle since his death in 1963 is also unusual.

However, observers have noted that Francis – whose young papacy has been characterised by its warmth and informality – has much in common with the pontiff fondly nicknamed "Good Pope John". John XXIII was also fond of late-night strolls around Rome and pastoral visits to sick children and prison inmates.

And, in an interview with a US Jesuit magazine earlier this month, Francis said he intended to follow John XXIII's motto when it came to governing the church: "See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little."

He also reflected on the legacy of the reforming Second Vatican Council, which his predecessor convened in 1962.

"Vatican II was a re-reading of the gospel in light of contemporary culture," he said. "Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the gospel from a concrete historical situation."

Loris Capovilla, an Italian prelate who was John XXIII's long-time secretary, said that when Pope Francis told him of his intention to canonise the pontiff, he was struck that the move was coming from "the successor most similar to him".

"I was so emotional that I couldn't utter a word," he told La Stampa. "He reminds me in every way of John XXIII: in his gestures, in his attention to the poor … He has the same humility and mildness of heart as John XXIII, who was a wise and enlightened father who spoke to the human family that is torn apart by opposing interests and by senseless and sometimes implacable dislikes."

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« Reply #91 on: Sep 30, 2013, 06:28 AM »

Argentine priest Julio Grassi begins 15-year sentence over sexual abuse

The priest starts serving his prison sentence four years after being convicted of sexually abusing a boy

Associated Press, Buenos Aires, Sunday 29 September 2013 21.16 BST   

A Catholic priest who was convicted in Argentina of sexually abusing a boy has finally begun serving a 15-year sentence in prison.

Father Julio Cesar Grassi was something of a star in the Buenos Aires diocese, well-known for persuading Argentine celebrities to donate to the Happy Children Foundation.

His fortunes changed after some of the orphans he cared for accused him of abusing them in 1996.

Grassi was convicted in 2009 but was able to keep living across the street from the orphanage while he appealed.

After the top provincial court upheld his sentence last week, Grassi was taken into custody Monday. The 57-year-old priest still maintains he is innocent.

"In my life, all I have done was to help the children in need," he told a criminal court in Moron. "The prosecutors have lied and set up a case against me."

Three courts in Argentina confirmed his guilt before the supreme court of Buenos Aires province ratified the 15-year prison sentence last week.

"I am in peace, I believe in God," Grassi said.

His final appeal to Argentina's supreme court will be made from behind bars.

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« Reply #92 on: Oct 01, 2013, 06:26 AM »

Pope Francis to meet cardinals for historic talks on church reforms

Eight cardinals will help pontiff revise Catholic church's constitution and put forward ideas for reforming the curia

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
The Guardian, Monday 30 September 2013 16.37 BST   

The eight cardinals picked by Pope Francis to advise him on reform of the Roman curia and the governance of the Catholic church are preparing to meet the pontiff for the first time on Tuesday, in an unprecedented three-day meeting likened to a "papal G8".

In a move already billed as a potentially critical moment for Francis's six-month-old papacy, the multinational group of "outsider" cardinals is flying in to Rome from all corners of the globe to present him with ideas for how to reform the Vatican and the church worldwide.

The panel – officially named the Council of Cardinals – was hailed as a revolutionary move when it was formed in April shortly after Francis's election. One observer said that, in its apparent embrace of a more collegial style of church governance, it was the "most important step in the history of the church for the past 10 centuries".

However, the pope's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, on Monday stressed that the arrangement had its limits. Although the cardinals would be called on to advise the pope and would give the church another "means of consultation", there was no question about who would be having the final say.

"A council advises, and he who decides is the pope," he said.

The eight cardinals appointed in April by Francis come from all over the world, including the United States, Australia, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo. None has worked in the Vatican's bloated and dysfunctional bureaucracy. All, said Lombardi, were equipped "with great experience of the church's problems in the world".

A personal decree known as a "chirografo" issued by Francis said their official task was to advise him on "governance of the universal church" and help him revise the Pastor Bonus, the apostolic constitution on the curia drawn up by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Indications are that that revision could be dramatic and could possibly lead to a new constitution.

The charismatic co-ordinator of the council, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras and president of the Caritas Internationalis charity, told Italian television last weekend: "No, that constitution is over. Now it is something different. We need to write something different."

Lombardi, however, said "no startling decisions" were expected from this first meeting, which will go on until Thursday afternoon. In his recent interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis said reform would take time and required a period of "discernment".

He also said he was looking to create not "token consultations, but real consultations" with the eight cardinals, several of whom have been outspoken in their criticism of subjects including curial disfunction and the clerical sex abuse scandal.

"I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation," he added, saying the council had been born out of the general congregations in the lead-up to the conclave – meetings in which cardinals from outside the curia voiced extreme concern over its activities. They ended up voting for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentinian who said later he had come "from the end of the world".

Throughout the three-day summit, the cardinals will meet with the pope and a secretary in a private library in the apostolic palace. The pope's role will be primarily to listen to what the men have to say, said Lombardi. The main language will be Italian but the cardinals will be able to dip into their native tongue if needed. There will be no interpreters present. All will be staying, alongside Francis, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse in the Vatican.

Aside Maradiaga, the cardinals are: George Pell, archbishop of Sydney; Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa; Giuseppe Bertollo, governor of the Vatican City state; Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai; and Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising.

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« Reply #93 on: Oct 02, 2013, 05:55 AM »

October 1, 2013

Pope Assails Bureaucracy of Church as Insular


As Pope Francis convened a closed meeting on Tuesday with eight cardinals he appointed to overhaul the Vatican, he used his second revealing interview in two weeks to make a barbed indictment of the failings of the Roman Catholic Church, calling it overly clerical and insular, interested in temporal power and often led by “narcissists.”

“Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers,” he said in the interview, published Tuesday and conducted by one of Italy’s most outspoken atheists, Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in Rome. “The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

He said his vision of the church is instead “a community” of people, priests and bishops who “are at the service of the people of God,” especially the poor, the old and the young “crushed” by unemployment.

“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old,” Francis said, in a striking departure from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who focused on secularism and relativism as the great evils.

The new pope’s comments provided a peek into his thinking as he began three days of private meetings of his kitchen cabinet of cardinals from Australia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Honduras, India, Italy and the United States. He appointed the group early in his papacy to advise him as he tries to overhaul the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia.

Reform of the Curia was an explicit priority of the cardinals who elected Pope Francis in March, in a conclave held in the midst of a scandal over internal documents stolen and leaked by the pope’s butler and reported to contain accusations of financial impropriety, homosexuality and blackmail in the Vatican.

Francis has made clear that he wants not simply to clean up scandals, but to rid the church of careerists, climbers and those who value clerics more than the laity. He said in the interview, “Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.”

He said the Curia should be like a “quartermaster’s office” in the army because it was meant to manage “the services that serve the Holy See.” He said the problem is that the Curia has a “Vatican-centric” view that “neglects the world around us.”

“I do not share this view, and I’ll do everything I can to change it,” he said.

Eugene Cullen Kennedy, an emeritus professor at Loyola University in Chicago and a former priest who has written widely on the church, said Francis was articulating a vision of the Curia quite different from the Curia’s own. “He’s redefining the Curia,” he said. “They don’t look at themselves as the quartermaster; they look at themselves as the stable government.”

In the interview, Francis called the eight cardinals “not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings.” He added, “This is the beginning of a church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”

He was interviewed on Sept. 24, five days after his first interview set off an uproar when it was published by Jesuit journals worldwide. Mr. Scalfari, the interviewer, said he was shocked when his letter seeking a meeting with Francis was answered with a phone call from the pope himself, offering to set a time.

This second interview leaves no doubts that he is in a hurry to further the stalled work of the Second Vatican Council: to open the church to modern culture, and to have a dialogue with other religions and nonbelievers.

He said that after Vatican II was held in the early 1960s, “very little was done in that direction.”

“I have the humility and the ambition to want to do something,” Francis said.

Asked about politics, he said, “The church will not deal with politics.” He clarified that Catholics and people of good will should be involved in politics and “carry the values of their religion within them.” But he said, “The church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I’m here.”

At the end of the interview, he suggested that he and Mr. Scalfari meet again to discuss “the role of women in the church,” noting that in the Italian language, “the church is feminine.”
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« Reply #94 on: Oct 02, 2013, 05:56 AM »

Millions of Catholics have been waiting for a pope who talks like Francis

By Andrew Brown, The Guardian
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 13:38 EDT

This is going to be an interesting week for Pope Francis. His “countercuria” – a group of eight cardinals from around the world, selected partly for their known hostility to the way the Vatican has been run – is meeting for the first time. Already he has announced that they will form a permanent council. Although that arrangement may not survive him, the intention to remove the church’s strategic planning from the curia – the permanent “civil service” in the Vatican – is clear.

Before that committee reports, there is his remarkable interview with the editor of La Republicca, a cradle Catholic turned atheist, which the paper splashed on this morning. This continues on the lines of his earlier interview with a fellow Jesuit, but is even more outspoken:

“The curia as a whole is … what in an army is called the quartermaster’s office, it manages the services that serve the Holy See. But it has one defect: it is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it.”

Later, in an extraordinary phrase, he says:

“Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

There are times when it is almost impossible to believe this is a pope speaking:

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us … The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the good.”

Even more astonishing:

“Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

It really is difficult to imagine anything more opposed to the spirit of fortress Catholicism, and the doctrines that “error has no rights” and “there is no salvation outside the church”.

One of the strangest things about this interview is that it comes from a man who has pressed ahead with the canonisation ofJohn Paul II, whose policy and vision of the papacy he seems more and more directly to reject.

He defends the liberation theologians, whom John Paul II persecuted and in some cases excommunicated:

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« Reply #95 on: Oct 05, 2013, 06:38 AM »

Pope Francis marks Assisi visit with call for church to shun worldliness

During visit to Assisi where Saint Francis lived in 12th century, pontiff says worldliness leads to vanity, arrogance and pride

Reuters in Assisi, Friday 4 October 2013 12.41 BST   

The Roman Catholic church, from the lowliest priest to the pontiff himself, must strip itself of all vanity, arrogance and pride and humbly serve the poorest members of society, Pope Francis has said.

The pope's appeal, made in the central Italian town of Assisi where his namesake Saint Francis lived in the 12th century, comes amid a drive by Francis to turn around a church plagued by financial and sexual abuse scandals.

Saint Francis is revered by Catholics and many other Christians for his simple values, poverty and love of nature, qualities the Argentinian-born Francis has made the keynote of his papacy since his election in March.

"This is a good occasion to invite the church to strip itself of worldliness," he said in a room that marks the spot where Saint Francis stripped naked as a young man, renounced his wealthy family and set out to serve the poor.

"There is a danger that threatens everyone in the church, all of us. The danger of worldliness. It leads us to vanity, arrogance and pride," said Francis in the richly frescoed room of the residence of the archbishop of Assisi.

As he has often done, Francis spoke impromptu after putting aside prepared versions of two speeches, clearly moved by the sick and the poor people present in the room.

Francis has brought a new style of openness, consultation and simplicity to the Vatican. A few days after his election he said he wanted to see "a church that is poor and for the poor".

He has shunned the spacious papal apartments for spartan quarters in a Vatican guesthouse and has urged all members of the clergy, regardless of rank, to spurn comfort and get out among the poor and needy.

Francis said all members of the church, including bishops, cardinals and the pope himself, had to avoid the pitfalls of attaching importance to worldly things and to be more humble.

"Worldliness brings us to vanity, arrogance, pride and these are idols … All of us have to strip ourselves of this worldliness," he said.

Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first from Latin America, has formed three committees to advise him on making the Vatican more transparent, particularly in its financial dealings.

He has also said that Catholic convents and monasteries that are empty should be opened up to house migrants and refugees.

Francis was visibly moved when he heard the stories of some of the poor people in the room. "Many of you have been stripped by this savage world that does not give employment, that does not help, that does not care if there are children in the world who are dying of hunger, does not care if so many families have nothing to eat," he said.

He decried a world "that does not care about many people who have to flee poverty and hunger, flee seeking freedom and many times they find death, as happened yesterday in Lampedusa".

Francis was referring to the sinking of a migrant boat off the southern Italian island, in which more than 300 people are believed to have died. "Today is a day for crying," Francis said of the tragedy.

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« Reply #96 on: Oct 09, 2013, 05:33 AM »

10/08/2013 01:32 PM

Testing Limits: Diocese Opens Door to Communion for the Remarried

By Birger Menke

The archdiocese of Freiburg recently signalled a willingness to allow remarried divorcées to receive communion. While far from revolutionary, the move reflects a desire to change doctrine long considered out of touch with reality.

It's not the first time a bold initiative has arisen in Freiburg. In a 1993 pastoral letter, church officials questioned the universal validity of the law of the Roman Catholic Church.

The letter referred to the denial of the sacraments to congregants who have remarried after divorce. The authors wrote that church leadership should discuss "whether that which applies as a general rule also pertains to the concrete circumstances."

Those who divorce after being married in the church, and then remarry, remain unequal members of the church. They are excluded from holding church office and are denied the sacraments, like baptism and communion -- though many priests already ignore these rules.

The letter got a quick response. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's dogma police, said the bishops in Germany were "in open opposition to the teachings of the church." In other words: Major sins are major sins and the sacraments must be withheld, regardless of the "concrete circumstances."

The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time was Joseph Ratzinger, and the church has since done nothing substantial to change its treatment of remarried congregants. That includes the time after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI -- and when be was welcomed on a visit to Germany in 2011 by then German President Christian Wulff, a divorced Catholic who had remarried.

'They Belong to the Church'

Catholic laity have long pressured the church to rethink its doctrine on several issues, and remarriage often lands near the top of the priority list. A dialogue with church leaders was praised on both sides, but there was no chance of real reform under Pope Benedict XVI and the conservative-dominated leadership of German Catholicism.

But now discussion is brewing again in Freiburg, but this time under differing circumstances. The new pope has warned against burying the faithful under a mountain of rules without distinction. Francis' change of tone has inspired a new confidence among many in Germany who have been hoping their Church would break down old barriers to modernization.

Robert Zollitsch, archbishop of Freiburg and chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, has repeatedly demonstrated openness toward a new approach, most recently in late September. "They belong to the church," he said of remarried congregants at the end of the conference's fall meeting. Clergy must "find solutions [that apply] across the entire church."

He must have known at the time that a solution was already being proposed in his own home diocese: a paper titled "Recommendations for Pastoral Ministry," published by the Freiburg diocese's Office of Pastoral Care.

Cautious Language

The document begins by introducing itself "as an orientation for the pastoral practice in the coming years." What follows is far from an encouragement for divorced Catholics to remarry. The sacrament of marriage shall not be shaken, it says. And if it fails, ministers should "be close to and support those who (as far as one is aware) do not enter a new partnership."

Yet the paper also makes recommendations for those who have remarried, and opens a door that has until now remained shut. It reads: "Following a decision taken responsibly and according to one's conscience, the possibilty can also arise, under concrete circumstances, to receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion, confirmation, confession and Anointing of the Sick, as long as the necessary faithful disposition is present."

Andreas Möhrle, head of the Freiburg Office of Pastoral Care, explained: "In contact with divorced and civily married congregants, our concern is that the hospitable and respectful attitude of Jesus can be experienced ... The faithfulness and mercy of God also applies to those whose life plans have failed."

The document clearly formulates what it means by "a decision taken responsibly and according to one's conscience." Divorced congregants should be counseled, and they they should be able to credibly show "that a return to the first partner is really not possible, and that the first marriage cannot conceivably be lived in again." They should repent of the fault they carry for the divorce, and they should enter "a new moral responsibility" with the new partner. If all these conditions are met, the receiving of sacraments can be allowed. If they are not, the sacraments must still be withheld.

No Revolution

"Recommendations for Pastoral Ministry" is not revolutionary, but no one expects a revolution from the Catholic Church. It is a step in the direction of recognizing societal reality, and an attempt to reconcile Catholic teachings with the lives of the faithful.

The coming months and years will reveal whether other dioceses follow suit, and how the Vatican chooses to react. Even today, 20 years after the letter, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is still under German leadership. And prefect Gerhard Ludwig Müller, like his predecessor Joseph Ratzinger, is not known for being forward-thinking.

Shortly before he took office in 2012, he came out against a group of reform oriented priests who wanted to break with church law and give Communion to remarried congregants. This, Müller said, was "not compatible with the Christian faith."

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« Reply #97 on: Oct 10, 2013, 06:25 AM »

10/09/2013 04:47 PM

Like an Offshore Paradise: Vatican Moves to Close Dirty Accounts

By Fiona Ehlers and Fidelius Schmid

More than 1,000 customers who have no business holding accounts at the Vatican Bank have parked more than 300 million euros there, money the institution's officials suspect is illicit. They are now calling for the funds to be removed.

In late May, two Germans stood in the heavily guarded interior of the Vatican Bank and gazed out over St. Peter's Square. Ernst von Freyberg, 54, had just been appointed as the bank's president -- and now he had been interviewed by Father Bernd Hagenkord, the director of Vatican Radio's German program. The two servants of the Catholic Church took stock of what had been achieved thus far and concluded that the head of the bank had survived his baptism by fire.

"I am convinced that we are a well-managed, clean financial institution," Freyberg had said into the microphone. He also rhapsodized over the morning masses with the pope in Saint Martha's House and found words of praise for the bank's directors. "When I came here, I thought I would primarily have to do what is generally known as a cleanup," Freyberg admitted, "but I haven't, as yet, discovered anything amiss."

The aristocratic bank president -- who in his spare time organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes for people with physical disabilities -- apparently had to rapidly and fundamentally change his opinion. Indeed, at virtually the same moment when the interview was broadcast, over 20 experts from the US consulting firm Promontory Financial Group marched into Niccolò V, a fortress-like medieval tower, to comb through some 30,000 accounts that customers around the world maintain with the papal bank. The external auditors are specialized in detecting and tracing irregularities like corruption and money laundering.

A History of Scandals

The specialists from abroad have also been hired to determine who is actually behind the deposits at the Vatican Bank and what is transpiring on the individual accounts. According to the bank's statutes, the financial institution of the church-state is charged with providing a home for funds belonging to members of the clergy and religious orders. As the auditors of the Vatican Bank dug deeper into the nature of the accounts, however, it became increasingly clear that a large number of individuals -- who actually shouldn't even be allowed to have accounts at the Vatican Bank -- highly appreciate its discreet business practices.

The church-state has sought the aid of a consulting firm as part of a change in strategy in which it is moving away from secrecy and toward more integrity and transparency. In fact, the Vatican has been troubled by affairs surrounding its bank ever since the Commission for Works of Charity was established in 1887. This served to protect church assets from the Italian state's appetite for expropriation. Over the decades, this financial institution, which was later rechristened as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), appears to have been involved in a number of shady deals: There have been allegations of Sicilian mafia money laundering, stock market manipulation and illegal transactions worth billions funneled through the bank.

The Vatican Bank also played a key role in the 1982 collapse of Milan's Banco Ambrosiano, the largest bank crash in Italian history. Shortly thereafter, the bank's chairman was found hanging from a London bridge. It turns out he was murdered. In the 1990s, Italian industrialists used the church's spin-off to launder huge bribes for politicians.

The scandalous reports surrounding the financial institute reached their latest peak in May 2012, when church officials suddenly ousted then-bank head Ettore Gotti Tedeschi in the midst of a money laundering investigation by Italian justice officials and the Vatileaks scandal. Now that the investigation against Gotti Tedeschi has been closed without any charges being pressed, there are growing suspicions that he had to leave for other reasons. In his struggle to implement international standards at the institution, the bank president had evidently had a falling out with other powerful Vatican officials.

This, in any case, is suggested by a confidential memo that Gotti Tedeschi gave to his secretary two months before he was fired. Leading employees at the bank had told him that he would "go into history as the man who destroyed the IOR," he wrote.

Absolute discretion and protection from criminal prosecution by secular authorities have long been the trademarks of the Vatican Bank. It wasn't until 2010 that the church-state gave in to considerable pressure from the European Union and moved to ban money laundering and terrorism financing on its territory.

Is the Vatican a Tax Haven?

Gotti Tedeschi compiled a dossier in which he described the problem that the auditors from Promontory have discovered: customers who, according to the bank's statutes, are not allowed to have accounts at the Vatican Bank, which "could be one of the reasons for the difficulties that we are facing," wrote the former bank president.

It's now clear that in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica over 1,000 people conduct banking activities who cannot be ascribed to the Holy See, or a church organization or a charitable foundation. They benefit from the fact that there are no taxes in the Vatican -- and that the Vatican is extremely tight-lipped in its exchanges with public prosecutors. For decades, transfers have been made near the Apostolic Palace that hardly differ from business as usual on the Cayman Islands. In essence, the Vatican Bank has become an offshore paradise on the shores of the Tiber.

Insiders have told SPIEGEL that over €300 million ($407 million) was still on these accounts this past summer. "The vast majority of this" is apparently illicit earnings, the sources say.

As part of his cleanup efforts, the new head of the bank, Freyberg, has had a letter sent to the owners of these accounts. The sad message is that the IOR intends to end the business relationship. The valued customers will have to transfer their money to another location.

A Culture Shock

By all appearances, though, these were not the only problematic customers at the bank. Astonishing transactions also take place on the accounts of church dignitaries. The misconduct by Monsignor Nunzio Scarano -- until recently an auditor at the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See -- is so obvious that the clergyman has been taken into police custody. According to investigations by Italian justice officials, Scarano attempted to have €20 million flown in from Switzerland with the help of an intelligence agent. "Don 500," as he is known in the Vatican due to his preference for large bank notes, had a number of accounts at the Vatican Bank.

The clergyman, who denies any wrongdoing, used these accounts to shift over €5 million within just a few years. On a number of occasions, he transferred money from one tax haven to the Vatican Bank, and then rapidly sent it to another financial haven. The investigative report of the financial auditors meticulously listed all transactions -- and harshly criticized bank managers. Bank employees apparently did not realize when they had to voice suspicions of illegitimate transactions. The auditors said that bank executives had to change their tone.

Freyberg has reacted and forced the bank's director general and his deputy to resign: "It's clear that we need new management to accelerate the reform process," he said.

By the end of the year, Freyberg -- who last week published the first annual report in the Vatican Bank's history -- hopes to have completed his cleanup work. By then, Pope Francis will also have to decide on the bank's future. "Some say the best thing is to have a bank, others say it should be a relief fund, others recommend it be closed down," the pontiff said as he outlined his options in July. "But whether it's a bank, a fund, or whatever, it should be based on transparency and honesty," he concluded.

Transparency and honesty -- that seems to be right in line with Freyberg's approach. But for the bank and its customers, it's a cultural shock.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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« Reply #98 on: Oct 11, 2013, 06:39 AM »

10/10/2013 04:47 PM

Lavish Bishop: Catholic Leader Accused of Making False Statements

The bishop of Limburg was already under fire for cost overruns on his luxurious new headquarters, and on Thursday he suffered another setback. Prosecutors have accused him of making false statements in affidavits.

He's drawn criticism for his lavish lifestyle and cost overruns on his luxurious new residence, and now the Bishop of Limburg in Germany faces penal measures in a court case against SPIEGEL.

Prosecutors claim he made false statements in affidavits submitted in two civil claims against the magazine after it accused the cleric of flying first class during a trip to visit the poor in India. Prosecutors have since determined the statements he made were false and have now called for punitive measures, possibly including fines.

The decision comes just days after Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was forced to admit earlier this week that the total price on his new bishop's headquarters in Limburg, in the western state of Hesse, had risen to a whopping €31 million ($41.9 million).

Earlier this week, Hubertus Janssen, a retired Limburg priest who has remained close to the congregation, called on 53-year-old Tebartz-van Elst to step down, warning that the bishop had become a burden to Limburg and possibly to the Catholic Church. Priests and members of the church alike have been outraged by Tebartz-van Elst and his involvement in the lavish new bishop's headquarters. The building, located adjacent to the city's cathedral, was initially supposed to cost €2 million. Then, partly as the result of special requests made by Tebartz-van Elst, costs ballooned to €5 million. The cost of the bishop's three and a half room apartment within the complex alone reached a cost of €2 million. The local Nassausische Neue Presse sparked further outrage on Wednesday when it reported that the bishop's bathtub alone came at a cost of some €15,000.

'I Don't Need a Grandiose Lifestyle'

On Wednesday, the mass-circulation Bild newspaper quoted Tebartz-van Elst defending the cost overruns. "I can understand how a figure like that might scare people," he said. But he also pointed to the sustainable construction measures used for the diocesan headquarters and also noted that officials had sought to list the building as historically important -- an application that has already been rejected by state authorities. "Those who know me, know that I don't need any kind of grandiose lifestyle," Tebartz-van Elst said, responding to his critics. But past reporting on the bishop suggests otherwise.

For many critics, it is clear that Tebartz-van Elst is indeed the man responsible for allowing costs to get out of control. Jochen Riebel, the spokesperson for the diocesan finance council, told a local radio station that the bishop had been partly responsible for the cost overruns with his constant changes to the planning, "which led to considerable additional costs."

He also claimed that Tebartz-van Elst didn't present information about the budget or individual projects for 2012 or 2013, despite multiple requests and his obligation to do so. "The only way I can explain it is that the Bishop of Limburg is either a sophisticated deceiver or that he's just plain sick," Riebel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

'I Carry the Responsibility'

Tebartz-van Elst responded by saying, "As bishop, I carry the responsibility." He added, however, that the diocesan finance council had been closely involved in the project since early 2011. "But I don't want to shift responsibility to others," he said.

The bishop is highly controversial as a result of his almost authoritarian leadership style, and a growing number of church members are calling for his resignation. Even the priests on his own Diocesan Synod say they have lost trust in him. So far, Tebartz-van Elst doesn't seem prepared to step down, though. "Many church members know very well that there's a difference between the mistakes that were actually made and that which the media has made out of them," he said.

A commission set up by the governing body of the Catholic Church in Germany is expected to investigate the cost overruns in Limburg, but it has not yet set a date for delivering its conclusions. "People should wait until this review before they make snap judgements against me," Tebartz-van Elst said.

The cost overruns are a significant scandal for the Catholic Church in Germany, even though the new headquarters has been funded from the diocese's own assets. Many fear that Tebartz-van Elst's excesses are driving members away from the church.


Catholics incensed as German bishop of Limburg builds palace fit for a pope

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's showy project set to cost £26m – 10 times initial estimates – including a €15,000 bathtub

Philip Oltermann in Berlin, Thursday 10 October 2013 21.27 BST   
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus advised his followers to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven", but an influential German bishop has been accused of storing up treasures in his earthly residence instead.

Senior figures within the Roman Catholic church have called for the resignation of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, after it emerged that the cost of a building project on his property in the town has ballooned to 10 times the original estimate.

The new building, described by some newspapers as "palatial", is expected to cost €31m (£26m) and features a standalone bath worth €15,000.

To add to Tebartz-van Elst's woes, he is now facing legal procedures for allegedly lying under oath during a legal row with a news magazine.

In 2012, Der Spiegel published an article claiming the clergyman had taken a first-class flight to India, en route to visiting poor children in the slums of Bangalore. Tebartz-van Elst had issued two affidavits denying the claims made by the magazine. On Thursday, Hamburg prosecutors asked a court to fine the bishop for providing false testimony.

The chairman of the German episcopal conference, Robert Zollitsch, announced he would discuss the high cost of the building project with Pope Francis next week.

"I am as surprised by these figures as you," he said at a press conference. "I am mystified by these figures and will say so to the holy father."

The building project was set in motion in 2004, with the church providing about €3m to renovate the bishop's residence and restore parts of the old city wall. Stretching underground, the new complex is designed in a modernist style and will contain a chapel, a nuns' home and meeting rooms as well as several private rooms for the bishop.

Tebartz-van Elst has defended the cost, saying it was spread across "10 separate building projects" and said the price had been pushed up by a trust set up to maintain the listed building – a claim the trust denies. He said: "Those who know me know I don't have a pompous lifestyle."

But some of the details of the plans contradict Tebartz-van Elst's claims. According to one article, the bishop repeatedly changed his mind over the architecture of the building.

After the original plan had included a standing advent wreath, Tebartz-van Elst had later demanding a wreath hanging from the ceiling, which involved cutting a hole through the already finished chapel roof – pushing up the price from €10,000 to about €100,000.

Criticism from within the church has been severe. One member of the Bischöfliche Stuhl foundation that funded the project told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Anyone who thinks normally wouldn't sign off the kind of costs we are dealing with here."

Ingeborg Schallai, president of the diocese assembly, said she did not see a future for him in the Catholic church.

Known for his authoritarian style, Tebartz-van Elst was previously regarded as a loyal supporter of Pope Benedict. In 2008, he ordered the dismissal of a dean who had blessed same-sex couples. In 2010, he criticised Christian Wulff, then president of Germany, for saying: "Islam also belongs to Germany."

The Catholic church has assured taxpayers that the project is largely financed by a church fund, and only €2.5m of church taxes were spent on the project.

Tebartz-van Elst was due to head off for a week-long pilgrimage to Israel on Friday, but his office said the trip had been cancelled.

The Limburg revelations come on the heels of a series of miscalculations around major building projects in Germany. Work on a new philharmonic hall at Hamburg's harbour was started in 2005 with an estimated price of €77m – by the time it is finished in 2016, the project will most likely have cost 10 times the amount. The cost of Berlin's new airport was estimated at about €1.7bn in 2004 – in 2012, the figure was revised up to €4.3bn.

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« Reply #99 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:36 AM »

10/14/2013 02:01 PM

Ungodly Excess: Chided Bishop Takes Cheap Flight to Rome

The bishop of Limburg faces growing calls to resign as more details unfold in the damaging scandal over the cost of his lavish lifestyle. On Sunday, he took an affordable Ryanair flight to Rome and is expected to see Pope Francis in a meeting that could decide his future.

A German bishop who faces accusations of gross extravagance for building a new residence six times more expensive than budgeted took a low-cost Ryanair flight to Rome on Sunday for what is widely expected to be a dressing-down by the Vatican.

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, the bishop of Limburg in western Germany, faces calls to step down for presiding over a project that was originally estimated to cost €5.5 million and could now end up costing €31 million ($41.9 million) or more.

He had previously been accused of maintaining an extravagant lifestyle and was criticized for taking a first-class flight to visit the poor in India. Prosecutors in Hamburg last week accused him of making false statements in a civil lawsuit he brought against SPIEGEL for reporting about that India flight.

The controversy surrounding him threatens to further damage the reputation of the Catholic Church in Germany following a series of child abuse scandals at Catholic and Protestant schools and institutions in recent years.

The extravagance on display in Limburg also runs counter to the style of the pope, who has explicitly shunned pomp and the trappings of papal power since his election in March, living in the Vatican's guesthouse rather than in the Apostolic Palace.

Charitable Donations Dropping Off

The damage is already making itself felt in a decline in donations to Caritas, the charity of the Catholic Church, the president of the German Caritas association, Peter Neher, said on Monday.

Neher told Deutschlandfunk radio that many former donors had written letters saying they had been deterred by the behavior of Bishop Tebartz-van Eltz.

The head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, has also travelled to Rome and is due to meet the pope this week. "We have a tremendous credibility problem." Zollitsch told Bild newspaper. "And the Church in Germany is being damaged."

The bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, said on Sunday that Tebartz-van Elst should resign. "The situation has escalated to such an extent that one has to say Bishop Franz-Peter basically can't go on working in Limburg. A bishop needs acceptance."

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern. Her spokesman said on Monday that the controversy was a "major burden" for the Catholic Church.

Asked to comment on the talks due to take place in the Vatican this week, her spokesman said: "It's of course not up to the German government to give advice. But I can express the hope that there will be a solution for the faithful, to restore people's confidence in their church."

New Allegations

Fresh accusations were levelled against the bishop over the weekend when the architect who designed the residence, Michael Frielinghaus, said the bishop knew back in 2010, when the project was announced, that the stated cost of €5.5 million was too low.

He knew from the beginning "what costs he would be facing," Frielinghaus told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The true cost was never in doubt. "So there was no cost explosion. The construction ran according to plan. There were hardly any surprises."

The bishop and his staff knew "that the construction costs would actually be 31 million euros," Frielinghaus added. If that statement is true, it would mean that the bishop misled the public, many of his staff and financial controllers for years about the true costs of the project.

Tebartz-van Elst said last week that the total price on his new headquarters had reached €31 million.

SPIEGEL reported in its latest edition published on Monday that the auditing firm KPMG regularly informed Tebartz-van Elst about the cost situation.

No Wheelchair Access -- But a €15,000 Bathtub

On Sunday, some 150 Catholic churchgoers demonstrated outside Limburg Cathedral, handing out little postcards that said: "Herr Bishop, we've had enough! Resign!"

"I'm here because I don't want my faith to be destroyed," said one elderly woman. One man said: "I pray for our bishop to be healed of his megalomania."

One man in a wheelchair pointed out that there was no wheelchair access either to the cathedral or even to the square in front of the cathedral, which had a 30-centimeter step. "It would only cost a few hundred euros to change that. There's no money for that, but there is for €15,000 bathtubs."

In fact, members of the Catholic community have collected €10,000 to make the cathedral accessible for prams and wheelchairs. That money didn't come from church coffers, though.

The Limburg bishopric said in a statement on Sunday that Tebartz-van Elst was fully aware "that the decision on his service as a bishop in Limburg lies in the hands of the Holy Father." It is unclear when the talks in the Vatican will take place.

cro -- with reporting by SPIEGEL and Frank Patalong

10/14/2013 06:12 PM

Church Financing Scandal: Politicians Demand Radical Reform

By Anna-Lena Roth

The financial scandal surrounding the lavish new residence of the bishop of Limburg has highlighted how little is known about the true wealth of the Catholic Church. Politicians say it's high time for a reform of church financing to ensure greater transparency.

How rich is the diocese of Limburg if a bishop can afford to spend €15,000 on a bathtub, €2.3 million on an atrium and €2.67 million on a private chapel?

A storm of criticism is thundering down on Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst for his extravagance and lack of openness about the cost of his lavish residence. But it's not untypical of the Catholic Church. In 2010, when SPIEGEL asked all 27 German dioceses for information on their budgets and financial assets, 25 of them refused.

The bishoprics operate a sort of double accounting. On the one hand is their public budget which is largely fed from church tax. On the other side are their real assets, the diocesan wealth recorded in a kind of shadow budget that only the bishop and his closest aides are privy to. This wealth, accumulated over centuries, is invested in a range of assets such as real estate, church banks, academies or clinics. Add to that income from share ownership, foundations and inheritances. The diocese doesn't have to disclose these assets to the government.

"I know many Catholics who favor a reform of the financial structures, and for good reason," Kerstin Griese, a lawmaker for the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), told SPEGEL ONLINE. Griese, a member of the Protestant church, is an expert on religious affairs in the SPD's parliamentary group and demands far greater financial transparency "because the church relies on the faith of people more than any other institution."

She adds: "It makes me sad if Catholic aid and charitable organizations like Caritas are now suffering from the Limburg financial scandal because donations are going down."

Josef Winkler of the opposition Greens said the church in Limburg has suffered a huge loss of public confidence because of the controversy. "In order to restore confidence it's necessary to resort to action, not just words, to change things," he said. The church must disclose its accounts to show it's got nothing to hide, he added.

Only Vatican Has Power to Enforce Reforms

Tebartz-van Elst flew to Rome on Sunday -- with Ryanair -- for talks with Vatican officials and possibly Pope Francis that could decide his future. He faces calls to resign in Germany for a perceived extravagant lifestyle and a massive cost overrun on his luxurious new residence and diocesan headquarters which is likely to end up costing €31 million or more -- almost six times the original estimate of €5.5 million.

Barbara Hendricks, an SPD politician and a member of the Central Committe of German Catholics, said Catholics have every right to expect greater transparency on the income and expenditure of their dioceses. But she added that the problem lies less with existing rules than with the fact that "here and there, predominant practices leave something to be desired."

Joachim Poss, deputy leader of the SPD's parliamentary group, said: "The current events show that we will have to fundamentally rethink many state rules pertaining to the church.

However, lawmakers are unlikely to be able to enforce greater transparency. The German constitution states that the church has the right to administrate itself -- without state interference, Carsten Frerk, an expert on church finances, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Politicians can't do anything," he added.

If the church is made to disclose its shadow budget, church law would need to be amended, says Frerk, "and that's up to the Vatican."

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« Reply #100 on: Oct 16, 2013, 08:03 AM »

Pope Francis replaces scandal-plagued top aide

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 18:08 EDT

The Vatican began a new chapter on Tuesday with scandal-hit cardinal Tarcisio Bertone stepping down as right-hand man to Pope Francis and replaced by veteran diplomat Pietro Parolin.

The reform-minded new Secretary of State comes in as Francis mulls an overhaul of the way the Roman Catholic Church is run that could put an end to what the pope calls a “Vatican-centric” system.

The influential post is frequently referred to as the Vatican’s equivalent of a prime minister.

Its incumbent can represent the pontiff on some occasions, and three have gone on to be popes.

Parolin himself was not present at the handover ceremony in the Vatican because he is undergoing a “small operation” and will take up his post “in a few weeks”, the Vatican said in a statement.

“I would like to thank you for the courage and the patience with which you have lived through all the adversities you have faced. And they are many,” the pope told Bertone at the ceremony.

Bertone defended his record, saying: “I see in Pope Francis not so much a revolution but a continuity with pope Benedict XVI despite differences in style and aspects of personal life.”

He said he hoped that Parolin could “untie the knots that still prevent the Church from being in Christ at the heart of the world”.

Bertone was appointed by Benedict XVI in 2006 and proved a divisive figure who was disliked by many for his management style.

Top clerics had asked Benedict to dismiss the cardinal, accused of being too authoritarian and too connected with sleazy Italian politics.

A series of leaks of confidential Vatican papers last year by Benedict’s personal butler revealed infighting between pro- and anti-Bertone factions.

‘Hard work and honest living’

Bertone’s image also suffered because his time in office coincided with a traumatic period for the Vatican, shaken by revelations of widespread child abuse and scandals involving its finances.

Bertone himself lashed out at his critics in September saying he had been the victim of “moles and vipers” in the Vatican system.

“Of course there were a lot of problems, particularly in the last two years, and some accusations were levied against me,” Bertone said.

“There was a web of moles and vipers. But this should not darken what I see as a positive overall result.

“We missed some things, also because problems were kept locked away by some people who did not contact the Secretariat of State,” he said.

At 58, Parolin is considered relatively youthful for top Vatican office and is the youngest cleric to occupy the post since cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who went on to become Pius XII in 1939.

Parolin has worked on some of the most sensitive diplomatic issues for the Church, including relations with communist China and with Israel.

“He is an excellent choice, an efficient man, a good negotiator, very balanced,” French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, a former diplomatic chief for pope John Paul II, said on Vatican radio.

Vatican experts said he could also help bolster the Church’s international status and give the Secretariat of State a more global outlook.

Parolin was ordained in 1980 and his first foreign posting for the Vatican was in Nigeria in 1986, followed by Mexico in 1989 where he fought to gain legal recognition for the Catholic Church.

In 1992, he was called back to Rome to work for the Secretariat of State and was appointed to a post similar to deputy foreign minister in 2002.

In US State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks, Parolin was named as a key Vatican go-to contact.

In 2009, he was appointed papal nuncio to Caracas.

Parolin takes over at a time in which the pope is considering a shake-up in the way the Church is governed and a clean-up of its murky finances.

Francis has formed an unprecedented council of eight cardinals from around the world, which held its first meeting this month, to advise him.

In a statement on Tuesday, Francis said that anyone working at the Vatican had to engage in “hard work, professionalism and honest living”.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #101 on: Oct 21, 2013, 07:54 AM »

Pope Francis describes ‘ideological Christians’ as a ‘serious illness’ within the Church

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, October 21, 2013 9:21 EDT

Speaking at daily Mass last Thursday, Pope Francis warned Christians against turning their faith into a rigid ideology.

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology,” he said, according to Radio Vatican. “And ideology does not beckon people. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,” Francis added. “But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

He said Christian ideology was the result of a lack of true prayer.

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« Reply #102 on: Oct 22, 2013, 06:52 AM »

'Bling bishop' of Limburg given Vatican audience after pope preaches on greed

Speculation mounts over German bishop's future as Catholic prelates distance themselves from Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst

Philip Oltermann in Berlin, Monday 21 October 2013 17.18 BST    

The scandal-hit "luxury bishop" of Limburg met the pope in Rome today. The question of the bishop's possible resignation remained unresolved as the Vatican confirmed that a 20-minute meeting between Pope Francis and Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst had taken place at midday, but gave no further information. Tebartz-van Elst arrived in Rome last Sunday on a Ryanair flight, but had been kept waiting for a week to meet the pontiff.

Pointedly, Pope Francis had earlier in the day given a sermon in which he castigated greed: "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions," he said in the chapel of Santa Marta. The bishop of Limburg has been in the German media spotlight for allegedly spending lavish amounts of church funds on a new residence.

Before meeting Tebartz-van Elst, Pope Francis met a number of German clerics who know the bishop. Last Thursday, he received Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops' conference, who had been very outspoken in his criticism. Before the meeting today, the pope also saw one of Tebartz-van Elst's allies, the Cologne archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

More figures from the German Catholic church have distanced themselves from Tebartz-van Elst over recent days. On Sunday, a representative of the Catholic church in Bavaria described the bishop resuming his work in Limburg as "rather unlikely". The dean of the church in Limburg told Spiegel Online that "trust in the bishop is gone, and I don't see how trust can be rebuilt again". There have been demonstrations outside the church for several days.

The revelations about the Limburg bishop's palace – which is predicted to cost €31m (£26m), or 10 times the original estimate – have triggered a wider debate over the transparency of church spending, described by Die Welt newspaper as "a Catholic glasnost". In Germany, the church has organised its finances independently of the state since the Weimar Republic. Germans who are registered Catholics can only remain part of the church if they pay a religious tax on top of their income tax.

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« Reply #103 on: Oct 23, 2013, 06:52 AM »

Pope suspends German 'luxury bishop'

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg ordered to leave his diocese amid scandal over his alleged lavish spending

Reuters in Vatican city, Wednesday 23 October 2013 12.08 BST   

Pope Francis has ordered the German Roman Catholic prelate known as the "luxury bishop" for spending €31m(£26m) on a residence to leave his diocese for an unspecified period.

The move, just short of a resignation, was taken against Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg two days after he met the pope at the Vatican to discuss the scandal in the German church at a time when the pontiff is stressing the importance of humility and serving the poor.

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« Reply #104 on: Oct 23, 2013, 07:38 AM »

Pope Francis: Greed is an instrument of idolatry

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 13:53 EDT

Speaking at daily Mass on Monday, Pope Francis condemned the worship of money.

Though money itself was not inherently evil, Francis said the attachment to money lead to destruction of families, friends, and the self.

“It leads you to idolatry, it destroys your relationship with others,” he said, according to Radio Vatican. “It’s not money, but the attitude, what we call greed. Then too this greed makes you sick, because it makes you think of everything in terms of money. It destroys you, it makes you sick.”

“And in the end – this is the most important thing – greed is an instrument of idolatry because it goes along a way contrary to what God has done for us,” Francis added. “Saint Paul tells us that Jesus Christ, who was rich, made Himself poor to enrich us. That is the path of God: humility, to lower oneself in order to serve. Greed, on the other hand, takes us on a contrary path: You, who are a poor human, make yourself God for vanity’s sake. It is idolatry!”

Francis has regularly focused on social ills related to “the least of these,” including issues such as poverty, immigrant’s rights, and worker’s rights. He made headlines earlier this year for saying the Church was too obsessed with abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
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