Pope Francis tweeted on October 31: Vanity not only distances us from God: it makes us look ridiculous.
As I re-read that papal tweet before writing the following story on the arrest of a priest and lay woman in the Vatican over the weekend, it almost seemed fitting for today’s news. One could, however, add another adjective or two after the word “ridiculous.”
I fully intended to dedicate this column to Pope Francis’ marvelous Angelus yesterday, the Solemnity of All Saints, as well as his afternoon Mass at Verano cemetery but feel that this story – which falls into the journalism “creed” of “if it bleeds, it leads” – needed some background information.
So as not to leave you bereft of the lovely papal thoughts, below is a very small nutshell version of the Angelus – enough to start you seriously thinking about how you can become a saint. You see, I am sure that most people want to be good, holy people and perhaps even saints someday, and so his words at the Angelus become meaningful and encouraging.
As I wrote those words, I had a sudden flashback to the visit a few years ago of one of the sisters of my freshman year college roommate at St. Mary’s of Notre Dame. At the end of freshman year I had gone to California to visit Mary, her folks and her 7 siblings for several weeks. Mary’s sister Kathy said she was always struck by how I answered her Dad at the dinner table one night when he asked what I wanted to be, and I replied, “a saint.” And now, Pope Francis has encouraged me!
By the way, today, the feast of All Souls is a holiday in the Vatican. At 6 pm today, Pope Francis went down to the Vatican Gottoes to pray at the tombs of deceased Roman Pontiffs (I believe there are 19).
SAINTS ARE AMONG US IN OUR DAILY LIVES, OUR FAMILIES, OUR NEIGHBORS
As is tradition in Rome on the November 1 Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated Mass at Verano cemetery, Rome’s largest, where he spiritually joined all who, throughout the world in these days, pray on the tombs of their loved ones. In his homily on the Gospel account of the Beatitudes, the Pope said the Beatitudes are “the path of holiness, and the same path of happiness. It is the path Jesus has taken; indeed, Jesus Himself is this path.” (photo: news.va)
Earlier, as he recited the Angelus with the tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square on a slendid, springlike November day, hee explained that saints lived their lives in the grace of Baptism, behaving like children of God, trying to imitate Jesus. In fact, the Pope ad libbed “We are all children of God. Thus, we bear his name. His name is part of ours! Isn’t that marvelous!”
Francis noted that saints are not only those who have been canonized, but can be anyone from our next door neighbors, to members of our own families or others we have met as we live our ordinary lives. “How many good people have we met in our lives; how often do we exclaim: ‘this person is a saint!’… These are the saints who live next door, not the ones who are canonized, but the ones who live with us.” He sytressed that “we must be grateful to these saintly people and to God for having given them to us as examples of how to live and die in fidelity to God and to the Gospel.”
What can one do to become a saint? The Hoy Father surely answered when he said: “Acts of tenderness, of generous help, of closeness can appear insignificant, but in God’s eyes they are eternal, because love and mercy are stronger than death.”
VATICAN ARRESTS TWO PEOPLE, INCLUDING HIGH RANKING MONSIGNOR
A statement was released today by the Holy See Press Office regarding the arrests over the weekend of two people, including a high ranking monsignor, who have been accused of removing and disseminating private and confidential Vatican documents. By Vatican law, this is an offense.
Following is the English language translation of that statement in Italian by Fr. Tom Rosica, English language assistant to the press office:
“As part of criminal investigations carried out by the Vatican Gendarmerie that have been underway for several months involving the removal and dissementation of news and confidential documents, last Saturday and Sunday two individuals were called in for questioning on the basis of the evidence gathered.
The individuals are an ecclesiastic, Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallegjo Balda and Doctor Francesca Chaouqui, who in the past were respectively secretary and member of COSEA (Commission charged to study and address the organization of Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, established by the Pope in July 2013 and subsequently dissolved after the completion of its mandate).
Following the results of the interrogation the two people were held in detention in view of the continuing investigation. Today the Office of the Promoter of Justice, in the persons of Professor Advocate Gian Piero Milano, Promoter of Justice, and Professor Roberto Zannotti, Assistant Promoter of Justice, has validated the arrest of the above individuals, but they released Dr. Chaouqui, against whom there were no precautionary requirements and also due to the fact that she cooperated with the investigation.
“The position of Msgr. Vallejo Balda remains under consideration of the Office of the Promoter of Justice.
“One should remember that disclosure of information and confidential documents is an offense under the Law no. IX of the State of Vatican City (13 July 2013) Article 10 (art. 116 bis C.P. ).
“As for the books ****announced for publication in the the next few days, let it be clearly stated at this time, as in the past, that such actions are a serious betrayal of trust granted by the Pope and, as to the authors, an operation that takes advantage of a seriously unlawful act unlawful delivery of confidential documents – an operation whose legal implications and possibly penalties are under study by the Office of the Promoter of Justice in view of possible further measures that will, if necessary, involve international cooperation. Publications of this kind do not contribute in any way to establishing clarity and truth, but rather they create confusion and partial and tendentious interpretations. We must absolutely avoid the mistake of thinking that this is a way to help the mission of the Pope.”
**** JFL notes: Two books are due out on November 5 that purport to show, via confidential and private Vatican documents and interviews, growing opposition in the Vatican to Pope Francis’ ongoing reforms in the Roman Curia, as well as allege excesses in spending, especially on residences for some prelates.
One book, “Merchants in the Temple,” is by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi who, in 2012, penned a book, “His Holiness,” that reproduced confidential letters and memos to and from Benedict XVI and his personal secretary and others that, according to the Vatican, violated the Pope’s right to privacy. He had previously aired these on an Italian television program. It was revealed in May 2012 that the Pope’s personal butler was the author of the thefts and the person who gave the documents to Nuzzi. This eventually led to the affair being called “Vatileaks.” The butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested, underwent a trial and was subjected to house arrest, but later pardoned by Pope Benedict.
The second volume is “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis’ Church.” It was written by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi who writes for the Italian weekly, L’Espresso, which has previously published leaked Vatican documents, including the letter by 13 cardinals to Francis at the start of the 2015 synod. That was leaked by L’Espresso staffer Sandro Magister but later proven not to be the original letter. Nor were all 13 signatories names correct.
Saturday, May 19, 2012, Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi released a statement about the publication that morning of additional confidential Vatican documents, the so-calle Vatileaks documents. He said at the time: “The latest publication of documents of the Holy See and private documents of the Holy Father can no longer be considered a questionable – and objectively defamatory – journalistic initiative, but clearly assumes the character of a criminal act.”
The Commission of which the two persons arrested were members, was instituted in July 2013 by Pope Francis and publicly announce a day later: “The Holy Father, by a chirograph dated 18 July, has established a Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the economic-administrative structure of the Holy See.
“The Commission will gather information, report to the Holy Father and co-operate with the Council of Cardinals for the study of the organisational and economic problems of the Holy See, in order to draft reforms of the institutions of the Holy See, with the aim of a “simplification and rationalisation of the existing bodies and more careful planning of the economic activities of all the Vatican Administrations.”