VATICAN FINANCES: ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY – CARDINAL PAROLIN SAYS HE ARRANGED CONTROVERSIAL HOSPITAL LOAN, PAPAL FOUNDATION GRANT

Pope Francis today started his first full day of activities on his visit to Thailand, the first of two nations he will visit between now and November 26. I have posted a separate column on that journey.

VATICAN FINANCES: ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

I also posted this today on Facebook and Twitter: A cogent and easy to read piece that goes to the heart of the matter: https://religionnews.com/2019/11/20/four-powers-the-pope-needs-to-grant-the-new-chief-of-vatican-finances/
And the Wall Street Journal posted this:

VATICAN LOSES ACCESS TO INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL WATCHDOG INFORMATION – The Egmont Group, a network of financial intelligence units, has suspended the Vatican watchdog from accessing its secure web system – by Francis X. Rocca

ROME -An international network of financial watchdogs has suspended the Vatican’s access to its information, dealing a major blow to the Vatican’s financial credibility under Pope Francis. The Egmont Group, a Toronto-based network of more than 160 national financial intelligence units around the world, has decided to suspend the Vatican watchdog from access to its secure web system, through which members share information about money laundering, financing of terrorism, tax fraud and other financial crimes….” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/vatican-loses-access-to-international-financial-watchdog-information-11574199689)

CARDINAL PAROLIN SAYS HE ARRANGED CONTROVERSIAL HOSPITAL LOAN, PAPAL FOUNDATION GRANT

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA) – The Vatican Secretary of State told CNA this week that he is responsible for arranging a controversial loan for the purchase of a bankrupt Italian hospital, and that he arranged with Cardinal Donald Wuerl a grant from the U.S.-based Papal Foundation to cover the loan when it could not be repaid.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin told CNA he felt “compelled” to address the matter “in order to put an end to a controversy that takes away time and resources from our service to the Lord, to the Church and to the Pope, and disturbs the conscience of many Catholics.”

“The operations involving IDI…are ascribable to myself,” Parolin told CNA Nov. 19, while insisting that his actions regarding the IDI were both legal and transparent.

CNA asked Parolin to confirm that he personally had arranged a 2014 loan of 50 million euros from APSA, the Vatican’s central bank, to partially fund the purchase of the bankrupt IDI hospital. The cardinal confirmed that he had.

The IDI was purchased in 2015 by a for-profit partnership of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and the religious order that had owned and managed the hospital while it went bankrupt, incurred 800 million euros of debt, and saw some of its former administrators prosecuted and jailed for systematic fraud and embezzlement.

Though Parolin said the arrangement was “carried out with fair intentions and honest means,” the APSA loan is likely to draw scrutiny from European banking regulators, as the loan seems to violate 2012 regulatory agreements prohibiting the bank from making commercial loans.

Those agreements were the result of an on-site inspection by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s Committee for combating money laundering and terrorist financing, and legally prohibit APSA from providing services to individuals or taking part in commercial transactions.

CNA also asked Parolin to confirm that he had personally devised a plan with Wuerl to request Papal Foundation funds to cover APSA’s bad loan. The cardinal confirmed that he had.

The $25 million grant request was widely understood to be an effort to remove the bad debt from APSA’s ledger before it drew attention, after it became obvious that the debt-ridden and insolvent hospital could not repay its loan to the Vatican central bank.

Wuerl, however, told the Papal Foundation board that the funds were intended to save the IDI from closure by covering short term operating deficits. But lay board members raised questions about whether the cash was really intended to meet an operating shortfall at the hospital, or to cover the bad debt at APSA.

Papal Foundation trustees and donors expressed also skepticism about the amount requested, which was far larger than its normal disbursements, which ordinarily are grants of a few hundred thousand dollars to charities around the world, selected by the Holy See.

After one board member objected to the loan by letter, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was then a member of the board, wrote that raising concerns was “irresponsible, and seriously harmful to The Papal Foundation.”

McCarrick was under investigation for sexually abusing minors at the time he intervened in the matter.

Despite objections, the grant was ultimately approved by the Papal Foundation board in a secret ballot – sources inside the foundation told CNA that board members believe all but one of the bishop members voted for it, while all but one of the lay members voted against approving the grant.

Dispersal of the money stalled after the board continued to ask questions about the final destination of the funds.

Two initial installments were sent to Rome in late 2017 and early 2018, totaling $13 million. After internal disagreements about the grant went public, Cardinal Wuerl said he would ask the Vatican to cancel the request and return the funds. In early 2019 Parolin wrote to the board saying the $13 million would be reclassified as a loan, rather than a grant, and would be repaid as credits against future grant requests.

When the grant money stalled, APSA was forced to write off 30 million of the 50 million euro loan, wiping out APSA’s profits for the 2018 financial year.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, acknowledged the loan and its write-off in September, even though APSA is legally prohibited from making loans that finance commercial transactions, due to its 2012 moneyval agreement.

After the Oct. 21 publication of a book that alleged the Vatican was nearly insolvent, Galatino blamed the loan for APSA’s failure to register a profit for the first time in its history.

Parolin answered CNA’s questions this week after Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who has widely been reported to have been the driving force behind both arranging the loan and pushing for the Papal Foundation grant, contacted CNA to deny his involvement in those matters. He told CNA that both matters were the “competence” of the Secretary of State, Parolin.

Becciu told CNA by text message earlier this month that he had not known about the APSA loan until after it was arranged, and that he had no part in requesting a grant from the Papal Foundation.

The 2014 APSA loan was arranged over the strong objections of Cardinal George Pell, then serving as the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and charged by Pope Francis with enforcing financial accountability on the Roman Curia. CNA has also reported a loan request for the same purpose had been vetoed by the IOR, the Vatican’s deposit bank, after its president, Jean-Baptiste Douville de Franssu, and Pell agreed that the IDI was unviable and the money would never be repaid.

While Parolin took responsibility for the IDI arrangements, Vatican officials across several dicasteries have told CNA Becciu was involved in organizing both the loan and coordinating the lobbying effort for the Papal Foundation grant. That effort included a visit to McCarrick by the secretary of APSA, Fr. Mauro Rivella, in Washington, DC, shortly after the grant request was made. The visit took place before McCarrick pushed board members to approve the grant, and after an investigation into McCarrick’s sexual misconduct had begun.

Still, Parolin insisted that “as far as I know, Cardinal Becciu had no role whatsoever in” those matters.

Nevertheless, Becciu’s personal connections to the IDI hospital go back at least as far as his appointment to the position of sostituto in 2011.

Shortly after Becciu began working as the second-ranking official in the Secretariat of State, Fr. Franco Decaminada, the IDI’s president – subsequently arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, and laicised for theft and fraud – approached him for support on a proposal that the Secretariat of State supply the IDI with 200 million euros, ostensibly to fund a take over of another hospital by the IDI, which was already teetering on insolvency.

In October, Becciu told CNA he did not recall any such proposal, though it had been reported previously in Italian media. Shortly after that proposal was made, Decaminada hired Becciu’s niece Maria Piera Becciu, as his personal secretary.

In October, CNA asked Becciu if he or his position at the Secretariat of State had played any role in the hiring of his niece at the IDI. He told CNA that, “she applied for the position and was hired.”

Last month, Becciu told CNA that his interest and involvement with the IDI ceased when Cardinal Parolin was appointed Secretary of State.

“Cardinal Parolin assumed the office of Secretary of State [in 2013] and I no longer concerned myself with IDI,” he said.

While taking responsibility for the APSA loan and the Papal Foundation request, Parolin told CNA that the interpretation of those events “by certain media is a different matter, presenting these operations as non-transparent, irregular or even illegal: this, as far as I am concerned, is not the truth.”

But beyond the APSA loan and Papal Foundation grant, other aspects of the IDI purchase have raised serious questions.

In addition to the APSA loan, the Vatican also used 30 million euros diverted from the Bambino Gesu, another hospital under its oversight, to purchase the bankrupt IDI. That money was taken from an 80 million euro grant the Italian government had given the Bambino Gesu.

Cardinal Guisseppe Versaldi arranged that diversion. At the time, Versaldi led the partnership to buy the IDI, oversaw the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and was the Vatican’s delegate to oversee the Italian province of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, the religious congregation that had owned the hospital, had a partnership with the Vatican to buy it again, and had also been dragged into insolvency.

Wiretaps recorded Versaldi discussing the plan with Giuseppe Profiti, the president of Bambino Gesu, with the two agreeing to conceal the misdirection of the funds from Pope Francis.

Versaldi and Profiti later denied any wrongdoing, and the cardinal claimed he only wanted to spare the pope the technical details of the efforts to save the IDI.

In his comments to CNA Parolin also addressed a lament from Becciu, who told CNA this month that while he is uncertain which Vatican officials have suggested he is connected to the IDI affair, he believes he could be the victim of a misinformation campaign, designed to sully his reputation by linking him to the affair.

Parolin does not think that to be the case.

“I believe there is no curial plot. In any case, I am completely extraneous to any operation of the kind: if there were such an operation I would condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Parolin told CNA.

A spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that the cardinal “has no comment beyond reiterating those facts already on the public record regarding the Papal Foundation application process.”

POPE FRANCIS’ APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO THAILAND

Update on papal trip to Thailand from Vaticannews.va:

POPE FRANCIS’ APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO THAILAND

The King and the Pope
On his first full day in Bangkok, Pope Francis meets privately with King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the official protector of Buddhism in Thailand. One event of his 32nd Apostolic Visit abroad that took place far from the public eye was Pope Francis’ private meeting with the King of Thailand. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-thailand-king-vajiralongkorn.html

Pope hospital visit: Jesus close to us in our frailty and in our wounds
Pope Francis visits the patients and staff of the St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok, which this year is celebrating the 120th anniversary of its foundation. The St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok was founded in 1898 by the Apostolic Victor of Siam, Archbishop Louis Vey. Its mission is based on the motto “Where love is, there God is.” Today the hospital is run by a team of doctors, nurses and researchers with the help of state of the art medical equipment. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-hospital-visit-jesus-close-to-us-in-our-frailty-and-in-our.html

Pope in Thailand: Catholics and Buddhists can live as “good neighbours”
On his first full day in Thailand, Pope Francis meets the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch and confirms the Church’s commitment to open and respectful dialogue in the service of peace. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-in-thailand-catholics-and-buddhists-can-live-together.html

Pope in Thailand: the commitment to live in justice, solidarity and harmony
Pope Francis delivers his first official discourse in Thailand to members of government, civil and religious leaders, and the diplomatic corps. Among other things, he reminds them that being at the service of the common good is one of the noblest tasks anyone can undertake. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-in-thailand-the-commitment-to-live-in-justice-solidarity.html

Pope urges Thailand’s Catholics to be missionary disciples
Pope Francis celebrates his first public Mass on Thai soil Thursday evening at Bangkok’s National Stadium. Reflecting on the Gospel of the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he speaks about what missionary discipleship consists in. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-apostolic-visit-thailand-mass-bangkok.html

Pope’s first Mass in Thailand – photo gallery
Celebrating his first public Mass at the National Stadium in the Thai capital, Bangkok, the Pope speaks about what missionary discipleship consists in. Pope Francis is in Thailand to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam in 1669 that formally marked the beginning of the Church in the country. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-apostolic-visit-thailand-mass-bangkok-photogallery.html

HOLY SEE REITERATES TWO STATE SOLUTION FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

HOLY SEE REITERATES TWO STATE SOLUTION FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

In the face of the United States’ recent statement backing Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Holy See today issued the following communique:

“In the context of recent decisions that risk undermining further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already fragile regional stability, the Holy See reiterates its position of a two-state solution for two peoples as the only way to reach a complete solution to this age-old conflict.

“The Holy See supports the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security within the borders recognized by the international community and supports the same right that belongs to the Palestinian people, which must be recognized, respected and implemented.

“The Holy See wishes that the two Parties, negotiating directly with each other, with the support of the international community and in compliance with United Nations resolutions, may find a fair compromise, which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples.”

DECKING-OUT PAPAL VENUES IN THAILAND (+ VIDEO) – POPE ON BOARD TO JOURNALISTS: MAKE KNOWN THESE CULTURES FAR FROM THE WEST – POPE ARRIVES IN THAILAND AT THE START OF 32ND APOSTOLIC JOURNEY

DECKING-OUT PAPAL VENUES IN THAILAND (+ VIDEO)

Let’s take a glimpse of some of the places Pope Francis will be visiting during his three-day visit to Thailand.

Pope Francis is on a seven-day apostolic journey to Asia. His first stopover is in Thailand, where Catholics number around 300,000. The Pope will focus on confirming the faith of this small Catholic community, promoting interreligious dialogue and paving the way for peace and understanding in a predominantly Buddhist country. In a video message sent to the people of Thailand, the Pope expressed his hope that his visit will “strengthen the bonds of friendship with many Buddhist brothers and sisters.”

Enjoy the video! https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-apostolic-visit-thailand.html

POPE ON BOARD TO JOURNALISTS: MAKE KNOWN THESE CULTURES FAR FROM THE WEST

On board the flight that took Pope Francis to Thailand, the first stop of his 32nd apostolic journey, he greeted journalists and thanked them for their work. Before leaving Rome, he met with some elderly people in the Casa Santa Marta.


Alessandro Di Bussolo – Vatican City

On the flight to Thailand, the first stage of his 32nd apostolic journey and the fourth to East Asia, the Pope greeted journalists on board saying, “Good evening, thank you for accompanying me on this journey, thank you for your work, it is so good for people to be informed, to know these cultures that are far from the West”.

“Make known these cultures far from the West”
At Fiumicino airport and before boarding the Alitalia plane, the Pope greeted civil and religious authorities. Then, as usual, with his briefcase in his left hand, he climbed the steps to reach the aircraft entrance door. From here, shortly before taking his seat, he briefly stopped to greet the 58 year-old Captain Alberto Colautti, who has 15,000 hours of flight time to his credit. He also greeted the three co-pilots and the six flight attendants who were waiting for him.

On Tuesday evening at 6 p.m, before leaving the Casa Santa Marta for Fiumicino airport, Pope Francis met with a dozen elderly people hosted by the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pietro in Vincoli. The group was accompanied by the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

Click here for photos: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-on-board-to-journalists-make-known-these-cultures-far-from.html

POPE ARRIVES IN THAILAND AT THE START OF 32ND APOSTOLIC JOURNEY

Pope Francis arrives at Bangkok Airport after an eleven-hour flight from Rome. Thailand is the first stop on a seven day Apostolic Journey to Asia taking him to Thailand and Japan.

The plane carrying the Pope, his entourage and around 70 journalists and media professionals, arrived in Bangkok just after noon, local time, on Wednesday.

This is Pope Francis’ 32nd Apostolic Journey, taking him to Thailand until 23 November and then Japan until 26 November. Confirming these nation’s small Catholic communities in the faith, promoting interreligious dialogue, defending life and the environment: these are just some of the themes underlining the visit.

Arrival ceremony in Bangkok
A representative of the Royal Council of Thailand, and another six authorities representing the Thai government, met the Pope on his arrival, together with members of the Thai Bishops’ Conference. There were also 11 children representing the dioceses of Thailand where Catholics number around 300,000.

The Pope’s motorcade then left immediately for the nunciature where Pope Francis is expected to rest before the first full day of the visit begins on Thursday.

The first papal appointments
The Pope’s first appointment on Thursday is at Government House where the official welcome ceremony will take place. Pope Francis will meet privately with Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, before addressing authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps. Immediately afterwards, he will visit the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple.

Before lunch, Pope Francis will meet medical staff and a group of patients at the St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok. This important healthcare facility was founded by Catholics in 1898. In the afternoon, the Pope will pay a private visit to the King of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn Rama X, at the Amphorn Royal Palace.

The Pope’s first full day of events will conclude with the celebration of a Mass with young people in the National Stadium of Bangkok.

PAPAL TRIP TO THAILAND AND JAPAN STARTS THIS EVENING – CARDINAL PAROLIN: POPE TRAVELS TO THAILAND, JAPAN TO PROMOTE LIFE AND PEACE – TUESDAY IN THE VATICAN

I get an email daily from http://www.FranciscanMedia.org about the saint of the day and today I thought that perhaps you’d be interested in a saint from Assisi with whom you might not be that familiar – St. Agnes! Here is her story….

Born Caterina Offreducia, Agnes was the younger sister of Saint Clare, and her first follower. When Caterina left home two weeks after Clare’s departure, their family attempted to bring her back by force. They tried to drag her out of the monastery, but her body suddenly became so heavy that several knights could not budge it. Her uncle Monaldo tried to strike her but was temporarily paralyzed. The knights then left Caterina and Clare in peace. Saint Francis himself gave Clare’s sister the name Agnes, because she was gentle like a young lamb.

Agnes matched her sister in devotion to prayer and in willingness to endure the strict penances that characterized the Poor Ladies’ lives at San Damiano. In 1221, a group of Benedictine nuns in Monticelli near Florence asked to become Poor Ladies. Saint Clare sent Agnes to become abbess of that monastery. Agnes soon wrote a rather sad letter about how much she missed Clare and the other nuns at San Damiano. After establishing other monasteries of Poor Ladies in northern Italy, Agnes was recalled to San Damiano in 1253, as Clare lay dying.

Three months later Agnes followed Clare in death, and was canonized in 1753.

Reflection: God must love irony; the world is so full of it. In 1212, many in Assisi surely felt that Clare and Agnes were wasting their lives and were turning their backs on the world. In reality, their lives were tremendously life-giving, and the world has been enriched by the example of these poor contemplatives.

PAPAL TRIP TO THAILAND AND JAPAN STARTS THIS EVENING

Pope Francis is expected to start his 32nd foreign apostolic trip today when he departs the Santa Marta residence this evening about 6:20 for Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for his flight to Bangkok, Thailand, the first leg of his trip to Asia. He will also visit Japan before returning to Rome.

The papal plane is scheduled to leave at 7 pm, Rome time, arriving Wednesday, November 20 at 12:30 local time at Bangkok’s Military Air Terminal 2 where there will be an official welcome ceremony. Interestingly, it seem that no Thai media will be on the papal plane but Japan is present with nine media representatives out of an estimated 70 press people aboard the plane.

No events are planned for the Pope and his entourage on Wednesday. On Thursday, however, his Thai visit starts with a welcome ceremony at 9 am local time at the Government House where he will meet the prime minister and then a greeting and speech to civil authorities and members of the diplomatic corps.

CARDINAL PAROLIN: POPE TRAVELS TO THAILAND, JAPAN TO PROMOTE LIFE AND PEACE

In the run-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Thailand and Japan, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin says the Pope will highlight the themes of mission, environmental protection, and peace.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews.va)

Pope Francis travels to Thailand from 19-23 November, and to Japan from 23-26, as part of his 32nd Apostolic Journey.

In an interview with Vatican News’ Massimiliano Menichetti on Monday, the Vatican Secretary of State gave some indication about the Pope’s hopes and the themes he intends to highlight.

Centered on the human person
Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the world has undergone vast changes since Pope St. John Paul II visited Thailand in May 1984 and Japan in February 1981. Globalization, he said, has made it much smaller, allowing people to speak face-to-face despite stunning physical distances.

But, he added, Pope Francis wants to travel to far-flung places in order to encounter people in the flesh, because, “the human person lies at the heart of the Church’s attention.” The Church must proclaim the Gospel to each and every person, the Cardinal said, to help them answer life’s difficult questions and to help them find meaning.

Thailand: Missionary disciples
Asked about the visit to Thailand, Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of the Jesuit missionaries who first proclaimed the Gospel there 350 years ago. Thus, he said, an important part of the Pope’s message will regard the Christian call to be missionary disciples.

Cardinal Parolin said the Pope will likely encourage the estimated 400,000 Catholics in Thailand to open themselves to the Holy Spirit, “the true protagonist” of the mission. Mission, he said, “is fulfilled in a fullness that transforms itself into attraction and witness.”

Japan: Denuclearization and peace
Cardinal Parolin then turned to the second part of the Pope’s visit.

“The Japan leg of the journey will be particularly important,” he said, adding that the Pope will likely encourage efforts toward denuclearization.

The Cardinal called Japan “a complex nation” that has “suffered greatly” due to the two nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though it has made a magnificent recovery. He said the nation finds itself “between tradition and innovation,” as it searches for responses to global problems.

While in Japan, he said, the Pope will touch on “care for our common home, the pursuit of peace, and disarmament as a requisite for peace.”

Pope hopes to share people’s lives
Finally, the Cardinal Secretary of State said Pope Francis travels to Asia to be “close the people entrusted to him, desiring to share their joys, expectations, and hopes, as well as their sorrows, sufferings, and contradictions.”

As the Pope meets with the local Catholic communities, Cardinal Parolin said, he will also proclaim several messages that are “valid for the whole world and the entire Church.”

These, he concluded, include the message of the mission as a foundational element of the Christian experience, the protection of creation, and the promotion of peace in a fragmented and conflictual world.

TUESDAY IN THE VATICAN

The Pope prays at Saint Mary Major for his trip to Asia
Pope Francis entrusts the Virgin Mary with his apostolic journey that from Tuesday until 26th November will take him to Thailand and Japan. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/the-pope-prays-at-saint-mary-major-for-his-trip-to-asia.html

The Holy See ratifies the Addis Ababa Convention on Higher Education
The Convention, already adopted on 12 December 2014, will enter into force on 15 December 2020 and represents a legal recognition also to Catholic universities that will allow students to finish their studies abroad and to find a job in another country, in this case in Africa. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-11/the-holy-see-ratifies-the-addis-ababa-convention-on-higher-educa.html

Pope’s interpreter in Japan is his former student from Argentina
As Japan prepares to welcome Pope Francis on Saturday, Fr Renzo De Luca, SJ, recalls his friendly relationship with the Pope, their time together in Argentina, and what it will be like to act as his interpreter into Japanese. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-11/pope-francis-japan-translator-former-argentine-student.html

‘Work takes priority over religion in Japan’, says Oblate priest ahead of Pope’s visit
Ahead of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Japan, an OMI missionary priest explores how the face of the local Catholic Church is changing and the challenges of preaching the Gospel where people give priority to work, not religion. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2019-11/omi-missionaries-japan-rozairo-mission-to-migrants.html

MONDAY IN THE VATICAN – INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY IN THE AMERICAS

If you want to experience the sheer joy of the beauty and solemnity of the Latin Mass in the splendid setting of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. I offer you the spectacular video of the Mass of the Americas celebrated Saturday morning in the shrine in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. There are two links to the EWTN video – one in the moving article by Robert Royal (see below) and a link following that article.

I became so riveted as I opened the video a short while ago that everything else was moved to the back of the burner – work, this column, emails etc. I had to tear myself away from the video – but not the audio – as I proceeded with other work so that I would be done in time for a later appointment.

I had a great reunion with Abp.Cordileone Friday night in Washington as we both attended a book presentation for Kathryn Jean Lopez and her latest work, A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living.

The archbishop and I had worked many of the same years in the 90s in the Vatican under Pope John Paul. I had not seen him in a while, the last time was probably some encounter at NAC, so it was good to touch bases and talk about a few current topics. Had I only known about the Mass, however! I was scheduled to fly back to Rome on the day of the Mass but believe I could have attended the Mass and made my flight. This Mass will be celebrated again in various U.S. cities so I have hope. What a joy it would be to have it sung in St. Peter’s!

MONDAY IN THE VATICAN

Pope urges support for WFP’s campaign to eliminate food waste
Pope Francis sent a message to the World Food Programme on Monday, calling on all to support the UN agency’s global campaign to eliminate food waste through a change in lifestyle. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-wfp-food-waste-hunger-malnutrition-rights.html

Pope asks people of Japan to protect life, ahead of Apostolic Journey
Pope Francis sends a video message to the people of Japan, and urges them to protect all life – symbolized there by cherry blossoms – and to pray for his upcoming Apostolic Journey. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-video-message-japan-prayer-nuclear-arms.html

Pope meets Argentine Interreligious Dialogue Institute
Pope Francis receives members of the Instituto de Diálogo Interreligioso (I.D.I.) of Buenos Aires, who are meeting to discuss the Document “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-argentine-interreligious-dialogue-institute.html

Pope appoints new President of Vatican Financial Authority
A Holy See Press Office communiqué says Pope Francis has chosen a successor to the current President of the Vatican Financial Authority, René Brüelhart, as his mandate ends. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/vatican-financial-authority-pope-rene-bruelhart-new-appointment.html

INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY IN THE AMERICAS

Robert Royal
By Robert Royal (TCT – The Catholic Thing)

Intimations of eternity are rare in this life. I had one, about this time of the year, when I was in high school. I’m enough of a modern man to know how unreal the claim seems. But it’s true. I was walking with a few friends under autumn leaves. We’d just been reading Virgil together in Latin, during last period. From somewhere, there welled up in me an overwhelming sense of both geologic ages and the immense extent of human life. And something beyond even those. Years later, I came upon an Italian poem – L’infinito – that captures the experience.

I had a similar experience this past Saturday morning. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco celebrated an Extraordinary Form Latin “Mass of the Americas” at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, accompanied by the music of Frank La Rocca, whom the archbishop had commissioned for that purpose. You can watch it by clicking here.

But listening to the recording and even watching the video can’t even begin to convey what the Mass was like in the Basilica. To underscore just one element, Archbishop Cordileone celebrated the Mass on the main altar under the baldacchino, way at the back of the church (instead of the new altar closer to the congregation). That had a marvelous effect. At least for me.

When he and the concelebrants processed to the far altar, near the imposing mosaic of Jesus as Pantocrator (“Ruler of All”), it was as if they were going deep into the divine mysteries. And later, when the priests came forward to distribute Communion, it was as if they were bringing the Body and Blood to the congregation from the depths of God Himself.

Image: The Christ Pantocrator mosaic by Jan Henryk de Rosen, Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

Call this romantic illusion, if you will – though I don’t consider myself prone to that sort of thing. But that’s what the Mass of the Americas conveyed to, I think, more than one person Saturday. Liturgical formality, noble music, serene worship, and the basilica’s very architecture combined to produce that rare experience.

We used to have a lot of that in the liturgy. The Mass, consequently, often impressed non-Catholics, even anti-Catholics. In 1774, John Adams (both non- and anti-) famously wrote to his wife, Abigail, about a Mass at Philadelphia’s Old St. Mary’s: “Here is every Thing which can lay hold of the Eye, Ear and Imagination. Every Thing which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.”

Adams wouldn’t have been so quick to reach for the old anti-Catholic slur about “the simple and ignorant” if he had been in the Basilica Saturday. And he wouldn’t have been so sure that the Protestant Reformation – now ailing and seemingly in terminal decline – had done away with real Catholicism.

Archbishop Cordileone had a brilliant insight in developing this Mass of the Americas (plural). He wanted an instance of real liturgical beauty. As he said in the homily, Catholicism teaches the Three Transcendentals: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Naturally, we seek to follow and extend the Good in various forms; we cannot do so properly, though, unless we know the Truth; and for most people the Truth has to be manifested, primarily through Beauty.

Archbishop Cordileone also wanted a Mass that would be rooted in both Americas, North and South. And that meant incorporating elements of the two great Marian traditions: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Latin America, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion in the Church recently about the old notion of “inculturation.” By the end of Amazon Synod last month, it had become a contentious term, primarily because the Vatican seemed to have chosen to promote a kind of inculturation that bent the Church in the direction of “indigenous spiritualities” more than drawing those indigenous beliefs into the fullness of Catholic truth and practice.

Frank La Rocca’s music struck a much better note of inculturation. The Mass was in Latin, Extraordinary Form, so the music drew appropriately from Church traditions of chant and polyphony, but also spoke a fluid and, above all, contemplative modern musical idiom.

One of the temptations of composers writing modern Masses is to draw attention to the music – and themselves. As Joseph Ratzinger often said, both before and after becoming pope, some sacred music seems more an opera or a concert than a Mass. La Rocca’s lovely work never gives into such temptations. Rather, it serves the spirit of the liturgy at every point.

There were Spanish and Indian motifs, particularly the melody of a popular hymn La Guadalupana woven into traditional musical forms, but never in a way that was intrusive or out of balance. While the archbishop was vesting publicly – quite something to witness in a pontifical Mass – the choir sang La Rocca’s beautiful arrangement of El Cantico del Alba (“The Song of the Dawn”), which contains the line: “Hell trembles three times at the sound of ‘Ave Maria.’”

At the de-vesting after Mass, a soprano sang the equally lovely Aue Maria (sic) – in Nahuatl, the native language in which Our Lady of Guadalupe addressed St. Juan Diego in her appearances on the hill of Tepeyac.

And it all ended with the familiar melody of the Salve Regina, sung in Latin but with La Rocca’s exquisite arrangement surrounding and advancing it.

The Mass of the Americas will be celebrated in other places here in the United States as well as in Mexico. If you have the chance, do yourself – your spiritual life – a great favor: make the effort to attend. Or see if you can bring it to your local cathedral.

My hope is not only that it will be repeated many times in the future, but that some of the aesthetic and spiritual possibilities it has opened up will also find their way into parish Masses – which desperately need fresh inspiration – all over our Hemisphere, and beyond.

A GLIMPSE INTO THREE DAYS AT THE VATICAN

A GLIMPSE INTO THREE DAYS AT THE VATICAN

Friday of Mercy: Pope blesses ‘Palace’ for the Poor
Pope Francis inaugurates the new Night and Day Care Center for homeless people near St. Peter’s Square, as part of his Friday of Mercy initiative. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-friday-mercy-palazzo-migliori-homeless.html

Saturday: Pope to Dicastery for Laity, Family, Life: make the heart of the Church your own
Addressing participants in the first plenary assembly of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life on Saturday, Pope Francis urged them to cultivate two basic attitudes: feeling with the heart of Mother Church and having a brotherly gaze. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-dicastery-family-laity-life-plenary.html

Sunday: Pope to Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital: ‘Blessed are the hands that heal’
Pope Francis urges staff of the Bambino Gesu Hospital not to spare themselves as they heal sick children and to redouble their efforts to find cures for rare diseases. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-bambino-gesu-hospital-150-anniversary.html

Sunday: Pope at Mass on World Day of the Poor: ‘the poor lead us straight to God’
Pope Francis marks the 3rd World Day of the Poor celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for poor people in Rome and beyond. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-mass-world-day-poor-homily.html

Sunday: Pope at Angelus: ‘Be peacemakers, witnesses of hope’
Pope Francis invites the faithful to live their lives responding to hatred with love, to offence with forgiveness, and to always be attentive and loving towards the poor. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-angelus-gospel-world-day-poor.html

Sunday: Pope Francis’ lunch with the poor
Pope Francis joins some 1.500 poor people and volunteers for lunch marking the 3rd World Day of the Poor. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-11/pope-francis-lunch-vatican-world-day-poor.html