SAYING GOODBYE TO A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

There will be no updates on this page for a few days as I’m going to the hospital tomorrow morning in the hopes of resolving the problem of the infection in my right ankle, and the difficulty and pain I’ve had walking for weeks now as a result. The main issue is that I have severe allergic relations to every antibiotic I’ve ever taken, save one, Ciproxin. I had been put on Ciproxin for the infection but learned, when I finally saw an orthopedic doctor, that it was very bad for tendons so we stopped the daily doses. At the moment, the doctors I have seen feel the only way for me to heal is to have antibiotics in a controlled medial environment in the event of a reaction. My big hope is that I will finally find an effective antibiotic that I’m not allergic to!

I enter the Pio XI clinic tomorrow, July 11. It will be 15 years to the day that one of their best doctors performed a lengthy, life-saving surgery on me. I felt things would turn out well at the time as July 11 was my Dad’s birthday and he was where he could do some good!

By the way, hospitals/ospedali are state-run in Italy and clinica are private institutions, usually run by religious orders. Pio XI is run by a Spanish Order of nursing nuns – beautiful people.

So if you have an extra Ave in coming days, send it my way!

SAYING GOODBYE TO A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, doctor, diplomat, journalist and confidante to Popes was laid to rest on Friday, July 7, remaining in his adopted city of Rome.

With his many talents, his phenomenal ability to listen, to see both the big and the small picture, to “read the signs of the times,” to work out the knots in a tough situation or conversation, he truly was a man for all seasons. This charming Spaniard was a diplomat through and through, a skilled professional – both as physician with a specialty in psychiatry and journalist – and a man whose Catholic faith was his true identity card. Above all, he was, at all times, a consummate gentleman.

And he had a great sense of humor, laughing easily and often. He loved a joke and could tell as good story as well as anyone. And did I mention his love for sports, tennis in particular. I  was told you want to play a game with Navarro-Valls, not against him!

Joaquin was unique in so many ways, large and small, not the least of which was being a superb, loyal friend to so many people, people from all walks and stations of life, people of diverse cultures, languages and backgrounds. His warm smile and ability with languages always opened doors. I am blessed to have been among his friends. He was a dear friend and, in countless ways a mentor.

As so many of you know, Joaquin led the Holy See Press Office for 22 years, from 1984 to 2006.

In November 1984, Joaquin was president of the Foreign Press Club in Rome and was presiding at a press conference with the late Gianni Agnelli of FIAT when he was summoned to be at the Vatican by 1:30 pm. That summons turned out to be lunch with Pope John Paul who asked him how the press office was functioning. Was it serving the media well? Was it serving the Church well? What could and should be improved?

Joaquin told me that story over dinner one night when we were in China with a Holy See delegation, adding that the Holy Father insisted that Joaquin answer his questions truthfully, not tell him what he thought the Pope might want to hear.

Not long after that meal, Joaquin was named to head the press office. And did he make changes!  Both John Paul and Navarro-Valls were very aware of the power of the media, of communications. Years later, Joaquin told journalists that before he came to the Vatican only about 15 percent of the news about the Pope and the Church originated in the Vatican, that is, briefings or press conference or publication of Vatican documents. Several years after Navarro-Valls began redoing things, it turned out that 85 percent of the news about the Church came from the press office.

Some of the big changes? Bulletins and other documents started to come out in different languages. The press office was totally remodeled in 1994 and ready for all the electronic innovations of the future. When needed, translators were present for press conferences, settling into the new booths provided in the press office renovation. After I showed him around the press office one day, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See told me that the White House correspondents would have every reason to be jealous of such a terrific structure and setting!

In 1984 I was covering the Vatican for the National Catholic Register and Joaquin and I first became friends soon after his nomination. That was the beginning of so many wonderful adventures. I could write a mini volume, not just a Joan’s Rome column!

I was honored and privileged to have been a member of four Holy See delegations to very important United Nations conferences in the 90s: Cairo in September 1994 on Population; Copenhagen March 1995, an economic summit; Beijing September 1995, the conference on Women, and June 1996 Istanbul, a conference on human settlements.

Cairo and Beijing in particular were extraordinary experiences in so many ways, both personal and professional.

Joaquin was added to the Cairo delegation a bit over a month before it was due to depart. He told me that he told the secretary of State that he would go if he was allowed to have Joan Lewis as his assistant as liaison with the press! And thus it was that I got my first diplomatic passport! The rest, as they say, is history.

Those were heady times and experiences and some day I hope to find the time to write in depth about those adventures.

On the rare occasions that we had time to eat a meal during those conferences, I asked Joaquin a thousand questions – about his family, his work before Rome, his work at the press office, how he came to be named, etc. Obviously lots of questions about the Holy Father! They were very close and that relationship was mutually beneficial throughout St. John Paul’s pontificate.

At the end of our time in Beijing (the conferences were usually about 3 weeks long) Joaquin gave me a small gift. He said he went shopping for the staff of the press office and simply did not know what to get for me. He choose a small pair of silk embroidered slippers, and told me when he saw these elegant slippers, he immediately thought of me. They are on my desk as I write. Gracias, amigo!

In August 1993, a year before the Cairo conference, World Youth Day was celebrated in Denver and Joaquin made sure I was part of the papal party. For starters, I spent five days at Regis University for the Youth Forum that preceded WYD. My main job was to liaise with the press. I did my best to honor the oly See, Joaquin as spokesman and the Coun tilHoly See, Joaquin and the press office and the (now former) Council for the Laity who organizes youth days.

Again, very heady and historic days with lots of interesting stories.

Joaquin’s birthday was November 16 and, for the 15 years I was at the press office, I always spent the night before preparing a cake for the office party. For 15 years I came up with a new theme for the decoration. Once I decorated the cake as a Spanish passport, another time as a Holy See passport, another time as St. Peter’s dome or the Spanish flag or a radio studio. I can’t even remember them all right now. No one got to see the cake until it was unveiled at the office party.  I always got a thank you note from Joaquin who once wrote that he never slept the night before his birthday, wondering exactly what theme Joan would choose for the decoration!

On another occasion I invited the staff of the Vatican Information service for a pre-Christmas luncheon at my home. I had roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes – the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas menu – AND a cake that was shaped and decorated like a Christmas wreath! When Joaquin arrived he went directly into the kitchen, asked if he could help and then spotted my electric carving knife. He asked if I would allow him to carve the turkey, “given that I am a doctor and know how to cut things up!” and he proceeded with skill and dexterity to perfectly carve our main course!

In December 2001, upon returning to Rome from a nephew’s funeral in Oregon, I noticed something was seriously wrong with my left eye. I went to the Vatican eye doctor who seemed worried and he said I should go to the eye hospital in Rome immediately to verify what he suspected – a detached retina.

It was just that and I informed my colleagues where I was, that I was having multiple tests and would be admitted to the hospital. As I was waiting to go into what would be a two-hour exam, who walked into the waiting room but Joaquin! I was scared speechless that I would lose my sight and burst into years as I saw a friendly face. The eye surgeon who examined me was a very talented woman from Genoa, very motherly and caring. She spent much of the time explaining everything she was doing, including an extraordinarily detailed drawing of my eye. She answered my questions and Joaquin’s – he spent the entire two hours with us. I am not sure I ever conveyed to him what those two hours meant to me. That is what Joaquin did for friends, who he was for friends.

In December 2014, having just marked 20 years at the press office, Joaquin arranged for all of us at the press office to have an audience with the Holy Father, clearly ailing at this point. I had met John Paul quite a number of times but was very emotional about this meeting for, in my heart, I felt it would be the last time I’d see him.

I spent the first part of the morning in my office, learning how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Polish. I wrote the phrases down on a yellow Post-it note and almost glued it to my left hand, repeating the phrases many times to myself. I kept glancing at it when we were in the papal library, each of us awaiting our turn to greet our beloved Holy Father.

John Paul was barely able to keep his head up at this stage of his Parkinson’s disease and smiling had become close to impossible. I felt like we were intruding in a moment when he should have been resting. However an aide read a statement and we knew the Pope wanted to do this for Joaquin.

When it was my turn, I knelt to touch his outstretched hand, recited my Polish version of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and immediately was looking into John Paul’s wonderful blue eyes. No one knew I was going to do this, and later Joaquin told me that was the nicest gesture I ever could have made for John Paul. “Did you notice,” Joaquin pointed out, “that the Pope raised his head only when you spoke Polish?”

Many years, many stories – these are just a few – and countless memories of time spent with a very great man, the Church’s Man for All Seasons.

 

POPE FRANCIS, A SURPRISE VISITOR TO VANCOUVER TED CONFERENCE – BRIEFING HELD AS C9 CARDINALS END THREE-DAY MEETING

POPE FRANCIS, A SURPRISE VISITOR TO VANCOUVER TED CONFERENCE

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has broken new ground in the way he communicates his message when the first-ever papal TED Talk went on line.

TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ideas in the form of short talks. What began in 1984 as a conference covering Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), today provides talks from a wide range of different speakers – except popes. Until today,according to Sean Lovett of Vatican Radio.

He wrote that, “those of us following TED’s annual Conference in Vancouver had been promised a surprise ‘world figure’ who would deliver his 18-minute message on the conference theme, ‘The Future You’, alongside tennis superstar, Serena Williams, entrepreneur, Elon Musk, and chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

But no one expected to see the Pope’s face appear on the screen. (photo) news.va)

“I very much like this title – ‘The Future You’”, began Pope Francis, “because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a ‘you’…The future is made of you’s…because life flows through our relations with others”.

Speaking in his typically personal and informal style, the Pope reminded us of how “everything is connected” and of how “life is about interactions”. “None of us is an autonomous and independent ‘I’”, he said. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone”.

His second message regarded “educating people to a true solidarity” in order to overcome the “culture of waste” that puts products at the centre of techno-economic systems, instead of people. “The other has a face”, he said. “The ‘you’ is…a person to take care of”.

The Pope illustrated his point by quoting Mother Teresa and the parable of the Good Samaritan, before going on to talk about Hope – which he described as “a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree”. “A single individual is enough for hope to exist”, he said. “And that individual can be you”.

Pope Francis’ third and final message was dedicated to what he called “the revolution of tenderness”. Tenderness means “being on the same level as the other”, he said. It is not weakness, but strength: “the path of solidarity…of humility”. And through humility, even power becomes a service and a force for good.

The Pope concluded by affirming that the future of humankind is not in the hands of politicians or big companies but, most of all, in the hands of those people “who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’”. Because: “We all need each other”.

Listen to the English-dubbed version of the Pope’s TED talk (appears at end of written summary of papal talk): http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-gives-ted-talk-we-build-future-togeth

BRIEFING HELD AS C9 CARDINALS END THREE-DAY MEETING

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, held a briefing for the press on the 19th meeting of the cardinals who are advisors to Pope Francis.

The Council of Cardinals met with the Holy Father for three days, starting on Monday. All of the members of the council were present. Pope Francis was absent from the morning meeting on Wednesday due to the general audience.

The working sessions took place from 9 am to 12:30 pm and again from 16:30 to 19:00. They were dedicated to further considerations on the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. In particular, discussions continued on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. The Cardinals also considered texts to propose to the Holy Father regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; and three tribunals: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

During the meetings, the council also studied the selection and formation of the personnel in the service of the Holy See, both clerics and members of the lay faithful. Officials and superiors from the Secretariat of State, from the Council for the Economy, and from the Labor Office of the Holy See took part in the discussions. Archbishops Angelo Becciu, Paul Richard Gallagher, and Jan Romeo Pawłowski were present on behalf of the Secretariat of State. For the Council for the Economy, in addition to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Prof. Franco Vermiglio, a member of the Council, spoke at the meeting. Bishop Giorgio Corbellini and a lawyer, Salvatore Vecchio addressed the cardinals for the Labor Office.

Another important theme treated by the council was the relationship between the Episcopal Conferences and the Roman Curia. Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, of which he is the President, with special attention to the review of the budget for the current year. Cardinal Seán O’Malley updated the council on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of minors, focussing especially on the programme of global education, the last plenary assembly, and the visits to various dicasteries.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place June 12-14.

VATICAN ON ALLEGED UNAUTHORIZED EPISCOPAL ORDINATIONS IN CHINA – THE SITUATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA EXPLAINED

VATICAN ON ALLEGED UNAUTHORIZED EPISCOPAL ORDINATIONS IN CHINA

(Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, has clarified the Vatican has not authorized any episcopal ordinations in continental China.

“Should such episcopal ordinations have occurred, they would constitute a grave violation of canonical norms,” Burke said in a statement.

He reiterated “it is not licit to proceed with any episcopal ordination without the necessary papal mandate, even by appealing to particular personal beliefs.”

The declaration of the director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, concerning the  purported episcopal ordinations without the Pontifical Mandate in Continental China:

“In recent weeks, there has been a series of reports regarding some episcopal ordinations conferred without papal mandate of priests of the unofficial community of the Catholic Church in continental China.  The Holy See has not authorized any ordination, nor has it been officially informed of such  events. Should such episcopal ordinations have occurred, they would constitute a grave violation  of canonical norms. The Holy See hopes that such reports are baseless. If not, it will have to await reliable information and sure documentation before adequately evaluating the cases. However, it is reiterated that it is not licit to proceed with any episcopal ordination without the necessary papal mandate, even by appealing to particular personal beliefs”.

THE SITUATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA EXPLAINED

By Rome Reports, with Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, Editor, AsiaNews

The communist regime in China considers Rome and the pope as foreign influences in their country, that might promote dissent from the government.

That is why the Chinese government created the Catholic Patriotic Association in 1957, an official body to name, coordinate and manage all Catholic bishops in China.

Many of those bishops, considering that the CPA does not follow Christian teachings and interferes in their allegiance to Rome, refuse to recognize its authority. They constitute the “unofficial Church.”

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, a long-time missionary in China, claims however, that there is one Church in China.

BERNARDO CERVELLERA, director, AsiaNews

“No, one cannot say that there are two churches in China. In fact, there is an official Church, in which all of the bishops, except eight, are in communion with the pope. In the “unofficial Church” there are around 40 bishops that pledge allegiance to the pope.”

The challenge for Vatican diplomats is to convince the Chinese government to soften the anti-Vatican agenda of the Catholic Patriotic Association, so that the Church loyal to Rome might be able to operate freely.

However, if the government concedes this, they might ask for something in exchange, and will most likely be that the Vatican recognize eight bishops who have been excommunicated but are still active and are members of the CPA.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera thinks this is the main obstacle in the way towards full communion between China and the Vatican.

“I do not think that the Church can accept embracing the excommunicated bishops all at once, because amongst them there are bishops who have a wife and children. There are bishops who refuse to ask for reconciliation. There has to be a screening, one by one, to see if it is possible to bring them into communion. I think it will be difficult…”

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera thinks that cozying up to the CPA is a red line for Parolin and the Vatican diplomatic corps, that is why he thinks a possible agreement between the Vatican and Beijing might go along the lines of improving religious freedom for the underground Church and ending persecution.

“The Holy See is seeking an agreement that does not threaten Catholic doctrine, while at the same time protects the underground bishops and pushes for the release of those imprisoned. This makes me think that Cardinal Parolin does not want to ‘sell’ the Catholic faith and imprison it in the hands of the Catholic Patriotic Association, but rather he wants to cooperate with the government to improve religious freedom for the Church.”

Recently, there was a small but significant gesture that could be a good omen for relations between the Vatican and China. Pope Francis spoke about it in his return flight from Azerbaijan.

POPE FRANCIS:For example, there was two-day conference, in the Academy for Science, about Laudato si’, and there was a Chinese delegation there, and the Chinese president sent me a present… The relationship is good…”

The gift the pope is talking about is a replica of the Nestorian Stele, a symbol for Christianity in China. In Chinese culture, a present is a message, and this one seems loud and clear.

 

The following was going to be my lead news in today’s column but all that changed with the appointment of a new director for the Holy See Press Office – see that story below. However, I think it is noteworthy that the world’s oldest priest turns 107 today! Here is a Reuters story from Belgium:

NALINNES, Belgium (Reuters) – A strict daily routine is the recipe for a long life, according to the world’s oldest priest, Belgian Jacques Clemens, who will celebrate his 107th birthday on Monday.

Clemens, who has also celebrated his 80th anniversary as a Catholic priest, gets up every morning at 5.30 a.m. and goes to bed at 9.00 p.m.

When Clemens was about to retire at 75, his bishop asked him to remain in service until they found a successor – he only stopped holding regular church services at his parish in the southern Belgian village of Nalinnes last year.

At Mass yesterday –

Father Jacques Clemens attends a mass at St. Benoit church in Nalinnes, Belgium, July 10, 2016.   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Father Jacques Clemens attends a mass at St. Benoit church in Nalinnes, Belgium, July 10, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Happy Birthday, Fr. Clemens!

POPE NAMES AMERICAN TO HEAD HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE

Today’s big news story at the Vatican is the nomination of a new director for the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, a long time friend and colleague, and the naming of a female laywoman, also a journalist, to be the assistant director. History in the making in Vatican communications.

Pope Francis has named American journalist Greg Burke as the new director of the Holy See Press Office, effective August 1st. In another big appointment at a Vatican communications office, Francis also named a laywoman, Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero, as assistant director of the press office. (N C Register photo)

GREG BURKE - NC REGISTER

The press office was headed by another Opus Dei numerary, Joaquin Navarro Valls, for 22 years during the papacy of John Paul II. Named in 1984, Navaro-Valls served as the papal spokesman until July 2006. Burke is thus the second layperson to head the press office but today’s nominations indicate the first time that two lay people head the sala stampa.

Paloma Garcia Ovejero –

PALOMA

Pope Francis has spoken for several years about women having a bigger role in the Church had many have noted that he had done little to implement that in the Roman Curia. Today’s nomination changed that perception, at least a little.

Another perception that the Pope changed in some way with Burke’s nomination is the idea there has been an anti-American feeling in the Curia. In fact, a number of Americans have been given other positions and moved out of the Roman Curia while none have been appointed to high-ranking positions inside the Vatican as they were with St. John Paul and Benedict XVI. At one point, Americans were second only to Italians in the Curia in numbers.

Both Burke, a native of St. Louis, and Garcia Ovejero speak multiple languages. She was the Vatican correspondent for the Spanish broadcaster COPE, and has ties to the Spanish Episcopal Conference.

I have known Greg since the mid-1980s when I was covering the Vatican as the Rome Bureau Chief for the National Catholic Register. I had that position until returning to the U.S. in December 1985, at which point Greg’s was a name I suggested to my superiors at the Register as someone who could succeed me.

Most of the news stories today about these appointments point to Greg Burke’s last position before being tapped as a communications consultant for the Secretariat of State – his work as the Fox News correspondent in Rome. He had also been a correspondent for TIME magazine.

I remember hearing Greg’s name being bandied about as a successor to Joaquin Navarro- Valls in May 2006 during Pope Benedict’s trip to Poland to honor his late predecessor, John Paul II. I mentioned it in either a blog or on air and did hear from Greg rather quickly – where had I heard that, he asked. I told him that, with the imminent departure of Navarro-Valls, his name had come up among journalist colleagues as an able, affable, competent, unflappable successor to the popular Spaniard who held the office for so long.

Exactly ten years ago, on July 11, 2006, a little over a month after Benedict’s Poland trip, the Pope named Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi as the successor to Navarro-Valls.

And now we have that able, affable, competent, unflappable successor to Fr. Federico Lombardi!

Will there be a successor to Greg Burke as a senior communications adviser in the Secretariat of State? Will there still be that office? Burke was the first to occupy that newly-created position four years ago. He was named deputy director of the press office in January 2016.

I cannot close without praising Fr. Lombardi’s leadership at the helm where he sailed a ship for ten years in waters that would have capsized a better boat!

He has been such a wonderful presence over the years – his calm, his knowledge, his availability, his extraordinary thoroughness on any topic he had to tackle – his truly encyclopedia knowledge! He had the knack of telling the world – especially vis-a-vis Pope Francis – what the Pope meant to say when his words created doubt or confusion, without every saying “What the Holy Father meant was…..”

I wonder if anyone else at the Vatican has lost as much sleep – and surely countles meals! – as Fr. Lombardi!

These words are altogether too few to express ny heartfelt thanks to this great and very humble man who has been our guide, guardian and mentor for ten years!

PRESS OFFICE ON LEAKS OF VATICAN DOCUMENTS – CONGREGATION ADDRESSES NEWS REPORTS ON ITS REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS

Pope Francis is back on Twitter!  Here is his November 12 tweet, the first since October 31:  As Christians, we are called to imitate the Good Shepherd and to help families experiencing difficulties.

PRESS OFFICE ON LEAKS OF VATICAN DOCUMENTS

Wednesday afternoon the following statement was released by the Holy See Press Office relative to news reports of alleged illicit financial activity by a Vatican office:

“In recent days articles have appeared in various media organs and news agencies that refer in a partial and imprecise fashion to the content of a confidential document, hypothesizing that in the past APSA has been exploited for an illicit financial activity. The Vatican’s judicial authority has opened an investigation in regard to the diffusion of this document. APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) has always collaborated with the competent bodies, it is not the subject of an investigation and it continues to undertake its own activity with respect to norms in force.”

FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI

Later Wednesday afternoon, the Holy See Press Office issued an additional statement on Wednesday that confirmed that a pair of Italian journalists are under investigation by Vatican police (the Gendarmeria), under the direction of judicial magistrates probing the leak of confidential documents that allegedly indicate mismanagement at high levels of the Roman Curia. (Vatican Radio)

Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi each wrote a book released earlier this month, claiming to give details of what they describe as resistance to the Holy Father’s efforts to reform the machinery of central Church governance.

In his statement, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, said other officials are under scrutiny for possible involvement in the document leak as well.

Following is the full text of Fr. Lombardi’s statement, in Vatican Radio’s English translation:

The Vatican Gendarmeria, in its capacity as judicial police, had informed the Vatican judiciary of the operations of two journalists [Gianluigi] Nuzzi and [Emiliano] Fittipaldi, in connection with [their] possible participation in dissemination of reserved information and confidential documents – a crime under the Vatican City criminal code (Law n.IX SCV, of 13 July 2013 Art. 116b).

In the investigative activity already undertaken, the Judiciary has acquired elements of evidence of the fact of the two journalists’ involvement in the offense, who therefore are now under investigation.

The situations of other persons who, owing to their official positions, could have cooperated in the acquisition of the reserved documents in question, are also under investigation.

CONGREGATION ADDRESSES NEWS REPORTS ON ITS REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS

(VIS) – The following is the full text of the communique issued yesterday afternoon by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on news relating to its ownership of real estate.

“The Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, also known as ‘Propaganda Fide’, adheres fully to the Holy Father Francis’ line of thought and guidance with regard to the life and reform of the Roman Curia; in addition, it his committed to pursuing the institutional aims set forth in the Apostolic Constitution ‘Pastor Bonus’, as well as respecting the will of donors who over the years have contributed to its missionary work. Therefore, it welcomes all the administrative reforms anticipated by the Secretary for the Economy and submits all the budgets and final accounts to the latter.

“Certain insinuations on the part of certain sectors of the media, which circulate news not corresponding to the truth, are therefore unacceptable. It has been written, for example, that the Congregation offers luxury properties for rent at low prices as favours, and even that it hosts a spa or is the proprietor of the Hotel Priscilla.

“The real estate belonging to the Congregation, donated for the Missions, is rented at market value; there are exceptions in the case of situations of poverty. The aforementioned properties are rented in accordance with current Italian legislation, to which both the Congregation as the owner and the recipient are subject.

“The income deriving from the rent of these properties, for which regular tax is paid in Italy (in 2014 the Dicastery paid IMU – imposta municipale unica, property tax, of 2,169,200 euros in Rome alone) is destined principally for the maintenance of the Congregation, the Pontifical Urbanian University, the Pontifical Collegio Urbano, the missionary institutions and young Churches in the mission territories.

“Propaganda Fide is grateful to the benefactors who, with its help, make it possible for the Gospel to be announced and provide support for innumerable educational, social and healthcare initiatives in the poorest countries.

“We wish to clarify that, should such dissemination of false or biased information recur, this Congregation will be obliged to protect its image in the appropriate forums.”

SAINTS ARE AMONG US IN OUR DAILY LIVES, OUR FAMILIES, OUR NEIGHBORS – VATICAN ARRESTS TWO PEOPLE, INCLUDING HIGH RANKING MONSIGNOR

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).

VATICAN GROTTOES

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)

VERANO

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!”

ANGELUS - ALL SAINTS

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.”