POPE INTERVIEW: TALKS WITH CHINA, MIGRATION, CHILE ABUSE CRISIS – POPE SAYS NO TO WOMEN PRIESTS, YES TO WOMEN IN CURIAL LEADERSHIP – POPE TALKS TO REUTERS ABOUT THE ‘DIALOGUE WITH CHINA’

The papal interview seen by Vatican News, CNA and AsiaNews:

POPE INTERVIEW: TALKS WITH CHINA, MIGRATION, CHILE ABUSE CRISIS

Pope Francis spoke about talks with China, migration policy, populism, Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis, reform of the Roman Curia, and other issues in a wide-ranging interview with the Reuters news agency. The interviewer was Philip Pullella, head of Reuter’s Rome bureau.

by Susy Hodges (Vatican news)

In a new one-on-one interview Pope Francis has responded to a series of questions on various issues including the Holy See’s talks with China, the position of women within the Church, migration policy, populism, Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis and reform of the Roman Curia.

Talks with China “at a good point”
Asked in the interview about relations with China, Pope Francis said he was optimistic about the outcome of normalization talks with the Chinese authorities saying they were “at a good point” but couldn’t say when they would conclude. He acknowledged that dialogue “is a risk” but said he preferred that to “the certain defeat” of not holding a dialogue with Beijing.

The Pope talked at length about immigration during the interview and was asked about the U.S. administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the U.S./Mexican border. In his reply, he said he supported recent statements issued by U.S. Catholic Bishops who called the separation of children from their parents contrary to Catholic values and immoral.

Turning to the migration situation in Europe, the Holy Father said populists were “creating a psychosis” on the issue of immigration, even as ageing societies like Europe faced “a great demographic winter” and needed more immigrants.

“I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive. You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” he said. He praised Italy and Greece for being “courageous and generous” by taking in these migrants.

Populism is not the solution
Pope Francis warned that populism does not resolve issues like migration problems. “What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence,” he said. The Pope also said Europe should stop exploiting Africa and invest in ways that benefit the continent more and this could help solve the problem of migration at its roots.

When asked about women calling for more top positions in the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said he agreed there were few women in positions of responsibility there. He said he wanted to appoint more women to head Vatican departments because “women are better at resolving conflicts.” At the same time, he reiterated that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. “(Pope) John Paul II was clear on this point and closed the door and I am not going back on that,” he said.

Chile’s clerical sex abuse crisis was another topic discussed at length during the interview. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of three bishops in Chile and said he could accept more resignations in the future.

He spoke of how he returned “a bit worried” after his pastoral visit to Chile in January this year and explained why he decided to send Archbishop Charles Scicluna to the Latin American nation to carry out further investigations into the abuse crisis.

POPE SAYS NO TO WOMEN PRIESTS, YES TO WOMEN IN CURIAL LEADERSHIP

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.

Responding to a question about women’s ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to ‘functionalize’ the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”

“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn’t work.”

“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”

However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.

“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican’s deputy spokesperson.

He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”

Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn’t matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.

“I don’t have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn’t have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.

For example, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.

Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don’t want to fall into this.”

Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place Sunday at the pope’s Vatican residence, and was published June 20.

In the interview, the pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he’s faced.

On the topic of women, Francis said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.

“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.

“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”

Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip, however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.”

POPE TALKS TO REUTERS ABOUT THE ‘DIALOGUE WITH CHINA’

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis was interviewed by Philip Pullella of Reuters. In the tête-à-tête, the pontiff said that with respect to the dialogue with China, “We are at a good point”. In addition to diplomatic channels there are friendships and cultural exchanges. The Chinese people are “very wise” and know how to wait. By kind permission, we publish here a translation of an excerpt from the registration of the interview between the Holy Father and the journalist two days ago.

Q: How is the rapprochement with China?
R. We are at a good point, but relations with China follow three different paths. First of all, there is the official one. The Chinese delegation comes here, takes part in meetings, and then the Vatican delegation goes to China. Relations are good and we have managed to do good things. This is the official dialogue.

Then there is a second dialogue, of everyone and with everyone. “I am a cousin of the minister so and so who sent me to say that . . .”. There is always an answer. “Yes, all right, let’s go forward.” These side channels are open, let’s say, at a human level, and we do not want to burn them. We can see goodwill, both from the Holy See and the Chinese government.

The third path, which for me is the most important in the rapprochement with China, is cultural. Some priests work at Chinese universities. Then there is also culture, like the exhibit that was put on in the Vatican and in China.[1] This is the traditional path, like those of the great ones, like Matteo Ricci.

I like to think about relations with China as, multifaceted, based not only the official diplomatic one, because the other two are very enriching. I think things are going well. In your question, you mentioned two steps forward and one step backward. I think the Chinese deserve the Nobel Prize for patience, because they are good, they know how to wait, time is theirs and they have centuries of culture . . . They are a wise people, very wise. I respect China a lot.

Q: How do you respond to concerns such as those of Cardinal Zen?

A: Cardinal Zen taught theology in patriotic seminaries. I think he’s a little scared. Perhaps age might have some influence. He is a good man. He came to talk to me. I received him, but he’s a bit scared. Dialogue is a risk, but I prefer the risk to the sure defeat of not talking. With respect to time, someone mentioned Chinese time. I think it is God’s time, forward, calm.

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ABP. AUZA: WOMEN’S ROLE IN PEACEMAKING AND CONFLICT PREVENTION – CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF INDIA CONDEMN ATROCITIES AGAINST WOMEN

There was no column yesterday, April 16, as you know, and that was because a plethora of commitments simply erased time to write from my daily schedule. And the rest of this week will be a carbon copy of last week when I was on the go from dawn to dusk. I’ll do what I can, when I can. Yesterday on Facebook, however, I did publish a Vatican note about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 91st birthday! Here is a link: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-04/pope-benedict-birthday-16-april-2018.html#play

ABP. AUZA: WOMEN’S ROLE IN PEACEMAKING AND CONFLICT PREVENTION

The Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations says women must be integrated into all peacekeeping work in order to prevent sexual violence in conflicts.  By Philippa Hitchen (Vaticanmedia)

Women’ voices must be integrated into all aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict operations. That was the message of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on Monday during a Security Council debate on Women, Peace and Security.

Addressing the discussion that focused on how to eradicate sexual violence in conflict, Archbishop Auza noted that at international level a strong framework has been developed to facilitate women’s increased role in peace and security. (photo:vaticanmedia)

But he stressed that far too often, women continue to suffer from sexual violence, both in wars and in post-conflict situations. He stressed that survivors must be supported and governments must step up efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes.

Speaking of three areas of action, the Vatican delegate said greater resources must be dedicated to conflict prevention, ensuring that women are able to participate fully in this process.

Secondly, he said that the prevention of sexual violence and protection of women’s rights must be an integral part of all peacekeeping missions and operations.

Thirdly, the archbishop called for stepped up efforts to prevent violence against women in post-conflict situations that often remain chaotic, lawless and dangerous.

He stressed that the international community should support post-conflict countries to promote education, as well as social and economic development.

Archbishop Auza noted that the Catholic Church has a long history of providing women and girls with access to quality education. He said women continue to make up the majority of students in Catholic-run institutions, such as Bethlehem University, where almost 80 percent of students are young Palestinian women.

Without the input and skills of women, the archbishop concluded, neither a comprehensive understanding of the causes of conflicts, nor effective solutions to end them, will ever be achieved.

CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF INDIA CONDEMN ATROCITIES AGAINST WOMEN

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in a statement signed Sunday by the Secretary General, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has said that it is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. (vatiannews)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has expressed deep pain and anguish at the incidents against women in Kathua, Unnao and other places in the country:

We are not a soulless nation. If we were, then the outpouring of anger as we have seen it across the nation would not have been manifest. Our nation has a soul, a heart and a mind. A soul to respond to these unspeakable crimes committed against women, a heart that reaches out in empathy and solidarity and a mind that does not fall for hate games played by those who wish to pollute the sacred secular fibre of the nation.

It is hard to be unmoved by what has happened in Kathua, how brutally an eight year child was assaulted, molested and cruelly murdered or in Unnao, or in any part of the nation where women are raped and murdered. What has made the incidents in Kathua and Unnao even more deplorable is the justification by certain sections of society; the very people who should uphold the rule of law have either become the alleged perpetrators or the defenders of the indefensible. There is no justification for rape; none what so ever and every voice of sanity must speak out in one voice against such crimes.

In a way, humanity was thrown out of the window in Kathua and Unnao and replaced by the darkest side of human behaviour. The repeated targeting of women and children as a tool or agenda for personal, religious or political gain is nothing less than a crime against humanity and it is here that we look for the voices of sanity, in the pillars of democracy to speak out boldly and immediately; for when this is not done it gives a boost to actions of the perpetrators of such crimes. If justice is then delayed is justice denied and injustice not called out in time is injustice encouraged.

The eight-year old girl in Kathua and the twenty-year old maiden from Unnao and every woman is our daughter, our sister, our mother. Their religion or caste does not in any way make them belong less to us.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India stands firmly with the victims of these and every horrific crime committed in our nation. We condemn strongly these dastardly incidents or elements that have committed or supported such acts which have brought great shame on our nation.

Ours is a nation that has produced great women leaders, social reformers, politicians and women who walk the corridors of power and yet our women are subjected daily to the most unspeakable crimes. This must stop now and the Catholic Church in India wishes to lend its voice and resolve in speaking up against such barbaric acts of violence against women.

Let us remember what Swami Vivekananda told us: “Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise you will remain as backward as you are now.”

May the Almighty grant us wisdom and enlightenment and may we as one people stand up and oppose crime and injustice in all its forms.

God bless our women, God bless each and every Indian. God bless our Country.
Jai Hind

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX
Secretary General Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

VATICAN INSIDER GOES TO BALTIMORE – A GERMAN JESUIT LOOKS AT FRANCIS’ PAPACY – HOLY SEE: WORLD CANNOT IGNORE CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

Pope Francis and his colleagues in the Roman Curia who were in Arricia since last Sunday for a six-day retreat, have returned to Rome. They arrived in Vatican City in late morning and attended the fourth Lenten sermon given by the preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

It was exactly 58 years ago today, March 11, that Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis – entered the Society of Jesus.

Bergoglio family: Jorge Mario, his 4 siblings and parents:

Bergoglio family

He was ordained a priest on December 13, 1969, consecrated a bishop on June 27, 1992, created a cardinal on February 21, 2001 and elected to the papacy on March 13, 2013.

Francis election

Last year, on the second anniversary of his election as Supreme Pontiff, Francis surprised everyone by announcing an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that would start December 8, 2015.

Will he have a surprise for us this Sunday?!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, HOLY FATHER! Wishing you many more years as the Successor of Peter!

VATICAN INSIDER GOES TO BALTIMORE

My special guest this weekend in the interview segment is Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. He was recently in Rome with several faith leaders from Baltimore in support of their work together to improve relations and conditions in Baltimore in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the unrest in that city.

A look back: The mysterious death last April 19 of Freddie Gray due to injuries allegedly sustained while in police custody in Baltimore brought the city from peaceful protests to an outbreak of riots, the first since 1968, on the afternoon of Gray’s funeral — a day that protest leaders and Gray’s family had called to be demonstration-free. The outrage surrounding Gray’s death showed the wounds suffered by the African-American community, ranging from crushing poverty to gang violence and other crime.

ABP LORI

Hear Abp. Lori talk about the delegation’s Rome visit and also the March 23 appearance before the Supreme Court of Priests for Life and other plaintiffs (EWTN, Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic dioceses, Christian colleges, etc) as they ask the court to safeguard religious freedom by not holding religious organizations to a specific requirement of the HHS mandate: Under federal law (known as Obamacare), health insurers and employer-sponsored group health plans generally must cover certain preventive health services, including contraceptive services, abortifacents, etc. prescribed for women by their doctors. Petitioners object to providing contraceptive coverage on religious grounds and ask for exemptions from the mandate similar to exemptions given to VISA and other non-religious companies.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

A GERMAN JESUIT LOOKS AT FRANCIS’ PAPACY

(Vatican Radio) How does one German Jesuit perceive the pontificate of Pope Francis three years on from his election to the See of Peter? That’s what Veronica Scarisbrick attempts to find out in an interview with Father Bernd Hagenkord, head of the German programme of Vatican Radio.

Listen to Father Bernd Hagenkord SJ, in an interview with Veronica Scarisbrick: http://media02.radiovaticana.va/audio/audio2/mp3/00521125.mp3

In this interview Father Hagenkord outlines his take upon some of the Pope’s first words upon his election on the13th of March 2013, namely when he said he had been chosen from ‘the ends of the earth’. But also what Pope Francis brings with him to the papacy highlighting his effort to make the world a better place both at a personal and social level. In a special way Father Hagenkord sheds light on the importance the Pope gives to mercy.

HOLY SEE: WORLD CANNOT IGNORE CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See on Thursday said “crimes against women and girls…cannot anymore go unheard, unseen, overlooked or treated as an inevitable consequence in the horrible reality of armed conflict.”

Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Holy See’s Permanent Presentative to the OSCE, was speaking on Thursday about the commemoration on Tuesday of International Women’s Day.

“The Holy See is highly concerned about women who are discriminated against or undervalued solely on the ground of their gender and will continue to work with other stakeholders in promoting a culture that recognizes the equivalent dignity that belongs to women and men, in law and in concrete reality,” the Vatican diplomat said.

“The Holy See welcomes the progress already made in favour of women’s advancement but regrets, however, that, at a time when sensitivity to women’s issues appears stronger than ever, the world is still confronted with old and new forms of violence and slavery directed at women,” said Msgr. Urbańczyk.

“These include the use of rape as a weapon of war during conflicts; the trafficking of girls (who are treated as merchandise); the abuse of domestic workers (that remains, at times, unpunished); kidnapping of young women, forced marriage, forced conversion and forced abortion” – he continued – “All these types of violence occur more frequently where poverty and social instability are prevalent or even where some legal systems and traditions continue to condone them and they cause serious and long-lasting physical, psychological and social effects.”

His entire talk can be found here: http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-see-world-seeing-new-forms-of-violence-agains

 

POPE FRANCIS: “WOMEN HEAR THINGS WITH MORE CREATIVE, MORE PATIENT, MORE TENDER HEARTS” – KING AND QUEEN OF BELGIUM ARE WELCOMED BY POPE FRANCIS – CARDINAL TAURAN TAKES OATH AS CAMERLENGO – VATICAN RECEIVES RANSOM NOTE FOR DOCUMENT STOLEN FROM ARCHIVES

The menu in the next day or two will be a bit sparse as every waking hour is filled with events, meetings, interviews, symposiums, receptions, etc., leaving little or no time to write in between (and this includes evening events). I will then be taking a few days off but always check this column as well as my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) because I’ll update you – even if only briefly) on important news, especially on Friday when I’ll talk about my weekend guest on “Vatican Insider.”

Friday, March 13 is also the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the papacy!  Doesn’t seem possible at times!

And some news about that day: The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that the Holy Father will preside at the rite of reconciliation of penitents, with individual confession and absolution, on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sunday afternoon, International Women’s Day, I spent well over five hours in the Vatican at an event, “Voices of Faith,” that brought together talented, inspiring Catholic women of faith from around the world to talk about their experiences in reaching out to the world’s poor and marginalized, to the un-schooled, to those living in countries where they are threatened by terror groups, to women especially who are victims of human trafficking in so many places in the world.

Some truly remarkable women spoke the first two-hour segment of the afternoon as they explained their experiences with trafficked women, with trying to save women and girls from ISIS, with offering education possibilites to thousands of refugees around the world. And many more compelling stories. There was one male voice in the choir, that of a Jesuit priest from Nigeria who, as he told the story of his efforts to rescue the girls kidnapped so many months ago by Boko Haram terrorists and his letter to the nation’s president, became very emotional, with a similar ripple effect in the audience.

The second part of the afternoon featured a period of about an hour where four women, including a theologian, former Swedish ambassador to the Holy See, a Vatican Radio staff member and a doctor, spoke of their experience in (or with) the Catholic Church (one is Lutheran and one guest was a convert) as well as their hopes and dreams for the role of women in the Church.

Voices of Faith was organized by Chantal Goetz, the executive director of the Goetz Foundation and also the founder of Voices of Faith. This unique event, now in its second edition, was held in the Casina Pio IV, a beautiful and historic building in the Vatican gardens that houses the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences.

I will bring you the individual stories (video and photos), one by one, in coming weeks but if you want a preview of the people whose lives, ministries and stories mesmerized so many of us, click here: http://www.voicesoffaith.org/

Time now for just a few highlights from Sunday and this morning: Pope Francis’ Angelus reflections on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, the visit to the Vatican by the Belgian royal couple on Monday, Cardinal Tauran’s being sworn in as Camerlengo and the ransom demand asked of the Vatican!

POPE FRANCIS: “WOMEN HEAR THINGS WITH MORE CREATIVE, MORE PATIENT, MORE TENDER HEARTS”

In reflections after reciting the Angelus on Sunday, March 8, Pope Francis greeted “all the women throughout the world who are seeking, every day, to build a more human and welcoming society. And a fraternal thank you to those who in a thousands ways bear witness to the Gospel and work in the Church.”

March 8th is traditionally celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day.

He explained that this special day is “an opportunity to reaffirm the importance and the necessity of their presence in life. A world where women are marginalized is a barren world, because women not only bring life, but they also give us the ability to see beyond – they see beyond themselves – and they transmit to us the ability to understand the world through different eyes, to hear things with more creative, more patient, more tender hearts. A prayer and a special blessing for all women present here in the square and for all women! Greetings!”

KING AND QUEEN OF BELGIUM ARE WELCOMED BY POPE FRANCIS

This morning in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium who, after a cordial meeting and exchange of gifts. subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

POPE FRANCIS - BELGIUM ROYALS

“During the cordial discussions,” said a Vatican communique, “the good bilateral relations between Belgium and the Holy See were confirmed. Attention was then paid to matters of mutual interest, such as social cohesion, the education of the young, the phenomenon of migration and the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Mention was then made of various problems of an international nature, with special reference to the future prospects of the European continent.”

Queen Mathilde was sporting crutches during the visit, following a fall some weeks ago, and was assisted in walking or sitting in a chair. Nothing seemed to dampen the s of the Belgian royals, nor that of a smiling Pope Francis.

CARDINAL TAURAN TAKES OATH AS CAMERLENGO

This morning in the Urban VIII Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, took the oath as Camerlengo or chamberlain of Holy Roman Church. He was appointed on December 20, 2014.

Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, explained that Pope Francis presided over the short liturgy for this occasion, reading the liturgical texts provided, though not making a speech. Cardinal Tauran read the text of the oath, and then briefly spoke some words of thanks. In the event of the “sede vacante,” the vacant see that occurs with the death or resignation of the Pope, the Camerlengo is one of only two officials who retain their positions in the Vatican administration. His role is to administer the temporal goods of the Church until the election of a new Pope. The Camerlengo also verifies the pontiff’s death and then destroying his ring.

Click here to see Cardinal Tauran’s bio from the Vatican website: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/documentation/cardinali_biografie/cardinali_bio_tauran_jl.html

VATICAN RECEIVES RANSOM NOTE FOR DOCUMENT STOLEN FROM ARCHIVES

Here is the ransom story so far: (combined reports; the Guardian, AP) – The Vatican admitted Sunday that it had received a ransom demand in exchange for the return of two documents written by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo that were stolen from its archives almost 20 years ago.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Vatican had recently been offered the return of the documents in exchange for a payment, but that officials have refused. Instead, Lombardi said the matter has been turned over to the Vatican gendarmerie for further investigation.

The ransom demand was first reported by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. The paper said that the demand had been made by a person it described as a “former Vatican employee” and added that the person had asked for 100,000 euros ($108,600).

According to Lombardi, the documents were stolen in 1997, when a nun who worked in the Vatican archives informed church officials that they had disappeared. It is not clear why the theft was never made public. The Guardian reported that the documents, one of which bears Michelangelo’s signature, were taken from the archive of the department responsible for the upkeep of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo was appointed architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1546 at the age of 72. He died eighteen years later in 1564, and the cathedral was not consecrated for another 62 years.