Vatican Watch

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SUNDAY 24

Holy Spirit Leads to Truth, Renews The Earth, Emboldens

Celebrating Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke of Pentecost as the day the Church was born universal but united.

The day’s first reading, Acts 2:1-11, recounts how people from every land heard the disciples speaking in their own languages, the Pope said. “The Church was not born isolated, it was born universal — one, catholic — with a precise identity, but open to all.”

“Mother Church does not close the door in anyone’s face,” he said. “Not even the biggest sinner’s.”

TUESDAY 26

Pope to Franciscans: Stay True to Charism

, Pope Francis meets with delegates to the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor during an audience with 200 Franciscan leaders at the Vatican on May 26. U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, who was re-elected head of the order May 21, 2015, is seated to the right of the Pope  (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano).

, Pope Francis meets with delegates to the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor during an audience with 200 Franciscan leaders at the Vatican on May 26. U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, who was re-elected head of the order May 21, 2015, is seated to the right of the Pope (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano).

Pope Francis urged Franciscan friars to hold true to their charism of fraternity, humility and poverty and not lose the respect they have earned over the centuries for living up to those ideals.

The more one feels small before God and in need of his mercy, “the closer we are to salvation; the more we are convinced of being sinners, the more we are willing to be saved,” he said in an audience with 200 Franciscan leaders.

The Pope met with the delegates to the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor — the formal name of the order — during their meeting May 10-June 7 in Assisi, Italy.

There But For The Grace of God: What Pope Francis Thinks of Prisoners

Pope Francis seems to describe his life at the Vatican almost as if he were in prison — at least as far as his freedom of movement goes. But that is not the first thing he cites when he talks about what he and prisoners have in common.

When visiting a prison, he commented to an Argentine reporter, “I think to myself, ‘I, too, could be here.’ That is, none of us can be sure that we would never commit a crime, something for which we’d be put in prison.”

“They haven’t had the opportunities that I have had of not doing something stupid and ending up in prison,” he told the newspaper, La Voz del Pueblo. “This makes me cry inside. It is deeply moving.”

Continuing a practice he began as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Pope has spent plenty of time behind bars: He celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in a juvenile detention facility in 2013 and at Rome’s Rebibbia Prison in 2015; he visited the Poggioreale Prison outside Naples in March; and in the summer of 2014, he visited inmates during trips to both Calabria and Isernia.

FRIDAY 29

Finance Watchdog Agency Inspects, Praises Vatican Bank

Rene Brulhart

Rene Brulhart

Tommaso Di Ruzza

Tommaso Di Ruzza

The Vatican’s financial watchdog agency conducted its first routine on-site inspection of the Vatican bank to verify its compliance with regulations to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

While the inspection, conducted in early 2014, showed “no fundamental shortcomings,” the oversight agency gave the bank “an action plan” to help it fall into line more fully with required international standards, said Rene Brulhart, president of the Financial Intelligence Authority.

Brulhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, director of the intelligence authority, presented the agency’s third annual report since the agency was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to monitor Vatican financial operations and ensure they meet international norms against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

JUNE

MONDAY 1

Vatican Distances Itself From Comments on Cardinal

The views and opinions of a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors who criticized Australian Cardinal George Pell on an Australian 60 Minutes segment do not reflect the opinion of the commission nor its role, the Vatican spokesman said.

Commission member Peter Saunders, a British survivor of sexual abuse and co-founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, commented in the May 21 segment on Cardinal Pell’s handling of allegations of abusive priests.

Saunders said, “I personally think his position is untenable, because he has now a catalogue of denials, he has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, cold-heartedness, almost sociopathic I would go so far as to say, this lack of care.”

Father Lombardi said Saunders spoke for himself and “not in the name of the commission.” A statement from Cardinal Pell’s spokesman May 31 said the cardinal “has been informed of the contents of the 60 Minutes program this evening. The false and misleading claims made against His Eminence are outrageous.”

WEDNESDAY 3

Cardinal Ortega Says Cubans Await Pope With “Open Arms”

Cubans are waiting for Pope Francis “with open arms,” said Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana.

The cardinal met briefly with the Pope at the end of the papal general audience in St. Peter’s Square. The cardinal was in Rome fine-tuning the program for the papal visit to Cuba this September, according to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The Pope will visit three cities in the island nation — Havana, Holguin and El Cobre — from Sept. 19 to 22, prior to his trip to the United States, which will conclude with a papal Mass Sept. 27 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Ortega reportedly told the Pope the feeling in Cuba regarding his visit is “the joy of an entire people” and “gratitude for the role he carried out in the development of relations with the United States.”

FRIDAY 5

Pro-life Group Gathers as Pope Meets Chilean President

On June 5, Pope Francis received the President of Chile, Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, at the Apostolic Palace (Galazka photo).

On June 5, Pope Francis received the President of Chile, Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, at the Apostolic Palace (Galazka photo).

As Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was meeting Pope Francis, a dozen people dressed all in white laid in the form of a cross in St. Peter’s Square.

The demonstrators, along with a dozen others who were holding little white boxes marked with crosses, wanted to call the world’s attention — and particularly the attention of Bachelet — to the victims of abortion.

Some of the demonstrators were from Chile and have participated in demonstrations of women dressed in white, known as the “Mujeres de Blanco,” who have been protesting Bachelet’s introduction of a law to legalize abortion up until the 12th week of pregnancy. The law is still being discussed in Chile’s congress.

THURSDAY 11

Vatican Suspends Donation Agreement

A charity for youth established by Pope Francis has suspended a donations agreement with a South American soccer federation, following a corruption scandal that erupted in May.

The South American soccer federation CONMEBOL had pledged to donate $10,000 to the Vatican charity Scholas Occurrentes for every goal scored during the American Cup, which began in Chile June 11.

Scholas Occurrentes was founded to promote social integration of youth through sport and operates under the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which is headed by Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.

Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel, one of seven FIFA officials arrested May 27 to face corruption charges in the United States, signed the Vatican agreement.

TUESDAY 16

Pope: Concern For Poor is Sign of Gospel, Not Red Flag of Communism

Focusing on poverty and sacrificing for the poor are the heart of the Gospel, not signs of communism, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

Furthermore, if Christians don’t dig deep and generously open up their wallets, they do not have “genuine faith,” the Pope said during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis Contemplates Shroud of Turin, “Icon of Love”

On June 21, Pope Francis traveled to Turin and prayed before the Holy Shroud in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Galazka photo)

On June 21, Pope Francis traveled to Turin and prayed before the Holy Shroud in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Galazka photo)

Revered by many as the burial cloth of Jesus, the Shroud of Turin was the second stop on Pope Francis’ packed itinerary for his two-day visit to the northern Italian town of Turin.

“Our thoughts go to the Virgin Mary, loving mother and attentive to all her children, whom Jesus entrusted to her from the cross, while he offered himself in the greatest act of love. The icon of this love is the shroud,” Pope Francis said before reciting the midday Angelus prayer.

WEDNESDAY 24

Pope Tells Parents To Be Mindful of Children’s Suffering

The deep hurts that spouses inflict on each other cause great suffering to their children and, in some cases, lead to a separation that is “morally necessary” to protect spouses and children from more serious forms of violence, Pope Francis said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

When marriages are emptied of conjugal love, resentment grows and the disintegration of the spousal relationship “caves in” on the children, he said.

“Notwithstanding our apparent evolved sensitivity and all of our refined psychological analyses, I ask myself if we have not become anesthetized to the wounds in the souls of children,” he said.

FRIDAY 26

Pope to Guides: Educate Girls For Big Responsibilities in Church, World

Girls must be educated in preparation for great responsibilities in the Church and the world, said Pope Francis.

“Today, it is very important that women are sufficiently valued and can take their rightful place in the Church and in society,” he said during an audience with a delegation of the International Catholic Conference of Guiding (called Scouting in the U.S.).

In a world where ideologies contrary to God’s design for marriage and family are spreading, the Pope said, “it is not only about educating young girls in the beauty and greatness of their vocation as women” in a right relationship with men and respecting the differences between men and women. But it is also to educate them “to take on important responsibilities in the Church and in society,” he said.

TUESDAY 30

Papal Summer: Benedict Heads For Hilltop Villa, Francis Trims Schedule

Pope Francis visited retired Pope Benedict XVI at his Vatican residence June 30 to wish him a happy summer.

After a 30-minute visit from Pope Francis, the retired Pope then headed off to the traditional papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. It was the first time the retired Pope returned to the villa since spending about two months there after he resigned in early 2013.

JULY

FRIDAY 3

Christians Share Same Baptism, Must Pray Together, Pope Tells Gathering

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sings before Pope Francis’ meeting with participants in the Renewal in the Spirit meeting in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican July 3, 2015  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sings before Pope Francis’ meeting with participants in the Renewal in the Spirit meeting in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican July 3, 2015 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox must pray together and work hand-in-hand helping the poor, Pope Francis told thousands of Catholic charismatics and members of other Christian communities.

If the devil “unites us in death, who are we to divide ourselves in life?” he said, adding that all Christians can and must pray together, as they have all received the same baptism and are striving to follow Christ.

More than 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to take part in an ecumenical gathering of reflection, prayer and song dedicated to praying for unity and for those killed for their Christian faith around the world. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Israeli singer Noa were part of the lineup of performers.

MONDAY 6

Families Need Prayers, Mercy, Courage, Including From Synod, Pope Says

Even if a pastoral proposal for helping a Catholic family with problems seems scandalous at first, it is possible God could use that proposal to bring healing and holiness, Pope Francis said.

Encouraging and celebrating family life during a Mass in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Pope Francis asked people to pray for the October Synod of Bishops on the family, and he tied the synod to the Jubilee of Mercy, a year-long celebration that will begin in December.

The synod will be a time for the Church to “deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time,” the Pope said.

SUNDAY 12

Pope Says He’ll Read Critiques of His Economic Thought Before U.S. Trip

Before arriving in the United States in September, Pope Francis said, he will study American criticisms of his critiques of the global economy and finance.

“I have heard that some criticisms were made in the United States — I’ve heard that — but I have not read them and have not had time to study them well,” the Pope told reporters traveling with him from Paraguay back to Rome.

Pope Francis said his assertion in Bolivia July 9 that “this economy kills” is something he believes and has explained in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel and more recently in his encyclical on the environment.

TUESDAY 14

Vatican Welcomes Iran’s Historic Nuclear Deal

The Holy See welcomed Iran’s historic nuclear deal and expressed hopes that more future breakthroughs are on the horizon on other issues.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that “the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See.”

“It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit,” he said in a written statement in response to reporters’ questions.

WEDNESDAY 15

Bishop: Vatican is Free To Work With Everyone, UN is Not The “Devil”

The United Nations is not “the devil,” so a papal think tank is free to collaborate with the international body as well as with people of any political persuasion, said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez-Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The Church will continue to collaborate with the United Nations on any joint project that “does not go against the doctrine of the Church,” he said at a news conference.

The Vatican academy sponsored a one-day symposium July 22 with the United Nations’ global initiative, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, headed by U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs.

THURSDAY 16

Pope Declares Ukrainian Church Leader “Venerable”

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the tumultuous period of both world wars and at the beginning of Soviet occupation, has been declared "venerable" by Pope Francis. Metropolitan Sheptytsky is pictured in an undated portrait. (CNS photo)

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the tumultuous period of both world wars and at the beginning of Soviet occupation, has been declared “venerable” by Pope Francis. Metropolitan Sheptytsky is pictured in an undated portrait. (CNS photo)

Pope Francis has signed a decree declaring “venerable” Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the tumultuous period of both world wars and at the beginning of Soviet occupation.

The Pope signed the decree recognizing that Metropolitan Sheptytsky lived a life of heroic Christian virtue. The recognition is an initial step in the sainthood process; the Vatican would have to recognize a miracle attributed to his intercession in order for a beatification ceremony to be scheduled.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky led the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1901 until his death in 1944. During his leadership Ukraine and its people were ruled by seven different regimes: Austrian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Soviet, Nazi, and finally, the Soviets again.

Under New System, Vatican Budgets Show Previously Unreported Assets

Under new reporting procedures that are more in line with international accounting standards, the Holy See reported $1 billion in net assets that had never been reported before and in a consolidated form.

The Vatican’s final figures for 2014 also showed a continued budget deficit on the part of the Roman Curia and nearly double the profits brought in by entities falling under the separate Vatican City State budget.

In fact, the profits coming from the Vatican Museums, “cultural activities” and investments offset the deficit in the consolidated budgets of the Roman Curia and Vatican communications outlets to help the Vatican end the year 37.9 million euros ($41.3 million) in the black.

TUESDAY 21

World’s Mayors Head to Vatican, Vow to Tackle Climate Change, Poverty

After decades of world leaders trying to set global goals to address climate change and extreme poverty, city mayors gathered at the Vatican to pledge they will take real action and lead the fight on their streets.

Pope Francis told the mayors that they were important because they were at the “grassroots” and could make concrete changes and put pressure on leaders above them.

The Pope spoke briefly off-the-cuff in Spanish after more than 60 mayors attended a day-long workshop on modern slavery and climate change, sponsored by the pontifical academies of sciences and social sciences in the Vatican’s synod hall.

FRIDAY 24

Pope’s “Staycation”: Correspondence, Trip Preparation

Returning to the Vatican in the midst of a heat wave after an eight-day, three-country trip to South America, Pope Francis took the kind of vacation he said he prefers: what has become known as a “staycation.”

With the exception of a July 21 meeting with a group of mayors from around the world and the Sunday recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis’ schedule was cleared of meetings, audiences and public appearances July 13-August 4.

August is the heart of vacation time in Italy and at the Vatican, so the Pope’s schedule will continue to be lighter than normal, but he will resume holding his weekly general audiences August 5. In the meantime, he is “serene and happy,” said Msgr. Guillermo Karcher, an Argentine priest and close aide to Pope Francis. “Every morn­ing I see him and he’s content,” the monsignor told Vatican Radio.

SUNDAY 26

Pope First To Sign Up For World Youth Day 2016

young people from Poland raise the World Youth Day cross after accepting it from Brazilian youths at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ celebration of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13, and the logo of World Youth Day 2016 which will be held in Krakow, Poland. At left, young people hold the World Youth Day Marian icon (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

Young people from Poland raise the World Youth Day cross after accepting it from Brazilian youths at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ celebration of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13, and the logo of World Youth Day 2016 which will be held in Krakow, Poland. At left, young people hold the World Youth Day Marian icon (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

Pope Francis was the first pilgrim to sign up for World Youth Day to be held in Krakow, Poland, launching the opening of registration. Accompanied by two Polish teenagers who wore World Youth Day 2016 T-shirts, the Pope had to make a couple of attempts pressing the screen of a tablet before his online registration went through. “There. With this electronic device I have signed up for the day as a pilgrim,” he told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Angelus address.

The Pope said, “I wanted to be the one to open registration” in front of everyone gathered for the Angelus and in the company of two teens on the day sign-ups began July 26.

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