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For the first time, most Americans prefer life imprisonment to death penalty

November 30, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2019 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- For the first time in more than three decades, a majority of Americans favor life imprisonment without parole over the death penalty as a punishment for murder.

A Gallup poll released this week found that 60% of survey respondents said life without parole is the preferable sentence for a person convicted of murder, while 36% said the death penalty is preferable.

This is the first time in Gallup’s 34 years of tracking that respondents have favored life imprisonment over the death penalty. In the 1980s and ’90s, Americans showed a clear preference for the death penalty for convicted murderers.

The latest survey was conducted in October, and polled 1,500 adults living throughout the United States.

The past five years has seen a shift among all major subgroups toward favoring life imprisonment, Gallup said. Two-thirds of women, and a little over half of men surveyed support life imprisonment over the death penalty.

Almost 8 in 10 Democrats favor life imprisonment without parole to the death penalty, while almost 6 in 10 Republicans favor the death penalty.

But while life imprisonment is generally seen as a better punishment for murder, a majority of Americans still approve of the use of the death penalty, Gallup found. Fifty-six percent said they approve of the death penalty as a punishment for murder, and 42% said they oppose its use.

These numbers have remained roughly consistent in recent years, but are down from the 1990s, when up to 80% of Americans voiced approval of the death penalty.

“The percentage of Americans who are in favor of the death penalty, generally, has fallen to 45-year lows,” said Gallup Senior Editor Jeffrey Jones. “And when given an explicit alternative, for the first time in at least 30 years, more say life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is a better punishment for murder than the death penalty.”

Jones noted that state laws have changed alongside public opinion on the death penalty.

“Five states have abolished the death penalty this decade, leaving 29 where it is legal,” he said. “Several states where the death penalty is legal have instituted moratoriums on its use or are considering abolishing it. Many recent cases that have cast doubt on death penalty convictions in light of new evidence may be helping to move public opinion away from it.”

In 2003, the Obama administration placed the federal use of the death penalty on hiatus, while the Justice Department reviewed execution protocols. The move followed a series of rulings against the three-drug cocktail that had been linked to botched executions in several states.

The Trump administration announced over the summer that it is planning to resume federal use of the death penalty. Attorney General William Barr has ordered executions to be scheduled for five inmates on death row, although court challenges have halted the executions from moving forward.

Pope Francis has called the death penalty a rejection of the Gospel and of human dignity, calling on civil authorities to end its use. Last year, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was revised to describe the death penalty as “inadmissible,” citing the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, the unchanging dignity of the person, and the importance of leaving open the possibility of conversion.



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Pope Francis visits a local charity in Rome with a message of solidarity

November 30, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Nov 30, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- In a visit to Rome’s Caritas center Friday, Pope Francis emphasized the shared experience of vulnerability among Christ and the poor.

“Vulnerability unites us all. We are all vulnerable,” Pope Francis said Nov. 29 in St. Jacinta Hospitality House, a temporary home for the elderly and homeless.

“God also wanted to make himself vulnerable with us. He is one of us and he suffered: not having a home where he was born, he suffered persecution, escaping to another country, a migrant, he suffered poverty. God became vulnerable. And because of this we can talk with Jesus, he is one of us,” he said.

Pope Francis said that being close to the poor reminds one of their own wounds and vulnerability.

“This is beautiful because it means that we also need salvation,” he said. “This is a grace that the poor give us.”

The pope visited Caritas’ “Citadel of Charity” to mark the 40th anniversary of Caritas Rome —  the charitable arm of the Diocese of Rome.  He spent the evening with more than 220 participants in Caritas’ charitable programs, among them refugees and single mothers.

The Citadel of Charity is a complex of charity centers including a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, dental clinic, and a “solidarity supermarket,” the first free supermarket in Italy. In total, Caritas runs 52 centers throughout the city of Rome.

Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II also visited Caritas centers in Rome during their pontificates.

“The Gospel must be announced with witness, not with arguments, proselytizing,” Pope Francis told the staff and volunteers of Caritas Rome.

“We cannot approach the poor at a distance. We must touch, touch the sores; they are the wounds of Jesus,” he said.


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IDI foundation president gives new detail on Vatican loans for hospital purchase

November 29, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2019 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- The president of a foundation at the center of a Vatican financial scandal provided new details Thursday on the Vatican central bank loans that funded the purchase of a bankrupt hospital. He also claimed that controversial grants made by the U.S. based Papal Foundation were used to support the hospital’s expenses, not to repay its debts.

Antonio Maria Leozappa, president of the Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti, sent a Nov. 29 letter to Vatican journalist Sandro Magister. The letter aimed to offer “clarification and rectification” on the reported use of funds from APSA, the Vatican’s central bank, in the foundation’s 2015  purchase of the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI).

The letter also addressed the reported misuse of funds from Rome’s Bambino Gesu hospital, and a grant from the U.S. based Papal Foundation.

CNA has reported that the foundation’s purchase of the IDI was partially funded with a 50 million euro loan from APSA. On Nov. 20, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State confirmed to CNA that he had arranged the 50 million euro APSA loan.

Leozappa’s Nov. 28 letter explained that the controversial APSA loan was not made to the foundation directly, but to an “endowment fund” of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, the religious order that originally owned the hospital and is a partner of the foundation.

After the loaned funds were conveyed to the endowment fund, the money funded the foundation’s purchase of the IDI. 

The endowment fund was set up by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Leozappa explained. 

“The ‘endowment fund’ was conferred, at the time of the Foundation’s erection, by [Cardinal Versaldi], who to this end obtained financing from APSA, not under the Foundation but under the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, which is therefore the sole debtor,” Leozappa said.

At the time the hospital was purchased, Versaldi was the “pontifical delegate” overseeing the order, which had been dragged into bankruptcy, along with the IDI, after the hospital’s senior administrators were discovered to have amassed debts of more than 800 million euros, through years years of fraud and embezzlement.

The Foundazione Luigi Maria Monti is a for-profit partnership of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception. Leozappa has served as head of the foundation since his appointment by Cardinal Parolin in June 2017. The foundation was established in 2015, with Versaldi serving as its first head. 

APSA is prohibited by regulatory agreements with Moneyval, a European financial monitoring body, from making commercial or personal loans. The bank has acknowledged that the IDI loan, the majority of which had to be written off, has impeded its profitability.

Leozappa also addressed grants from the Papal Foundation in his Nov. 29 letter.

The letter said the hospital had received “two installments, financing (not a donation) from the Secretariat of State for a total of 10.8 million euro (equivalent to 13 million dollars), the repayment of which is scheduled to begin in 2022 in case of a return to profitability.” 

These funds appear to correlate in size and timing to grants sent by the  Papal Foundation following an emergency grant request submitted by the Secretariat of State in 2017

“To the undersigned it appears that the relative financial resources were granted by the Papal Foundation,” Leozappa wrote.

The use and final designation of the Papal Foundation funds has been the subject of controversy among Papal Foundation leaders. The grant request, originally for $25 million, was presented by the Secretariat of State, reportedly for the purpose of injecting liquidity in the IDI during its return to profitability. CNA has reported that the actual intention of the funds was to cover the loan at APSA.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former second-ranking official at the Secretariat of State, told CNA this month that the approach to the Papal Foundation was devised specifically to help repay the debt.

“If I remember well, it was because the APSA couldn’t give the loan [due to its Moneyval agreements] and then Parolin talking with Cardinal [Donald] Wuerl saw this [approach to the Papal Foundation] as the solution.”

CNA asked Cardinal Parolin if he and Cardinal Wuerl had worked together on “soliciting a grant from the American Papal Foundation to help offset the debt incurred by APSA as a result of this loan.” Cardinal Parolin confirmed that he had.

“The operations involving IDI, as described, are ascribable to myself,” Parolin told CNA, insisting that there was nothing “non-transparent, irregular or even illegal” about the plan, which he described as being conducted “with fair intentions and honest means.”

Earlier this year, the $13 million in grants sent by the Papal Foundation were reclassified as “loans” by the Secretariat of State, senior figures at the Papal Foundation have told CNA that, rather than be repaid, the $13 million will be “discounted” against future grant requests made by the Secretariat.

Leopazza also said that the Foundazione Luigi Maria Monti had not received “financing” from APSA or the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome. Nor were any “debts” to either body owed by the foundation to the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception related the “endowment fund” used to finance the IDI’s purchase, Leopazza said. 

No media reports have suggested the IDI, the foundation, or the religious order, had received “financing” or loans from Bambino Gesu.

However 2014 wiretaps recorded Versaldi arranging for 30 million in government funds granted to Bambino Gesu to be diverted to the purchase of IDI. The wiretaps recorded Versaldi discussing the plan with Giuseppe Profiti, president of Bambino Gesu, who agreed with the cardinal to conceal from Pope Francis the misdirection of funds.

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

Leopazza, an attorney, has taught business law at Italian universities, served as a consultant to the Italian government, and was the vice president of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees.