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Investigative authority continues to fight misuse of Vatican financial entities

May 22, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, May 22, 2019 / 11:49 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s Financial Information Authority said in their annual report Tuesday that they continue to catch cases of fraud involving the city state’s financial institutions, including a case of money laundering.

The report, presented to journalists March 21, showed that there were 56 Suspicious Activity Reports filed with the AIF in 2018, down from 150 in 2017.

SARs filed over the last three years have led the AIF to investigate cases of money laundering and financial fraud within Vatican financial entities.

Among these appears to be the case of Argentine Msgr. Patrizio Benvenuti, who was arrested and charged with financial fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering in 2016.

Sums worth around 9 million euros were seized from Benvenuti’s non-profit organization, Kepha Invest. It is believed he defrauded some 300 people out of around 30 million euros ($33.5 million).

The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to supervise the Vatican’s financial activity and prevent and counter money laundering. It investigates suspicious activity and then passes the information on to the competent authorities for prosecution.

The competent authority may be a foreign state or the Vatican’s Office of the Promoter of Justice.

Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and any non-profit organizations which have registered offices in the Vatican City State fall under the supervision of the AIF, which may take measures to counter and prevent money laundering and terrorism financing as well as undertake “prudential supervision” of financial activities.

The AIF also monitors and reviews actions carried out by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings, and the Institute for Religious Works, which is commonly called “the Vatican bank,” though a misnomer.

During 2018, the AIF referred 11 cases to the Office of the Promoter of Justice. The report gave limited to no information on the conclusion of those cases. The report gave four example cases from the last three years, the investigations of which were completed in 2018, but without identifying information.

One of the examples given likely refers to the case of Angelo Proietti, who was convicted by a Vatican court in December 2018 of money laundering and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. The conviction is currently under appeal. This was the Vatican tribunal’s first conviction for money laundering.

Another example likely refers to the case against Angelo Caloia, president of the IOR from 1989-2009, and his lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, who were indicted March 5, 2018, on accusations of having embezzled money from Vatican real estate sales during the years 2001-2008.

The report also lists the AIF’s uncovering of a fraudulent “branch” of the IOR in Spain. The alleged non-profit organization presented itself as a canon law foundation, like the IOR is, and used the name of the Vatican institution to elicit donations. The head of the network was also falsely posing as a diplomat.

According to the report, the AIF collaborated with the Financial Intelligence Unit in Spain and “the beneficial owners of the company were arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy, and sums of money and valuables, including firearms, were seized.”

Also, in 2018, the AIF exchanged information with counterpart authorities in foreign jurisdictions in 488 cases, and signed eight new “Memoranda of Understanding,” meaning it now has agreements with financial intelligence units and supervisory authorities in 57 countries.

René Bruelhart, president of the AIF, told journalists May 21, “if we look back in 2018, I think it has been a very positive and also encouraging year.”

While he said challenges still exist, now they have the systems in place to tackle them. “At this point, I think a fully functioning system has been implemented and achieved,” he said. “The path we are walking on has become a well paved one… and we continue moving forward.”

[…]

The Dispatch

The Pell case: Developments down under

May 22, 2019 George Weigel 7

In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That […]

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Pope Francis: Bishops who do not know their priests weaken the Church

May 21, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, May 21, 2019 / 04:08 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Monday that each bishop has a duty to have a strong, close relationship with his priests with a firm warning that episcopal aloofness and favoritism weakens the mission of the Church.

“The relationship between us bishops and our priests is, unquestionably, one of the most vital issues in the life of the Church, it is the backbone on which the diocesan community is based,” Pope Francis told Italian bishops gathered at the Vatican for their annual meeting May 20-23.

“Unfortunately, some bishops are struggling to establish acceptable relationships with their priests, thus risking the ruin of their mission and even weakening the mission of the Church itself,” he said.

Pope Francis said that bishops need to understand that at this time many priests feel continually under attack because of the crimes of others in the priesthood, and they need encouragement during this difficult time.

“This requires, first of all, closeness to our priests, who need to find the bishop’s door and his heart always open,” he said.

The pope warned the Italian bishops that hierarchical communion “collapses when it is infected by any form of personal power or self-gratification,” but in turn is strengthened by “a spirit of total abandonment and service to the people of God.”

Francis also stressed that bishops must not “fall into the temptation to approach only the sympathetic priests or flatterers” or to “hand over all responsibilities to available priests or ‘climbers.’”

In addition to the importance of the relationship between bishops and priests, Pope Francis outlined two other priorities for the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) assembly taking place in the Vatican’s synod hall this week: synodality and the implementation of a more streamlined annulment process announced in 2015.

“The success of the reform necessarily passes through a conversion of structures and people; and therefore we do not allow the economic interests of some lawyers or the fear of losing the power of some judicial vicars to hold back or delay the reform,” he said.

The pope concluded his speech by calling on the bishops to be a spiritual father to each of their priests by taking an interest and finding time to listen to everyone, so that each priest feels valued and encouraged by his bishop.

“If a bishop receives the call of a priest, answer within the day, at most the next day, so that that priest will know that he has a father,” Pope Francis recommended.

“The solid relationship between the Bishop and his priests is based on the unconditional love witnessed by Jesus on the cross, which represents the only real rule of behavior for bishops and priests,” Pope Francis said. “It is also based on mutual respect that manifests fidelity to Christ, love for the Church, adherence to the Good News.”

[…]

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French bishops’ conference to hear testimonies from children of priests

May 20, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, May 20, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- French bishops will meet with the children of priests in June to hear their testimonies of hidden suffering.

Monsignor Olivier Ribadeu Dumas, secretary of the French bishops’ conference, confirmed that three members of the French association Children of Silence will share their stories June 13 at the Bishops Conference of France headquarters in Paris, Le Monde reported.

The president of Children of Silence, Anne-Marie Jarzac, called the June meeting a welcome step. Jarzac met previously with Msgr. Dumas and Father Emmanuel Coquet in February in preparation for the June testimony.

“It was a very moving moment,” Jarzac told Le Monde. “For the first time, we felt that the Church opened its doors to us, that there was no more denial, but a listening and an awareness of what we have lived.”

Jarzac is the daughter of a priest and a nun. She leads the French association for children of priests with more than 50 members.

In February 2019, the Vatican confirmed the existence of an internal document from the Congregation of Clergy outlining criteria on the protection of children of priests. “Notes concerning the practice of the Congregation for the Clergy with regard to clerics with children” is a template document used to aid individual bishops dealing with these cases.

In many cases involving priestly paternity, priests either request dispensation or are dismissed from the clerical state because of the parental responsibility and obligation owed to the child.

“Each case is examined on its merits and its own particular circumstances,” Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, told L’Osservatore Romano in an interview Feb. 27. Stella also noted that exceptions to the loss of the clerical state are rare.

“The child’s well-being and care of the child must be at the centre of attention for the Church, so that the child does not lack, not only the necessities of life, but especially the educative role and the affection of a father,” Cardinal Stella said.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy also responded to claims that the existence of children of priests somehow undermines the value of priestly celibacy in the Church.

“The fact that some priests have experienced relationships and have brought children into the world does not affect the theme of priestly celibacy, which represents a precious gift for the Latin church, the ever-present value of which has been expressed by the recent Popes, from St. Paul VI to Pope Francis,” he said.

[…]