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Pope Francis’ trip to Africa rescheduled for February 2023

December 1, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 04:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has rescheduled his trip to the African countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for Jan. 31-Feb. 5, 2023, the Vatican announced on Thursday.

The visit was originally to take place in the beginning of July 2022, but was postponed by the Vatican due to problems with Pope Francis’ knee. The 85-year-old pope apologized in June for having to put off the trip, and vowed to reschedule it “as soon as possible.”

Francis will spend the first leg of the trip, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, in the Congolese city of Kinshasa, before visiting the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Feb. 3-5.

An updated schedule released by the Vatican Dec. 1 showed that the pope no longer plans to visit the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of the original trip schedule.

The logo and motto for the trip were announced in March 2022.

Francis’ visit to South Sudan will be a “pilgrimage of peace,” and take place together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest country when it declared independence from the Republic of the Sudan on July 9, 2011. The nation in east-central Africa has a population of 11 million people, around 37% of whom are Catholic.

In 2019, Pope Francis brought South Sudanese leaders together at the Vatican for a “spiritual retreat” aimed at resolving their differences.

He also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Congolese immigrants in 2019, marking the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a Central African country of around 90 million people, roughly half of whom are Catholic. Pope John Paul II visited the country, then known as Zaire, in 1980.

After reluctantly bowing out of his own scheduled trip to Africa in July, Pope Francis sent the Vatican’s second-highest-ranking official in his place, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The pope also celebrated a Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 3, the day he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[…]

The Dispatch

Synodality and Its Issues

November 30, 2022 Francis X. Maier 30

Persons worried about the current “synodality” process in the Catholic Church have good reasons to be anxious. The car wreck of the German Catholic “synodal path” on matters of sexuality and Church governance is one […]

The Dispatch

Cardinal Becciu and the twists and turns of the Vatican finance trial

November 30, 2022 Catholic News Agency 5
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu attends the Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals at the St. Peter’s Basilica on Aug. 27, 2022, at the Vatican. / Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

As the Vatican trial against Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others rounds the corner in its 16th month, recent court hearings have introduced a few revelations about the case as well as possible new accusations against the Secretariat of State’s former No. 2.

Here are some of the latest twists and turns in the trial to prosecute people in and around the Vatican for financial crimes.

A secret papal recording

During a Nov. 24 hearing, a Vatican prosecutor played a recording of a phone call between Pope Francis and Cardinal Becciu — secretly recorded on the cellphone of Becciu’s niece.

Though media and observers had to leave the courtroom while the recording, which had not yet been admitted into evidence, was played, Italian news agency Adnkronos later published a full transcript.

The recording revealed, Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said in court, that Becciu had called Pope Francis on July 24, 2021 — 10 days after the pope had surgery on his colon and three days before the start of the trial — to ask him to confirm that he had authorized payments to free a kidnapped nun in Mali.

During the phone call, Becciu lamented that a letter from the pope repeated the same accusations of prosecutors. “I almost should not go to trial anymore because, I’m sorry, but the letter you sent me is a condemnation,” he said, according to the transcript published by Adnkronos.

The cardinal also reportedly said he would not be able to call Pope Francis as a witness in the trial, which is why he was calling him to have his statement that he had authorized the financial operations. 

Francis said he wanted to stay above the fray of the trial and asked Becciu to put his questions to him in writing.

Possible criminal conspiracy

In the same hearing, Diddi said he also was investigating a new possible charge against Becciu and others: criminal conspiracy.

The accusation concerns the charge that Becciu misused Vatican funds to support the cooperative SPES — which works with the local Caritas in Becciu’s home Diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia. SPES is mostly managed by the cardinal’s family members.

Diddi said financial police in Sardinia have found falsified documents apparently used to justify a transfer of money from Caritas to SPES in 2018.

Police found that 927 transport documents for bread had actually been created in the summer of 2021, a few weeks before the start of the Vatican trial, and back-dated to 2018.

Becciu sues — and loses

An Italian court last week rejected a defamation lawsuit filed by Cardinal Becciu against three journalists at the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.

Becciu was ordered to pay 40,000 euros in court costs to the GEDI Publishing Group, which owned L’Espresso when the complaint was filed.

The cardinal’s lawyer had argued that L’Espresso’s reporting in 2020 had cost Becciu the chance to be pope. His lawsuit asked judges to award him 10 million euros in compensation.

This was Becciu’s second lost lawsuit this month. Earlier in November, a judge in northern Italy ordered the cardinal to pay over 20,000 euros each in court costs to his former collaborator Monsignor Alberto Perlasca and Perlasca’s friend after suing them for “persecutory acts.”

In his sentence, the judge called Becciu’s lawsuit an “abuse of the procedural instrument” and also directed the cardinal to pay 9,000 euros in damages to Perlasca.

Becciu could choose to appeal the decisions. 

Perlasca’s day in court

Monsignor Perlasca, the former head of administration at the Secretariat of State, testified two days last week, his first time taking the stand during the Vatican’s finance trial. His questioning continued on Nov. 30.

Perlasca was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations, but he was never charged after volunteering information to investigators during extensive questioning in 2020 and 2021. He is now the prosecution’s star witness.

Perlasca had sought to have most of his pretrial interrogations excluded from evidence at trial. He argued that due process was not followed since he did not have a lawyer with him while questioned.

But the president of the Vatican court, Giuseppe Pignatone, denied the plea on the eve of Perlasca’s testimony, only excluding a part of one interrogation from Aug. 31, 2020.

Perlasca, who contradicted his prior statements throughout questioning Nov. 24 and 25, was warned by Pignatone to be careful of his answers — or risk being charged with perjury.

When asked about the Secretariat of State’s decisions around the purchase of the London building, the investment at the heart of the trial, Perlasca claimed to have so little power that he could not even sign his name to anything.

But the prosecutor pointed out that Perlasca’s name was signed to the “framework agreement” that transferred the management of the London property from Raffaele Mincione to Gianluigi Torzi, both defendants in the trial.

Perlasca said the “current sostituto,” or No. 2, at the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, told him to sign it.

The former right-hand man of Becciu said he did not know much about financial affairs, unlike his predecessor in the position, and distanced himself from all responsibility, despite having been the head of administration.

He said Becciu is guilty of all the charges against him and insinuated the cardinal put pressure on him, while he himself is “neither accomplice, nor conniver, nor abettor.”

Perlasca also downplayed threats of suicide he made to Becciu over messages, calling them “provocations” now being exaggerated for dramatic effect.

According to Perlasca, Becciu suggested multiple times he should visit his brother, Mario Becciu, a psychologist and licensed therapist in Rome.

A statement from Becciu’s lawyers welcomed the opportunity to examine Perlasca’s claims in court and said the priest’s testimony did not correspond to the accusations against their client.

Earlier this year, Perlasca entered the Vatican trial as a civil plaintiff, joining the Secretariat of State; the Vatican’s two financial bodies, APSA and the IOR; and internal financial watchdog authority ASIF in requesting damages.

[…]

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News Briefs

Pope Francis’ spiritual life tip: A daily examination of conscience helps to avoid repeating mistakes

November 30, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recommended a daily examination of conscience as an “indispensable” practice in spiritual life.

An examination of conscience is a prayerful reflection on one’s thoughts, words, and deeds that helps to identify moments of sin and ask for God’s mercy.

This daily examination can be “an invitation to learn from our experiences” and “not to continue to repeat the same mistakes,” the pope said.

Speaking at his general audience on Nov. 30, Pope Francis said that the devil’s temptation “starts from what is most dear to us and then, little by little, reels us in.”

He said: “This is why a daily examination of conscience is so important. Before finishing the day, stop for a while. What happened? Not in the newspapers, not in life — what happened in my heart?”

“Noticing what happens is important, it is a sign that God’s grace is working in us, helping us to grow in freedom and awareness. … Learn to read in the book of your heart what happened during the day.”

General audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
General audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Pope Francis’ advice was part of his tenth catechesis in a weekly series on spiritual discernment, which he began at the end of August.

The pope noted that prayer during the day should not be viewed as a way to avoid a job or task that needs to be done, as in “every time I have to wash the dishes or clean the house, I have a strong urge to pray!”

“Prayer is not an escape from one’s responsibilities,” he said. “On the contrary, it is an aid in realizing the good we are required to do, here and now.”

In celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, the pope announced that a delegation of the Holy See had traveled to Constantinople.

“I wish to express my special affection to my dear brother Patriarch Bartholomew I and the entire Church of Constantinople,” Francis said.

“May the intercession of the Holy Brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, grant soon to the Church the full joy of her unity and peace to the whole world, especially at this time to the dear and tormented Ukraine, always in our hearts and prayers.”

Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Five Kenyan acrobats performed stunts in St. Peter’s Square toward the end of the audience to the movie soundtrack of the Blues Brothers. The pope smiled and clapped as the group — called The Black Blues Brothers — put on an acrobatic show to the musical soundtrack from the beloved 1980 comedy film.

Looking out at the Vatican’s recently decorated and nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, the pope wished a blessed Advent season in his greetings to visiting pilgrims from abroad. In his message to Polish-speaking pilgrims, the pope offered a reminder of the unique role of the Virgin Mary in the Advent season.

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

“May Our Lady, who accompanies us on the Advent journey, obtain for you and for all present the gift of a heart open to God and to others. I bless you from the bottom of my heart,” Pope Francis said.

[…]

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News Briefs

Pope Francis says dialogue ‘slow,’ but only way forward with China

November 28, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pilgrims from China greets Pope Francis during his general weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 22, 2019, at the Vatican. / Photo by Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Corbis News

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

In a new interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis said the Vatican-China deal has had both failures and successes, but he “cannot find another way” to carry out diplomacy.

The pope spoke about the Vatican-China deal with America Magazine on Nov. 22, two days before the Nov. 24 installation ceremony of Bishop John Peng Weizhao, which the Vatican said “did not occur in accordance with … what was stipulated” in the renewed provisional agreement.

A Nov. 26 statement said that “the Holy See noted with surprise and regret” that Peng had been installed as an “auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,” a diocese that is not recognized by the Vatican.

In the America Magazine interview, published Nov. 28, Pope Francis emphasized dialogue “up to the point that is possible.”

“Dialogue is the way of the best diplomacy,” he said. “With China I have opted for the way of dialogue. It is slow, it has its failures, it has its successes, but I cannot find another way.”

He added that the Chinese people have great wisdom and deserve his respect and admiration.

“I take off my hat to them,” Francis continued. “And for this reason I try to dialogue, because it is not that we are going to conquer people. No! There are Christians there. They have to be cared for, so that they may be good Chinese and good Christians.”

Peng’s installation ceremony took place one month after the Vatican renewed its provisional deal with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops for an additional two years.

The most recent appointment of a bishop in China, Archbishop Cui Qingqi, took place more than one year ago on Sept. 8, 2021.

Since the China deal entered into force in October 2018, only six bishops have been appointed, two of whom were already in talks for nomination before the deal’s signing.

Meanwhile, as many as one-third of China’s Catholic dioceses may be without a bishop.

There are 66 bishops in China, according to a report by Bishop Shen Bin of Haiman, who co-leads the Chinese Council of Bishops — a body that supports the Patriotic Association and is not recognized by the Holy See.

The Holy See divides China into 20 archdioceses, 85 dioceses, and 34 apostolic prefectures (Beijing subdivides the country into 98 dioceses).

The boundaries of the “Diocese of Jiangxi,” where Bishop Peng was installed this month, were drawn by Chinese authorities without Vatican approval.

“The Holy See hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, remains awaiting appropriate communications on the matter from the authorities, and reaffirms its full readiness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest,” the Vatican said Nov. 26.

[…]