Vatican news

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Aboard the papal plane, Jan 23, 2019 / 08:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will visit Japan in November of this year. The pope confirmed the timing of the upcoming trip during remarks to journalists on the flight from Rome to Panama City, Panama, Wednesday.

    According to Vatican News, while greeting members of the media aboard the papal plane Jan. 23, Pope Francis responded to a question from a correspondent of the Japanese Kyodo News Agency, who asked if he will visit the country in 2019. “I’ll go to Japan in November, get ready!” the pope said.

    Francis also expressed his desire to travel to Iraq but noted that the local bishops have made it clear the country is not yet secure enough for a papal visit.

    Interim papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti released a statement Jan. 23 to say that a papal trip to Japan is in the “study phase.”

    Regarding a possible trip to Iraq, he said, “as was already also affirmed by Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, on his return from visiting that country last December, the conditions do not exist at present for a visit by the Holy Father.”

    Pope Francis is traveling to Panama City for the 15th World Youth Day. The massive gathering of Catholic youth, which takes place every two or three years, is being held in Central America for the first time this year. Francis will be present at the international event from Jan. 23-28.

    Before departing for the airport Jan. 23, the pope greeted a group of young refugees at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta guesthouse.

    The young men range from 13-17 years old, and came from Tajikistan, Egypt, Salvador, and Venezuela. All are currently residents of the Pedro Arrupe Center, a part of the Astalli Center of Rome, which assists migrant families and unaccompanied minors.

    According to the Astalli Center, the encounter was “an exciting moment in which Pope Francis generously listened to the boys.” The young men also invited the pope to visit their residence.

    In a statement, the Astalli Center expressed its “profound gratitude to the Holy Father for his constant attention to refugees, and especially today for having given an indelible memory to unaccompanied foreign minors who are too early in their childhood, trying to find their way in Italy, among many difficulties.”

     

  2. Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The moderator of the Vatican’s February summit on child sexual abuse has written an article outlining his take on the Church’s most effective models of response for addressing its sexual abuse crisis.

    The article, written by Fr. Federico Lombardi, is published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Jesuit-run bi-monthly magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. Lombardi, a Jesuit and former papal spokesman, will be a central actor in the Feb. 21-24 meeting, which will convene the leaders of bishops’ conferences from around the world to discuss the clerical sexual abuse of minors.
     
    Lombardi has long known in Italy as a key figure in the fight against sex abuse by clergy.

    In 2011, Lombardi was part of a significant moment related to combating sexual abuse: A conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University. The work of the conference become the basis for the establishment of the Gregorian’s Centre for Child Protection, which partially inspired the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
     
    In 2017, Lombardi was involved in the organization of the conference “Child Dignity in Digital Age,” which drafted and presented to Pope Francis the “Declaration of Rome”, which proposed new approaches needed to countering sexual abuse in the internet era.
     
    Lombardi is also part of the steering committee of the “Child Dignity Alliance.”
     
    The former papal spokesperson has also gained attention as an expert on sexual abuse issues because of his articles on La Civiltà Cattolica. In an essay last month, he retraced step-by-step the history of the clergy sex abuse crisis and of the Church’s response.
     
    In his most recent article, Lombardi listed some “good practices” for an effective response. Those documents will be likely at the center of the discussions in the February meeting.
     
    Lombardi highlighted the document “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse,” issued by the Canadian Bishops Conference, which addresses the effects of abuses on victims and community, explains how to respond to the crisis and outlines “guidelines” for juridical and pastoral procedures.
     
    Lombardi said that “it is expected that every diocese will appoint dedicated people to collect abuse reports and to proceed to preliminary investigations.”
     
    The moderator of the February meeting also praised the diocese in Bergamo, in Northern Italy, which established a specific office in the diocesan Curia, called the “diocesan service for the Protection of Minors.” While such offices are standard operating procedure in the United States, they are less common in other parts of the world.
     
    Lombardi stressed that “the collaboration between dioceses and ecclesial institutions” is crucial, as it is important to “formulate and set up new curricula,” especially to train those on the front line of countering the abuse crisis. The Jesuit noted that “this is difficult in vast areas of the world that lack of experience, resources and competences.”

  3. Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 11:04 am (CNA).- As the Swiss Guards celebrated their 513th anniversary Tuesday, they donned for the first time their new light-weight helmets, which are made of black PVC and 3D printed.

    The plastic helmets replace those made of metal, which were easily dented, and which would get so hot from the Roman sun in the summer months they could cause blisters on the guards’ ears.

    Printed in Switzerland, the new helmets were unveiled by Swiss Guard Commander Christoph Graf during a press conference last May, but were formally added to the uniform Jan. 22 as part of the anniversary celebrations of the world’s smallest-but-oldest standing army.

    Per tradition, the day’s anniversary festivities began with Mass in the Church of Santa Maria della Pieta in the Vatican’s Teutonic College, followed by a march of the Swiss Guards from the chapel to the Swiss Guard quarters on the opposite side of Vatican City.

    The march follows a path under the Arch of the Bells and across St. Peter’s Square in commemoration of the arrival of Swiss mercenaries to the Vatican on Jan. 22, 1506, the year the Swiss Guard was founded.

    Also on Jan. 22, the Guard released the first in a series of short videos illustrating the daily life of a Swiss Guard. The series, called “1506-The Swiss Guard Presents,” will publish new videos throughout the year on the 20th of every month.

    The first 3-minute-long video is called “Service of Honor,” and shows the guards as they go about their various duties; it also includes clips from the State visit of Swiss President Alain Berset with Pope Francis Nov. 12, 2018.

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zl2vpROxQmE" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    The series was created by Vatican Media and the Rome-based film company Officina della Comunicazione.

    The Vatican’s Swiss Guard barracks is currently undergoing a renovation, which the website says was needed because it has not been renovated since the 19th century, had a lack of proper insulation, and had started to become run-down. 

    The three buildings being renovated encompass the area of the troop of the halberdiers (the lowest rank of the Guard), the canteen, administrative offices, and the cadre and family housing.

    The renovation will be funded by the Vatican and by the Swiss Guard Foundation, which will conduct fundraising in Switzerland and abroad.

  4. Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 08:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a statement Tuesday the Vatican again denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to a Vatican office.

    In a Jan. 22 statement, interim director of the Vatican Press Office Alessandro Gisotti “resolutely” repeated a Jan. 4 Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) in December 2017. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.

    The Vatican’s latest statement came in response to recent articles on the Zanchetta allegations carried by several news outlets. Gisotti said it was necessary to correct “some misleading reconstructions.” He also confirmed that Zanchetta’s case is being studied and that “information will be forthcoming regarding the results” of that process.

    Bishop Zanchetta, 54, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Quilmes in 1991. He remained there until his 2013 appointment by Pope Francis as Bishop of Orán. In July 2017, he announced his resignation as bishop, citing health problems and “an incapacity to govern the clergy.”

    After spending some time in Spain, Zanchetta took up the position of assessor at APSA, which manages the Holy See’s assets and real estate holdings, in December 2017.

    In a Jan. 20 report from the Associated Press, Zanchetta’s former vicar general said that information about alleged sexual abuse by Zanchetta had been sent to Rome several years prior to the Argentine bishop’s appointment to APSA.

    Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the AP that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017. According to Manzano, these complaints concerned alleged “obscene behavior” by Zanchetta, misconduct and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, and the possession of naked selfies on the bishop’s phone.

    “In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous,” Manzano, now a parish priest in Argentina, told the AP. The 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint, he noted.

    In May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP, he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the apostolic nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican.

    According to Gisotti’s Jan. 4 statement, the current Bishop of Oran is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops.

    “If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” Gisotti said.

    Zanchetta has been placed on temporary leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.

     

  5. Vatican City, Jan 22, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- As the Church continues to wrestle with the fall-out of last year’s sexual abuse scandals, the Vatican faces a series of crucial decisions in the coming weeks. How they are resolved, and in what order, will likely set the tone for the rest of the year.

     

    One month from today, the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences will gather in Rome for a special summit to address the abuse crisis. Ahead of that meeting, the Vatican has attempted to lower what it has called “excessive” expectations.

     

    These efforts notwithstanding, the credibility of its discussions and conclusions will likely play a large part in shaping wider assessments of the Church in 2019. But before the three-day meeting begins, two other events could do much to frame how the February session will be seen from the outside.

     

    The first of these events is the replacement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, DC. The second is the conclusion of the penal process handling the allegations against Wuerl’s predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Both are expected imminently, and both seem sure to cast a shadow, for good or for ill, on February’s meeting and whatever it produces.

     

    As has been previously reported, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently concluded the investigative phase of its handling of the McCarrick case. The CDF also confirmed that, instead of a full canonical trial, McCarrick was facing a penal administrative process - ordinarily reserved for handling cases where the evidence is clear and compelling.

     

    Officials in different Vatican departments, if not the CDF itself, have already begun pointedly referring to the former cardinal as “Mr. McCarrick” in a nod to his likely laicization if he is found guilty of sexual abuse.

     

    While Rome appears intent on ensuring the McCarrick case is resolved - one way or another - before the February meeting, how much detail the CDF makes public about the resolution will be important.

     

    McCarrick is accused of a number of grave crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors and adults. What is done and said about his alleged abuse of adults may prove more significant, even if it represents the lesser charge canonically speaking.

     

    If McCarrick is found guilty of abusing seminarians over a period of years, it will be far harder for the February meeting to ignore the growing calls for an expansion in law of the definition of “vulnerable adults” to include victims like McCarrick’s.

     

    On the other hand, if no decision is reached, or publicly acknowledged, on those charges, the seminarians who submitted their testimony as part of the CDF process may well feel ignored, and their suffering marginalized all over again.

     

    Either result is likely to inform perceptions of the Vatican summit next month and present a serious obstacle to those hoping to force through a narrower focus and agenda based only on the abuse of minors, about which there is less disagreement among the bishops.

     

    Meanwhile, the replacement of Cardinal Wuerl in Washington remains a significant and increasingly urgent priority for Rome.

     

    Just months ago, before the scandals of last summer, Wuerl seemed likely to continue in office until he was nearly 80, well past the normal retirement age for bishops, which he passed when he turned 75 three years ago. His resignation, submitted in 2015, was accepted last October (with obvious reluctance by the pope) due to mounting pressure on the cardinal following the Pennsylvania grand jury report - in which he was named more than 200 times - and questions about what Wuerl did or did not know about his predecessor.

     

    Recent weeks have seen confirmation by Wuerl that, despite his earlier denials, he was aware of accusations against McCarrick involving misconduct with seminarians as early as 2004. His current tenure as administrator of the Washington archdiocese has helped to keep both him and McCarrick in the news.

     

    While a replacement for Wuerl would likely be received as a welcome turning of the page for both Washington Catholics and the Vatican, deciding who that replacement should be has proven difficult for Rome to resolve. Sources in Washington and the Vatican, including the Congregation for Bishops, have spoken to CNA about a lack of consensus on who is best placed to succeed Wuerl.

     

    Some in Rome had previously speculated that picking a successor for Wuerl might wait until after the February meeting, allowing it to be presented as part of an ongoing process of renewal. Recent events have now made his replacement a more pressing priority.

     

    Further urgency now seems likely, given the expectation of a decision on the McCarrick case. Given the esteem Wuerl still enjoys in Rome, it is unlikely that the Vatican would announce his replacement soon after a guilty verdict on McCarrick, lest the two been seen as related events. If McCarrick’s fate is expected soon, the next archbishop of Washington may well be expected sooner still.

     

    With the Congregation, the pope’s own inner circle of advisors, and Wuerl himself all eager to put forward their own candidates, a succession of supposed front-runners have been touted, beginning with Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, passing through Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and now appearing to settle around either Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport or Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta.

     

    Whoever emerges as the next Archbishop of Washington (and likely cardinal), they will have been chosen with an eye on presenting a credible face of change but one not expected to further rock the boat of the capital see.

     

    If both McCarrick and Wuerl’s different situations can be resolved in the next few weeks, it may offer some breathing room before the February summit. But even assuming the most positive outcome and reception in both cases, little seems likely to dampen expectations for what many are calling a make-or-break meeting in Rome. Senior figures, like former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors Marie Collins, are already warning that the meeting must produce a “practical” outcome and not merely “more talk.”

     

    Earlier this month, Pope Francis wrote to the American bishops about the crisis of credibility facing the hierarchy. He and the Vatican are now facing three major events in the space of a few weeks. How each of them is handled could affect profoundly how quickly that credibility is regained.

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