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Benedict XVI laments lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. / L'Osservatore Romano.

Freiburg, Jul 26, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has expressed concern about the lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany.

The retired pope made the comments in a written conversation in the August issue of the German magazine Herder Korrespondenz, marking the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“In Church institutions -- hospitals, schools, Caritas -- many people participate in decisive positions who do not share the inner mission of the Church and thus in many cases obscure the witness of this institution,” he said.

In an exchange with Tobias Winstel, the 94-year-old reflected on the concept of the “Amtskirche,” a German term that can be translated as “institutional Church” and is used to refer to the large number of Church-tax funded structures and institutions in Germany.

He wrote: “The word ‘Amtskirche’ was coined to express the contrast between what is officially demanded and what is personally believed. The word ‘Amtskirche’ insinuates an inner contradiction between what the faith actually demands and signifies and its depersonalization.”

He suggested that many texts issued by the German Church were crafted by people for whom faith was largely institutional.

“In this sense, I must admit that for a large part of institutional Church texts in Germany, the word ‘Amtskirche’ does indeed apply,” he commented.

He continued: “As long as in institutional Church texts only the office, but not the heart and the spirit, speak, so long the exodus from the world of faith will continue.”

Benedict, who was prefect of Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before he was elected pope, said: “That’s why it seemed important to me then, as it does now, to take the person out of the cover of office and expect a real personal testimony of faith from the spokesmen of the Church.”

In the conversation, Benedict also discussed an issue that he had highlighted in 2011, during his final trip to Germany before his resignation as pope in 2013.

In an address in Freiburg, a university town in southwest Germany, he implicitly criticized aspects of the German Church, referring to a tendency to give “greater weight to organization and institutionalization” than to the Church’s “vocation to openness towards God.”

Benedict called in the speech for a “Church that is detached from worldliness,” using the German phrase “entweltlichte Kirche.”

The former pope told Herder Korrespondenz that he now felt that the term was inadequate.

“The word ‘Entweltlichung’ [‘detachment from worldliness’] indicates the negative part of the movement I am concerned with,” he wrote. “The positive is not sufficiently expressed by it.”

Rather, he said, it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time “into the freedom of faith.”

In the written exchange, Benedict also warned Catholics against the danger of seeking a “flight into pure doctrine.”

Benedict, who was the Vatican’s doctrinal chief from 1982 to 2005, said that attempting such a flight was “completely unrealistic.”

“A doctrine that would exist like a nature preserve separated from the daily world of faith and its needs would be at the same time an abandonment of faith itself,” he said.

In the conversation, Benedict was also asked whether he was a good pastor when he served at Precious Blood church in the Bogenhausen district of Munich after his ordination on June 29, 1951.

“Whether I have been a good priest and pastor, I dare not judge,” he replied, adding that he had tried “to live up to the demands of my ministry and ordination.”

How priests prepare to say Mass

Newly ordained priests are vested during their Mass of Ordination in St. Peter's Basilica, April 26, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

In preparation for Mass, priests make ready the sacred vessels, linens, and vestments that they use. Afterward, they take care to clean up. Every action they take, every word they say, stresses the importance of the Mass.

Two priests located in Washington, D.C., Fr. William Foley at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Fr. Charles Gallagher at Immaculate Conception, gave a behind-the-scenes look to EWTN News In Depth July 16.

Preparations for Mass are made in the sacristy.

“One of the first things I do is to make sure the chalice is ready,” Fr. Foley said. 

Priests often receive a chalice at their ordination. His family, he said, purchased his from a chalice maker in Montreal, Canada, over 42 years ago.

Both the chalice and the paten, a plate that holds the hosts, consist of precious metals.

“The reason why the paten is – and the chalice – are so beautiful,” Fr. Gallagher said, is “because they really touch God. And we want to give the best we have to God.”

Linens also play a critical role in the Mass. The corporal, which takes its name from the Latin word for “body,” is a square linen cloth that often has a cross embroidered on it. 

 

It exists, Fr. Foley said, so that “during the Mass, when the priest breaks the host, nothing falls off of it.” Instead, the cloth catches the body of Christ. 

Fr. Gallagher also discussed the purificator. 

“So after the chalice is used,” he said, “I consume the remaining precious blood and I rinse it with water and then I use the purificator to wipe it and to dry it.”

After the vessels and linens are prepared, the priest vests.

First, the priest “says a special prayer to wash his hands,” Fr. Gallagher said.

“This prayer in Latin says, ‘Give, Lord, strength to my hands to wipe out all stain so that, without pollution of mind or body, I may dare to serve You,’” he translated.

One layer at a time, the priest gets ready for Mass.

“The first is called an amice,” said Fr. Gallagher, pointing to a white cloth that wraps around the shoulders and neck. “This is really meant to be like a helmet of salvation.”

Then, “over the amice, I put on the alb,” he said. The floor-length white vestment with sleeves is put on with the prayer “Wash me clean, Lord, and cleanse me from my sin; that I may rejoice and be glad unendingly with them that have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

Around the alb, the priest places a cincture, the prayer for which is: “Gird me, Lord, with the belt of faith, my loins with the virtue of chastity, and extinguish in them the humour of lust; that the strength of all chastity may ever abide in me.”

Next comes the stole, at which the priest prays, “Restore to me, Lord, I beseech Thee, the stole of immortality, which I lost in the transgression of the first father; and, though unworthy I presume to approach Thy sacred mystery with this garment, grant that I may merit to rejoice in it forever.”

Finally, the priest dons the chasuble, a sleeveless and often ornate outer vestment, praying, “O Lord, who said: my yoke is sweet and my burden light: grant that I may be able so to bear it, so that I may be able to obtain Thy grace.”

The point of the prayers for the vestments “is that the priest is covering up his humanity, because it's Our Lord Jesus who celebrates the Mass,” Fr. Gallagher emphasized. “So all of these different elements help the priest realize it's Our Lord Jesus who is taking over.”

He added, “Yes, he uses my voice, my hands, my gestures, but it's really Our Lord and his power that is able to change the bread into his body.”

Following the Mass, the linens and the vessels must be cleaned.

“It's washed in a very special way,” Fr. Foley said, pointing to the corporal. “Because it may, it comes in contact with the precious host, the precious blood.”

Fr. Gallagher added, “It would soak for a few days in water along with any other – the sacred linens.” That water is later “poured into a special sink that we call a sacrarium.”

The sacrarium, Fr. Foley said, “goes not into the sewer system, but into the dirt, into the ground,” so that “the precious body and blood of the Lord does not get mingled with sewage.”

Their actions and words point to the reverence due to the Mass and the body and blood of Christ.

“The Mass is actually not one of the most time-consuming things we do, but it is the most important thing we do,” Fr. Gallagher concluded. “So that's why it's sort of shrouded with all these special rituals, prayers of preparation to help the priest prepare and celebrate Mass very well. And that's the most important thing he can do for his people.”

Pope Francis offers blessing to athletes at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Iran and Poland compete in the volleyball tournament of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. / Tasnim News Agency via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In his Angelus address on July 25, the pope noted that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad began in Japan on July 23.

“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.

“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”

The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.

McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.

“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.

Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.

Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”

“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”

“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”

Pope Francis: With our small offering, Jesus can do great things

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus at the Vatican July 18, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

With our small offering, Jesus can do great things, just like when he multiplied five loaves and three fishes to feed thousands, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It would be good to ask ourselves every day: ‘What do I bring to Jesus today?’” the pope said during his weekly Angelus message July 25.

Speaking from a window of the apostolic palace, Francis said Jesus “can do a lot with one of our prayers, with a gesture of charity for others, even with one of our sufferings handed over to His mercy.”

“[We give] our small things to Jesus and he works miracles. This is how God loves to act: He does great things, starting from small, freely-given ones.”

Pope Francis has been convalescing at the Vatican since being released from hospital 10 days after undergoing colon surgery July 4. During July, the pope typically does not hold public audiences or meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Angelus address.

On Sunday he reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 people.

The pope said it is interesting that Jesus does not create the food from nothing; his disciples ask one boy to share everything he has to eat: “It seems to be an unreasonable proposal. Actually, unjust.”

“Why take away from one person what is not enough to feed everyone anyway?” he continued. “In human terms, it is illogical. But not for God. On the contrary, thanks to that small freely-given and therefore heroic gift, Jesus is able to feed everyone.”

“This is a great lesson for us. It tells us that the Lord can do a lot with the little that we put at His disposal,” he underlined.

Francis explained that this is the logic of Jesus Christ, and a quality holy people throughout history have demonstrated.

We often try “to accumulate and increase what we have, but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish,” he said.

Drawing attention to the tragedy of hunger which exists in the world today, he cited calculations which estimate that around the world, 7,000 children under the age of five die every day due to malnutrition.

He said “faced with scandals such as these, Jesus also addresses an invitation to us, an invitation similar to the one probably received by the boy in the Gospel, who has no name and in whom we can all see ourselves.”

The invitation is to “be brave, give what little you have, your talents and your possessions, make them available to Jesus and to your brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid, nothing will be lost, because if you share, God will multiply. Banish the false modesty of feeling inadequate, trust yourself. Believe in love, believe in the power of service, believe in the strength of gratuitousness.”

After praying the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis recalled that July 25 this year marks the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

He asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to offer a round of applause for grandparents.

“Grandparents and grandchildren, young and old together manifested one of the beautiful faces of the Church and showed the covenant between the generations,” he said, inviting people to visit the lonely older members of our society.

“I ask the Lord that this celebration will help us who are more advanced in years to respond to his call in this season of life, and to show society the value of the presence of grandparents and the elderly,” he stated.

Noting that the 32nd Olympic Games began in Tokyo on July 23, Pope Francis said “in this time of pandemic, these games are a sign of hope, a sign of universal fraternity in the name of healthy competition.”

“God bless the organizers, the athletes and all who collaborate for this great celebration of sports.”

The pope also expressed his sympathy after a heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, the capital city of China’s Henan province, caused floods killing at least 33 people last week.

The dramatic floods, which caused landslides and overwhelmed dams, have submerged neighborhoods and trapped passengers in subway cars, according to CNN.

Henan authorities said last week the heavy rains in the province have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused an estimated $190 million in economic damage.

Pope Francis said he is praying for the victims and their families and expressed his solidarity with those who are suffering from the tragedy.

Pope Francis on Grandparents’ Day: Elderly are not ‘leftovers from life’

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman during his general audience Dec. 19, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

On the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis said he is worried about how an individualistic society treats its older members, and he urged young people to give them love and attention.

“I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug,” the pope said in a homily read by Archbishop Rino Fisichella July 25.

“Our grandparents, who nourished our own lives, now hunger for our attention and our love; they long for our closeness. Let us lift up our eyes and see them, even as Jesus sees us,” he stated.

Pope Francis’ homily was read during a Mass for around 2,500 elderly people and grandparents, together with their children and grandchildren, held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Mass, scheduled to be said by the pope, was instead celebrated by Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, while Pope Francis is convalescing at the Vatican after undergoing colon surgery July 4.

During July, Francis typically takes a break from public audiences and other meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Sunday Angelus address.

In the pope’s homily, he reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts the story of when Jesus fed multitudes through the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes.

Francis pointed to the last part of the passage, when Jesus directed his disciples to collect the leftover pieces of bread, so that “nothing may be lost.”

“This reveals the heart of God,” he said. “Not only does he give us more than we need, he is also concerned that nothing be lost, not even a fragment.”

“A morsel of bread may seem a little thing, but in God’s eyes, nothing is to meant to be thrown away. Even more so, no person is ever to be discarded,” he explained, adding that our grandparents and elderly “are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded.”

In January, Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Anne and Joachim.

The theme of this year’s grandparents’ day is “I am with you always,” taken from Matthew 28:20.

In a message released ahead of this year’s celebration, Pope Francis encouraged the elderly to continue to spread the Gospel even in their old age.

“There is something beautiful here. Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need,” he stated.

In his homily July 25, Francis said the Church needs “a new covenant between young and old.”

When Jesus fed the hungry crowd, he did so using loaves and fishes shared by a young man, he pointed out. “How touching it is, that at the heart of this miracle, by which some five thousand adults were fed, we find a young person willing to share what he had.”

“In our societies, we have frequently surrendered to the notion of ‘every man for himself.’ But this is deadly,” he said. “The Gospel bids us share what we are and what we possess, for only in this way will we find fulfillment.”

He urged young adults to visit their grandparents, their elderly relatives, and the older people in their neighborhood.

“They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that for many of us, our grandparents “cared for us, ever since we were children. Despite lives of hard work and sacrifice, they were never too busy for us, or indifferent to us. They looked at us with care and tender love.”

“When we were growing up and felt misunderstood or fearful about life’s challenges, they kept an eye on us; they knew what we were feeling, our hidden tears and secret dreams,” he continued. “They held us in their arms and sat us on their knees. That love helped us grow into adulthood.”

“May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life,” he stated.

As part of the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, the Vatican has also granted a plenary indulgence to those who participate, either by attending a related spiritual event or by physically or virtually visiting the elderly, sick, or disabled on July 25.

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence, which must be met, are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life released a prayer for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The full text of the prayer is below:

I thank You, Lord,

for the comfort of Your presence:

even in times of loneliness,

You are my hope and my confidence,

You have been my rock and my fortress since my youth!

I thank You for having given me a family

and for having blessed me with a long life.

I thank You for moments of joy and difficulty,

for the dreams that have already come true in my life and for those that are still ahead of me.

I thank You for this time of renewed fruitfulness to which You call me.

Increase, O Lord, my faith,

make me a channel of your peace,

teach me to embrace those who suffer more than me,

to never stop dreaming

and to tell of your wonders to new generations.

Protect and guide Pope Francis and the Church,

that the light of the Gospel might reach the ends of the earth.

Send Your Spirit, O Lord, to renew the world,

that the storm of the pandemic might be calmed,

the poor consoled and wars ended.

Sustain me in weakness

and help me to live life to the full

in each moment that You give me,

in the certainty that you are with me every day,

even until the end of the age.

Amen.

Meet the pastor of a Greek Catholic church in Hungary for Romani

Fr. Árpád Kanyó in the first Romani, or Gypsy, Greek Catholic church. / EWTN News In Depth

Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, Jul 24, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

When Fr. Árpád Kanyó first arrived at his current parish, he didn’t know the language or culture of the people there. But he quickly learned about – and embraced – the new community he encountered.

80 years ago, Fr. Miklos Soja established the first Romani, or Gypsy, Greek Catholic church in Hungary. He wanted a place where the Romani could pray the liturgy in their native language. Today, Fr. Kanyó serves as the pastor of the Greek Catholic Church of the Ascension. He spoke with EWTN News In Depth about his experience in a segment that aired July 16.

Fr. Kanyó arrived in 2014, with his wife and three young daughters, as in the Eastern Catholic Churches married men can be ordained to the priesthood.

“When I came here to Hodász, I had to celebrate the liturgy in the Roma language,” he remembered. “Before the ceremony, I turned to the congregation and I said, ‘I'm sorry, but I'm going to do the first non-Hungarian liturgy of my life. If I say something ridiculous or ugly, please forgive me.’”

“When the liturgy was over,” Fr. Kanyó continued, “one of the believers came to me and said, ‘Father, of all the priests, your liturgy has been the best so far.’”

He hopes to provide a good example of Christian and family life. But he and his family are also learning from the Romani. His wife, Mária, said she fell in love with the culture and tradition of the parishioners.

“When I saw them dancing for the first time, I was fascinated,” she recalled. “And when we moved here and I heard them singing during the liturgy in the Roman language, that brought tears to my eyes.” She also admires their traditional clothing.

“For me, dance and conversations with them are so important and I am always friendly and available to them,” she stressed.

Their culture and community, in many ways, centers on dance and music. As the cantor and lay president of the parish, Sándor Lakatos highlighted the importance of fellowship.

“For me, the Greek Catholic faith means a strong community,” he said. “It’s like heaven, where everyone has a place. One has to belong somewhere. For me, Greek Catholicism means a family where we gather around and talk, rejoice and sometimes cry together.”

At the same time, the community also faces challenges. The church has lost parishioners like Ahmed Hanzam, who emphasized that he’s living through a difficult period in his life right now.

“It was different long ago,” he said. “People had solidarity. Now there is no cohesion.”

The village also suffers from unemployment and a lack of higher education. Many are forced to move far away only to work in unqualified jobs. 

And, according to Fr. Kanyó, “many Hungarians from this village also go far to work in factories.”

“That is why it's our great task to forge and keep those belonging to our Roma people, or as we call them here, Gypsy community, together,” he said.

He strives to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Miklos Soja.

“He didn't look at how difficult it was for the people here, who at that time lived in huts dug into the ground,” Fr. Kanyó said, “He came down to them and brought joy into the midst of their hardship.”

Japanese prelate named new secretary general of Asian bishops’ federation

Cathedral of St. Mary, Tokyo / Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

Manila, Philippines, Jul 24, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Japanese Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo has been named the new secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The FABC is an association of Catholic episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia, and fosters solidarity and joint responsibility for the welfare of the Church and of society in the regions.

The Japanese prelate replaced Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang of Macau, following the latter’s resignation from the post beginning in July.

Last week, the archbishop issued an appeal to athletes and to visitors during the 2021 Olympic Games in Japan, asking them not to visit churches to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Archbishop Kikuchi said that due to the prevailing pandemic, visitors, including athletes, “will be asked to refrain from visiting churches.”

The prelate admitted that his archdiocese had been preparing to take care of the spiritual needs of visitors during the games but “decided to cancel all these plans.”

He also asked parishes to “take care of the spiritual needs of those who come to Japan. But in today’s situation, the priority remains not to transmit the disease.”

He said that the Archdiocese of Tokyo has made a commitment to prevent the spread of infections.

“Let us remember that it is an important duty for us to protect not only our own lives but also those of all those who have received the gift of life from God,” said Archbishop Kikuchi.

The prelate was regional president of Caritas Asia from 2011 to 2019. He was also a member of FABC’s Office of Human Development.

He was born on Nov. 1, 1958, and is a professed member of the Divine Word Missionaries congregation. He was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1986.

He served in Ghana in Western Africa as a missionary and as a pastor before being elected as the provincial superior for his order in 1999, back in Japan.

Pope John Paul II appointed him as the Bishop of Niigata on April 29, 2004. Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Tokyo on Oct. 25, 2017. 

 

Vatican increasing ‘liquid’ assets as it faces financial impact of pandemic, economic officials say

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of APSA. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2021 / 09:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican is working to maintain “‘pockets’ of precautionary liquidity” as it faces the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, two officials of the Roman Curia said Saturday.

On July 24, the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and APSA (The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) released consolidated balance sheets for the year 2020.

This was the first time APSA, which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets, presented a balance and details about its investment portfolio to the public.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, told Vatican News July 24 that going forward, the Roman Curia’s “financial investment plan will remain prudential” and “characterized by a correct balance between risk and medium/long-term profitability.”

“However, in pursuing the investment policy, at such a particular moment due to the effects of the pandemic, which substantially reduced the Holy See’s revenues, it is necessary to maintain ‘pockets’ of precautionary liquidity -- already created in 2020 for future and unpredictable needs, especially for administrative and personnel expenses,” he added.

Speaking with Vatican News, economic chief Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., said knowing the Vatican’s cash flow during the pandemic, as well as the uncertainty of the financial situation, the economy council decided to increase liquidity to avoid the possibility of being forced to sell property in a bad market.

“We did not have precise information on the liquidity available to us, which led to the decision to increase liquidity,” he said. “This meant reducing our financial profit at the same time. I think it was the most prudent thing to do in the situation we were in.”

The balance sheet for the Roman Curia, which is separate from the budget of Vatican City State, showed a deficit of $78 million in 2020, down $13 million from the year prior.

The Roman Curia’s overall expenses for 2020 were $370 million.

In May 2020, Guerrero said the Vatican predicted it would face a 25% to 45% decrease in revenue in the fiscal year; earlier the same month, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero said an internal Vatican report projected an income reduction of at least 30%, and possibly as much as 80%.

In fact, according to the 2020 balance, the Vatican had just under a 50% decrease in revenue, which the report said was “driven by the significant reduction of Ordinary Operating Expenses,” which came to around $30 million and “partially ofsett [sic] by the less-than-expected reduction in Ordinary Operating Income.”

According to the balance, the disparity between 2020 and 2019 can be attributed in part to a loss in income of around $17.6 million from the governatorate of Vatican City State, which oversees some commercial activities forced to close during the pandemic, such as the Vatican Museums and catacombs.

The Vatican also received less income on properties where it offered reduced or delayed lease payments to tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.

APSA’s sale of a large property in 2019 is also reflected in the difference between the two years, according to the budget.

By contrast, some entities related to the Holy See, such as the IOR, contributed more income to the Roman Curia in 2020. Overall, expenses were reduced by $3.88 million.

Guerrero told Vatican News the Holy See comes “from a culture of secrecy, but in economics we have learned that transparency protects us more than secrecy.”

He claimed the culture is changing and the institution is beginning to see itself as a caretaker, not owner, recognizing the accountability that calls for.

Releasing the 2020 balance “marks a turning point that can lead to greater credibility of the Holy See in economic matters,” he said.

“First of all, this process tells us about a past, a recent past, but a past,” he underlined. “There can always be mistakes, but today I do not see how the events of the past can repeat themselves.”

Galantino said that the activities APSA is carrying out go beyond “the serious consequences of the pandemic crisis.”

According to the bishop, 14% of the properties managed by APSA are rented at market value, while the remaining 86%, those with institutional uses such as work places for Vatican employees and residences for retired cardinals, charge no rent or are rented below market value.

APSA carried out a quantitative and qualitative update to the inventory of the buildings and land it administrates, he said, and found that many of the assets, both those rented to tenants and those used for institutional purposes, were in need of maintenance, modernization, and increased security.

He explained that APSA will also begin a renovation project on 100 apartments in January 2022, with a scheduled end date of sometime in spring 2023.

“Our energies are directed to a credible and reliable administration, as well as effective and efficient, allowing us to be guided by processes of rationalization, transparency and professionalism also required by Pope Francis,” he said.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, the Secretariat for the Economy will begin implementing a new “pilot” review process of personnel in some offices.

ANSA reported that Guerrero had sent a letter to the heads of dicasteries saying the assessment of job performance is taking place in light of curial reform and “the need to make the most of deserving resources, to provide new opportunities and to promote technical and professional training.”

With the release of the 2020 balance, Guerrero told Vatican News that the economic secretariat wants “to ensure economic sustainability, while also maintaining the pope’s correct decision not to fire anyone.”

He added that “to generate greater motivation in the staff, it would be useful to make a plan with a long-term vision and to have a work policy with professional development programs and formation, and particular attention to formation in the mission that is carried out in the Holy See. This would also save money in the long run.”

Catholic journalism expert reflects on the moral issues around privacy and data 

Dr. William Thorn, associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. Credit: William Thorn/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 24, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

CNA spoke recently with Dr. William J. Thorn regarding the recent investigation which led to the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill as general secretary of the US bishops’ conference.

Thorn is associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and a B.A. from Loras College.

Find below the full text of CNA's discourse with Thorn:

At the heels of the recent controversial use of data mining to expose a Church personality, can you walk us through the outlines of investigative journalism and what constitutes the ethical limits of investigative journalism? 

The report on Msgr. Burrill underscores the challenges social media and emerging technologies have created, because it blurs the boundaries of private and public information. Grindr describes itself as "the World’s Largest Social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people." As a location-based social networking and online dating site Grindr was one of the first geosocial apps for gay men when it launched in March 2009. As a public social network, it has limited privacy controls. These semi-public social networks compromise the former boundaries of ethical investigation. This boundary is perhaps best illustrated by the stance of a friend who was a city hall reporter. Whenever he got a phone call or verbal comment about some alleged malfeasance, he demanded a public document like a travel expense form or letter which contained the factual basis for an investigation. In other words, neither personal complaints nor hearsay could be trusted, but printed information could be. Traditionally, an ethical investigation builds on facts that are part of the public record or can be verified by public documents or interviews with reliable witnesses. Another ethical principle is to keep the focus on actions that can be proven by factual evidence or witnesses rather than on insinuations about the subject based on circumstantial evidence. Once the verifiable facts are known, the investigative reporter moves to confront the subject and provides an opportunity to deny, admit wrongdoing or explanation. Libel and slander laws provide boundaries and guides to investigative journalism about individuals whose reputation and good name may be at stake. Simply drawing conclusions from an online source seriously challenges verifiability and risks libeling an innocent individual.

Complications are now arising in the field of data mining and journalism. In your opinion, how does the aggregation of questionably acquired data work for or against the previously established moral limits of investigative journalism?

New data mining technology poses a plethora of privacy issues for investigative journalism, regarding both prominent individuals and ordinary citizens, for example, in areas like health and personal habits, which require some verifiable contextual evidence to reach a fact-based conclusion. But legal boundaries differ from moral constrains which require  care for the impact of conclusions based on less than reliable abstract which can destroy or seriously damage an individual's reputation. One of the most egregious moral and ethical compromises of investigative journalism occurred at the early 20th century Denver Post, whose reporters wrote detailed biographies of wealthy silver magnates, including their scandalous, even illegal behaviors. The editors then used these stories to blackmail their subjects. The reports were accurate, their purpose illegal.



Does a source paying for information change the calculation about whether or not a journalist should use that source? 

A source paying for information automatically raises questions about the motivations of both payee and recipient as well as the reliability of information.



Many are celebrating the resignation of Msgr. Burrill and the efforts that led to his resignation. From a Catholic ethics perspective, does this apparently successful end validate the means? 

The end never justifies the means, even if they are digital and seem credible because of technology.  The celebration raises questions about ignoble motives, e.g., revenge or personal animus connected to the investigation.

Another argument with competing voices centers on whether corruption needs to be brought to the light to be healed. Please explain, from the perspective of Catholic ethics, when and where and to what degree it would be appropriate to publish information alleging or proving corruption that is gravely sinful but not criminal. 

Healing depends, in part on the harm involved. In Msgr. Burrill's case there is only circumstantial evidence of behavior based on GPS location with no eye witness or other factual evidence such as a credit card receipt. Data mining based on Grindr's location routine seems a bit specious for "bringing to light corruption," an adage based on rooting out the corruption of politicians and public officials.  Within a Church context like the USCCB, the question turns on the precise corruption and how it can be healed by exposure. Grindr location data insinuate but do not demonstrate the alleged corruption, or perhaps a level of ignorance in the user about the actual privacy of the Grindr app. Healing of sinful behavior does not require public knowledge, as the Sacrament of Reconciliation demonstrates. On the other hand, abuse of public trust or misuse of church funds may help heal the community if exposed, e.g. the sex abuse scandal or embezzlement of Church funds.



Please elaborate on what distinguishes truth-telling from detraction, acknowledging that many Catholics are longing for reform that they don’t see coming from most of the Bishops. 

Facts that demonstrate actual malfeasance distinguish truth telling from detraction, libel, and slander. Reform must be based on demonstrable corruption so it cannot be simply dismissed as petty jealousy or a fervid imagination. Clear court cases and guilty verdicts launched serious reforms in sexual abuse cases.

The fast and growing incorporation of technology in investigative journalism seems to be inevitable and frequently positive. What lines do you think were crossed, if any, in the "investigation" that forced the resignation of Msgr. Burrill? 

Two lines: what hard, non-digital evidence was there of wrongdoing? What corroborating documentary or eyewitness evidence warranted the publication? Was Msgr. Burrill properly and timely informed of the digital evidence and given a chance to defend himself? Or was he blackmailed into resigning "for the good of USCCB?"



Is a church official such as Msgr. Burrill a private citizen or a public official? And what might be the legal ramifications?   

He is a private citizen in U.S. legal terms. His role in the USCCB makes him a public church official, but whether that makes him a public figure under U.S. libel law as defined in 1966 by the Supreme Court in N.Y. Times v. Sullivan seems to be an open legal question. Under the Sullivan decision, elected public officials must expect harsh and even vitriolic criticism, and are required to demonstrate "actual malice" i.e. knowing falsehood or careless disregard for the truth in order to win a libel case. As neither an elected politician nor a public figure, Msgr. Burrill would be protected by libel laws as an ordinary citizen.

How French Catholics are responding to Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions

Tridentine Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral, France. / Christophe117 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Paris, France, Jul 24, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Responding to concerns raised by Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Traditional Latin Mass, French Church authorities have issued a series of communiques seeking to reassure Catholics attached to this liturgy.

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes, published July 16, arrived like a thunderbolt for a significant part of the French Church because of its perceived severity towards traditionalist communities, which are regarded as places of strong missionary dynamism and magnets for de-Christianized youth.

According to an investigation recently published by the Catholic magazine La Nef, traditionalist Catholicism is growing constantly in France, although it still represents a small minority (4% of all practicing Catholics, 7% if we include the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX.)

Estimating that there are around 60,000 traditionalist Catholics in France, the study concluded that traditional communities are slowly but steadily growing each year, with a very young average age.

The day after the motu proprio was issued, the French bishops’ conference reaffirmed the bishops’ intention to pursue dialogue with these communities.

“The French bishops […] wish to express to the faithful who usually celebrate according to the missal of St. John XXIII and to their pastors, their attention, their esteem for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to continue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force,” a communique said.

This statement led several observers, including the Catholic historian Yves Chiron, quoted by Le Figaro, to conclude that the new norms would be applied with flexibility and benevolence by a number of French bishops.

In the diocese of Versailles, located in the western suburbs of Paris and considered a bastion of traditionalism, Bishop Luc Crepy said that the situation was “peaceful” with the six communities usually celebrating Masses using the 1962 Roman Missal.

“Although some communities have experienced painful events in the past, I’m glad to see the progress made towards effective ecclesial communion,” he wrote.

The same peaceful climate, coupled with a “loyal application” of Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, was observed by Bishop Marc Aillet in his diocese of Bayonne, in southwestern France.

While reiterating his trust in the communities involved and inviting them to “continue their efforts in the same direction,” Aillet said that he would keep in place the existing groups and priests allowed to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

The bishops of the southern dioceses of Toulon-Fréjus and Bordeaux -- two other breeding grounds for traditionalist communities -- sought to reassure their flocks by saying that the detailed rules for the application of Traditionis custodes would be reviewed and discussed collegially.

Meanwhile, Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, in the western suburbs of Paris, claimed that his diocese was “hardly impacted by the new directives” and that the communities concerned should “be assured of the lasting, benevolent, and prayerful solicitude of their bishop.”

Some Catholic authorities, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois, in central France, and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, in the north, welcomed the motu proprio quite favorably, denouncing the misuse of Summorum Pontificum by those who questioned the validity of Vatican II.

But many voices have been raised in defense of the Traditional Latin Mass, including in some surprising quarters.

Indeed, the most vibrant speech in favor of the Tridentine Mass came from the atheist and left-wing philosopher Michel Onfray. In a column published on July 18, he argued that it embodies “the heritage of the genealogical time of our civilization.”

“It inherits historically and spiritually a long lineage of sacred rituals, celebrations, and prayers, all crystallized in a form that offers a total spectacle,” he wrote.

The president of the Catholic lay organization behind the traditionalist Chartres pilgrimage, for his part, roundly condemned the motu proprio, claiming that “it will be difficult to apply in a Church which is in a catastrophic situation and has many other difficulties that the Vatican pretends not to see.”

A few priests who only celebrate according to the Novus Ordo have also expressed surprise at what they regard as the harshness of Pope Francis’ letter.

“It brings me sadness because this text seems to sweep away the efforts made by Benedict XVI to maintain the unity of the Church and to despise the efforts made by the traditionalist communities for 15 years,” Fr. Guy-Emmanuel Cariot, rector of the Basilica Saint-Denis of Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris, told the weekly magazine Famille chrétienne.

But for those directly affected by the motu proprio, emotions are still raw.

“I expected a text that would change things, but I would have never expected such an unjust document,” Fr. Matthieu Raffray, a Rome-based French priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, told CNA.

“Wherever there are traditional communities in France, I think the situation is calmed, and the bishops’ reactions are a proof of that,” he continued.

He suggested that, although it is true that some people may have used the freedom granted by the Pope emeritus to destroy unity in the Church, such a phenomenon is far more intense and widespread in the circles that follow Paul VI’s liturgy, through topics such as married priests or the German bishops’ “Synodal Way.”

In his view, the risk of spiritual impoverishment is among the most worrying possible consequences of the papal text.

“How can we possibly favor a liturgical renewal and put the mystery of the Eucharist back at the center of Mass by separating the Church from its tradition?” he asked. “A tree whose roots are cut off dies.”

Raffray argued that the motu proprio, which seeks to bring people back to the ordinary form of the Latin Rite, could also prove to be counterproductive.

“I must marry a couple this summer in France, and we’ve already agreed that if the parish priest eventually refuses to welcome us in his church, we would go outside or to a nearby barn,” he said.

“No faithful accustomed to the Traditional Latin Mass will suddenly decide to stop going because of this document.”

“There is a real movement of the youth toward traditional Mass nowadays, because they need cultural and identity landmarks,” he added.

“This text could be, in this sense, an engine that will make traditionalists even more devout, more confident in the Church, while praying for the pope and growing in faith and charity.”