ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM JAPAN — Questions about Vatican finances, especially those involving a real estate deal in London, are serious, but they also are a sign that reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working, Pope Francis said.
“This is the first time the lids have been taken off the pots by someone inside and not outside” the Vatican, the pope told reporters on his return flight to Rome Nov. 26.
Francis spent about an hour with reporters at the end of his weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. He spoke in general about the two countries and answered eight questions, including two about the recent Vatican finance scandal involving a large loan to develop a London property.
The pope also spoke about nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, nonviolence and the just-war theory and about political unrest in Hong Kong, Chile and several other Latin American countries.
Francis said no one should be bothered by the fact that the Vatican invests the money it collects from Catholics around the world. “The sum of Peter’s Pence arrives and what do I do? Put it in a drawer? No, that’s bad administration. I try to make an investment.”
Peter’s Pence is a papal fund used for charity, but also to support the running of the Roman Curia and Vatican embassies around the world. The collection for the fund occurs each year around June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
When handling Vatican funds, the pope said it is best to follow what some people describe as a “widow’s investment,” which is putting money into a variety of investments, so that if one fails, the entire amount is not lost. And, of course, he said, all of the investments must be moral.
“If you make an investment with Peter’s Pence in a weapons factory, the offering is no longer an offering,” he said.
“And, yes, you can buy a building and rent it and then sell it,” but only when the investment is sound and one is certain that the people who will benefit from it are those Peter’s Pence is intended to help, the pope said.
The London deal, though, seems to have involved “things that don’t seem ‘clean,’ but the report did not come from outside.” Instead, under finance reform procedures begun by Pope Benedict XVI and continuing under Pope Francis, “it was the internal auditor general, who said, ‘Look, here is something that doesn’t add up.’ He came to me.”
When the auditor asked the pope what he should do, the pope said that he told him to go to the Vatican prosecutor with the information. “For that, I am content, because it shows the Vatican administration has the resources” to report and investigate suspicious activity.
The Vatican prosecutor, the pope continued, did a preliminary study and thought some form of “corruption” might be involved, so he asked permission to search several Vatican offices, including in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
“I signed the authorizations myself,” Francis told reporters.
One thing he has not signed or even begun to work on, he said, is a proposed encyclical letter on nonviolence.
Asked about the idea of such a letter, Francis said, “The plan exists, but the next pope will do it.”
The encyclical is one of many “projects in the drawer” that are “maturing there,” waiting until the time is right, he said.
Francis was asked specifically if believed there could be such a thing as a “just war.” Catholic tradition has long held that a nation attacked by an enemy could respond morally to that attack under certain conditions, including that the measures taken were proportionate to the damage inflicted and that civilians were not targeted.
“The hypothesis of legitimate defense remains always,” the pope said. But in Catholic moral teaching, responding with violence must be “the last resort; the last resort is with weapons.” First a nation must try “legitimate defense with diplomacy, with mediation.”
As an aside, Francis said he likes the fact that Catholic moral teaching continues to develop. “We are making progress in ethics and I like questioning all these things. It means that humanity is moving forward positively and not only negatively.”
Speaking of diplomacy and mediation, the pope praised the United Nations for its peacemaking efforts, but he raised questions about the U.N. Security Council giving a veto power to its permanent members: United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.
For example, he said, if “there is a problem with weapons and everyone agrees on resolving the problem” to avoid war, “one with veto power can say no and everything stops.”
Francis said he was not an expert on the United Nations, but he thought it would be a good idea if all the members were equal.
He also noted existence of “armaments hypocrisy,” which involves “Christian countries, or at least countries with a Christian culture (and) European countries that speak of peace and live by (selling) weapons. This is called hypocrisy.”
As for nuclear weapons, the pope reminded reporters that visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima Nov. 24, “I said again that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral; this must go in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And not only the use, but also the possession, because if there is an accident or a crazed government, one’s madness can destroy humanity. Think about what Einstein said: the fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones.”
As for nuclear power plants, the pope in Tokyo simply pointed out that the country’s bishops have called for the abolition of the plants after the meltdown and radiation release in 2011 at the power plant in Fukushima.
Reporters asked for more.
“This is my personal opinion,” he said: “I would not use nuclear energy until it is totally safe.”
As the pope’s plane flew from Thailand to Japan Nov. 23, it crossed the airspace of China and Hong Kong. The pope sent telegrams to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wishing their people peace.
Given the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong, the pope was asked the meaning of the telegrams. Sending the telegrams is “automatic,” he said. It is “a courteous way to ask permission to fly over their territory.”
“This has no value in the sense of your question,” he told the reporter. “It has only a value of courtesy.”
As for the unrest in Hong Kong, Francis said he does not know enough about the situation to comment in detail, but he noted that Hong Kong is not the only country with political tensions leading to large-scale demonstrations. Chile, France, Nicaragua, Brazil and other countries of Latin America also are in turmoil.
“What does the Holy See do with this?” he asked. “It calls for dialogue, for peace.”
Asked when a papal plane might fly to Beijing, Francis responded, “I’d like to go to Beijing; I love China.”
A Roman Catholic bishop named by Pope Francis to investigate the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, New York, has himself been accused of sexual abuse of a child, an attorney for the alleged victim notified the church this week.
The attorney informed Catholic officials in New Jersey that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a client who says he was molested by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the mid-1970s, when DiMarzio was a parish priest in Jersey City.
DiMarzio said there is no truth to the accusation.
“I am just learning about this allegation,” he said in a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behaviour and I emphatically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”
In a letter sent Monday to the church’s Newark, New Jersey, archdiocese, Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said 56-year-old Mark Matzek alleges he was repeatedly abused by DiMarzio and a second priest, the late Rev. Albert Mark, when he was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church and a student at St. Nicholas School.
Last month, Pope Francis tapped DiMarzio to investigate the church’s Buffalo Diocese, where Bishop Joseph Malone has come under fire for his handling of a burgeoning clergy abuse scandal that has roiled the diocese and prompted calls for his resignation.
“The investigation of the diocese of Buffalo by Bishop DiMarzio is tainted because of these allegations,” Garabedian said in an interview with the AP. “There needs to be a truly neutral investigator to determine whether Bishop Malone should resign,” adding that the investigation should be led by a law enforcement agency.
Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the Brooklyn Diocese, said DiMarzio has completed his report on the Buffalo Diocese and has submitted it to the Vatican. DiMarzio and Malone are in Rome this week for a previously scheduled visit of New York bishops to the Holy See.
Garabedian said the notice he sent to the Newark Archdiocese briefly describes Matzek’s allegations and the damage he has allegedly suffered, while demanding $20 million in compensation.
Maria Margiotta, the spokeswoman for the Newark Archdiocese, said it has received Garabedian’s letter and reported Matzek’s allegations to law enforcement.
Garabedian told the AP he plans to file the lawsuit on Matzek’s behalf next month, after New Jersey opens a two-year “look back” period in which sex abuse victims will be permitted to file lawsuits without regard to the statute of limitations, which typically limits the amount of time in which an alleged victim may file suit.
DiMarzio completed his review of the Buffalo Diocese, known as an “apostolic visitation,” last month. He said he made three trips to the diocese over seven days and interviewed nearly 80 clergymen and parishioners.
Vatican City — Jesus invites everyone to always go to him, which, Pope Francis said, also means no longer making life revolve around oneself.
“What direction is my journey going? Do I only try to make a good impression, to protect my position, my time and my space or do I go to the Lord?” he asked during a memorial Mass for the 13 cardinals and 147 bishops who died over the preceding year.
Celebrating Mass Nov. 4 in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope reflected in his homily on God’s will that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life and be raised on their last day.
In the day’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”
Jesus extends this invitation — “Come to me,” so people may be “inoculated against death, against the fear that everything ends,” the pope said.
Going to Jesus means living each moment of the day in ways that put him at the center — with one’s thoughts, one’s prayers and one’s actions, particularly by helping someone in need.
He said people must ask themselves, “Do I live going to the Lord or do I revolve around myself,” only being happy when things go well for oneself and complaining when they do not.
“You cannot belong to Jesus and revolve around yourself. Whoever belongs to Jesus lives going outward toward him,” he said.
“Today, while we pray for our brother cardinals and bishops who have left this life to go encounter the Risen One, we cannot forget the most important and difficult way out, which gives meaning to all the others, is (going out) of ourselves,” he said.
The bridge between life on earth and eternal life in heaven, he said, is to show compassion and “to kneel before those in need to serve them.”
“It is not (having) a bleeding heart, it is not cheap charity; these are questions of life, matters of resurrection,” he said.
It would do people well, he added, to think about what the Lord will see in them on judgment day.
People can find guidance when making an important decision in life by seeing things from the Lord’s perspective — what fruits resulted from which seeds or choices made today.
“Among the many voices of the world that make us lose the meaning of existence, let us tune in to the will of Jesus, resurrected and alive.”
If Pope Francis agrees with the bishops’ recommendation, it could mean a landmark change in the Catholic Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops from the Amazon on Saturday proposed that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained priests, which could lead to a landmark change in the Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
The proposal, made in a final document from a three-week assembly, known as a synod, passed by 128 votes in favour to 41 against.
Pope Francis will consider it, along with many other proposals on issues including the environment and the role of women, in a future document of his own, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.
Separately, when he closed the synod’s final working session earlier on Saturday, Francis announced that he would reconvene a commission to study the history of women deacons in the early centuries of the Catholic Church, responding to calls by women that they be allowed to take up the role today.
But the issue of a married priesthood for the Amazon region was by far the most contentious item in the 120-paragraph final document.
The proposal calls for married men who are already deacons in the Church, have a stable family relationship, and are proven leaders in their communities to be ordained as priests.
It said the ordination to the priesthood would have to be preceded by an “adequate formation”.
This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.
At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend Mass every week and some cannot do so for years.
Conservatives oppose the change, fearing it would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the 1.3 billion member Church.
They fear that if one part of the Church was allowed to ordain married men as an exception, there would be nothing to stop other areas with a shortage of priests doing the same, even in developed countries.
A CBS News poll last year said nearly 70% of American Catholics favour letting priests marry.
The document said that some bishops in the synod thought the issue should be discussed on a universal basis.
Conservatives are also opposed to women deacons, saying the deaconate is linked with the male priesthood.
Many deacons in the Church around the world today are married men.
Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers. They may not celebrate Mass, but they may preach, teach in the name of the Church, baptize and conduct wedding, wake and funeral services and even run a parish with the permission of a bishop.
In his closing comments to the synod, Francis said: “We still have not grasped the significance of women in the Church.”
Scholars have debated the precise role of women deacons in the early Church.
Some say they ministered only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism and to inspect the bodies of women in cases where Christian men were accused of domestic violence and brought before Church tribunals.
Others believe women deacons in the early Church were fully ordained and on a par with the male deacons at the time. The Church did away with female deacons altogether in later centuries.
A commission that handed its report to the pope this year was inconclusive. Francis, who ends the synod ceremoniously with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, gave no details on when the new commission would start its work.
Francis and his predecessors have ruled out allowing women to become priests.
But advocates of women priests see a female deaconate might eventually make it easier for a future pope to study the possibility of women priests.
Vatican City — Every Christian is called to be a missionary, sharing the good news of salvation in Christ and making disciples for him, not for oneself or one’s clique of like-minded believers, Pope Francis said.
“What instructions does the Lord give us for going forth to others? Only one, and it’s very simple: Make disciples. But, be careful: his disciples, not our own,” the pope said Oct. 20 as he celebrated World Mission Sunday.
Dozens of participants from the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon joined the pope for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica; many indigenous wore their native headdresses, had their faces painted or dressed in traditional clothes.
Before reciting the Angelus prayer after Mass, Francis recalled the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter on mission, “Maximum Illud.” The letter, Francis said, was motivated by his predecessor’s conviction of “the need to evangelically relaunch the church’s mission in the world so that it would be purified of any colonial incrustation and freed from the influences of the expansionist policies of European nations.”
Today, he said, the letter calls Catholics “to overcome the temptation of every self-referential closure and every form of pastoral pessimism in order to open us to the joyful newness of the Gospel.”
Photo: Indigenous women attend Pope Francis’ celebration of a Mass marking World Mission Day in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2019. (CNS/Paul Haring)
At a time when globalization seems more about “homogenization” and power struggles that breed conflict and “ruin the planet” rather than solidarity and respect for differences, Francis said, Christians must be missionary disciples who share the Gospel with humility and respect.
The pope asked Catholics to commit themselves to a new effort to proclaim “the good news that in Jesus mercy defeats sin, hope defeats fear, brotherhood defeats hostility.”
“Christ is our peace,” the pope said, “and in him every division is overcome; in him alone there is salvation for every person and all people.”
Pope Francis accepts offertory gifts as he celebrates a Mass marking World Mission Day in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2019. (CNS/Paul Haring)
In his homily at the Mass, Francis said Christians are called to share God’s love and mercy with all people. “All, because no one is excluded from his heart, from his salvation. All, so that our heart can go beyond human boundaries and particularism based on a self-centeredness that displeases God. All, because everyone is a precious treasure, and the meaning of life is found only in giving this treasure to others.”
“Those who bear witness to Jesus go out to all, not just to their own acquaintances or their little group,” he said.
The call to be a missionary is a call that is included in every Christian’s baptism, the pope said, telling people at the Mass: “Jesus is also saying to you: ‘Go, don’t miss a chance to bear me witness!’ My brother, my sister, the Lord expects from you a testimony that no one can give in your place.”
The first and most important way to share the Gospel with others is by living it, he said. “A credible proclamation is not made with beautiful words, but by an exemplary life: a life of service that is capable of rejecting all those material things that shrink the heart and make people indifferent and inward-looking; a life that renounces the useless things that entangle the heart in order to find time for God and others.”
Being a missionary disciple, he said, does not mean “conquering, mandating, proselytizing,” but rather “witnessing, humbling oneself alongside other disciples and offering with love the love that we ourselves received.”
“Our mission,” he said, is “to give pure and fresh air to those immersed in the pollution of our world; to bring to earth that peace which fills us with joy whenever we meet Jesus on the mountain in prayer; to show by our lives, and perhaps even by our words, that God loves everyone and never tires of anyone.”
Vatican City — Jesus enjoys unmasking hypocrisy, which is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said.
Christians, in fact, must learn to avoid hypocrisy by scrutinizing and acknowledging their own personal faults, failings and sins, he said Oct. 15 during morning Mass at the DomusSanctaeMarthae.
“A Christian who does not know how to accuse himself is not a good Christian,” he said.
The pope focused his homily on the day’s Gospel reading (Lk 11:37-41) in which Jesus criticizes his host for being concerned only with outward appearances and superficial rituals, saying, “although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”
Francis said the reading shows how much Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, which, the pope said, “is appearing one way but being something else” or hiding what one really thinks.
When Jesus calls the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” and hypocrites, these words are not insults but the truth, the pope said.
“On the outside you are perfect, strait-laced actually, with decorum, but inside you are something else,” he said.
“Hypocritical behavior comes from the great liar, the devil,” who is a huge hypocrite himself, the pope said, and he makes those like him on earth his “heirs.”
“Hypocrisy is the language of the devil; it is the language of evil that enters our heart and is sown by the devil. You can’t live with hypocritical people, but they exist,” the pope said.
“Jesus likes to unmask hypocrisy,” he said. “He knows it will be precisely this behavior that leads to his death because the hypocrite does not think about using legitimate means or not, he plows ahead: slander? ‘Let’s use slander.’ False witness? ‘Let’s look for an untruthful witness.'”
Hypocrisy, the pope said, is common “in the battle for power, for example, (with) envy, jealousies that make you appear to be one way and inside there is poison for killing because hypocrisy always kills, sooner or later, it kills.”
The only “medicine” to cure hypocritical behavior is to tell the truth before God and take responsibility for oneself, the pope said.
“We have to learn to accuse ourselves, ‘I did this, I think this way, badly. I am envious. I want to destroy that one,'” he said.
People need to reflect on “what is inside of us” to see the sin, hypocrisy and “the wickedness that is in our heart” and “to say it before God” with humility, he said.
Francis asked people to learn from St. Peter, who implored, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
“May we learn to accuse ourselves, us, our own self,” he said.