Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Analysis: 2020, the year to make or break Vatican finances?

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 10, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Holy See is facing a perfect storm of a massive income shortfall, months of financial scandal, and a looming international banking inspection. As it prepares to weather the second half of 2020, a range of measures have been taken to shore up its finances and reputation. But will they be enough, or could they end up making matters even more complicated?

According to an apparently leaked internal memo published on Monday, all curial departments of the Vatican have been asked to move all their cash deposits to the Holy See’s central bank. The move signals the depths of the current liquidity crisis facing the Vatican, and raises a number of questions about its ability to mitigate it.

On July 7, Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti published the text of a letter supposedly sent to the heads of all curial dicasteries on May 8. Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said in the letter that the decision was taken after a May 4 meeting, led by Pope Francis, to respond to “this particularly negative economic juncture.”

According to the text of the letter, every Vatican department has been asked to move all their external cash deposits to APSA, which functions as the Holy See treasury, sovereign wealth manager, and administers payroll and operating expenses for Vatican City.

CNA asked the Holy See to confirm or comment on the leaked letter but received no response.

The instruction to move all curial funds to APSA is a dramatic step, exceeding previous attempts at financial centralization under Guerrero’s predecessor, Cardinal George Pell. It points to an acute cash crunch for the Holy See, and raises the possibility that it may already be struggling to meet daily operating expenses, including payroll.

In May, Guerrero said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican is forecasting a reduction in income between 30%-80% for the next fiscal year. While dismissing suggestions that this could lead to a default by the Holy See, Guerrero did say “that doesn't mean that we are not naming the crisis for what it is. We're certainly facing difficult years.”

Despite the loss of income, some Vatican departments maintain large investment and asset portfolios, most notably the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide).

But while moving all cash reserves and deposits held at external banks to APSA could provide a short-term liquidity bridge for the Holy See, it could also create fresh regulatory headaches for the Vatican, and will likely be difficult to achieve.

As CNA has previously reported, the Secretariat of State has maintained large cash balances with several external banks, including in Switzerland. However, transferring the balance of those funds could prove a far from straightforward process.

As reported previously, secretariat funds on deposit were used as security against a $200 million line of credit extended by two banks, Credit Suisse and BSI. The loaned funds were used, in part, to fund the secretariat’s controversial investment in a London building at 60 Sloane Avenue, which has led to the suspension of several curia officials and the arrest of Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi.

In recent months, Swiss financial authorities have confirmed that several bank accounts, with balances totalling tens of millions of euros, have been frozen as part of an ongoing investigation into the London deal, led by Vatican prosecutors, making them likely hard to transfer.

It is also not clear if the arrangement of using cash deposits as collateral to secure loans to fund investments remains an ongoing practice for the secretariat with other banks. If it does, transferring those deposits to APSA could trigger the banks to call in their loans, adding a credit crunch to a cash shortage for the Vatican.

The text of the leaked letter from Guerrero appears to acknowledge some potential difficulties for different curial departments in complying with his “request,” noting that “where it is necessary to maintain a deposit with IOR or other banks for operational needs, I am kindly asking you to communicate this to this Secretariat [for the Economy] as soon as possible.”

Even if the Secretariat for the Economy is able to have all curial cash moved to APSA without serious financial penalties or complications, and even if this is sufficient to provide for the Holy See’s short-term liquidity needs, the move could still create other unexpected difficulties for the Vatican.

In September, Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, is set to conduct a two-week onsite inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City – the first since 2012.

The president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, Carmelo Barbagallo has described the inspection as “especially important.” “Its outcome may determine how the jurisdiction [of the Vatican] is perceived by the financial community,” he said on July 3.

Moneyval is expected to arrive with its own list of concerns and questions following months of reporting on Vatican financial scandals. A key item on its agenda is likely to be the role of APSA.

Following the last onsite inspection in 2012, APSA agreed to stop providing services to individuals or taking part in commercial transactions, with these functions being transferred to the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), often referred to as the Vatican Bank, which maintains accounts for Vatican employees, individuals and religious groups. APSA was to be limited to administering the sovereign assets of the Holy See, meeting payroll and operational costs, and functioning as the national reserve bank of the Vatican.

In exchange for agreeing to step back from commercial activity, APSA was exempted from annual inspections by the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), whose efforts are in turn assessed by Moneyval.

In 2014, Pope Francis issued new norms, transferring oversight and control of APSA’s remaining investment functions to the Prefecture for the Economy, then headed by Cardinal George Pell.

The AIF’s 2015 annual report concluded that since it is no longer an “entity that carries out financial activities on a professional basis,” “APSA stopped being a part of AIF’s jurisdiction at the end of 2015.”

The 2015 AIF report which exempted APSA from further scrutiny said that “If APSA were to carry out financial activities on a professional basis, it would fall again under the jurisdiction of AIF which… must publish and update the list of subjects who must comply with the requirements set forth in [relevant law].”

But last year, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, acknowledged that it had loaned 50 million euros to finance the purchase of an Italian hospital, the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), in 2015, even though APSA is prohibited from making loans that finance commercial transactions.

APSA was forced to write off 30 million of the 50 million euro loan, wiping out APSA’s profits for the 2018 financial year.

The acknowledgement by Galantino that APSA was in 2015 engaged in prohibited lending activity will likely have attracted the attention of European financial watchdogs, who will want to discuss it in September.

In 2016, Pope Francis partially reversed some of the 2014 reforms, returning control of its investment activity to APSA from the Prefecture for the Economy

That APSA is engaged in financial activity that requires oversight was underlined when, in June this year, Pope Francis moved the office of the Vatican’s financial records database from APSA back under the management of the Secretariat for the Economy -- a move explicitly made to emphasise the need for external oversight.

When Moneyval arrive in September, they are likely to push for a renewed look at the role of APSA and its exemption from AIF and Moneyval’s vigilance - all the more so if it becomes the home for all curial assets.

Some Vatican departments, most notably the Secretariat of State, remain engaged in commercial investments as part of their ongoing financial activities. If, as Guerrero’s May 8 letter indicates, all, or even most, liquid curial assets are now being banked with APSA, it will raise serious questions about how those commercial ventures are being maintained, and if APSA can still credibly claim to play no part in commercial activity.

2020 has become an incredibly high-stakes year for the Vatican, on the line is its ability to continue daily operations and remain a respectable member of the financial community.

Returning to financial health and international credibility are, in many ways, tied together for the Vatican. But after years of regulatory chaos and dubious financial conduct, it remains to be seen if 2020 is a crisis year that makes those efforts come good at last – or finally breaks the bank.

Pope Francis sends message to priests on Argentina’s coronavirus front line

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message Thursday to the priests who work in Argentina’s poor neighborhoods serving the sick and vulnerable amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to be close to you at this time, as I know that you are fighting with prayer and the help of medical professionals,” Pope Francis said in the video published on Twitter by Buenos Aires priests July 9.

The pope said that he had heard that three priests who minister in the barrios had become sick. He mentioned in particular Fr. Basilicio “Bachi” Britez, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 since June 21, according to Vatican News. 

“I want to tell you that I am close to you, that I pray for you, that I accompany you at this time, all the people of God, along with their sick priests,” the pope said.

“It is time to thank God for the witness of these priests, ask for their health and move forward. May God bless you and do not forget to pray for me,” he added.

 

El Papa Francisco reza con nosotros por la salud del Padre Bachi, que sigue en terapia con #coronavirus, y por los sacerdotes de las barriadas que luchan junto al pueblo contra la pandemia #OremosJuntos @Pontifex_es pic.twitter.com/cwfOvOrjsl

— Curas Villeros (@PastoralVillera) July 9, 2020  

Pope Francis’ message was sent to the Curas Villeros, a team of priests who minister in the poor neighborhoods in and surrounding Buenos Aires, where the coronavirus has now spread.

These priests have been advocating for better medical treatment within these neighborhoods, issuing a statement June 29 denouncing the “scandalous delays of ambulances” and poor health systems that could better serve the communities “on the margins” of the city.

Their statement came after the death of Ramona Collante, a woman who died May 30 after her family repeatedly called an ambulance, which arrived two hours late.

There have been 90,693 documented cases of COVID-19 in Argentina, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Argentina’s neighbors have seen much higher rates of infection. 

Chile has recorded 306,216 cases and Brazil has had more than 1.7 million COVID-19 cases.

On July 9 the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that Latin America and the Caribbean were now suffering from some of the highest per capita infection rates in the world. He said that this would have “unprecedented social and economic impacts” that must be addressed.

“The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” Guterres said.

Pope Francis appoints former European Central Bank chief to pontifical academy

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2020 / 06:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed the former president of the European Central Bank to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences Friday.

The pope named Mario Draghi July 10 as one of three new members of the pontifical academy founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II to promote the study of social sciences.

Draghi, 72, is an Italian economist best known for serving as president of the European Central Bank (ECB) from 2011 to 2019. 

When he took over the helm of the ECB, he was faced with the European sovereign debt crisis. There were fears that mounting debt problems could force countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece to exit the eurozone.  

In a 2012 speech, Draghi famously said that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro during the crisis. The phrase is credited with helping to save the currency. As a result of his interventions, he earned the nickname “Super Mario.”

He will serve as an “ordinary member” of the pontifical academy, along with the Chilean sociologist Pedro Morandé Court and Kokunre Adetokunbo Agbontaen Eghafona, a sociology and anthropology professor at the University of Benin, Nigeria, who were also appointed July 10. 

The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is one of 10 pontifical academies in Vatican City. Its headquarters is the Casina Pio IV, a villa in the Vatican Gardens, and its current president is another Italian economist, Stefano Zamagni.

Conjoined twins can have 'normal lives' after Vatican hospital performs separation surgery

CNA Staff, Jul 8, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Twins who were conjoined at the head are likely to return home within months from the Vatican’s pediatric hospital where their bodies were successfully separated by doctors, and they have a high chance of living normal lives, the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon told CNA.

The Bambino Gesù Hospital announced the successful separation surgery July 7, saying it was the first operation of its kind in Italy and probably the world.

 

Separate due gemelle siamesi unite per la testa. È il primo intervento di questo tipo in Italia e, probabilmente, l'unico al mondo per una delle più rare e complesse forme di fusione a livello cranico e cerebrale. Oggi stanno bene e possono crescere come le bimbe della loro età pic.twitter.com/1S3YwHkuq8

— Bambino Gesù (@bambinogesu) July 7, 2020  

The final stage of surgery, which took place on June 5, lasted 18 hours and involved more than 30 medical staff. The two-year-old sisters are expected to make a full recovery.

"We have been able to accomplish an extraordinary result despite such a complex malformation, being able to separate with an optimal clinical result. From a neurological standpoint, the two little girls are doing very well and have excellent prognosis for normal lives in the future," Dr. Carlo Efisio Marras, director of neurosurgery of the Bambino Gesù hospital told CNA July 8.

“This accomplishment is the fruit of more than a yearlong work of investigation and preparation involving several specialties and professions within the hospital. There were many difficult phases since several surgical procedures were needed, each one with its own challenges,” Marras told CNA

“But the most difficult one involved the venous system, that is, the network of vases that brings blood from the heart to the brain to bring oxygen to it. If we would have not succeeded in deal with this system shared by both babies, the result would had been catastrophic."

"But the two little twins are well: we believe they can be released in a few months. They will have to go through a rehabilitation phase to learn the motions they were not able to perform previously. I wholeheartedly wish them a happy future. They are now in the condition to return to a normal life.” 

“I have to thank my hospital, which is known for bringing together research, development and solidarity, for this extraordinary experience,” Marras added.

The hospital said the twins, Ervina and Prefina, were born on June 29, 2018 in a village about 60 miles outside Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. They were joined together with “one of the rarest and most complex forms of cranial and cerebral fusion,” known as total posterior craniopagus.

Mariella Enoc, president of the Bambino Gesù, met the twins in July 2018, during a visit to Bangui, where the sisters had been transferred after their birth. Enoc was helping to oversee the expansion of pediatric services in the country, which is one of the world’s poorest, in response to an appeal from Pope Francis. She decided to bring the girls to Rome for surgery.

“When you encounter lives that can be saved, it must be done. We cannot and must not look away,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

The twins arrived in Italy with their mother, Ermine, on September 10, 2018. Initial tests confirmed the sisters were healthy, but had different blood pressures, indicating that one of the girls’ hearts had to work harder to maintain the healthy functioning of their organs, including their brains.

The hospital said the twins were joined via the back of the head, including the nape, sharing both skin and cranial bones. But the greatest challenge for doctors was that they were joined at a deeper level, sharing membranes inside the skull as well as the venous system, through which blood used by the brain is transported back to the heart.

The hospital emphasized that the sisters had distinct personalities, describing Prefina as “playful and lively,” and Ervina as “more serious and observant.”

A multidisciplinary team, including neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, and plastic surgeons, prepared for more than a year for the operation to separate the twins. The hospital’s ethics committee contributed to a plan ensuring that the girls would have the same quality of life.

The separation took place in three stages. In the first, in May 2019, neurosurgeons started to separate and rebuild the membranes and venous systems.

The second, a month later, focused on the confluence of sinuses in the brain. The hospital said it was a critical phase of the treatment as “the operating space is a few millimeters.”

The two operations prepared the girls for the third and final phase of complete separation on June 5.

“It was an exciting moment, a fantastic, unrepeatable experience. It was a very ambitious goal and we did everything we could to achieve it, with passion, optimism and joy. By sharing each step, studying every single detail together,” Marras said.

Bambino Gesù, colloquially known as the “Pope’s hospital,” is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future. While the hospital is located in Rome, rather than Vatican City, it is situated in an extraterritorial area administered by the Holy See.

The hospital said Tuesday: “A month after the final separation, the twins are doing well. … On June 29 they celebrated their second birthdays, looking into each other’s eyes, moving their little hands to the rhythm of music, in the arms of their mother.”

“They have undergone very difficult operations; the wounds will take some time to heal; the risk of infection is still present. The neurorehabilitation program continues and for a few months they will have to wear a protective helmet.”

“But post-operative checks indicate that the brain is intact. The recreated system works, the blood flow has adapted to the new path.”

Speaking at the press conference, the girl’s mother, Ermine, said: “If we had stayed in Africa I don’t know what fate they would have had. Now that they are separate and well, I would like them to be baptized by Pope Francis who has always taken care of the children of Bangui. My little ones can now grow up, study and become doctors to save other children.”

 

 

Pope Francis calls on Christians to recognize the face of Christ in migrants

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2020 / 06:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered Mass Wednesday asking the Virgin Mary to help Christians recognize the face of Christ in each migrant and refugee.

“As we undertake to seek the face of the Lord, we may recognize Him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. And this encounter becomes for us a time of grace and salvation, as it bestows on us the same mission entrusted to the Apostles,” Pope Francis said in the Casa Santa Marta chapel July 8.

“May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, ‘Solace or Comfort of Migrants,’ help us discover the face of Her Son in all our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee from their homeland because of the many injustices that still afflict our world today,” the pope said in his homily.

Invoking the new Marian title added to the Litany of Loreto in June, Pope Francis prayed for the migrants who are in detention camps in Libya and elsewhere who are often subject to abuse and violence.

He recommended words of Christ that can be used as a part of one’s daily examination of conscience: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The pope said: “The encounter with the other is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us. It is He who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, seeking an encounter with us and requesting our assistance.”

Pope Francis offered Mass at his residence to mark the seventh anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only the staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Department for Promoting Integral Human Development were in attendance. 

“Today’s responsorial Psalm urges us always to seek the Lord’s face: ‘Rely on the mighty Lord, constantly seek His face,’” he said. “This quest is a fundamental attitude in the life of all the faithful, who have come to realize that the ultimate goal of their existence is the encounter with God.”

During his homily, the pope told the story of his encounter with an Ethiopian migrant during his visit to Lampedusa in 2013, recalling that he later found out that his translator at the time had “distilled” the migrant’s story because of the intensity of the suffering recounted.

“This happens today with Libya,” he said. “They give us a ‘distilled’ version. The war is bad, we know it, but you cannot imagine the hell they live through there in those detention camps. And these people only came with hope to cross the sea.”

Pope Francis has frequently spoken out about the plight of migrants detained in Libya this year. On June 14 the pope called on the international community to “take their plight to heart” and to identify pathways and means to provide them with the protection that they need for a dignified condition, adding that the health situation with the coronavirus pandemic has aggravated the migrants’ already precarious conditions.

Lampedusa, the southernmost part of Italy, is located 160 nautical miles from the Libyan capital of Tripoli. It is a primary destination for migrants from Africa seeking entry to Europe.

Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island on July 8, 2013. The trip, his first pastoral visit outside Rome, signaled that concern for migrants would be at the center of his pontificate.

The pope quoted part of his Lampedusa homily in the livestreamed Mass. He said: “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference.” 

“In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business.”

The pope then responded with a reflection on how the Apostles’ lives were transformed by their encounter with Christ.

“The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation, immediately entails a mission: ‘As you go, Jesus tells them, make this proclamation: The kingdom of heaven is at hand,’” he said. “Encounter and mission cannot be separated.”

Bishop's brother appointed brother bishop in Savannah

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2020 / 05:35 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Fr. Stephen D. Parkes as the next bishop of Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday.

The Holy See press office announced July 8 that Parkes, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, would succeed Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, who was appointed archbishop of Atlanta in March.

Parkes, 55, currently serves as pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Longwood, Florida. His older brother, Gregory Parkes, is bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

A day of great joy as my brother, Fr. Stephen Parkes, is appointed Bishop of Savannah by Pope Francis! Blessed to be brothers. Blessed to be brother Bishops! #courageouslyliving @DioStPete pic.twitter.com/yYxTDSVGVi

— Bishop Parkes (@BishopParkes) July 8, 2020  

The bishop-elect was born on June 2, 1965, in Mineola, New York. He attended Massapequa High School in New York and gained a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked in business and banking before pursuing a vocation to the priesthood.

In a 2015 Legatus Magazine interview, he said: “After college I started working for a bank. I always felt that I was seeking something more. I knew that I wasn’t fulfilled working for the bank, and I felt God was calling me to a life of service to the Church.”

“It wasn’t a quick, easy decision. I attended a weekend discernment retreat, but it took me two years before I picked up an application for seminary.”

He studied philosophy and theology at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Orlando on May 23, 1998. 

His first appointment was as parochial vicar to Annunciation Catholic Church in Longwood. In 2005, he was named parochial administrator at Most Precious Blood Church in Oviedo, Florida.

From 2004 to 2011, he served as spiritual director for Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Parkes was appointed pastor at Annunciation Catholic Church in 2011. A speaker of both English and Spanish, he has served as spiritual director of the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida since 2009, and as Dean of the North Central Deanery from 2010.

The Diocese of Savannah covers 37,038 square miles in the state of Georgia, with a total population of  2,934,000 of which 75,603 are Catholic, according to a July 8 press release from the USCCB.  

The diocese announced July 8 that his episcopal ordination and installation will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, the feast of St Padre Pio.

In a message to members of the diocese Wednesday, Diocesan Administrator Fr. Daniel F. Firmin wrote: “We are deeply grateful to our Holy Father for this gift to our diocese.”

“How fortunate we are to welcome a seasoned and gifted pastor! In his 22 years of priestly ministry, he has served in parishes, directed souls, and was the campus minister at the University of Central Florida for nearly a decade. His pastoral zeal and concern are immediately evident when meeting him.”

Vatican cardinal: peace is threatened as health and economic crises continue

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2020 / 07:40 am (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal has said that the world is facing a “tsunami” of humanitarian crises caused by the coronavirus emergency, conflict, and decreased security around the globe.

Echoing Pope Francis, Cardinal Peter Turkson called July 7 for a global ceasefire during the pandemic so that assistance can safely be provided to those in need, especially in countries with ongoing conflict such as Yemen and Venezuela.

Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, also noted a critical need for disarmament, proposing that money used to finance arms be redirected toward supporting healthcare systems instead.

The global health emergency, economic recession, and ongoing climate crisis mean “diminishing access to water, diminishing access to food, increasing social unrest, violence, breakdown of law and order, and unfortunately, the normalization of insecurity, distrust, and uncertainty,” the cardinal said.

“The confluence of all of these crises has engendered a veritable tsunami of humanitarian crises,” he continued, “which has spread and spared no human life [or] institution from its disruptive consequences especially its impact on harmony and peace.”

Turkson spoke during a press conference about the Vatican’s COVID-19 Commission, which he leads. In particular, the cardinal addressed the focus of the commission’s second working group, which is security.

On the subject of a global ceasefire, he said that he supported appeals made by Pope Francis and by the UN Secretary General António Guterres. There are countries already suffering from conflict now with additional grave needs due to the coronavirus crisis, he said, but “intervention itself is rendered difficult by the violence.”

Turkson said that strategies the commission is using to appeal for a ceasefire include the advocacy of local peace and justice commissions, along with calls for reconciliation and global solidarity, and creating a “redefinition of peace,” following the example of St. Pope John XXIII in the 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris, framing peace in terms such as “food security,” “solidarity,” and an “inclusive public health system.”

Other steps he said the commission was taking include working with on-the-ground groups such as Caritas Internationalis and Sant’Egidio to help find peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

Sister Alessandra Smerilli, a member of the COVID-19 commission and an economics professor, noted in her presentation Pope Francis’ request “to prepare the future and not only be prepared for the future.”

The global economic recession is expected to displace billions of jobs, she said, noting that “the pandemic knows no borders. Then, we need solutions without borders.”

She said that the economic taskforce of the commission had been meeting weekly to think about and discuss different economic issues connected to the pandemic.

The religious sister added that she was not a fan of the word “recovery” in reference to the economy, but preferred to say “regenerate the economy,” because of its focus on doing something new.

Alessio Pecorario, another commission member, called the security taskforce, which he coordinates, the “network of the network.”

Pecorario said that members were working to bring together different experts and Catholic non-violence groups to bring together concrete proposals on the issue of peace and security.

Pope Francis to celebrate Mass marking anniversary of Lampedusa visit

Vatican City, Jul 6, 2020 / 06:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis will celebrate Mass Wednesday marking the seventh anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The Mass will take place at 11 a.m. local time July 8 in the chapel of the pope’s residence, the Casa Santa Marta, and will be livestreamed.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance will be restricted to staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Department for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean island on July 8, 2013, shortly after his election. The trip, his first pastoral visit outside Rome, signaled that concern for migrants would be at the center of his pontificate. 

Lampedusa, the southernmost part of Italy, is located approximately 70 miles away from Tunisia. It is a primary destination for migrants from Africa seeking entry to Europe.

Reports say that during the coronavirus outbreak migrant boats have continued to land on the island, which has received tens of thousands of migrants in recent years.

The pope chose to visit the island after reading harrowing reports of migrants dying while attempting the crossing from North Africa to Italy.

Upon arrival, he threw a wreath into the sea in memory of those who had drowned.

Celebrating Mass close to a “boat cemetery” containing the remains of shipwrecked migrant boats, he said: “When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”

“So I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated!”

On October 3, 2013, more than 360 migrants died when the vessel carrying them from Libya sank off Lampedusa.

The pope marked the sixth anniversary of his visit last year with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he called for an end to rhetoric that dehumanized migrants.

“They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues!” he said. “‘This is not just about migrants,’ in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society.”

Pope Francis commends UN Security Council for global ceasefire resolution

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2020 / 06:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis applauded the United Nations Security Council Sunday for its recent resolution calling for an immediate global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The call for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow the peace and security necessary to provide the urgently needed humanitarian assistance, is commendable,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer July 5.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of many people who are suffering. May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future,” he said.

The ceasefire resolution applies to conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and Congo, according to the Associated Press. It demands “a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to ensure that medical and humanitarian aid will reach those in need as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The 15 countries that make up the Security Council passed the resolution July 1 after months of disagreement between China and the United States over whether the text would include references to either the World Health Organization or “transparency.”

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres first called for a global ceasefire on March 23 with Pope Francis echoing this appeal the following week.

The UN Secretary General said that a global ceasefire would “help create corridors for life-saving aid” and “bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” He pointed out that refugee camps and people with existing health conditions are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses.”

On March 29, Pope Francis said: “Conflicts are not resolved through war.” He added that conflicts must be overcome through “dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”

The pope said in his Angelus address July 5 that Jesus offers “the weary and oppressed” much more than “psychological solace or a lavish handout.”

“The joy that Jesus gives us. It is unique. It is the joy that he himself has,” he said.

“The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity. And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot,” Pope Francis said. “And it is a message for the Church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelise the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants His Church, that is, us, to be.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus placed himself among “those who labor and are burdened” because he was “meek and humble of heart.”

“May Mary, the humblest and highest of creatures, implore from God wisdom of the heart for us … that we may discern its signs in our lives and be sharers in those mysteries which, hidden from the proud, are revealed to the humble,” the pope said.

Pope Francis makes donation to World Food Programme as pandemic causes rising hunger

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2020 / 08:35 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has made a donation to the World Food Programme as the organization works to feed 270 million people this year amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus infection levels have been rising in Latin America and Africa at a moment when food stocks in some parts of the world are already low, leaving more people vulnerable to food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme website.

The Vatican announced July 3 that Pope Francis would donate 25,000 euros ($28,000) as “an expression of his closeness to those affected by the pandemic and to those who are engaged in essential services for the poor and weakest and most vulnerable people in our society.”

With this “symbolic” gesture, the pope desires to express “paternal encouragement towards the organization's humanitarian work and toward other countries willing to adhere to forms of support for integral development and public health in this time of crisis, and to combat social instability, food insecurity, rising unemployment, and the collapse of the economic systems of the most vulnerable nations.”

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a call for $4.9 billion in funding to bring food assistance where governments are asking for more support. 

“The impact of COVID-19 on people is demanding us to step up and scale up our efforts to ensure more food-insecure people receive assistance,” Margot van der Velden, director of emergencies for WFP, said July 2.

Van der Velden said that she was particularly worried about Latin America, which has seen a threefold rise in the number of people requiring food assistance as the outbreak spreads across the region.

South Africa, which has documented more than 159,000 COVID-19 cases, has also experienced a 90% rise in the number of food-insecure people, according to WFP.

“The front line in the battle against the coronavirus is shifting from the rich world to the poor world,” WFP head David Beasley said June 29.

“Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” he said.