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Is Cardinal Becciu being rehabilitated? 

Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2021 / 03:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis' private visit to Cardinal Angelo Becciu on Holy Thursday set off speculation about whether the pope is attempting to rehabilitate the disgraced cardinal


The real reasons why Pope Francis asked Cardinal Becciu to resign as Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and renounce his prerogatives as a cardinal late last year were never spelled out formally by the Vatican or Becciu.  


Nevertheless, according to information leaked to the press, Cardinal Becciu is currently under investigation for embezzlement, abuse of office, and “offense to the King” – that is, the pope – a little-known crime that is still part of the Vatican penal code.  


It is also known that Becciu was involved in two cases: the Secretariat of State’s investment in a luxury real estate venture in London – which was finalized by his successor Edgar Pena Parra and is now under scrutiny by Vatican magistrates – and the mismanagement of the Secretariat of State’s purse, of which the Secretariat has now been stripped.


The second case regards a series of suspicious transfers to Cecilia Marogna, an intelligence analyst and supposed mediator for the liberation of five nuns kidnapped in Africa.


The 39-year-old Marogna was later incarcerated and became the object of a Vatican international arrest request. Italian authorities later revoked Marogna's arrest, in a decision that criticized the Holy See, saying the incarceration had a “motivational vacuum”, i.e. there was no apparent reason for it.


Since the beginning of the Becciu-related investigations in October 2019, there have been six Vatican officials suspended: two of them – both priests – were sent back to their home dioceses; another one was not renewed in his position; two of them got early retirement; one of them was transferred to another office, effectively demoted.


But the Holy Thursday visit sparked rumors of a possible rehabilitation for Becciu, especially when the Vatican press office was slow to confirm the visit, while a person close to Cardinal Becciu said that “Pope Francis himself” gave the cardinal permission to spread the news of the visit. 


In another bizarre twist to the story, the official Vatican News portal finally reported the pope's visit to Becciu, quoting “sources from the Focolare movement” and stressing that “since it is a private appointment of the Holy Father, there are no official confirmations for this news.”


However, if Pope Francis had wanted to rehabilitate Becciu, clear communication on his visit would have been the order of the day, authorized by the pope himself. If fact, when Becciu resigned, the pope wanted an official Bollettino to go out so fast that Becciu found out that the news had been made official only when he got back home.


Why, then, did Pope Francis visit Becciu? 


It is known that Pope Francis likes to spend Holy Thursday Mass with prisoners and other marginalized groups. Becciu is currently marginalized and under investigation. So, as one source told CNA, “The pope treated Becciu like any other inmate.”


It is also possible that the pope wanted to show a gesture of mercy. The investigations are stalled, and the latest reports suggest Vatican prosecutors are not even close to a decision. The gesture also shifts the news focus away from Vatican judicial system's perils to the visit itself.


However, Pope Francis' visit could in no way be in view for rehabilitation, a source confident with the Vatican judicial system told CNA. 


“Becciu's issue is in the Vatican prosecutor's hands,” the source said. “There are two options: either the pope exercises his power as Supreme Authority, interferes with the judicial power, and asks to stop the investigation; or the pope will make a paternal gesture, leaving the issue in the prosecutor's hands.”


According to the same sources within the Vatican tribunal, the investigation into Becciu might be concluded “within 40 days,” and “only then will we know if there will be indictments.”


This means that Cardinal Becciu will have to wait for any eventual rehabilitation.


Stripped of his duties as well as of his rights as a cardinal, Becciu might also testify in Italian court, probably more than once, since he has sued “L’Espresso,” the Italian magazine that broke many of the more damning stories against the cardinal and his family.


Whatever the Pope’s intention to visit him was, only time will tell if Becciu will be prosecuted or if he will regain the rights that go with his red hat. 

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Canadian bishops condemn new assisted suicide law

Canadian Parliament / Cam Borisenko/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Canada’s Catholic bishops have condemned the country’s new assisted suicide law, and are asking for people to pray and to contact their elected officials in opposition to it. 

“At this point, it is important to become informed, to renew our involvement wherever we live, and to partner with members of our parish or other faith groups and organizations to continue lobbying our elected officials about these matters,” stated an April 9 letter by the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

The bishops have long opposed euthanasia and other forms of assisted suicide, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg said in his letter to the country’s Catholics, on behalf of his brother bishops.  .

“Our position remains unequivocal. Euthanasia and assisted suicide constitute the deliberate killing of human life in violation of God’s Commandments; they erode our shared dignity by failing to see, to accept, and accompany those suffering and dying,” he wrote. 

“Furthermore, they undermine the fundamental duty we have to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society,” said Archbishop Gagnon. “Human life must be protected from conception to natural death, at all stages and in all conditions.”

On March 17, the Canadian Senate approved Bill C-7, which expanded the eligibility for “Medical Assistance in Dying.”

The legislation stripped the requirement that a person seeking assisted suicide must have a “reasonably foreseeable” death, and also allowed for a person to receive assisted suicide with mental illness as a sole underlying condition. 

Archbishop Gagnon expressed concern that the new law will result in those with mental illness or disabilities to be pressured into ending their lives. 

“The possible pressures,” he said, “are all too real, perilous, and potentially destructive.” 

Archbishop Gagnon said that he and his brother bishops “desire to engage our Catholic faithful on a subject of crucial importance to all of us,” and encouraged them to “not lose heart.” 

“As Bishops, we will accompany you in prayer and vigilant advocacy against a ‘culture of death’ which continues to erode the dignity of human life in our country,” said the letter. 

“Our advocacy must continue for rapid access to mental health care, social support for people with such illnesses, and suicide prevention programs,” wrote Gagnon. “It must include the management and social support of individuals with chronic and/or degenerative diseases, and those living in isolation at our long-term care facilities.”

Bill C-7 was written in response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court decision which found that limiting assisted suicide to only people with “reasonably foreseeable” deaths was a violation of human rights. The province was sued by two people with chronic, but not terminal or progressive, conditions who sought access to assisted suicide. 

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Jean Truchon, had cerebral palsy and ended his life in April 2020. 

Archbishop Gagnon’s letter noted that Bill C-7 did not include conscience protections for medical professionals who do not wish to participate in assisted suicide. In Canada, the law permits medical professionals to end the lives of their patients; in hte United States, state assisted suicide laws have required that the patient self-administer the lethal medication.  

“We would find it unacceptable if healthcare professionals who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide were ever to be coerced to participate in acts which their conscience finds morally wrong,” the archbishop’s letter stated. “The direct killing of a person may never be considered a duty. Likewise, we are categorically opposed to allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide to take place in institutions that bear the name of Catholic.”

The bishops’ letter praised palliative care as “beneficial for a patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual condition, especially when provided early on,” and in a “community of care setting” 

“Palliative care, and not euthanasia or assisted suicide, is the compassionate and supportive response to suffering and dying,” they said. Canada, like many countries, has a shortage of palliative care physicians and Canadians are not guaranteed access to palliative care. 

“Above all, we need to pray earnestly for a new outpouring of grace, so that the fear and despair experienced by many will give way to courage and hope and that all may welcome the call to support the suffering and dying in ways that reflect the loving and compassionate gaze of Jesus, the risen Lord who lives forever,” they said. 

Catholic bishops in DR Congo worried by killings, forced conversions in east

Stuart Boulton/Shutterstock.

Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Apr 9, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

Renewed violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that has resulted in the killing of civilians is a cause of concern, Catholic bishops in the central African nation said Thursday, appealing for an end to the bloodshed.

In an April 8 statement, members of the Standing Committee of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo said, “War is the mother of all miseries, it affects all spheres of society and compromises the future of our children.”

“To those who have taken up arms we say: ‘Stop killing your brothers,’” the bishops said.

They invited those who are caught up in divisions to “know that it is through love and unity that evil can be overcome and the spectre of violence broken.”

Citizens of DR Congo have experience protracted conflicts over the years.

Dozens of armed groups are believed to operate in the eastern region of DR Congo despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers.

In their statement, the Catholic bishops in DR Congo noted that “for more than two decades, the Eastern part of our country has been particularly affected by armed conflicts and recurrent insecurity, causing death, desolation and displacement of the population.”

“In order to show our affective and effective closeness to our brothers and sisters who are victims of this tragedy, a delegation of Bishops from the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) and the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) carried out a pastoral mission in the east of the country, particularly in the dioceses of Goma, Butembo-Beni and Bunia, from 14 to 26 January 2021, to listen to and comfort them,” the bishops said.

They added, “The assailants use the weak points of the regular armed forces to achieve their political or religious goals: occupation of land, illegal exploitation of natural resources, unjust enrichment, Islamization of the region in defiance of religious freedom.”

The bishops said that people who escaped from kidnapping by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist rebel group, said they had been “forced to convert to Islam”.

“This whole situation has caused the loss of family life, massive displacement of people and significant loss of property, and has dealt a severe blow to the economy of a region that rightly serves as the country's breadbasket,” the bishops noted.

They said that the perpetrators of such acts “are often armed groups and militiamen, some of whom have an ideology close to 'Satanism.'”

The bishops stated that “the killings in the Beni-Butembo region date back to 2013. In recent days, especially from the last quarter of 2020, it is the Ruwenzori Sector that is most attacked.”

“More than a hundred people have already been killed, including children,” they said, adding that the situation in Bunia and the rest of Ituri Province “is much more complex, marked by recurrent and multifaceted crises of which the population is the main victim.”

“The public authorities are overwhelmed by events. Among the political leaders, some tend to cover up for the troublemakers out of choice or because of pressure from a community leadership,” the bishops said.

They continued, “The population has the feeling of being abandoned. The central government's promises to restore peace quickly are numerous, but many have often remained unfulfilled.”

The bishops expressed regret that “all our appeals through our various socio-political messages have not yet found a consistent response from the people concerned.”

They recommended “a rethinking of the vision, approaches and structures at various levels: political, military, police, intelligence services, humanitarian, and Congo's partners.”

“It is urgent and necessary to move all military officers who have been involved in the various rebellions or armed groups in the East of the country, and to remove from the chain of command and logistics those who are considered to be relay agents for foreign armies,” the bishop added.

They also called “for the reinforcement of the strength of the regiments”, urging that they be provided “with adequate logistical means, including reconnaissance and attack drones, in order to reduce the loss of human life and material.”

The bishops advocated for “the establishment of a permanent framework for consultation for cohesion and peace in the East, led by a multidisciplinary scientific observatory, and the involvement of local leaders in raising awareness for peaceful cohabitation for the consolidation of intra and inter-community dialogue.”

“We recommend that international partners and countries that are friends of the DRC communicate more about their vision of peace in the country, and that they become involved in strengthening the certification mechanisms for agricultural and mining products that circulate in the region,” they added.

“CENCO remains committed to accompanying the process of building peace and social cohesion,” the bishops indicated, expressing their commitment to working to consolidate fraternity between peoples and communities, so that enemies may reach out to one another and adversaries may agree to walk part of the way together.

Documentary says Benedict XVI’s secretary tried to convince him not to resign

Vatican City - February 27, 2013: Pope Benedict XVI stands to show his thanks after a standing ovation from the audience. @ Stephen Driscoll / CNA

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2021 / 15:29 pm (CNA).

A documentary being released on Benedict XVI’s 94th birthday states that his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, tried to dissuade him from abdicating the papacy.

“Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus”, directed by Andrés Garrigó, will be released April 16 by Goya Productions.

The film will focus on Benedict’s papacy, and his time as prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“At that time he had to deal with such crises as Liberation Theology in its Marxist version with its affinity to guerrilla warfare, and the cases of pedophilia that were beginning to surface then. Elected in 2005, Benedict is faced with two immense tasks:  defending Catholic doctrine from the 'dictatorship of relativism' on the outside and reforming the Church from within, starting with the confusing structure of Vatican finances,” the filmmaker stated.

The film discusses Achbishop Gänswein's attempt to dissuade the pope from abdicating, "to which the pope replied that he had prayed and there would be no going back ... as was the case," the producer said.

Among those interviewed for the documentary are Gerhard Cardinal Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Julián Cardinal Herranz Casado, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;  and Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, Archbishop Emeritus of Madrid; historians such as Bernard Ardura; Vaticanisti such as Aldo Maria Valli, Andrea Tornielli, and Andrea Monda; and friends of Benedict, such as Réal Tremblay and Gabriele Kuby.

Pro-life Democrats rally in support of Hyde Amendment

Members of Democrats for Life of America rally outside the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in August 2020 / Aaron of L.A. Photography/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

At a Friday event in support of the Hyde Amendment in Washington, D.C., members of the group Democrats for Life of America called on their party to oppose taxpayer-funded abortion. 

The Hyde Amendment, which was named for the late Republican congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions. Since it is not permanent law, it must be attached to individual appropriations bills to take effect. 

A growing number of Democrats have called for the repeal of the policy in recent years, including President Joe Biden, who as a 2020 presidential candidate reversed his previous support for the amendment. 

“I’ve been working through the finer details of my health care plan like others in this race, and I’ve been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents,” Biden said at a June 2019 campaign event.

Last month, the House passed a nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill without Hyde Amendment language; pro-life groups warned that billions of dollars in health care spending could be available for abortion providers and abortion coverage. 

Leading congressional Democrats pushed to repeal the policy in the appropriations process for the 2022 fiscal year.

The group Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) organized its “National Day of Action” in support of the Hyde Amendment for April 10, encouraging supporters to contact their members of Congress and ask them to preserve the Hyde Amendment. Events will take place in more than 20 cities, as well as virtually. 

At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Friday, pro-life Democrats rallied in support of the policy.

Terrisa Bukovinac, DFLA president and the founder and executive director of Pro-Life San Francisco, said the amendment is life-saving policy and efforts to end it are “despicable.”

“We will keep fighting for the values of equality, non-violence, and non-discrimination within our party,” Bukovinac said. “And we will continue to proclaim the truth: the Hyde Amendment saves lives.” 

Bukovinac said the Hyde Amendment also protects the consciences of “not only conservative people of faith, but liberal atheists like myself who do not want their hard earned money used to destroy human life.” 

Kristen Day, DFLA executive director, said the group’s efforts prove the Hyde Amendment is bipartisan. 

“The discussion shouldn’t be ‘should we fund abortion,’ it should be addressing underlying reasons why women choose abortion in the first place,” Day said, adding, “we would like to see more discussion and more support for women to choose life.” 

Toni McFadden, minority outreach and healthy relationships director for the group Students for Life, rebutted criticisms that the Hyde Amendment is racist. 

“As a Black woman, I adamantly disagree that the Hyde Amendment is rooted in racism,” McFadden said. “In fact, it is racial injustice to try and gut this lifesaving amendment.” 

The Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus leaders, and other members of the House and Senate sent a letter to Biden last month asking him to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, as well as other measures they called “harmful abortion access policies.” 

Earlier this week, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee sent a letter to committee chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) urging her to keep the Hyde Amendment intact in the appropriations process for the 2022 fiscal year.

London cardinal leads Catholics in mourning death of Prince Philip

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster led Catholics of England and Wales in mourning the death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.