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Archbishop Aquila urges Catholics to 're-acquire a biblical worldview' this Advent

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says a Mass of diaconal ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a pastoral note for Advent, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver urged Catholics to seek a way of seeing the world informed by the Bible and the story of salvation brought about by Christ’ death and resurrection. 

“God is inviting move beyond ideologies in order to ‘put on the mind of Christ and re-acquire a biblical worldview,” Aquila wrote in the letter

“This proclamation of what God has done in Christ, known in theological circles as the kerygma, is meant to do more than be an interesting re-telling of events that happened in the distant past...the first element needed for the renewal of the Church is not strategic planning, changes to structure or doctrine. The initial battle is for our minds and hearts; it is a question of worldview, a question of how we see,” Aquila continued.

From the feast of Christ the King through Christmas, the entire Archdiocese of Denver is “going on retreat together,” Aquila said, with the goal of  “systematically unpacking the story of salvation” through the homilies Catholics will hear each Sunday. 

“Even lifelong Catholics receive Communion, baptize children, get married, and go to Mass every Sunday without ever really coming to a deep awareness of the point of it all,” Aquila said, explaining why he chose to focus on the topic of salvation in particular. 

Aquila noted that “our Church no longer benefits from carrying out its life and mission in a Christendom culture...One which, while imperfect in its own ways, had an imaginative vision for reality that arose from and largely aligned with Christian beliefs.”

Instead, Christians today find themselves in a missionary context, “increasingly at odds with the broader society.”

Aquila noted that while all human beings will inevitably ask and attempt to answer life’s biggest questions, the Gospel message— the answer to all of life’s biggest questions— is not merely a result of human thinking, but rather comes from God. 

“Our earth-shattering profession is that God himself has provided answers to these questions that are rooted in our being. Revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, gives us the answer. These present not disconnected individual lives, but a story of salvation – the Father’s love for humanity,” Aquila wrote. 

“More than a confusing collection of disparate books, if you have eyes to see, you discover in the pages of the Bible a narrative, told by God to humanity, of why he made us, what happened to interrupt his plan and how he came to win his world back.”

The story of salvation, Aquila wrote, is about how God created the universe out of love, how humanity was captured by sin, how Christ came to rescue humanity, and how each and every person has been given a chance to offer their own response to Christ’s love. 

When Catholics see the world from a biblical perspective, “we come to consider the span of our lives as a brief but essential moment in a grand epic narrative, unfolding from long before we were born and continuing long after we go into eternity. We accept that no life is an accident; you and I have been chosen, intentionally, to play a definite part in this epic adventure.”

“We see clearly who God is: that he is Lord, and he is for us, so we can trust him. We recognize that everything he has done to rescue us means that we matter, he loves us more than we could have ever imagined. We understand that the mission and identity of the Church, in all she teaches and celebrates, are oriented to help God get his world back by rescuing his children from sin and death…to bring us home.

“We begin to see on both sides of the veil, to have an eye and a heart on eternity and to see our daily lives in light of the supernatural mysteries of our faith. Whatever difficulties life presents, we have the courage to hold fast to the truth that God is always on the move, he is not worried about the state of things, and he wins in the end.”

A temptation among many people today is to let a secular or ideological worldview inform one’s perspective of the Gospel or “what the Church should do,” adapting and changing the difficult teachings of Christ. 

“Jesus does not gain a single disciple by his followers watering down or adapting his Gospel on his behalf, in order to make it, and therefore him, seemingly more palatable,” Aquila said. 

“We have only to look at his teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6 as confirmation. Jesus told his followers the Eucharist was his body and blood and he let them walk away when it wasn’t something they could accept.”

Aquila concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism… is the fruit of an anxious…lack of trust,” (Evangelii Gaudium 85).

Catholic doctors thank Portugal's president for vetoing euthanasia bill

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock. / null

Lisbon, Portugal, Dec 3, 2021 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

The Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors on Tuesday thanked President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for vetoing the euthanasia bill passed by the Portuguese parliament in November, and reaffirmed that as healthcare providers "they cannot be agents of death."

The Portuguese parliament approved a first version of the euthanasia bill in early 2021. But in March Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the text as unconstitutional. The parliament approved a second version Nov. 5, which was then vetoed by the president Nov. 29.

The Catholic doctors thanked the president in a Nov. 30 statement, reaffirming that human life must be defended "in all circumstances" and stressed that "doctors cannot be agents of death."

“As Catholic doctors, we want to continue caring for all the sick, including those at the end of life, who are more fragile. We will continue to fight for them, to treat them and give meaning to every moment of their life, also giving meaning to the oath that we took as professionals and making visible the Christian faith that we share,” they said.

In vetoing the bill for the second time, Rebelo de Sousa asked the parliament to clarify "what appear to be contradictions in the law on one of the grounds for resorting to assisted death."

The new version of the bill “maintains in a regulation the requirement of a 'fatal disease'” to request euthanasia, but “extends it, in another regulation, to an  'incurable disease,' even if it’s not fatal, and in a 'serious illness.’"

The AMCP stated that the reasons indicated by the president, "namely, the lack of clarification of some expressions used," show "the inconsistency of a hastily reformulated text with the intention of getting it passed during a time when the government is very fragile."

The law was "reworked in 25 hours, to take advantage of a favorable makeup of the parliament which is coming to an end,” the doctors charged.

The Portuguese parliament passed the euthanasia law in its last session before being dissolved for failing to approve the 2022 state budget.

According to the association, since 2015, lawmakers “have deliberately not listened to the protests of civil society, the National Council on Ethics for the Life Sciences and other bioethics associations, joint statements of religious conferences and unanimous condemnations of the Physicians of the Order and other associations of healthcare professionals.” 

“Euthanasia has already been rejected by the Assembly of the Republic, vetoed by the Constitutional Court and now returned without being enacted by the President of the Republic. The facts speak for themselves: despite the insistence of its advocates, there is no good law on euthanasia. This veto marks the end of a legislative process, leaving a bad memory,” the federation said.

The civic movement Stop Euthanasia stated in a communiqué that the time has come for the political parties to make their legislative agenda for the parliamentary elections known to the Portuguese, especially in relation to the problem of euthanasia.

According to Stop Euthanasia, this makes it "very important for the Portuguese to vote."

In addition, the organization stated that it is “extremely urgent to coordinate with the NHS [National Health Service], invest in palliative care and promote better medical care that allows a truly dignified death for all the most fragile and vulnerable in Portuguese society."

"We are waiting for more humanizing policies that put the person at the center of decisions and the life of society," they concluded.

Benedictine nuns in Missouri honor Christ the King with new album

null / Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec 3, 2021 / 15:06 pm (CNA).

After the harrowing experience of shootings at their abbey in rural Missouri, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles resolved to record an album for Christ the King in thanksgiving for His protection and governance.

“We were talking about a CD dedicated to Christ the King last year, realizing it was a feast we had not yet covered in our recording history. It seems a tumultuous time on so many levels, we thought that focus on Christ as our true leader and Prince of Peace was apt for these days. This was drilled home especially after some unfortunate incidents at the Abbey,” Mother Cecilia, abbess of the community, told CNA.

“In March, we had a series of three shootings at the Abbey, and one of the bullets entered my room, five feet from my bed. The incidents really lit a fire under us to get going on the CD we had discussed, since we realized the power of the protection of Christ and His angels over our Abbey. So the CD is also an act of gratitude to Christ our King and to all the many people who have shown their love and concern for us.”

The generosity of the abbey's benefactors has allowed the closing of the road alongside the property, “and a wall in front of our property was installed for our protection,” Mother Cecilia explained.

“We see in it a symbol of the spiritual protection Christ our King is always giving us, and it was appropriate to hail Him as the 'inexpugnable wall' in the ancient chant of Christ the King, the Laudes Regiae, sung at Charlemagne’s coronation over 1220 years ago.”

Christ the King at Ephesus is the latest offering from the chart-topping community of nuns, who have also released seasonal albums for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter; and in honor of saints and the Eucharist.

The album includes 20 songs, from well-known works such as “the traditional and melodic Christus Vincit, as well as To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King,” to pieces which have significance to the abbey, such as Catherine Maguire’s King of Kings, which Mother Cecilia noted “was sung at the high school graduation of a priest friend of the community.”

“We could not leave off The King of Love My Shepherd Is, nor Palestrina's Jesu Rex Admirabilis, familiar to many through its inclusion in The Sound of Music,” the abbess said.

“Byrd’s Non Nobis was always the starting piece for the Burke family singers. It was the father’s idea, in order to keep the kids humble! Vexilla Christus Inclyta was written for the Office of Christ the King by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi, and it was released by Pius XI the day after his publication of Quas Primas, extending the feast of Christ the King as a universal feast.”

Also included is St. Robert Southwell's The Bonnie Prince. The Jesuit priest and poet's work is set to the music of Auld Lang Syne.

Christ the King at Ephesus is the first album that the nuns have recorded in their new abbey church, which they have now been using for three years.

“We finally got to [record] in this edifice that is not only beautiful, but offers amazing acoustics, which was a real boon for the process - which has been a whirlwind!” Mother Cecilia related.

The album was recorded over two days in September, and was released the following month.

The recording and sound engineering was done by William Crain of BRC Audio in Kansas City, the abbess said. “We did the editing and production, and Will brought it all together along with the mastering.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the ancient use of the Roman rite, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Since the abbey's last album release, its church has been built, as has a guest house for families and those wishing to make a silent retreat. The community's foundress, Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, “went to her heavenly reward at 95 years old,” Mother Cecilia added. The abbess said Sr. Wilhelmina's “life and the amazing circumstances of her death” were both “a grace beyond our imaginings.”

The community has been blessed with abundant vocations in recent years, Mother Cecilia said.

A group of eight sisters was sent to found a daughter house in southern Missouri, and “We now number 55 Sisters between the two houses, and young women continue to knock on our door,” she related.

The sisters at the daughter house “are living in a temporary residence, and one which does not lend itself to growth. So the construction of this monastery is imperative, as we have no more room here at the abbey either. We certainly do not want to turn away young women who are called to this life on account of no space!”

These Christian migrants prayed for a better future. Now Pope Francis is making it possible

Grace and Daniel have been stuck in Cyprus' buffer zone for more than six months after they fled Cameroon. / Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As a sign of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, the Vatican announced Friday that it is helping to arrange the transfer of about 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy.

Among the migrants that Pope Francis is helping to bring to Italy are Grace, 24, and Daniel, 20, Christians who fled Cameroon after schools were shut down due to the Anglophone Crisis, provoked by tensions between the English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority.

The two migrants met after paying the same smuggler to help them cross from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus to the Greek-speaking south, where they hoped to find asylum in the European Union.

“We were misled,” Grace said. The smuggler told them where to cross over the 16-foot-high wall that divides the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, but they were promptly taken into custody by the United Nations forces stationed in the demilitarized buffer zone.

“The most scary moment in my life so far,” said Grace, who injured her leg after jumping from the wall.

Since crossing over the wall last May, Grace and Daniel have been stuck in the buffer zone that divides Cyprus, which is also called “no man’s land,” living in a tent for more than six months.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

In an interview with EWTN News ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Cyprus, Grace said that faith in God helped to give her strength in the difficult times in Cyprus. She hopes for a better future in which she can find work.

Daniel, a Catholic, said that he would like to be able to continue his studies once he receives asylum in Europe.

“That’s what is keeping us strong because, like our faith, we believe that in any circumstances that you find yourself, never give up in life, so that saying has been keeping us strong and I believe God can do something,” Grace said.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, told EWTN that the numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus “have been really dramatic.”

“Cyprus right now receives more asylum seekers per capita than anywhere in Europe,” Kassinis said.

“It is a frontline state … all of the local systems are overwhelmed,” she added.

Recently, Kassinis has noted the arrival of people from Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, in addition to the flow of migrants from Syria and African countries.

The Caritas Cyprus migrant services center in Nicosia receives about 300 people requesting assistance each day.

“Most of the numbers that we're getting now are people who've just arrived,” she said.

Pope Francis is currently in Cyprus, where he met on Dec. 3 with a group of migrants, who shared their stories with the pope in an ecumenical prayer service in Nicosia.

“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage … but at the same time … in the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to hope, to greater human companionship,” Pope Francis said.

Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI had three COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘out of conviction’

Archbishop Georg Gänswein in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 25, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that both he and Benedict XVI have received three COVID-19 vaccine doses “out of conviction.”

The pope emeritus’ private secretary made the remark in a nine-page interview in the December edition of the German publication Vatican-magazin.

The Vatican began administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in January and confirmed in February that the pope emeritus had received the second dose of the vaccine. It began to administer the third dose in October.

Gänswein was asked about Catholic opposition to coronavirus vaccines, some of which were produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses.

His interviewer said that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the United States, had criticized the Vatican for promoting a vaccination campaign.

Gänswein said that he could not understand the criticisms.

“One cannot raise the question of vaccination to the level of faith. Nor can one speak of Pope Francis having launched a media campaign for vaccination. But he did call for it and also had himself vaccinated at an early stage. That is correct,” the 65-year-old archbishop said.

“By the way, Pope Benedict and I have already been vaccinated for the third time. And we did so out of conviction.”

Pope Francis recorded a public service announcement supporting vaccination that was released in August in collaboration with the Ad Council.

Gänswein acknowledged that “every vaccination has advantages and disadvantages.” But he recalled that Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, became seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 and afterward cautioned “against any form of ideological crusade against vaccination.”

“One must not force anyone to vaccinate, that is quite clear. But one should appeal to the conscience,” Gänswein commented.

Asked if Benedict XVI saw the issue the same way, he answered in the affirmative, saying: “Otherwise he would not have had himself vaccinated three times.”

But Gänswein, who is from the Black Forest region of Germany, also criticized the Church’s response to the virus in his homeland.

“As far as Germany is concerned, I have never understood why Church authorities have sometimes even exceeded state guidelines and have been so excessively loyal to the state during the crisis,” he said.

“I understand the concern for safety and security. But when the welfare of the body is placed above the salvation of the soul, and that was not just my impression, then something is awry.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the archbishop described Benedict XVI as “stable in his physical frailty and, thank God, crystal clear in his head.”

“But it is also understandable that at 94 and after the death of his brother, which took its toll on him, his physical strength continued to decline. It is similar with his voice. The best medicine for him is humor and a steady daily rhythm,” the archbishop said.

Gänswein became personal secretary to the future Pope Benedict XVI in 2003.

He was appointed prefect of the Papal Household in 2012, continuing in the role after the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis a year later.

But he was placed on leave from his duties as prefect in 2020 to be able to dedicate his time exclusively to the former pope.

He said that the decision had troubled him, but he had been able to discuss it with Pope Francis.

“The good thing is that you can talk to him openly and directly,” he said.

Pope Francis in Cyprus: We encounter Jesus in the faces of migrants

Pope Francis takes part in an ecumenical prayer with migrants at the Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spent time in prayer Friday with migrants on the island of Cyprus, which currently receives more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in the European Union.

As the pope met with the migrants, the Vatican announced Dec. 3 that it had helped to arrange the transfer of 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy via an agreement between the Vatican Secretary of State with the Cypriot and Italian authorities.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope was welcomed to the Church of the Holy Cross in the divided capital of Nicosia by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“Cyprus, first among the islands of the Mediterranean, experiences the tragedy of thousands of migrants, fleeing war and misery and who stop here, with no way out, with no clear prospects for their future,” Pizzaballa said.

“It was right and proper, before ending your pilgrimage, to turn your gaze also to that painful and difficult reality that exists on this island, in which the dramas that the Mediterranean experiences every day are symbolically presented,” he added.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Four migrants, from Iraq, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shared their testimonies with the pope.

In his testimony, Rozh Najeeb from Iraq said: “I am someone who is on a journey. I have had to run away from violence, bombs, knives, hunger, and pain. I have been forced along dusty roads, pushed into trucks, hidden in the trunks of cars, thrown into leaking boats — deceived, exploited, forgotten, denied. I was forced on my journey.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Yet my journey has also been towards something. I journey every day, anxious to reach a new destination. A place of safety and health, a place that affords liberties and choices, a place where I can give and receive love, a place where I can practice my faith and my customs proudly, sharing them with others, a place where I can dare to hope,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Thamara da Silva from Sri Lanka said that each time she has to fill out migration paperwork, she must reduce her identity into “a check mark next to a box on a form.”

“I have to use a word or two to explain myself to one of the few who might choose to ask or to acknowledge that I am even here. What do I say? Usually, I must choose ‘xenos,’ foreigner, victim, asylum seeker, refugee, migrant, other, but what I want to scream is ‘person,’ sister, friend, believer, neighbor,” she said.

Pope Francis thanked the young people for sharing their testimonies, which he said were “like a mirror held up to us, to our Christian communities.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage,” Pope Francis said.

“But at the same time — as you said — the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to a hope, to greater human companionship.”

Pope Francis said that he feels that it is his responsibility to help people open their eyes to the sufferings of migrants who are held in camps.

"Looking at you, I think of so many who had to go back because they were rejected and ended up in the camps, real camps, where women are sold, men tortured, enslaved," the pope said.

"We complain when we read the stories of the camps of the last century, those of the Nazis, those of Stalin. We complain when we see this and say, 'but how did this happen?' Brothers and sisters, it is happening today, on nearby shores. ... I've watched some filmed accounts of this: places of torture, of selling people."

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The live-streamed ecumenical prayer with migrants was Pope Francis’ last public event in Cyprus before he heads to Greece on Saturday morning.

Over the weekend, the pope will meet Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II in Athens and visit refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis said that he had the image of barbed wire in his heart after seeing how it divides Nicosia amid the “war of hatred that the country experiences.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Barbed wires in other areas are in place to not let refugees in. The one who comes to ask for freedom, bread, help, brotherhood, joy, who is fleeing from hatred, finds before him a hatred called barbed wire,” the pope said.

“May the Lord awaken the conscience of all of us before these things. And excuse me if I have said things … but we cannot remain silent.”

Apostolic nuncio to EU dies after contracting COVID-19

Pope Francis meets Msgr. Aldo Giordano, apostolic nuncio to the European Union, on June 17, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Leuven, Belgium, Dec 3, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Archbishop Aldo Giordano, the apostolic nuncio to the European Union, died Thursday at the age of 67 after he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich paid tribute to the archbishop, who died on Dec. 2 in Leuven, Belgium.

“In the few months since his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, Mgsr. Giordano left a lasting mark on all of us,” said the cardinal, who is president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE).

“Motivated by his great desire to contribute to the European project from a Catholic perspective, since his arrival in Brussels he dedicated every moment to develop human and diplomatic ties.”

Giordano served as general secretary of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) from 1995 to 2008 and as permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2013.

Pope Francis appointed him apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 2013, replacing the future Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was recalled to Rome to serve as Vatican Secretary of State.

The pope named Giordano apostolic nuncio to the EU, a political and economic bloc of 27 member states, in May this year.

COMECE general secretary Father Manuel Barrios Prieto said: “It was a real blessing to meet him and to share with him beautiful moments of coexistence and fraternity, together with the bishops of COMECE.”

Giordano’s funeral will take place at the cathedral in Cuneo, a city in northern Italy where he was born in 1954. The date of the funeral has not yet been announced.

Interrogation tapes in Vatican finance trial leaked to media

A hearing in the Vatican finance trial on Nov. 17, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2021 / 07:20 am (CNA).

Videotapes of interrogations with a key witness in the ongoing Vatican finance trial have been leaked to an Italian newspaper.

Corriere della Sera reported in a Dec. 3 article billed as an “exclusive” that journalists at the Italian newspaper had viewed the video footage of interviews between Vatican prosecutors and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a former official at the Secretariat of State, who was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations but has not been charged after volunteering information to investigators during extensive questioning in 2020 and 2021.

The Perlasca tapes have been at the center of arguments at recent hearings in the trial to prosecute alleged crimes committed against the Secretariat of State surrounding its purchase of a 350 million euro ($404 million) investment property in London.

Prosecutors allege that the investment went sour because people in and around the Secretariat of State conspired to defraud the Vatican of hundreds of thousands of euros.

The newspaper has published on its website over 14 minutes of excerpts of the videos of Perlasca’s depositions, in which he indicates that Pope Francis authorized the Secretariat of State to negotiate with businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London deal and is one of the trial’s defendants.

Perlasca can be seen sitting behind a table in front of a wall of guns. He claims that he was “distanced” from the London deal by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, because “everyone knew I was for the reporting of those men.”

Asked why he was distanced from the deal, Perlasca can be seen pointing upward, while he says, “because the indication from above was to deal… to deal…” Another voice can be heard interjecting, “The indication [was] from the Holy Father?” To which Perlasca replies, “Sure, sure.”

Eighteen lawyers for the defense signed a joint statement Dec. 3 condemning the publication of the video recordings for creating a “parallel trial ... in defiance of the law.”

“According to the rules of the Vatican jurisdiction, the documents formed ‘in the proceedings’ (or in the investigations) cannot be published even in part until they have been read at the trial,” the statement said, noting that the leaked video recordings have not come out yet in trial hearings.

“Therefore, this disclosure appears illegitimate and we hope that those responsible for it will be identified,” the attorneys said. “We believe that the right of defense must be respected and implemented with every possible attention.”

Perlasca's statements about Pope Francis had also been made public via transcripts in a note from defendant Enrico Crasso’s lawyer to the court in a hearing on Nov. 17. The lawyer used the statement to raise questions about Pope Francis’ involvement in the deal at the center of the trial, arguing that if the pope was questioned regarding the London investment, his testimony should be considered part of the evidence.

For the defense attorney, it indicated another reason why the tribunal should nullify one of the indictments against his client.

Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone said at the Nov. 17 hearing that he would rule at the next audience, now postponed to Dec. 14, on the defense’s new request to dismiss the trial on procedural grounds.

At a previous hearing, Pignatone decided to throw out several of the indictments against a number of the original 10 defendants on procedural grounds.

While the prosecutor’s office — called the Promoter of Justice — decides whether to re-do the investigations and again present the dismissed indictments, the trial proceeds with six defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.

At the most recent hearing on Nov. 17, defense lawyers complained that parts had been edited out of the video recordings of Perlasca’s interviews, after the prosecution had finally handed copies over to the attorneys after an order by court president Pignatone.

This story was updated at 9:53 MST with the lawyers' statement.

Pope Francis to Catholics in Cyprus: ‘Jesus alone frees the heart from evil’

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec 3, 2021 / 04:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that “Jesus alone frees the heart from evil” as he celebrated Mass in the divided capital city of Cyprus.

Preaching at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Dec. 3, the pope described Christ as a “physician” eager to bring healing to the human heart.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Jesus is the physician: he alone is the true light that illuminates every man and woman, the one who gives us an abundance of light, warmth, and love. Jesus alone frees the heart from evil,” he said at the live-streamed Mass.

The pope was offering Mass on the second day of his visit to Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1.2 million people.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

The country is predominantly Orthodox Christian, with a Catholic minority of around 10,000 people — the estimated attendance figure at the Mass, according to the Holy See press office.

The booklet for the Mass, celebrated on the feast of St. Francis Xavier in the largest stadium in Cyprus, included Latin, English, Greek, and Italian.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope based his homily on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 9:27-31, in which Jesus heals two blind men who call out to him.

He reflected on three facets of the encounter: first, that the men went to Jesus for healing; second, that they shared their pain; and third, that they joyfully proclaimed the Good News.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Like those two blind men, we are often like wayfarers, immersed in the darkness of life,” he said.

“The first thing to do in response is go to Jesus, just as he tells us: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Is there any one of us who is not, in some way, tired or heavy laden? Everyone. Yet, we resist coming to Jesus. Often we would rather remain closed in on ourselves, alone in our darkness, feeling sorry for ourselves and content to have sadness as our companion.”

The pope urged Catholics instead to follow Jesus, telling him their needs, and handing over their bitterness to him.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass at the same altar that Benedict XVI used during his trip to Cyprus in 2010, when he became the first pope to visit the island.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis was flanked by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the leader of the Maronite Church, one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. The cardinal had welcomed the pope to the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia on the first day of his visit.

Pope Francis greets Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greets Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem. Vatican Media.

Also at the pope’s side in the home stadium of the Cyprus national soccer team was the Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem, who oversees the pastoral care of Latin Catholics in Cyprus.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

The pope, who turns 85 on Dec. 17, said that Catholics had much to learn from the way that the two blind men shared their suffering with Jesus, asking him to have mercy on them.

“Each of us is blind in some way as a result of sin, which prevents us from ‘seeing’ God as our Father and one another as brothers and sisters. For that is what sin does; it distorts reality: it makes us see God as a tyrant and each other as problems,” the pope reflected.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

“It is the work of the tempter, who distorts things, putting them in a negative light, to make us fall into despair and bitterness. And a terrible sadness, which is dangerous and not from God, lurks well in solitude. So, one must not face the darkness alone. If we bear our inner blindness alone, we can become overwhelmed.”

He said that healing occurs when Christians carry their pain together, listening deeply to one another.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope noted that the two blind men began to share the news of their healing, despite Jesus’ request that they tell no one.

“From what we are told, it is clear that their intention was not to disobey the Lord; they were simply unable to contain their excitement at their healing and the joy of their encounter with Jesus,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, he continued: “This is another distinctive sign of the Christian: the irrepressible joy of the Gospel, which ‘fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.’ The joy of the Gospel frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy, and querulous faith, and leads us into the dynamism of witness.”

He thanked Catholics in Cyprus for their witness to the Gospel.

“It is not proselytism — please, never proselytize — but witness; not a moralism that judges — no, don’t do that — but a mercy that embraces; not superficial piety but love lived out. I encourage you to keep advancing on this path,” he said.

Andrea Gagliarducci.
Andrea Gagliarducci.

Concluding his homily, he said: “Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus is passing, passing also through the streets of Cyprus, hearing the cries of our blindness.”

“He wants to touch our eyes and hearts and to lead us to the light, to rebirth and raise us up within. He asks us the same question that he asked the two blind men: ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ (Matthew 9:28).”

“Do we believe that Jesus can do this? Let us renew our faith in him. Let us say to him: Jesus, we believe that your light is greater than our darkness; we believe that you can heal us, that you can renew our fellowship, that you can increase our joy. With the entire Church, let us pray, all together: Come, Lord Jesus!”

Pope Francis to Orthodox bishops in Cyprus: Let us seek full unity

Pope Francis addresses Orthodox bishops in the Orthodox Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 01:15 am (CNA).

In a meeting with Orthodox bishops in Cyprus on Friday, Pope Francis expressed the desire that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church will continue to journey toward full unity.

The live-streamed meeting with members of the Holy Synod took place on the second day of Francis’ Dec. 2-6 trip to the Mediterranean island countries of Cyprus and Greece.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Holy Synod is the highest authority of the Church of Cyprus, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church.

“The grace of being here reminds me that we have a common apostolic origin: Paul traversed Cyprus and went on to Rome,” Pope Francis said Dec. 3. “We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us, that of the Gospel. I like to see us advancing on that same path, seeking ever greater fraternity and full unity.”

The meeting with Orthodox bishops followed a private meeting between Francis and Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, at his residence early Friday morning.

Pope Francis said in his speech that he had been touched by the way that Chrysostomos II had spoken about the Church as a mother.

Chrysostomos II represented the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the opening Mass of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Benedict XVI and Chrysostomos II met another two times at the Vatican and during Benedict’s own trip to Cyprus in 2010 — the first papal visit to the island.

Pope Francis kisses the pectoral cross of Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis kisses the pectoral cross of Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus. Vatican Media.

Pope Francis thanked the bishops for their active participation in the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

He reflected on the example of St. Barnabas, an apostle who came from Cyprus and helped St. Paul to spread the Gospel among pagans.

“Barnabas, son of consolation, exhorts us, his brethren, to undertake the same mission of bringing the Gospel to humanity; he asks us to realize that the message cannot be based only on generic exhortations, the inculcation of precepts and rules to be followed, as often has been the case,” the pope said.

“Rather, it must follow the path of personal encounter, be attentive to people’s questions, to their existential needs.”

“Because the Gospel is not handed on by communication, but by communion,” Francis emphasized. “It is this that we Catholics want to experience in the next few years, as we rediscover the synodal dimension, which is essential to being Church.”

“In this, we feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis met the Holy Synod in the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian, the Orthodox cathedral of the Church of Cyprus in Nicosia, the country’s divided capital city. The cathedral was built in the 14th century and the interior features frescoes depicting scenes from Scripture.

“It is my heartfelt hope that there will be increased opportunities for encounter, for coming to know one another better, for eliminating preconceptions and for listening with docility to our respective experiences of faith,” the pope said in his speech.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He also spoke about the importance of keeping what is sacred, but not “absolutizing” certain customs and habits “that do not require uniformity and assent on the part of all.”

“Let us not become paralyzed by fear of openness or bold gestures, or give in to talk of ‘irreconcilable differences’ that in fact have nothing to do with the Gospel. Let us not permit the ‘traditions,’ in the plural and with a small ‘t,’ to prevail over ‘Tradition’ in the singular and with a capital ‘T,’” he said.

“That Tradition bids us imitate Barnabas and leave behind everything, however good, that could compromise the fullness of communion, the primacy of charity, and the need for unity.”

Pope Francis said that St. Barnabas laid all he had at the feet of the Apostles, and “we too are asked by the Lord to realize that we are members of the same body and to bow down, even to the feet of our brethren.”

He noted the deep divide that exists between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but said that “the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another.”

“[The Holy Spirit] invites us not to grow resigned to our past divisions and to cultivate together the field of the kingdom with patience, perseverance, and concrete gestures,” he said. “For if we set aside abstract concepts and cooperate, for example in works of charity, education and the promotion of human dignity, we will rediscover our fraternity, and communion will mature by itself, to the praise of God.”

Francis said that Cyprus’ Church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa, “Our Lady of the Golden City,” is a concrete example of fraternity, since it serves as a place of worship for all of the Christian confessions in the country.

“It is thus a sign of communion in faith and life under the gaze of the Mother of God who gathers her children together,” he said.

“Each will maintain his own customs and identity, but in time, our joint efforts will increase concord and bear fruit,” the pope continued. “Just as these beautiful Mediterranean lands are embellished by respectful and patient human labor, so too, with God’s help and humble perseverance, may we cultivate our apostolic communion.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis landed on Dec. 2 in Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip that will also take him to Athens, Greece, and the island of Lesbos. The visit is expected to highlight the plight of migrants, since both countries have been major stopping points for people seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

The predominantly Orthodox Christian Republic of Cyprus has a population of 1.2 million people, just 10,000 of whom are Catholic.

The island is split by a U.N. buffer zone, with the de facto state of Northern Cyprus located on the northeastern portion of the island. The predominantly Sunni Muslim territory is recognized only by neighboring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is regarded by all other states as part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus and Greece are significant in early Christian history, because the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas traveled to the Mediterranean countries to bring the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.

“Dear brethren, I wish to assure you of my own prayer and closeness, and that of the Catholic Church, in the most troubling problems that beset you and in the best and boldest hopes that spur you on,” Pope Francis told the Orthodox bishops. “Your sorrows and your joys are also ours; we sense them as our own. At the same time, we feel great need of your prayers.”