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Vatican City, Dec 1, 2020 / 05:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed Bishop Michael Fisher, an auxiliary of Washington, to be the next bishop of the scandal-ridden Diocese of Buffalo, New York.

Fisher, 62, will take over leadership of Buffalo as the diocese faces a new lawsuit from the State of New York for failing to protect children from clergy sex abuse.

The diocese also filed for bankruptcy in February of this year, after it was named in hundreds of clerical abuse lawsuits filed in New York courts.

Fisher will be the 15th bishop of the western New York diocese, following Bishop Richard Malone, who resigned amid controversy in December 2019.

In September 2019, Bishop Malone’s former secretary leaked audio of conversations where Malone appeared to acknowledge the legitimacy of sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the priest was removed from active ministry.

A month later, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of Malone’s diocese, which has been embroiled in scandal since November 2018, when Malone’s former assistant leaked records reportedly showing that the diocese worked with lawyers to conceal credible abuse allegations from the public.

While the diocese had reported the names of some priests credibly accused of abuse, it had not reported others, the records appeared to show. Bishop Malone denied claims that he had covered up abuse.

Six months later, Malone apologized for his handling of the case of Fr. Art Smith, a diocesan priest who faced repeated accusations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

Last week, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in the state’s supreme court against the Diocese of Buffalo. Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were also named in the lawsuit.

The state alleges that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse. The state also claims that diocesan leadership did not “refer unassignable priests to the Vatican,” monitor priests with credible accusations, or take necessary action against diocesan priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. It argued that, under state laws governing non-profits, the diocese did not act in “good faith” by failing to follow its own procedures on clergy sex abuse.

Fisher will be installed as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo on Jan. 15, 2021, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

In a press release from the Diocese of Buffalo Dec. 1, Fisher said “though the challenges that currently confront the Diocese of Buffalo are many and significant, they are not equal to the resolve of so many committed lay women and men, devoted priests, deacons and religious across Western New York, who are no less determined to reveal God’s transformative love that has the power to bind every wound, renew and make us whole.”

Bishop Fisher is the oldest of five children and a native of Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in business administration and accounting at the University of Maryland, he worked as a comptroller for a psychiatric practice.

He discerned a vocation to the priesthood and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990.

In 2006, Fisher was appointed vicar for clergy and secretary for ministerial leadership, with responsibility for vocations, formation and care of the clergy for the archdiocese. 

Pope Francis named him auxiliary bishop of Washington in June 2018. 

Over nearly 30 years of priesthood, Fisher served in several parishes and in leadership of different archdiocesan ministries, including on education, social justice, parish life, and youth.

He has also served on the archdiocese’s administrative board, clergy personnel board, priest council, and priest retirement board, and, according to the press release, his ministry “has involved the continuing education of priests, particularly in aiding new pastors in their roles and the planning and implementation of ongoing clergy training via convocations and retreats.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington described Fisher as “an exceptionally compassionate and skilled servant of the Church.”

“His distinguished history as pastor, Vicar for Priests, and member of our Pastoral Administration have prepared him well for his new responsibilities in that diocese. While we will miss his deft pastoral talents, they will be warmly welcomed by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo,” Gregory said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Catholics are called to be God’s people, not God’s elite, Pope Francis said in a video message Monday.

In the message to a virtual meeting of judges, released Nov. 30, the pope said that those who truly sought social justice did not regard themselves as “an enlightened elite,” but rather as a people dedicated to “the work of including, integrating and raising the fallen.”

He said: “And, from the Gospel, what God asks of us believers is to be God’s people, not God’s elite. Because those who go the way of ‘God’s elite’ end up in the so well-known elitist clericalisms that, out there, work for the people, but nothing with the people, without feeling like a people.”

The pope was addressing judges belonging to the recently formed Committee for Social Rights of Africa and America. The judges -- from 18 countries including the United States -- were meeting online for a two-day event entitled “Building the new social justice.” 

The Committee brings together two groups under the aegis of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, formally established on June 4, 2019, and the Pan-African Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine. 

The Committee draws on the magisterium of Pope Francis to promote the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In his address, the pope identified six principles which he said should guide efforts to promote social justice. 

The first, he said, was to remain connected to the reality that “a small part of humanity lives in opulence, while an ever increasing number are denied dignity and their most basic rights are ignored or violated.”

The second was to remember that justice is “a collective work” and the third was to display “an attitude of commitment, following the path of the Good Samaritan.”

The fourth was the importance of remembering and drawing on the past, and the fifth was the centrality of “the people.”

The sixth and final “basis” for social justice was solidarity in the fight against the causes of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The pope said: “Let us build the new social justice by assuming that the Christian tradition never recognized as absolute and untouchable the right to private property and always stressed the social function of any of its forms.”

“The right to property is a secondary natural right derived from the right that everyone has, born from the universal destination of created goods. There is no social justice that can be cemented in inequality, which is the concentration of wealth.”

Pope Francis sent a second, shorter video message to judges gathered for the event. He recalled his words when he met them at the Casina Pio IV, the Vatican headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in June 2019. On that occasion, he compared the judges to poets. 

In his Nov. 30 message, he said: “The poet needs to contemplate, think, understand the music of reality and translate it into words. In each decision, in each sentence, you are faced with the happy possibility of writing poetry: a poetry that heals the wounds of the poor, that integrates the planet, that protects Mother Earth and all her descendants. A poetry that repairs, redeems, nurtures.”

He added: “And, please, always remember that when justice is really just, that justice makes countries happy and their people worthy. No sentence can be just, nor any law legitimate, if what they produce is more inequality, if what they produce is more loss of rights, indignity or violence.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of “criminality” involved in recent Vatican financial scandals.

Speaking in an interview with Associated Press Monday, the cardinal, who led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2017, said that he regretted that his efforts to bring tough mechanisms for financial transparency and accountability had been vindicated by the details of recent scandals.

Pell told AP that he knew, from the time Pope Francis put him in charge of a key part of his curial reform agenda, that the Vatican finances were “a bit of a mess.”

But, the cardinal said, he “never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved.”

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Pell said.

Until 2017, Pell led an effort called for by Pope Francis to bring order and accountability to the Vatican’s finances, which have long lacked centralized procedures, controls, or oversight, claiming at one point to have discovered hundreds of millions of euros being kept “off books” from the ordinary Vatican accounts.

Pell’s reforming efforts met with institutional resistance from some curial officials and departments, most notably Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who at the time of Pell’s tenure at the Secretariat for the Economy, was sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

CNA has also reported that Pell and Becciu clashed repeatedly over financial affairs, including the use of Swiss banks to provide financing for different investments allegedly obscured from Vatican balance sheets, including the controversial purchase of a London building.

Since at least 2018, Vatican criminal investigators have been reviewing a web of investments and transactions at the Secretariat of State involving a network of businessmen and curial officials linked to investments related to the London property deal.

So far, one of brokers of the deal has been arrested, and several Vatican officials have had their offices and homes raided.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals, and has denied subsequent media reports that he used Church funds to benefit family members, or that he had attempted to influence the outcome of a sex abuse trial against Cardinal Pell in Australia, which resulted in Pell taking a leave of absence from his curial post in 2017.

Speaking to AP on Monday, Pell said of the allegations against Becciu that “I hope for the sake of the Church, there’s nothing in it.”

“In fact — I say that quite sincerely — because some Australian people, my own family, said to me: ’Well, if the Mafia is going after you or somebody else is going after you, that’s one thing. It’s a little bit worse if it comes from within the Church.”

“But I think we will find out, whether there is or there isn’t,” said Pell. “Certainly, the party’s not over.”

An October AP report said the allegations against Becciu “appeared more an effort to discredit Becciu and distract attention from the shortcomings of the Vatican prosecutors' primary investigation into a London real estate venture.”

Last week, police found hundreds of thousands of euros in cash hidden in two homes of Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State until his suspension, together with four other employees, last year. CNA has previously reported his links to the London deal, including to the broker arrested for allegedly extorting the Vatican.

On Monday, Pell told AP that the rolling series of financial scandals appeared to show criminal behavior, but that a full Vatican trial could eventually establish the whole truth. “It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said.

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” said Pell. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that his original reforming agenda was necessary.

Pell said his efforts had been “sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal began Friday a pilgrimage to parishes throughout Italy, marking the 190th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine Labouré in France.

After Mass at the regional seminary Collegio Leoniano in Rome, the statue was carried in procession to the nearby Church of San Gioacchino in Prati on the evening of Nov. 27.



Throughout December, the statue will go from parish to parish in Rome, stopping at 15 different churches.

Afterward, if coronavirus restrictions permit, it will be brought to parishes throughout Italy, ending on Nov. 22, 2021, on the island of Sardinia.

One of the stops on the route will be the Church of St. Anne, which sits just inside the Vatican walls.

The traveling statue is an evangelization initiative by the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission. It said in a statement that the year-long Marian pilgrimage would help to proclaim the merciful love of God at a time “marked by strong tensions on every continent.” 



Pope Francis blessed the statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal in a meeting with a delegation of Vincentians Nov. 11.

“The members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, faithful to the Word of God, inspired by the charism which calls them to serve God in the person of the poor and encouraged by this initiative of the Blessed Mother to go on pilgrimage, want to remind us that the Blessed Mother continues to invite men and women to approach the foot of the altar,” the Vincentians’ statement said.



The Vincentians were originally founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 to preach missions to the poor. Today Vincentians regularly say Mass and hear confessions at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in the heart of Paris.

St. Catherine Labouré was a novice with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul when she received three apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, a vision of Christ present in the Eucharist, and a mystical encounter in which St. Vincent de Paul showed her his heart.

This year marks the 190th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine. 

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine in 1830. The Virgin Mary appeared to her as the Immaculate Conception, standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands and crushing a serpent underfoot.

“A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck,’” the saint recalled.



In their statement, the Vincentians noted that the world is “deeply troubled” and poverty is spreading due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“After 190 years, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal continues to watch over humankind and comes, as a pilgrim, to visit and meet with the members of the Christian communities spread throughout Italy. Thus, Mary fulfills the promise of love that is contained in her message: I will remain with you, trust and do not be discouraged,” they said.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will not visit Rome’s Piazza di Spagna this year for the traditional veneration of Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception due to the pandemic.

Instead, Francis will mark the feast day with “an act of private devotion, entrusting the city of Rome, its inhabitants and the many sick people in every part of the world to Our Lady,” Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni said.

It will be the first time since 1953 that the pope has not offered the traditional veneration of the statue of the Immaculate Conception on the Dec. 8 feast. Bruni said that Francis would not go to the square in order to avoid people gathering and transmitting the virus. 

The statue of the Immaculate Conception, next to Piazza di Spagna, sits atop a nearly 40-foot high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, three years after Pope Pius IX promulgated a decree defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. 

Since 1953, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day, in honor of the city of Rome. Pope Pius XII was the first to do so, walking nearly two miles on foot from the Vatican.

Rome’s firefighters are usually in attendance at the prayer, in honor of their role at the 1857 inauguration of the statue. The mayor of Rome and other officials also attend.

In past years, Pope Francis left floral wreaths for the Virgin Mary, one of which was placed on the outstretched arm of the statue by firefighters. The pope also offered an original prayer for the feast day.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a national holiday in Italy and crowds usually gather at the square to witness the veneration.

As is customary for Marian solemnities, Pope Francis will still lead the Angelus prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Vatican’s papal Christmas liturgies will take place this year without the presence of the public.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020





 

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