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Venerable Stefan Wyszynski to be beatified in June

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 22, 2019 / 11:22 am (CNA).- Venerable Stefan Wyszyński, Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw from 1948 to 1981, will be beatified in Warsaw June 7, 2020, the city's archbishop announced Monday.

“We have to put the main emphasis on his spirituality, because we know a lot more about Cardinal Wyszyński as a statesman and someone who defended man, the Church, and his homeland,” Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw said Oct. 21.

The beatification will take place in Warsaw’s Piłsudski Square.

“Cardinal Wyszyński was the rock around which Polish Catholicism rallied during the worst periods of communist oppression,” George Weigel told CNA Oct. 22.

Wyszyński “also designed the ‘Great Novena,’ the re-catechesis of the entire country between 1957 and 1966, which laid the religious and moral foundations on which the Solidarity movement was later built,” he said.

Wyszyński was instrumental in the appointment of Karol Wojtyla as Archbishop of Krakow in 1964.

“Wyszyński and Wojtyla had different visions of the Church – Wojtyla was much more the man of Vatican II – but as Archbishop of Kracow Wojtyla was completely loyal to Wyszyński, never letting the communists play divide-and-conquer,” Weigel said.

“And there is no doubt that Wojtyla shared Wyszyński's view that the Vatican ‘Ostpolitik’ strategy of accommodating communist regimes was serious foolishness,” he added.

Wyszyński is credited with helping to conserve Christianity in Poland during communist rule.

He was placed under house arrest by communist authorities for three years for refusing to punish priests active in the Polish resistance against the government.

“The fear of an apostle is the first ally of his enemies,” Wyszyński wrote in his notes while under arrest. “The lack of courage is the beginning of defeat for a bishop,” he wrote.

The Vatican announced approval of a miracle attributed to Wyszynski’s intercession Oct. 3.

The miracle involved the healing of a 19 year-old woman from thyroid cancer in 1989. After the young woman received the incurable diagnosis, a group of Polish nuns began praying for her healing through the intercession of Cardinal Wyszyński, who had died of abdominal cancer in 1981.

Born in the village of Zuzela in what was then the Russian Empire in 1901, Wyszyński was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Włocławek at age 24, celebrating his first Mass at the Jasna Gora Shrine in Czestochowa. He served as a military chaplain during the Warsaw uprising against the Germans in 1944, and was made Bishop of Lublin in 1946.

In 1948 he was appointed Archbishop of  Gniezno and Warsaw, and he was elevated to cardinal in 1953.

Wyszynski died 15 days after Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981. Unable to attend the funeral, John Paul II wrote in a letter to the people of Poland, “Meditate particularly on the figure of the unforgettable primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of venerated memory, his person, his teaching, his role in such a difficult period of our history.”

Vatican’s asset manager says Holy See is not going broke

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The head of the Vatican’s sovereign asset management body has insisted that the Holy See is not headed for financial “collapse.”

Bishop Nunzio Galantino made the comments in response to a book published on Monday by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, which claims that the Holy See is facing a serious cash shortage, and may soon be unable to meet its ordinary operating expenses.

"There is no threat of collapse or default here. There is only the need for a spending review. And that is what we're doing. I can prove it to you with numbers,” Galantino said on Oct. 22.

Galantino is head of the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets.

“The current situation of the administration of the Holy See is no different from what happens in any family or even in the nations of the different continents. At a certain point one looks at what one spends, considers the revenue that comes in, and tries to adjust expenses accordingly."

Nuzzi’s book, “Universal Judgment,” claims to be based on some 3,000 pages of confidential documents leaked to him. He reports that annual donations to the Holy See have fallen sharply, by as much as 40% over the last three years – from 100 million euros to 60 million. At the same time, he also says that the Holy See’s property portfolio failed to register a profit last year, the first time ever. The cumulative effect, Nuzzi claims, is an urgent liquidity crisis in the Vatican’s operating finances.

Speaking in response to the book’s publication, Galatino said that no such crisis exists.

"In fact,” he said on Tuesday, “the ordinary management of the APSA in 2018 closed with a profit of over 22 million euros.”

Galatino said that any reported loss was due to “an extraordinary intervention aimed at saving the operation of a Catholic hospital and the jobs of its employees.”

Nuzzi also claimed that cardinals and high-ranking Vatican officials were operating secret or numbered personal accounts through APSA. A review of the book in the Italian newspaper La Republica quotes Vatican financial investigators as concluding that "the false bottom in Vatican finances is practically non-eliminable."

Galantino flatly refuted the allegations, saying Tuesday that “I confirm and repeat: APSA has no secret or encrypted accounts. Anyone is welcome to prove the contrary. At APSA, there are also no accounts of physical or juridical persons, except for the dicasteries of the Holy See, related institutions, and the Governorate.”

In an apparent response to recent reports of various Vatican financial deals, including real estate speculation through a Luxembourg-based investment company, the bishop said that management of Vatican assets for a profit is essential to the Holy See’s operations.

“A state that has no taxes or public debt has only two ways to live. Either it invests its own resources to produce an income, or it relies on the contributions of the faithful, even those made to Peter’s Pence,” he said. “Many want the Church to have nothing and then, in any case, to provide fair pay for its workers, as well as to respond to the many needs, first of all those of the poor. It's obvious that it can't be like that.”

Galatino conceded that there was a need for a “spending review” but said that this was already underway.

“There is no need for alarmism about the hypothetical default. Rather, we are talking about an entity that is realizing it needs to contain expenses. This happens in any good family or in any serious state".

The reference by Galatino to an “extraordinary intervention” by APSA appears to be a reference to reports that APSA had written off 30 million of a 50 million euro loan to the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata, a scandal and corruption hit hospital formerly owned by the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception and bought out of government bankruptcy administration by a foundation co-owned by the order and the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The purchase of the hospital by the non-profit Fondazione Luigi Maria Monti was intended to rescue the hospital from closure and stabilize its operations after years of financial scandals leading to between 400-800 million euros of debt, forcing it into state-administered insolvency.

The hospital was at the center of a public disagreement between the Vatican and the American-based Papal Foundation, which was asked in 2016 to make a grant of $25 million to the hospital to ease liquidity problems.

After the foundation approved the grant in December 2017, an initial $13 million was sent to the Vatican. Subsequently the grant came under intense scrutiny and then opposition from lay trustees and benefactors, who claimed that the size and purpose of the grant was outside of the foundations scope of operations, and that the board had been misled about the financial state of the hospital.

The grant request was later withdrawn by the Holy See at the request of Cardinal Wuerl, who had led the presentation of the plan to the board.

Cardinal Turkson says ordination of married men may get further study 

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2019 / 09:05 am (CNA).- Cardinal Peter Turkson said Monday that the ordination of married men will likely be the subject of further study for the universal Church after the Amazon synod. 

“This issue will probably be made the subject matter of a more detailed study of the issue with view to the Church taking a consistent position, not only in view of the Amazon, but in view of the universal Church,” Turkson told EWTN News Nightly Oct. 22.

During the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region, being held in Rome Oct. 6-27, several bishops have proposed the possibility of the ordination to the priesthood of so-called viri probati – a term used to refer to mature, married men – for ministry in remote areas of the Amazon.

Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican’s the Dicastery for the Promotion of  Integral Human Development, said that the challenges in the Amazonian region are similar to challenges faced in other parts of the world.

“The situations in the Amazon are pretty similar to those in the Congo. In both cases, accessibility is very difficult and reduced, communication is tough, and if you want to get to places either by road or by river those challenges are there,” said Turkson, who is originally from Ghana.

The African cardinal explained that in the Congo trained catechists are leaders in their local communities, who preach the Word of God, baptize, bury the dead, and serve as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

“But in that case, the guys in the synod here are listening to that and they say that is fine, but they can still can't celebrate the Eucharist,” he said. “They are looking for someone who can, you know, anoint the sick, listen to confessions, celebrate the Eucharist with people, and that, of course, requires ordained ministry, for which, the examples in Africa then come short.”

Turkson’s assessment was underscored during a synodal press conference on Tuesday by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Republic of Congo. 

Besunguis participating in the Amazon synod as a representative for the African church, and especially the Congo River basin, which, he said, shares several ecological, political, and pastoral problems with the Amazon region.

Besungu reiterated Turkson’s assessment, saying that “the Amazon is very similar to the Congo basin.”

At a Vatican press conference Oct. 22, Cardinal Besungu said that the African church has organized REBAC, the Ecclesial Network of the Congo Basin Forest, a network similar to REPAM, the South American group that is a driving force behind the Amazon synod.

REPAM, a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon. The network has been involved in preparations and events leading up to and during the synodal assembly. REPAM’s president, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, holds the position of relator-general of the Amazon synod.

In a meeting between REPAM and REBAC in 2017, held in Brazil, the Church representatives participated in two hour celebration of Mother Earth led by an indigenous woman in which “participants gathered around a tree with many symbols around it,” including a Mayan calendar. 

“The aim of this celebration was to connect participants with nature,” according to CPAL, the conference of Jesuit provincials for Latin America and the Carribean. “Many of them believe that they now have a better understanding of the message of Pope Francis in Laudato Si.” 

Cardinal Besungu said that the church in the Congo prioritized “inculturation of the Gospel” in response to a perception following the country’s independence that the Catholic Church was seen as an outside force in the immediate post-colonial era.

The most evident result of inculturation in the Congo is a “ritual of the Eucharist which is our own,” Besungu said. “In our country, the Eucharist is a real feast.”

What Cardinal Newman can teach the modern world about freedom of conscience

Rome, Italy, Oct 22, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- The writings of newly-canonized St. John Henry Newman offer important reflections for contemporary society on freedom of conscience and the duty to search for truth, said a leading figure in international religious freedom.

“Newman prefigured the Church’s 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae,” said Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute.

Farr, who served as the inaugural director of the U.S. State Department’s international religious freedom office in the early 2000s, spoke at a symposium hosted by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum University in Rome earlier this month. The event celebrated Cardinal Newman’s canonization on Oct. 13.

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Farr said that Newman’s well-known phrase, “Conscience has rights because it has duties,” offers an important reminder that we are obliged to form our consciences in truth, recognizing that “our freedom does not give us a moral right to do what is wrong.”

Dignitatis Humanae affirms the right to religious freedom, a freedom from coercion in matters of conscience, Farr said.

He quoted from the document, “God calls men to serve Him in spirit and in truth, hence they are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom He Himself created and man is to be guided by his own judgment and he is to enjoy freedom.”

But while human beings are obliged to follow their consciences, they are also bound to obey God, Farr said.

“An erring conscience that results from our failure to ensure it is ordered to the truth leads to moral culpability,” he remarked. “Willful pursuit of the wrong could lead one into grave sin. A man could follow an ill-formed conscience straight into hell.”

For this reason, Dignitatis Humanae also stresses the Church’s right – and duty – to publicly teach what it holds to be true about freedom, justice, nature and Christ, he said.

Newman well understood the importance of ordering conscience toward truth, as given by God to the Church through the Magisterium, Farr said.

The saint once wrote, “[I]n this age...the very right and freedom of conscience [is seen as the right] to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations.” Conscience, he warned, was being replaced with “self-will.”

In his warnings on conscience, Newman proved to be prophetic, Farr said. Today, Western culture distorts the view of conscience to an even greater degree than in Newman’s time, so that it is no longer oriented toward God, but toward self.

“For many, the obligation to follow one’s conscience has been embraced, but fidelity to truth has been set aside,” Farr said.

This false understanding of “freedom of conscience” has contributed to an atheism and rejection of natural law, he continued.

“This counterfeit view has encouraged, within the Church and without, deep confusion regarding the nature of man and woman as created by God; the beautiful truths about marriage, the family, and human sexuality; and the necessity of religious freedom for all persons and all societies.”

Both modern society and the Church have been harmed by this false view of conscience, Farr said, and both would do well to be attentive to the warnings issued by Newman more than a century ago.

“The errors of our age, far more pervasive than the age of Newman, today place a greater responsibility on the faithful, clergy and lay, to teach and witness these truths,” he said.

“Together, Newman and Dignitatis can help us resist the erroneous notion of the ‘free’ conscience pointed inward to self and isolated from God and nature, rather than outward to God, who, more intimate to self and nature than anyone or anything, is the only guarantor of true freedom.”

Digital rosary discovered to be hackable, Vatican says it has fixed bugs

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2019 / 07:40 pm (CNA).- Shortly after the new “smart rosary” bracelet was released last week, the Vatican discovered an easy route for hackers to retrieve a user’s personal information. The issue has since been fixed.

Launched on Oct. 15, the device is called an eRosary and allows users to track their prayers, find spiritual resources, and connect with an online prayer community.

A few days after its release, Fidus Information Security, a cyber security consulting service, discovered the device’s weak safety measures, which could have allowed hackers to gain access to a user’s personal information such as their phone number, date of birth, gender, and height.

“One of our researchers decided to check out the code, and in just 10 minutes found some glaring issues,” Andrew Mabbitt, founder of Fidus, told The Register tech site.

According to Fidus, the most glaring concern was a glitch that would allow a hacker to access a user's password - a four-digit PIN - without connecting to the user’s email. The application uses API calls to talk to its backend system. Upon request for a user’s email address, the system would send over a readable text of the user’s PIN through the API.

Father Frédéric Fornos, international director for the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, told The Register that Vatican coders were placed on the problem immediately after he heard about the issue on Oct. 17. Since then, the issue has been corrected.

According to The Register, Fidus also found that, because there are unlimited password guesses, hackers would be able to retrieve the pin number by “brute forcing” - a means to retrieve hidden information through excessive trial and error. However, a Vatican spokesperson said this issue has also been resolved.

The eRosary was launched under the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and developed by the Taiwan-based tech company GadgTek Inc.

The Bluetooth device in the bracelet connects to Click to Pray, a phone app on iOS or Android that reminds people to pray. It also includes reflections, campaigns, and an electronic bulletin board, where users may request or find prayer intentions.

The eRosary activates when the user makes a sign of the cross. It tracks the user's progress and, in connection with the user’s phone, provides visual aids and audio reflections on the mysteries of the rosary.

The device is available on Amazon.it for 99 euros, roughly $109.

According to an Oct. 15 press release from Click to Pray, the eRosary is an opportunity to connect young people together in prayer.

“Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based pedagogy to teach the young how to pray the Rosary, how to pray it for peace, how to contemplate the Gospel,” the press release said.