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Japanese prelate named new secretary general of Asian bishops’ federation

Cathedral of St. Mary, Tokyo / Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

Manila, Philippines, Jul 24, 2021 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Japanese Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo has been named the new secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The FABC is an association of Catholic episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia, and fosters solidarity and joint responsibility for the welfare of the Church and of society in the regions.

The Japanese prelate replaced Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang of Macau, following the latter’s resignation from the post beginning in July.

Last week, the archbishop issued an appeal to athletes and to visitors during the 2021 Olympic Games in Japan, asking them not to visit churches to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Archbishop Kikuchi said that due to the prevailing pandemic, visitors, including athletes, “will be asked to refrain from visiting churches.”

The prelate admitted that his archdiocese had been preparing to take care of the spiritual needs of visitors during the games but “decided to cancel all these plans.”

He also asked parishes to “take care of the spiritual needs of those who come to Japan. But in today’s situation, the priority remains not to transmit the disease.”

He said that the Archdiocese of Tokyo has made a commitment to prevent the spread of infections.

“Let us remember that it is an important duty for us to protect not only our own lives but also those of all those who have received the gift of life from God,” said Archbishop Kikuchi.

The prelate was regional president of Caritas Asia from 2011 to 2019. He was also a member of FABC’s Office of Human Development.

He was born on Nov. 1, 1958, and is a professed member of the Divine Word Missionaries congregation. He was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1986.

He served in Ghana in Western Africa as a missionary and as a pastor before being elected as the provincial superior for his order in 1999, back in Japan.

Pope John Paul II appointed him as the Bishop of Niigata on April 29, 2004. Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Tokyo on Oct. 25, 2017. 

 

Vatican increasing ‘liquid’ assets as it faces financial impact of pandemic, economic officials say

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, president of APSA. / Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2021 / 09:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican is working to maintain “‘pockets’ of precautionary liquidity” as it faces the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, two officials of the Roman Curia said Saturday.

On July 24, the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and APSA (The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) released consolidated balance sheets for the year 2020.

This was the first time APSA, which oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets, presented a balance and details about its investment portfolio to the public.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, head of APSA, told Vatican News July 24 that going forward, the Roman Curia’s “financial investment plan will remain prudential” and “characterized by a correct balance between risk and medium/long-term profitability.”

“However, in pursuing the investment policy, at such a particular moment due to the effects of the pandemic, which substantially reduced the Holy See’s revenues, it is necessary to maintain ‘pockets’ of precautionary liquidity -- already created in 2020 for future and unpredictable needs, especially for administrative and personnel expenses,” he added.

Speaking with Vatican News, economic chief Fr. Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., said knowing the Vatican’s cash flow during the pandemic, as well as the uncertainty of the financial situation, the economy council decided to increase liquidity to avoid the possibility of being forced to sell property in a bad market.

“We did not have precise information on the liquidity available to us, which led to the decision to increase liquidity,” he said. “This meant reducing our financial profit at the same time. I think it was the most prudent thing to do in the situation we were in.”

The balance sheet for the Roman Curia, which is separate from the budget of Vatican City State, showed a deficit of $78 million in 2020, down $13 million from the year prior.

The Roman Curia’s overall expenses for 2020 were $370 million.

In May 2020, Guerrero said the Vatican predicted it would face a 25% to 45% decrease in revenue in the fiscal year; earlier the same month, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero said an internal Vatican report projected an income reduction of at least 30%, and possibly as much as 80%.

In fact, according to the 2020 balance, the Vatican had just under a 50% decrease in revenue, which the report said was “driven by the significant reduction of Ordinary Operating Expenses,” which came to around $30 million and “partially ofsett [sic] by the less-than-expected reduction in Ordinary Operating Income.”

According to the balance, the disparity between 2020 and 2019 can be attributed in part to a loss in income of around $17.6 million from the governatorate of Vatican City State, which oversees some commercial activities forced to close during the pandemic, such as the Vatican Museums and catacombs.

The Vatican also received less income on properties where it offered reduced or delayed lease payments to tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.

APSA’s sale of a large property in 2019 is also reflected in the difference between the two years, according to the budget.

By contrast, some entities related to the Holy See, such as the IOR, contributed more income to the Roman Curia in 2020. Overall, expenses were reduced by $3.88 million.

Guerrero told Vatican News the Holy See comes “from a culture of secrecy, but in economics we have learned that transparency protects us more than secrecy.”

He claimed the culture is changing and the institution is beginning to see itself as a caretaker, not owner, recognizing the accountability that calls for.

Releasing the 2020 balance “marks a turning point that can lead to greater credibility of the Holy See in economic matters,” he said.

“First of all, this process tells us about a past, a recent past, but a past,” he underlined. “There can always be mistakes, but today I do not see how the events of the past can repeat themselves.”

Galantino said that the activities APSA is carrying out go beyond “the serious consequences of the pandemic crisis.”

According to the bishop, 14% of the properties managed by APSA are rented at market value, while the remaining 86%, those with institutional uses such as work places for Vatican employees and residences for retired cardinals, charge no rent or are rented below market value.

APSA carried out a quantitative and qualitative update to the inventory of the buildings and land it administrates, he said, and found that many of the assets, both those rented to tenants and those used for institutional purposes, were in need of maintenance, modernization, and increased security.

He explained that APSA will also begin a renovation project on 100 apartments in January 2022, with a scheduled end date of sometime in spring 2023.

“Our energies are directed to a credible and reliable administration, as well as effective and efficient, allowing us to be guided by processes of rationalization, transparency and professionalism also required by Pope Francis,” he said.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, the Secretariat for the Economy will begin implementing a new “pilot” review process of personnel in some offices.

ANSA reported that Guerrero had sent a letter to the heads of dicasteries saying the assessment of job performance is taking place in light of curial reform and “the need to make the most of deserving resources, to provide new opportunities and to promote technical and professional training.”

With the release of the 2020 balance, Guerrero told Vatican News that the economic secretariat wants “to ensure economic sustainability, while also maintaining the pope’s correct decision not to fire anyone.”

He added that “to generate greater motivation in the staff, it would be useful to make a plan with a long-term vision and to have a work policy with professional development programs and formation, and particular attention to formation in the mission that is carried out in the Holy See. This would also save money in the long run.”

St. Charbel Makhlouf

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Feast date: Jul 24

On July 24, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit who is known for working miracles both during his life and after his death.

On the occasion of his beatification in 1965, the Eastern Catholic hermit was described by Pope Paul VI as “ a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity,” who “through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people.”

Born into humble circumstances in Lebanon during 1828, Yussef Antoun Makhlouf was the youngest of Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq's five children. Antoun, who had been taken away from the family and forced into hard labor, died when his youngest son was only three.

Yussef studied at the parish school and tended to his family's cow. Engaged in prayer and solitude from a early age, he spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village, contemplating God amid the inspiring views of Lebanon's valleys and mountains.

His uncle and guardian Tanious wanted the boy to continue working with him, while his mother wanted him to marry a young woman. Yussef had other plans, however, and left home in 1851 without informing anyone.

Yussef would become “Brother Charbel,” after making a pilgrimage on foot to his new monastic home. In this, he followed the example of his maternal uncles, who were already living as solitary monks at the Hermitage of Saint Paul in the Qadisha Valley.

Charbel took his monastic vows in November of 1853, during a solemn ceremony which was closed to the public and off-limits even to his family. He subsequently studied for the priesthood and was ordained, returning to the Monastery of St. Maron.

The priest-monk lived and served in the monastery for 19 years, showing great devotion to the life of prayer, manual work, and contemplative silence.

Charbel's superiors observed God's “supernatural power” at work in his life, and he became known as a wonder-worker even among some Muslims. In 1875, he was granted permission to live as a solitary monk in a nearby hermitage dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.

Rigorous asceticism, and a profound union with God, continued to characterise the monk's life for the next 23 years. Deeply devoted to God's Eucharistic presence, he suffered a stroke while celebrating the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Catholic Church on December 16, 1898. He died on Christmas Eve of that year.

St. Charbel's tomb has been a site for pilgrimages since his death. Hundreds of miracles are believed to have occurred through his intercession with God, both in Lebanon and around the world.

He was canonised in 1977 by Pope Paul VI, who had earlier hailed the Lebanese Maronite saint as an “admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East.”

Catholic journalism expert reflects on the moral issues around privacy and data 

Dr. William Thorn, associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. Credit: William Thorn/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 24, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

CNA spoke recently with Dr. William J. Thorn regarding the recent investigation which led to the resignation of Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill as general secretary of the US bishops’ conference.

Thorn is associate professor emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and a B.A. from Loras College.

Find below the full text of CNA's discourse with Thorn:

At the heels of the recent controversial use of data mining to expose a Church personality, can you walk us through the outlines of investigative journalism and what constitutes the ethical limits of investigative journalism? 

The report on Msgr. Burrill underscores the challenges social media and emerging technologies have created, because it blurs the boundaries of private and public information. Grindr describes itself as "the World’s Largest Social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people." As a location-based social networking and online dating site Grindr was one of the first geosocial apps for gay men when it launched in March 2009. As a public social network, it has limited privacy controls. These semi-public social networks compromise the former boundaries of ethical investigation. This boundary is perhaps best illustrated by the stance of a friend who was a city hall reporter. Whenever he got a phone call or verbal comment about some alleged malfeasance, he demanded a public document like a travel expense form or letter which contained the factual basis for an investigation. In other words, neither personal complaints nor hearsay could be trusted, but printed information could be. Traditionally, an ethical investigation builds on facts that are part of the public record or can be verified by public documents or interviews with reliable witnesses. Another ethical principle is to keep the focus on actions that can be proven by factual evidence or witnesses rather than on insinuations about the subject based on circumstantial evidence. Once the verifiable facts are known, the investigative reporter moves to confront the subject and provides an opportunity to deny, admit wrongdoing or explanation. Libel and slander laws provide boundaries and guides to investigative journalism about individuals whose reputation and good name may be at stake. Simply drawing conclusions from an online source seriously challenges verifiability and risks libeling an innocent individual.

Complications are now arising in the field of data mining and journalism. In your opinion, how does the aggregation of questionably acquired data work for or against the previously established moral limits of investigative journalism?

New data mining technology poses a plethora of privacy issues for investigative journalism, regarding both prominent individuals and ordinary citizens, for example, in areas like health and personal habits, which require some verifiable contextual evidence to reach a fact-based conclusion. But legal boundaries differ from moral constrains which require  care for the impact of conclusions based on less than reliable abstract which can destroy or seriously damage an individual's reputation. One of the most egregious moral and ethical compromises of investigative journalism occurred at the early 20th century Denver Post, whose reporters wrote detailed biographies of wealthy silver magnates, including their scandalous, even illegal behaviors. The editors then used these stories to blackmail their subjects. The reports were accurate, their purpose illegal.



Does a source paying for information change the calculation about whether or not a journalist should use that source? 

A source paying for information automatically raises questions about the motivations of both payee and recipient as well as the reliability of information.



Many are celebrating the resignation of Msgr. Burrill and the efforts that led to his resignation. From a Catholic ethics perspective, does this apparently successful end validate the means? 

The end never justifies the means, even if they are digital and seem credible because of technology.  The celebration raises questions about ignoble motives, e.g., revenge or personal animus connected to the investigation.

Another argument with competing voices centers on whether corruption needs to be brought to the light to be healed. Please explain, from the perspective of Catholic ethics, when and where and to what degree it would be appropriate to publish information alleging or proving corruption that is gravely sinful but not criminal. 

Healing depends, in part on the harm involved. In Msgr. Burrill's case there is only circumstantial evidence of behavior based on GPS location with no eye witness or other factual evidence such as a credit card receipt. Data mining based on Grindr's location routine seems a bit specious for "bringing to light corruption," an adage based on rooting out the corruption of politicians and public officials.  Within a Church context like the USCCB, the question turns on the precise corruption and how it can be healed by exposure. Grindr location data insinuate but do not demonstrate the alleged corruption, or perhaps a level of ignorance in the user about the actual privacy of the Grindr app. Healing of sinful behavior does not require public knowledge, as the Sacrament of Reconciliation demonstrates. On the other hand, abuse of public trust or misuse of church funds may help heal the community if exposed, e.g. the sex abuse scandal or embezzlement of Church funds.



Please elaborate on what distinguishes truth-telling from detraction, acknowledging that many Catholics are longing for reform that they don’t see coming from most of the Bishops. 

Facts that demonstrate actual malfeasance distinguish truth telling from detraction, libel, and slander. Reform must be based on demonstrable corruption so it cannot be simply dismissed as petty jealousy or a fervid imagination. Clear court cases and guilty verdicts launched serious reforms in sexual abuse cases.

The fast and growing incorporation of technology in investigative journalism seems to be inevitable and frequently positive. What lines do you think were crossed, if any, in the "investigation" that forced the resignation of Msgr. Burrill? 

Two lines: what hard, non-digital evidence was there of wrongdoing? What corroborating documentary or eyewitness evidence warranted the publication? Was Msgr. Burrill properly and timely informed of the digital evidence and given a chance to defend himself? Or was he blackmailed into resigning "for the good of USCCB?"



Is a church official such as Msgr. Burrill a private citizen or a public official? And what might be the legal ramifications?   

He is a private citizen in U.S. legal terms. His role in the USCCB makes him a public church official, but whether that makes him a public figure under U.S. libel law as defined in 1966 by the Supreme Court in N.Y. Times v. Sullivan seems to be an open legal question. Under the Sullivan decision, elected public officials must expect harsh and even vitriolic criticism, and are required to demonstrate "actual malice" i.e. knowing falsehood or careless disregard for the truth in order to win a libel case. As neither an elected politician nor a public figure, Msgr. Burrill would be protected by libel laws as an ordinary citizen.

How French Catholics are responding to Pope Francis’ Traditional Latin Mass restrictions

Tridentine Mass in Strasbourg Cathedral, France. / Christophe117 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Paris, France, Jul 24, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Responding to concerns raised by Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Traditional Latin Mass, French Church authorities have issued a series of communiques seeking to reassure Catholics attached to this liturgy.

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes, published July 16, arrived like a thunderbolt for a significant part of the French Church because of its perceived severity towards traditionalist communities, which are regarded as places of strong missionary dynamism and magnets for de-Christianized youth.

According to an investigation recently published by the Catholic magazine La Nef, traditionalist Catholicism is growing constantly in France, although it still represents a small minority (4% of all practicing Catholics, 7% if we include the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX.)

Estimating that there are around 60,000 traditionalist Catholics in France, the study concluded that traditional communities are slowly but steadily growing each year, with a very young average age.

The day after the motu proprio was issued, the French bishops’ conference reaffirmed the bishops’ intention to pursue dialogue with these communities.

“The French bishops […] wish to express to the faithful who usually celebrate according to the missal of St. John XXIII and to their pastors, their attention, their esteem for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to continue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force,” a communique said.

This statement led several observers, including the Catholic historian Yves Chiron, quoted by Le Figaro, to conclude that the new norms would be applied with flexibility and benevolence by a number of French bishops.

In the diocese of Versailles, located in the western suburbs of Paris and considered a bastion of traditionalism, Bishop Luc Crepy said that the situation was “peaceful” with the six communities usually celebrating Masses using the 1962 Roman Missal.

“Although some communities have experienced painful events in the past, I’m glad to see the progress made towards effective ecclesial communion,” he wrote.

The same peaceful climate, coupled with a “loyal application” of Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, was observed by Bishop Marc Aillet in his diocese of Bayonne, in southwestern France.

While reiterating his trust in the communities involved and inviting them to “continue their efforts in the same direction,” Aillet said that he would keep in place the existing groups and priests allowed to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

The bishops of the southern dioceses of Toulon-Fréjus and Bordeaux -- two other breeding grounds for traditionalist communities -- sought to reassure their flocks by saying that the detailed rules for the application of Traditionis custodes would be reviewed and discussed collegially.

Meanwhile, Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, in the western suburbs of Paris, claimed that his diocese was “hardly impacted by the new directives” and that the communities concerned should “be assured of the lasting, benevolent, and prayerful solicitude of their bishop.”

Some Catholic authorities, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois, in central France, and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, in the north, welcomed the motu proprio quite favorably, denouncing the misuse of Summorum Pontificum by those who questioned the validity of Vatican II.

But many voices have been raised in defense of the Traditional Latin Mass, including in some surprising quarters.

Indeed, the most vibrant speech in favor of the Tridentine Mass came from the atheist and left-wing philosopher Michel Onfray. In a column published on July 18, he argued that it embodies “the heritage of the genealogical time of our civilization.”

“It inherits historically and spiritually a long lineage of sacred rituals, celebrations, and prayers, all crystallized in a form that offers a total spectacle,” he wrote.

The president of the Catholic lay organization behind the traditionalist Chartres pilgrimage, for his part, roundly condemned the motu proprio, claiming that “it will be difficult to apply in a Church which is in a catastrophic situation and has many other difficulties that the Vatican pretends not to see.”

A few priests who only celebrate according to the Novus Ordo have also expressed surprise at what they regard as the harshness of Pope Francis’ letter.

“It brings me sadness because this text seems to sweep away the efforts made by Benedict XVI to maintain the unity of the Church and to despise the efforts made by the traditionalist communities for 15 years,” Fr. Guy-Emmanuel Cariot, rector of the Basilica Saint-Denis of Argenteuil, in the suburbs of Paris, told the weekly magazine Famille chrétienne.

But for those directly affected by the motu proprio, emotions are still raw.

“I expected a text that would change things, but I would have never expected such an unjust document,” Fr. Matthieu Raffray, a Rome-based French priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, told CNA.

“Wherever there are traditional communities in France, I think the situation is calmed, and the bishops’ reactions are a proof of that,” he continued.

He suggested that, although it is true that some people may have used the freedom granted by the Pope emeritus to destroy unity in the Church, such a phenomenon is far more intense and widespread in the circles that follow Paul VI’s liturgy, through topics such as married priests or the German bishops’ “Synodal Way.”

In his view, the risk of spiritual impoverishment is among the most worrying possible consequences of the papal text.

“How can we possibly favor a liturgical renewal and put the mystery of the Eucharist back at the center of Mass by separating the Church from its tradition?” he asked. “A tree whose roots are cut off dies.”

Raffray argued that the motu proprio, which seeks to bring people back to the ordinary form of the Latin Rite, could also prove to be counterproductive.

“I must marry a couple this summer in France, and we’ve already agreed that if the parish priest eventually refuses to welcome us in his church, we would go outside or to a nearby barn,” he said.

“No faithful accustomed to the Traditional Latin Mass will suddenly decide to stop going because of this document.”

“There is a real movement of the youth toward traditional Mass nowadays, because they need cultural and identity landmarks,” he added.

“This text could be, in this sense, an engine that will make traditionalists even more devout, more confident in the Church, while praying for the pope and growing in faith and charity.”

UN hails Olympic spirit despite pandemic

The United Nations chief says the Olympic spirit “inspires and unifies us in troubled times”.

Guerrero: 2020 was a difficult year, but better than expected

The Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy explains the Holy See’s consolidated balance sheet: the deficit is €66.3 million, but Peter’s Pence subsidized less than in previous years, increasing contributions made to the Churches most in need.

Challenges in time of pandemic: APSA publishes its balance sheet

The 2020 balance sheet of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, APSA, made public for the first time, shows decreased contributions to the Roman Curia and decreased profits from investments. APSA’s president, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, says APSA has been able to help those in financial difficulty; and notes that, although income has been reduced during the pandemic, there are nonetheless positive results as difficulties have brought out the desire to act “as a Church.”

Report that led to priest’s resignation prompts journalism ethics questions

High-tech data collection and cellphone tracking services allegedly used in a report by The Pillar that triggered the resignation of a high-ranking U.S. Catholic official July 20 has sparked a fresh discussion about journalism ethics. The report also has sparked a backlash from a variety of religious media outlets and

College COVID-19 vaccine requirements are not one size fits all

As college students start to pack for the new school year, some will need to include proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations along with their extra-long twin bedsheets and posters.