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Peter’s Pence donations fell by around 15% in 2021, says Vatican

Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves. / Office of Communication Society of Jesus.

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2022 / 05:33 am (CNA).

Donations to Peter’s Pence fell by around 15% in 2021, the Vatican announced on Friday.

In an interview with Vatican News published on Jan. 28, Father Juan A. Guerrero, S.J., prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said that, while donations were still arriving from some countries, there was a marked decrease compared to 2020.

He also disclosed that the sale of a London property at the center of a landmark Vatican finance trial would be concluded in June.

Commenting on Peter’s Pence, he said: “Roughly speaking, I can say that in 2021 there has again been a decrease compared to the previous year, which I would venture to quantify at no less than 15%.”

“If in 2020 the total collection of the Peter’s Pence was 44 million euros [around $49 million], in 2021 I do not think it will amount to more than 37 million euros [approximately $41 million].”

“The decrease in 2021 is in addition to the 23% decrease between 2015 and 2019 and the 18% decrease in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.”

Peter’s Pence is the Holy See’s annual collection to finance the pope’s charitable works and other priorities, including the Roman Curia.

The annual collection is usually taken up in Catholic churches around the world on a weekend close to the June 29 Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

“We are very dependent on uncertain income, which we see decreasing every year in this time of pandemic,” Guerrero said.

“It has to be this way, since the way we receive most of the donations from the faithful is through the collection of the Peter’s Pence in the churches, and the attendance in times of COVID has been reduced.”

“This should make us think about other methods of soliciting the help of the faithful and receiving donations.”

Guerrero, who was appointed prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2019, succeeding Cardinal George Pell, said that he would present the final 2021 figures for Peter’s Pence after the accounts are closed at the end of February.

The priest told Vatican News that 60 Sloane Avenue, the controversial London building at the heart of the recent financial scandal, was being sold above its valuation price.

“Sixteen bids were received, four were selected; after a second round of bids the best one was selected,” he said.

“The contract of sale has been signed, we have received 10% of the deposit and it will be concluded in June 2022.”

“The loss from the alleged swindle, which has been much talked about and is now being judged by the Vatican courts, was already taken into account in the balance sheet.”

“The building has been sold above the valuation we had in the balance sheet and the appraisal made by the specialised institutions.”

The interview with the Spanish Jesuit was published as the Vatican released more information about its budget for 2022. The Vatican said that it had calculated this year’s “mission budget” in a different way to previous years as it had added “30 new entities” to its balance sheet, increasing the number from 60 to 90.

Guerrero explained that Secretariat for the Economy took the step “because we are concerned about not having a vision of the risks outside the budget, which fall on the Curia when there are problems.”

The total deficit expected for 2022 is €33 million (around $37 million), compared to the €42 million ($47 million) shortfall budgeted for 2021.

The prefect noted that the Vatican’s Council for the Economy (CpE) approved the 2022 budget in December 2021.

He said: “It is understandable that the CpE has had difficulty in approving a budget with such a deficit for another year and has asked us to make plans to further reduce expenditures and increase revenues. According to our forecasts, we expect a somewhat lower deficit than budgeted in 2021.”

Guerrero underlined that cost-cutting alone would not guarantee financial stability and the Vatican needed to seek new sources of donations.

“The first requirement is transparency and clear accountability, and I think we have taken many steps in this direction,” he said.

"Apart from giving an annual account of the budget and the balance sheet, this year we hope to give an account of the inflow and outflow of the Peter’s Pence collection and to send the accounts of the Holy See to the bishops’ conferences for their information.”

"We have to make the local churches more aware of the needs of the Holy See; the Curia is at their service and must be largely maintained by them. There is a great difference in the commitment of the various Churches to the support of the Roman Curia. And [we also need] to enlist the help of the faithful, who want to support the Pope in his mission of unity in charity, which is after all what the Roman Curia does.”

Religious leaders mark Auschwitz liberation anniversary

Religious leaders mark the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau at the death camp, Jan. 27, 2022. / Wojciech Grabowski/

Oświęcim, Poland, Jan 28, 2022 / 03:37 am (CNA).

Religious leaders gathered at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday to mark the 77th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation.

Bishop Piotr Greger, auxiliary bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec diocese, southern Poland, took part in the live-streamed Jan. 27 commemoration at the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp where more than 1.1 million people died in 1940-1945.

Greger recited prayers at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site, the largest of the camps that formed the Auschwitz complex, along with Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Polish Lutheran Bishop Adrian Korczago, and Hieromonk Aleksander Mokriszczew of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

The prayers were part of a program that focused on the beginning of the mass killing of Jews in gas chambers in 1942. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the commemoration was attended by a small number of guests, including survivors of the camp.

Former prisoners spoke during the ceremony, including the 92-year-old writer Halina Birenbaum.

“In all the long years since my liberation from these hells on earth, I have not stopped telling what I experienced then, what I was a victim of and an eyewitness to,” she said.

She expressed concern that new generations would not learn the historical truth about the Holocaust.

She said: “New generations are born and grow up for whom this history is distant, old, as if it did not concern them. Especially since these events are so nightmarish, and one would like to escape from the sorrows and tragedies rather than immerse in them.”

“One wants to forget, to belittle, to deny their existence — to falsify history. And to forget the criminal facts of this war and Holocaust is simply to rehash this terrible threat.”

Bogdan Bartnikowski, 90, who was sent to Auschwitz as a 12-year-old boy after the Warsaw Uprising, recalled a recent encounter with students.

“At the meeting, the question was asked, ‘Was there a school in Birkenau?’ I burst out laughing. Birkenau? A school? But after a moment I thought to myself: yes, there was a school. It was a school for survival,” he said.

“A school where they wanted to make slaves out of us, where they wanted to deprive us of hope for any kind of life, to prepare us to march in fives like animals to the gas chamber. In accordance with the purpose of this camp.”

Among those listening to the survivors’ testimonies in the auditorium of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust were members of a French delegation led by Prime Minister Jean Castex, representatives of the Polish authorities, and ambassadors from many countries.

The commemoration concluded with the laying of candles at a monument in the Birkenau grounds.

The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945, is marked worldwide as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The commemoration, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, honors the six million Jews murdered by the forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Pope Francis marked the day with an hour-long meeting with the Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck.

He also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day at his general audience on Jan. 26.

He told pilgrims: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

Bishop Rafał Markowski, chairman of the Polish bishops’ committee for dialogue with Judaism, paid tribute to those who perished.

“We remember their tragic fates, firmly believing that God is the God of Life, and man lives forever in God,” he said in a Jan. 27 Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

“We also commemorate the heroic actions of many people, known and unknown by name, who, like St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, did not let themselves be overcome by evil, but overcame it with the power of good.”

“May their stories motivate us to responsibly strive for peace, for respect for life, dignity and freedom of every person and nation.”

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Fr Guerrero: We have reduced costs and will show our accounts to Bishops’ Conferences

The Prefect of the Secretariat for Economy describes how the scope of the Holy See's budget has increased with the inclusion of new entities. The total deficit expected for 2022 is €33 million, compared to the €42 budgeted for 2021: "Containment of expenditures, without reducing the Pope's charitable work, but rather increasing it." A forthcoming report on Peter’s Pence is expected to show a 15% reduction in 2021 contributions.

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From Denver to Uganda, St Joseph facilitates an unexpected connection

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver, Colo., Jan 27, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

When Daniel Campbell saw an email in his inbox last spring from Soroti, Uganda, his first thought was: Am I being scammed?

Campbell, who directs Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary Lay Division, had recently announced plans to teach a six-week online course that summer on St. Joseph. 

The email in question was, purportedly, from a Catholic priest, who said he wanted to take the course but couldn’t afford to pay. 

Campbell was understandably sceptical at first. But after a few rounds of Googling, Campbell realized the priest was legit. 

That priest, Father Samuel Okiria, serves in the rural eastern part of Uganda, a small country in East Africa. Okiria has served in various capacities in his diocese, including as a teacher, parochial vicar, the bishop's private secretary, and vice-chancellor of the diocese, and will soon serve as a professor at a national seminary. 

Okiria told Campbell in his email that he had heard about the course from an April 2021 article on CNA, and he very much wanted to take the course, but could not afford the $100 fee. 

"He told me, it's ok, I'll be given free access to the class," Okiria told CNA. 

"And then I had the boldness to ask him: I have some other brother priests….could [they] also have access to this St. Joseph class?"

Campbell was more than happy to oblige. In no time, he had granted ten more Ugandan priests access to his online course. 

“Either this is serious, or it’s the most elaborate scam ever,” Campbell recalled to CNA. 

Father Samuel Okiria. Courtesy photo
Father Samuel Okiria. Courtesy photo

The course that Campbell taught during summer 2021 was billed as an intensive, in-depth study of Christ's foster father, based primarily on Scripture, working through the basic chronology of St. Joseph’s life and explaining the theological significance of events involving him. The impetus for the course was the Year of St. Joseph, which Pope Francis declared for the Church at the end of 2020. 

Campbell told CNA that the course attracted 643 people, about 10% of whom tuned in from outside of Colorado, with about 20 U.S. states represented. 

And of course, 11 of those out-of-staters were participating from ten time zones away, in eastern Africa. The Ugandan priests were young, too— some in their 20s and 30s. 

Okiria said part of the reason he so much wanted to pursue the St. Joseph class, and to share it with his fellow priests, is that many of his fellow priests in his diocese are doing their pastoral work alone, with little or no assistance, and needed encouragement. 

He said taking the course and learning more about St. Joseph has helped to rekindle his fatherly heart, and to encourage him to reach out to the underprivileged, the forgotten, and the hopeless. 

Father Okiria’s parish is in an especially poor part of a largely agrarian region, where cattle farming and crops such as potatoes and cassava dominate. He said the people he serves have found it difficult to access healthcare during the pandemic. 

"The St. Joseph class reawakened in me the priestly consciousness of being humble and being relevant to the people, and giving my life to the people in obedience to God's will…to speak less, and act more,” Okiria said. 

"You know, St. Joseph in the Bible is a silent figure...who now speaks to us in his spirituality, in his silence, in his being a guardian."

Father Okiria told CNA that the 10-hour time difference, combined with internet connectivity problems, made it difficult for some of his priest friends to join the classes consistently. But they made the most of the situation, he said, with those who were able to access the course sharing the information they learned with others at clergy meetings. 

Campbell said he received a lot of positive feedback from participants in the course. In particular, he said, people expressed amazement at how much information can be drawn out about St. Joseph— who famously does not say a single word in the Bible— from Scripture. 

But mainly, he said, Campbell sought to convey what an amazingly heroic life St. Joseph lived, in the hopes of encouraging people to emulate him. 

"You realize, hey...this is an incredibly virtuous man. This is a real hero…what kind of graces and what kinds of gifts and virtues must he have actually had to actually do this in such a beautiful way?" Campbell said. 

For those interested in accessing the course now that it is finished, audio recordings of the lectures are available now for purchase for $50 in total

Both Campbell and Okiria said that the experience of connecting with one another despite the vast distance and cultural differences has illustrated for them the universality of the Catholic faith. 

"We are all fragile. We need one another. We need to support and listen to one another," Father Okiria said. 

"Let us live in peace and harmony, and let us be true Catholics in terms of charity and practice."

Grotto vandalized at parish in Northern Virginia

Removal of the remains of statues destroyed at the grotto of Nativity parish in Burke, Va., Jan. 25, 2022. / Diocese of Arlington

Arlington, Va., Jan 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Police are investigating after a grotto at a Catholic parish in Burke, Virginia was vandalized Tuesday evening. 

Nativity Catholic Church, is vowing to raise money to replace the statues, which were damaged beyond repair Jan. 25. The parish’s grotto depicted Our Lady of Fatima speaking to the three child visionaries.

In a Jan. 26 letter to his parish, Fr. Bob Cilinski said he was “so saddened” when the vandalism was discovered.  

“The police were notified and came out to document the vandalism and begin their investigation.  Unfortunately, the statues damaged are not repairable,” said Cilinski. “The statues will be removed and we will work to replace them.” 

The statues have since been removed from the grotto, and the parish and diocese are working with the Fairfax County police to investigate the vandalism. Details about any security camera footage or potential suspects were not made available.  

Cilinski encouraged his flock to “be people of peace who value and respect one another,” and to pray for the person who vandalized the grotto. He described the grotto as “a place of prayer, peace, and healing.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington echoed Cilinski’s sentiments in a statement provided to CNA. 

“The vandalism of a statue of Our Blessed Mother at the Church of the Nativity is a tragic and senseless defacing of the sacred. Mary stands as a symbol of peace in a world that needs her now more than ever,” said Burbidge.

“I ask that others join me in prayer for the perpetrator, as any motive behind such an act reflects a troubled soul in need of Our Lord,” said the bishop. 

A local authority condemned the vandalism as an attack on the Catholic community of Fairfax County. Burke is an unincorporated section of Fairfax County, about 15 miles southwest of Arlington.

“I have been recently made aware of a vandalism that took place at the Nativity Catholic Church in Burke,” Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said in a Jan. 26 statement. 

“This destruction of property and disrespect to our Catholic community is alarming because, at its core, it makes people feel unsafe,” he said. “In Fairfax County, we know our diversity is our strength and we always look to bring more people into our community and make sure they are heard and represented.” 

“Under all circumstances, we reject this hateful action,” said McKay. “I can assure you we will continue to make Fairfax County a community that is safe for everyone.” 

Church and local officials are encouraging anyone with information regarding the vandalism to contact the Fairfax County Police Department.

Pope Francis to speak with Loyola University Chicago students, others in global livestream

null / Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 27, 2022 / 15:11 pm (CNA).

Loyola University Chicago will host a livestream conversation between Pope Francis and college students from around the world next month as part of the Catholic Church’s preparations for the Synod on Synodality.

“I am honored to share news of an historic event involving Pope Francis as he reaches out directly in dialogue with young people across the Americas, facilitated by Loyola University Chicago faculty,” Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University-Chicago, said in a Jan. 26 internal announcement the university provided to CNA.  

“The Pope and the students will address salient issues facing the Church and the world in our times—communion and participation, migration, and care for the planet,” said Rooney. “We look forward to an energetic and inspiring global conversation and are humbled to play a small part in the journey.”

The event, “Building Bridges: A Synodal Encounter Between Pope Francis and University Students” will be a “direct conversation” between the Pope and university students from North, South, and Central America. The event will be livestreamed Feb. 24 at 12 p.m. Central Time. It will be translated live in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Those interested may watch the livestream event by registering at the university’s website.

Hosting the event are the university’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, the Department of Theology, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. 

“Loyola University of Chicago is honored to welcome Pope Francis, the first Jesuit and Latin American pope, and university students from across the Americas committed to social justice, serving others, and finding God in all things,” the university said.

It comes as the Catholic Church is engaged in two-year global consultation process to prepare for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. When Pope Francis launched this process at an Oct. 10, 2021 Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, he said it means “taking time to encounter the Lord and one another.”

According to the university, the event with the pope originated when it reached out to Dr. Emilce Cuda, head of the Office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, to lead a dialogue on the synodal process. At the university’s suggestion, Cuda invited Pope Francis to participate, and he accepted the invitation.

“The Pope will dialogue with these university students, highlighting the contributions of students who are themselves migrants and children of migrants,” the university said. “The students will share concrete educational projects that seek to justly transform environmental and economic realities and the manifold ways their educational commitments can contribute to integrate and empower existential peripheries.”

The university said more information on the event will be forthcoming.

Loyola University of Chicago, affiliated with the Society of Jesus, has about 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its spring semester classes are being held online through Jan. 31 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.