A Vatican envoy urged the World Trade Organization to keep promises made to the poor, amid concerns that its tariff-cutting efforts are disproportionately benefiting rich countries. The appeal came as the WTO, a Geneva-based organization that regulates international trade, was holding a four-day meeting ending Dec. 18 in the Kenyan capital.
Pope Francis is warning Catholics about con artists demanding money to pass through a holy door, such as the one opened in St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches for the Vatican’s jubilee year, telling them salvation cannot be bought.
“Be careful that there’s not someone a bit quick and too cunning that tells you that you must pay. No! You don’t pay for salvation. You don’t buy salvation. The door is Jesus, and Jesus is free!” the pope told crowds gathered Dec. 16 for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Holy doors are being opened in cathedrals around the world as part of the jubilee year, which opened on Dec. 8 and runs until Nov. 20, 2016. The Catholic Church teaches that in making a pilgrimage through one such door, they evoke the passage from sin to grace.
A European financial crimes watchdog on Dec. 15 called on the Vatican to prosecute those caught money laundering, stating the Holy See must act to ensure the success of its financial reforms.
“There is a need now for the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing system, to deliver effective results in terms of prosecutions, convictions and confiscation,” said the report by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval oversight agency.
Although the Holy See has adopted new legislation in recent years to tackle money laundering within the city-state, there have been no indictments or prosecutions as a result of the new rules.
The Vatican has said that Catholics should witness to their faith but not undertake organized efforts to convert Jews, a significant step forward in the once tense relations between the two faiths.
The document released on Dec. 10 by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews also pushed for greater efforts to fight anti-Semitism.
In its most explicit commentary on evangelization regarding Jews, the document said Catholics should take a different approach to Judaism than to other religions.
An extraordinary illuminated projection of images of the natural world onto St. Peter’s Basilica on the evening of Dec. 8 drew thousands of awed spectators to the Vatican and delighted untold numbers more watching online and via widespread media coverage of the three-hour show.
But not everyone was happy with the spectacle, not by a long shot, as social media and conservative Catholic sites erupted with indignation.
“This has gone beyond ridiculous,” fumed a conservative blogger, the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, who called it “irreverent” to use a sacred space for a secular purpose.
“Why not rent out the Sistine chapel too, while they’re at it?”
Pope Francis launched the jubilee of mercy on Dec. 8 with the opening of the Vatican’s holy door, joined by his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, surrounded by heavy security.
“This extraordinary year is itself a gift of grace,” Francis told the faithful gathered at the Vatican.
“To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”
In the Catholic Church, a jubilee — or a holy year — is a religious event that involves the forgiveness of sins, as well as reconciliation. But the idea of a jubilee dates back to the Bible: “And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live on it,” Leviticus 25:10. For the ancient Israelites, the jubilee was a time properties were returned to their original owners or legal heirs, slaves were set free, and creditors were barred from collecting debts.
Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 declared the first Christian jubilee, beginning with the opening of the Holy Door, an entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, usually blocked, through which pilgrims can enter. Other holy doors are also opened for this jubilee in Rome and around the world for the first time; the year ends when they are closed.
On Nov. 29 Pope Francis opened a door at the cathedral in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, as a symbolic start to the Holy Year.
An Italian investigative journalist on Nov. 17 spoke out against what he called a “medieval” Vatican law that might result in a jail sentence of up to eight years for publishing confidential Holy See documents.
Emiliano Fittipaldi, whose new book Avarice reveals the struggle for financial reform at the Vatican, is under investigation for publishing secret documents leaked from the Holy See. A fellow Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, is also being investigated for revelations made in his book, Merchants in the Temple.
While describing the investigation as “a terrible moment,” Fittipaldi remained defiant:
“From my point of view they are crazy charges, in the sense that in no democratic state, in no Western democracy, are there such restrictive laws on press freedom and expression.”
Pope Francis on Nov. 11 urged Catholics to continue the tradition of a family meal, leaving smartphones aside, and switching off the TV to enjoy the “fundamental experience” of sharing food.
“The sharing of a meal — and therefore, other than of food, also of affections, of stories, of events — is a fundamental experience,” Francis said during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Sitting around the table helps measure the health of relationships, the pontiff said: “If in a family there’s something that doesn’t work, or a hidden wound, at the table it’s understood immediately.”
Pope Francis made a whirlwind trip to Tuscany on Nov. 10, during which he addressed immigrant workers, called on Italian bishops to shun power, and celebrated Mass with thousands of followers in Florence’s soccer stadium.
Francis started his packed, daylong schedule with a helicopter flight to Prato, known for its textile industry and large Chinese community. Crowds waving the Vatican’s yellow and white flag met him on his arrival.
The pope called for an end to labor exploitation, addressing the deaths of seven Chinese workers in a nighttime factory fire in 2013.
“It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhumane conditions of life. And this is not undignified work,” he said.