1. Pope creates coronavirus commission to respond to pandemic.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, April 16, 2020

Pope Francis created a new commission that will confront the challenges the world is facing in battling the coronavirus pandemic and what it will inevitably face in its aftermath, the Vatican announced.

In a statement published April 15, the Vatican said the goal of the commission, which will be led by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is “to express the church’s concern and love for the entire human family in the face of the of COVID-19 pandemic.”


2. During coronavirus, Vatican employs spiritual, political silence.

By Elise Ann Allen, Crux, April 16, 2020, Opinion

Pope Francis has often spoken of silence as both a spiritual virtue and a political vice, yet both of these have been displayed, if not employed, by the Vatican during the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

During his visit to the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau as part of his July 2016 visit to Poland for World Youth Day, Francis said nothing, but sat in silence contemplating the horrors that happened inside those walls.

Yet in addition to the prayerful, spiritual silence displayed in these moments, Francis has also often condemned a different silence, one that operates in the political field, often condemning political leaders for refusing to speak out on key global topics such as migration, accusing them of being complicit in the death of thousands in the Mediterranean because of their silence on the issue.

However, despite his chastisement of political inaction on the refugee front, Pope Francis himself in recent weeks has employed this type of political silence on another sensitive foreign policy issue the Vatican faces, which is China and Taiwan.

Both mainland China and Taiwan have offered donations to Italy and the Vatican to help keep sanitary supplies in stock during the coronavirus outbreak, but the Vatican so far has only made a point of going public with its gratitude to the People’s Republic of China.

On April 14 the Taiwan Embassy to the Holy See issued a statement saying they had donated an additional 280,000 medical masks to the Vatican, the Italian bishops, Italian hospitals and various religious institutes in Italy.

However, the Vatican has so far refrained from making any public statements of gratitude for Taiwan’s donations, as it did for China, despite being Taiwan’s sole diplomatic allay in Europe, sending a strong signal of where the Vatican’s interests lie.

It has long been known that the Vatican under Pope Francis desperately wants formal diplomatic ties with China, and its 2018 secret agreement with China on the appointment of bishops was interpreted by many as a step in this direction.

Given the Vatican’s ongoing courtship with mainland China in recent years, Taiwan likely won’t rock the boat by asking for public recognition, but the Vatican’s silence toward them, considering their own coronavirus offerings, is nothing short of deafening.

If there is one thing Vatican and the pope have shown during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s that both the spiritual silence of being lost for words in contemplating the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the political silence in key and strategic moments, can both speak louder than words.


3. Silence over Easter police raids captures ‘through the looking glass’ moment.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 16, 2020, Opinion

In Catholic terms, perhaps nothing captures the “through the looking glass” dynamic of the coronavirus pandemic like this: Up and down Italy over Easter weekend, police entered churches and broke up services judged to be in violation of a national quarantine, issuing citations and fines to those taking part, in several instances including the parish priest.

Yet not only has there been no howl of protest from the country’s Catholic leadership, almost uniformly bishops have sided with the authorities.

“We have to be realistic,” said Archbishop Corrado Lorefice of Palermo in Sicily. “COVID-19 is transmitted where people meet. We have to be the first to do whatever we can to prevent this epidemic from expanding.”

Critics have argued that by accepting such restrictions, the Church risks making itself marginal. Lorefice, however, sees an upside.

“Marginality, in some respects, is constitutive of the identity of the Church, even if sometimes we’re still nostalgic for Christendom,” he said.

“The more the Church is aware of its ‘marginal’ identity, the more capable it is, in reality, of transmitting the message of the Gospel,” the 57-year-old prelate said. “Think about the image of Pope Francis, standing alone in the square we’re used to seeing full, which was emblematic of the simplicity of a gospel which, today, people await not as emotional consolation, but a word of salvation.”


4. Mississippi clarifies rule, says drive-in, parking lot church services ‘essential’ during crisis.

By James Varney, The Washington Times, April 16, 2020, Pg. A9

Officials in Greenville, Mississippi, said they will no longer target worshippers at drive-in church services following clarification from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves that such services are “essential.”

The small city backed off drawing national attention after authorities had handed out $500 tickets at one church parking lot service and showed up in force to shut down another.


5. Vatican removes financial watchdog head as scandal continues.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, April 15, 2020, 10:42 AM

The Vatican on Wednesday replaced the director of its financial watchdog agency, completing a coup that began in October with controversial police raids on the watchdog offices and an investigation into a London real estate deal.

The Vatican secretary of state named a Bank of Italy official, Giuseppe Schlitzer, to head the day-to-day operations of the Financial Information Authority, known by its Italian acronym AIF. Schlitzer replaces Tommaso di Ruzza, who was suspended as part of the investigation.

Seven months after the raids, neither di Ruzza nor anyone else has been charged. The delay and gaps in the prosecutors’ case suggest the investigation was sparked by a Vatican turf war over fears that AIF was being too aggressive in rooting out financial malfeasance that could have implicated high-ranking Vatican officials.


6. US group calls Pakistan blocking of aid to Christians, Hindus ‘reprehensible’.

By Catholic News Agency, April 15, 2020, 3:30 PM

The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom has called on the Pakistani government to ensure aid for the COVID-19 pandemic is being justly distributed to religious minorities, after receiving reports that aid organizations were barring Christians and Hindus from receiving food assistance.

“These actions are simply reprehensible,” USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said in an April 13 statement. “As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one’s faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid from distributing organizations is shared equally with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities,” she said.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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