1. Survivors of conflict to meet Pope Francis in Congo, By Justin Kabumba and Sam Mednick, Associated Press, January 30, 2023, 4:32 AM It took years for Marie Louise Wambale to re-establish her life after fighting between M23 and the Congolese army forced her to flee with almost nothing more than a decade ago. Like most Catholics here in eastern Congo, she hoped that Pope Francis could bring a message of hope at a time when the M23 rebels are posing their greatest threat here since 2012. “Many people were disappointed because they wanted to welcome him to our home, for him to come here and live our suffering, to feel it with his own eyes,” she said. “We wanted him to live it because there are many people who have fled the war. There are pregnant mothers who gave birth in the camps in very bad conditions – many women and children are suffering.” Now Wambale has been tasked with taking this message to Kinshasa, where she will be among the Congolese faithful chosen to personally meet Pope Francis. His long-awaited visit to Congo and South Sudan this week comes after he postponed an earlier trip late last year that originally had included a stop in the volatile east. Insecurity, though, has soared in the months since so the pope is limiting his visit to Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/survivors-of-conflict-to-meet-pope-francis-in-congo/2023/01/30/25f53b88-a06e-11ed-8b47-9863fda8e494_story.html__________________________________________________________ 2. Pope taps Chicago native in Peru to lead bishops’ office, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 30, 2023, 6:58 AM Pope Francis on Monday named an American-born missionary in Peru, Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, to take over the Vatican’s powerful bishops’ office from the retiring Canadian who has recently been accused of sexual misconduct. Prevost, a Chicago native and former superior of his Augustinian order who began ministering in Peru in the 1980s, takes over the important Holy See office that helps vet bishop nominations around the globe and also investigates allegations of abuse or negligence against bishops. The Dicastery for Bishops’ outgoing head, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, was one of the few Vatican prefects whom Francis kept on for years from the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI in a clear sign of trust. At 78, Ouellet is three years past the normal retirement age for bishops and his successor has been the subject of rumors for months. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pope-taps-chicago-native-in-peru-to-lead-bishops-office/2023/01/30/69697d9e-a095-11ed-8b47-9863fda8e494_story.html__________________________________________________________ 3. Alzheimer’s Association Hides New Partnership With Lobbying Group for Assisted Suicide, By Alexander Raikin, The Washington Free Beacon, January 28, 2023 Editor’s Note: Hours after the publication of this piece, the Alzheimer’s Association issued a press release announcing it would sever its relationship with Compassion & Choices. The Alzheimer’s Association said that it had “failed to do appropriate due diligence” and that the values of Compassion & Choices are “inconsistent with those of the Association.” Our original reporting, which led to this announcement, is below.  Selling assisted suicide to “historically marginalized communities” is a difficult business, because it tends to kill prospective clients and smacks of eugenics. Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest and most active assisted suicide lobbying group, has found a new way to remedy this. It has enlisted the help—and data—of a trusted brand: the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a bizarre fit. While the Alzheimer’s Association spends considerable resources to overcome what it describes as “the stigma” of Alzheimer’s and dementia, the CEO of Compassion & Choices, Kim Callinan, has described dementia as “a fate worse than death.” Compassion & Choices was known as the Hemlock Society until the group’s support for fellow member Jack Kevorkian—and his increasing number of so-called mercy killings—tainted the brand. While the Hemlock Society celebrated Kevorkian’s actions, the Alzheimer’s Association issued a statement in opposition, noting that “we must … affirm the right to dignity and life for every Alzheimer patient and cannot condone suicide.”George Soros, whose mother was a member of the Hemlock Society, poured millions into the assisted suicide movement through his Open Society Foundations, in part to help the Hemlock Society rebrand itself as Compassion & Choices. Once at loggerheads, Compassion & Choices and the Alzheimer’s Association announced last December that, together, they will focus on a shared effort to improve “end-of-life care” to people with dementia in the “Black, Latino, Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI), and LGBTQ communities,” according to a press release from Compassion & Choices. Together, the organizations will create national webinars, host conferences and local events, share data, “and more,” according to the press release.  Now critics are raising concerns about the Alzheimer’s Association’s new partnership—which, contrary to its own policy to share “partnership information with all constituents,” remains undisclosed on its own website. Compassion & Choices isn’t an “end-of-life care” organization but an assisted suicide lobby group, although its website describes the practice as “medical aid in dying.” It spends considerable effort redefining what “end-of-life care” encompasses, and between 2017 and 2020, Compassion & Choices spent over $2 million on lobbying for assisted suicide, despite its own admission that certain people who shouldn’t qualify for assisted suicide in the United States have already qualified. https://freebeacon.com/policy/alzheimers-association-hides-new-partnership-with-lobbying-group-for-assisted-suicide/__________________________________________________________ 4. Oklahoma Plans First Catholic Charter School, The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is partnering with the Diocese of Tulsa in a joint application to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, By Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register, January 30, 2023 Propelled by rising demand for stronger, depoliticized K-12 academics, and a string of Supreme Court rulings that have expanded educational options for religious families, school-choice initiatives are gaining traction across the nation. That promising trend could reach a new inflection point in Oklahoma, where the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is partnering with the Diocese of Tulsa in a joint application to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. The application will be filed by the end of January, and if the board approves the proposal, the local Church could soon be operating the first religious charter school in the country. “We have been following the trajectory of Supreme Court decisions on school choice versus the public-school monopoly,” Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, told the Register, as he explained the local Church’s decision to jump on the opportunity provided by the high court’s jurisprudence. In just five years, three Supreme Court rulings have dramatically boosted school choice and parental rights in education: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer (2017), Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020), and Carson v. Makin (2022). https://www.ncregister.com/news/oklahoma-plans-first-catholic-charter-school__________________________________________________________ 5. The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society, By Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times, January 30, 2023, 5:00 AM Federal civil rights law requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious needs unless the request would impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” Congress didn’t bother to define “undue hardship,” so 46 years ago the Supreme Court came up with a definition of its own. An accommodation requiring an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost” — meaning a small or trifling cost — need not be granted, the court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that case, an airline maintenance worker claimed a legal right to avoid Saturday shifts so he could observe the tenets of the Worldwide Church of God, which he had recently joined. Ruling for the airline, the court noted that if one worker got Saturdays off for religion reasons, the burden would fall on other workers who might have nonreligious reasons for wanting to have the weekend off.  The appeal was brought by a conservative Christian litigating group, First Liberty Institute, on behalf of a former postal worker, Gerald Groff, described as a Christian who regards Sunday as a day for “worship and rest.”  The court in 1977 worried about the burden on nonreligious workers from accommodations granted to their religious colleagues. To today’s court, as Justice Alito has repeatedly expressed it, the real victims of discrimination are those who take religion seriously.  It may be just a coincidence, but the plaintiff who finally persuaded the justices to take his case is in fact, according to the joint statement of facts agreed to by the parties, “an evangelical Christian within the Protestant tradition.” When the court doubtless rules for him later this term, the decision will not stand for a vindication of minority rights. It will instead signify the court’s complete identification with the movement in the country’s politics to elevate religion over all other elements of civil society. Whether today’s Supreme Court is helping to lead that movement or has been captured by it is by now beside the point. Religion is the lens through which the current majority views American society; as I have written, there is no other way to understand the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The endpoint of this project is not yet in view. Those of us not on board are left to watch, to try to understand, and to call the court out with each additional step it takes. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/30/opinion/religion-supreme-court.html__________________________________________________________ 6. The War Between the Cardinals, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, January 29, 2023, Pg. SR3, Opinion The death of the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, was succeeded by a small literary outpouring, a rush of publications that were interpreted as salvos in the Catholic Church’s civil war.  Amid all these words, two interventions deserve particular attention. … It’s a memorandum, intended for the cardinals who will elect Francis’s successor, that first circulated in 2022 and has now been revealed by the Vatican journalist Sandro Magister to be the work of Cardinal George Pell of Australia, a leading conservative churchman who passed away just after Benedict. Beginning with a bald declaration that the Francis pontificate has been a “catastrophe,” the memorandum depicts a church falling into theological confusion, losing ground to evangelicalism and Pentecostalism as well as secularism, and weakened by financial losses, corruption and lawless papal governance.  The other is a long essay by Pell’s fellow cardinal, Robert McElroy of San Diego, that ran this week in America, the Jesuit magazine. … In particular, McElroy urges the church to shelve any meaningful judgment on sexual relationships and to open communion to “all of the baptized,” presumably including Protestants. Only this kind of radical inclusion, he suggests, has “any hope of attracting the next generation to life in the church.”  For all their undeniable conservatism, a consistent goal for Benedict as well as John Paul II was some kind of synthesis for the modern church, in which the changes ushered in by Vatican II could be integrated with the traditional commitments of Catholicism. … Some kind of stronger bridge would have to exist between the McElroy and Pell worldviews for their successors to still share a church in 2123.  But syntheses can’t just be drawn up on paper, they have to live in the hearts of actual believers. And right now the tendency is toward irreconcilable differences, toward a view of Catholicism’s future, on both sides of its divides, where the current argument can only be resolved only with four simple words: We win, they lose. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/28/opinion/catholic-church-benedict-schism.html__________________________________________________________ 7. Why Pope Francis stood up for LGBTQ lives, By E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, January 29, 2023, 7:00 AM Pope Francis is full of surprises. He stays away from formal changes in Catholic Church doctrine but is not shy about altering the Church’s priorities. He regularly moves the conversation from judgment to mercy, and from condemnation to encounter.  He specifically called on Catholic bishops who support statutes that punish or discriminate against the LGBTQ community to change their ways.  The pope appeared to go a step further toward liberalizing the Church’s position in response to questions from Martin after the AP interview aimed at clarifying whether he regarded homosexual behavior as a sin. Francis reiterated that Catholic teaching held that “every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” but added that “one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault.” This was classic Francis: He reiterated old doctrine but then distanced its meaning from earlier formulations far more hostile to homosexuality.  Francis seems calm about the brickbats that come his way. “Criticism helps you to grow and improve things,” he told the AP, providing protection against “a dictatorship of distance … where the emperor is there and no one can tell him anything.” Those of us who sympathize with Francis wish his internal detractors felt the same way. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/01/29/pope-francis-lgbtq-controversy/__________________________________________________________ 8. Pope Francis expresses sorrow over ‘spiral of death’ in the Holy Land, By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency, January 29, 2023, 8:10 AM Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Holy Land on Sunday, calling the recent spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence a “spiral of death” that accomplishes nothing. In his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29, the pope expressed “great sorrow” for the death of Palestinians killed in an Israeli military raid as well as seven Israelis killed in a shooting outside of a synagogue in east Jerusalem. “The spiral of death that increases day after day does nothing other than close the few glimpses of trust that exist between the two peoples,” Pope Francis said. “From the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed during firefights with the Israeli army. I appeal to the two governments and to the international community so that, immediately and with delay, other paths might be found that include dialogue and a sincere search for peace. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for this.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253494/pope-francis-expresses-sorrow-over-spiral-of-death-in-the-holy-land__________________________________________________________ 9. Pope clarifies homosexuality and sin comments in note, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, January 28, 2023, 4:10 PM Pope Francis has clarified his recent comments about homosexuality and sin, saying he was merely referring to official Catholic moral teaching that teaches that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. And in a note Friday, Francis recalled that even that black-and-white teaching is subject to circumstances that might eliminate the sin altogether.  The Rev. James Martin, an American Jesuit who runs the U.S.-based Outreach ministry for LGBTQ Catholics, asked Francis for clarification and printed the pope’s handwritten response on the Outreach website late Friday.  “When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” Francis wrote in Spanish, underlining the final phrase. But in a nod to his case-by-case approach to pastoral ministry, Francis noted that even that teaching is subject to consideration of the circumstances, “which may decrease or eliminate fault.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pope-clarifies-homosexuality-and-sin-comments-in-note/2023/01/28/a0bd73c8-9eeb-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 10. Where Good People Stood Up, By Abraham H. Foxman, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2023, Pg. A12, Letter to the Editor Richard Hurowitz’s essay “The Communities That Risked Everything to Rescue Jews” (Review, Jan. 21) extolling the courage and decency of those who rescued Jews during World War II, illustrates an awesome fact: Whenever, wherever and however good people stood up to say no to the Nazis, Jews lived, Gypsies lived and gay people lived. I survived the Holocaust as a hidden child because a Polish Catholic woman, Bronislawa Kurpi, risked her life for four years, with the help of a Catholic priest, to save me. Mr. Foxman was national director of the Anti-Defamation League, 1987-2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/good-people-stood-up-nazis-holocaust-save-jews-righteous-gentiles-11674773963__________________________________________________________ 11. ‘He’s close to us’: Wheelchair users in Africa await pope, By Justin Kabumba, Deng Machol and Cara Anna, Associated Press, January 28, 2023, 8:33 AM When Pope Francis arrives in Congo and South Sudan next week, thousands of people will take special note of a gesture more grounded than the sign of the cross. Watching from their wheelchairs, they will relate to the way he uses his. The pope, who began using a wheelchair last year, is visiting two countries where years of conflict have disabled many, and yet they are among the world’s most difficult places to find accessibility and understanding. His visit is heartening Catholics and non-Catholics alike. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/hes-close-to-us-wheelchair-users-in-africa-await-pope/2023/01/28/371db3c0-9ee0-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 12. In mostly abortion-free Mississippi, court battle continues, By Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, January 28, 2023, 8:53 AM A physicians’ group based in the Midwest lacks legal standing to challenge a 25-year-old Mississippi Supreme Court ruling recognizing a right to abortion under the state constitution, lawyers for six women who support abortion rights argued in court papers filed Friday. “This case was brought by an out-of-state organization that obviously believes the government should force Mississippi women to carry pregnancies to term and give birth against their will,” Mississippi Center for Justice attorney Rob McDuff said Friday, adding that those who filed suit have “no practical stake in this particular case.” The legal fight could be more about principle than practicality because Mississippi’s only abortion clinic shut down in July, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights nationwide with a case that originated in the state. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ohio-city-rewrites-abortion-ban-advocacy-groups-end-lawsuit/2023/01/27/7268b9d2-9e6f-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 13. Police: Counterterror unit holds Spain church attack suspect, By Jennifer O’Mahony and Aritz Parra, Associated Press, January 27, 2023, 2:37 PM A counterterrorism intelligence unit on Friday questioned a suspect accused of killing a Catholic church officer with a machete and wounding four more people, including a priest, in the southern city of Algeciras, Spain’s national police agency said. The Spanish National Police asked for two more days to interrogate the 25-year-old Moroccan suspect in Madrid before he has to face a judge, as is permitted under terrorism legislation. The extension request was granted until Monday evening, Spain’s National Court confirmed. The suspect, identified by authorities as Yassine Kanjaa, was transferred to the capital and handed over to the General Commissariat of Information, an intelligence unit within the Spanish police which oversees domestic terrorism cases. Kanjaa is accused of killing sacristan Diego Valencia after he prepared Wednesday night Mass at the Church of Nuestra Senora de La Palma. He is further accused of wounding a priest and three others at another Algeciras church. Valencia’s family and local politicians attended his funeral in the multicultural southern city Friday. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/police-counterterror-unit-holds-spain-church-attack-suspect/2023/01/27/d23c4600-9e4f-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 14. Pandemic, culture wars revive ‘school choice’ policy push, By Sam Metz and Heather Hollingsworth, Associated Press, January 27, 2023, 8:06 AM In Utah, a proposal would allow roughly 5,000 students to apply for $8,000 scholarships.  At least a dozen other states are considering similar legislation in what has emerged as a landmark year for school choice battles. With memories fresh from pandemic-era school closures and curriculum battles — particularly over how matters of gender and race are taught — Mason and legions of parents like her are trekking to the marble floors of their state Capitols to fight to create education savings accounts, also known as ESAs. Though they vary, these voucher-style proposals have been introduced in states including Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. No state has more legislation pending than Virginia, where Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won his race for governor in 2021 in the liberal-leaning state after making education grievances a key tenet of his campaign. Additionally, GOP governors in Oklahoma and Nevada have suggested plans to push for voucher-style policies and politicians in Arkansas and Florida have said they plan to expand pre-existing programs that are currently limited to certain student populations.  Tax credits allow families to deduct amounts from their overall tax burden to be used toward alternatives to public school. Vouchers traditionally allow parents to take the funds that would otherwise be used to educate their children in public schools and put them toward tuition for accredited private or religious schools. Education savings accounts and scholarship programs are more expansive, giving parents additional latitude on how they can spend the funds, including on home-schooling. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pandemic-culture-wars-revive-school-choice-policy-push/2023/01/27/5e510282-9e43-11ed-93e0-38551e88239c_story.html__________________________________________________________ 15. Cardinal McElroy, Pope Francis and the synod, Cardinal McElroy’s recent essay surprised some Catholics, because it seemed to deviate from the position of Pope Francis, and the Catechism, on a central issue of Catholic doctrine., By JD Flynn, The Pillar, January 27, 2023, 9:09 PM Cardinal Robert McElroy this week prompted widespread conversation among Catholics, after he published an essay which issued a call for a very broad change to the Church’s Eucharistic life. The cardinal’s essay surprised some Catholics, because it seemed to deviate from the stated position of Pope Francis, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on a central issue of Catholic doctrine. But few commentators have noted its other distinguishing feature: McElroy discussed a set of proposed changes to Catholic doctrine in the context of the Church’s synod on synodality – suggesting that the cardinal may hold a very different vision for the synod than does Pope Francis or the synod’s organizers. The cardinal is likely not alone. While the pope and other synod organizers have insisted the global synod process does not aim to focus on doctrinal changes, McElroy has suggested that it will — just as many Catholics have insisted it might since the process was announced two years ago.  Francis has made efforts to push back on that narrative. To some Catholics, McElroy seemed this week to confirm it, and with that, to confirm their anxieties about the whole of the synodal process. It remains to be seen whether Francis will respond to that decision. https://www.pillarcatholic.com/cardinal-mcelroy-pope-francis-and-the-synod/__________________________________________________________ 16. German bishops’ leader sees ‘middle way’ on council of laity and bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing said Friday that while he thought the Vatican was wrong to block the creation of a “synodal council,” he believed there was a “fallback option” for German bishops., By Luke Coppen, The Pillar, January 27, 2023, 3:09 PM The chairman of Germany’s bishops’ conference said in an interview published Friday that he sees a possible “middle way” after the Vatican nixed a proposed permanent decision-making body of bishops and lay people. Bishop Georg Bätzing told the Die Welt newspaper that while he thought the Vatican was wrong to block the creation of a “synodal council,” he believed there was a “fallback option.” He said: “There is still a middle way. In Germany, we have had the so-called Joint Conference since the 1970s, in which the bishops’ conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) consult with each other, that is, lay people and bishops. This Joint Conference has been given certain tasks. So the fallback option is: we stay with this model and simply add important tasks that are feasible under Church law.” The Joint Conference has its origins in the Würzburg Synod, a forerunner of today’s controversial “synodal way,” held from 1971 to 1975. The Joint Conference’s members  — 10 bishops and 10 lay people — meet twice a year to discuss tasks common to both the bishops’ conference and the Zdk, a powerful lay group spearheading the synodal way alongside the bishops.  Explaining why an enhanced Joint Conference could be a fallback option, Bishop Bätzing said: “It is already the case that advisory bodies in the Church de facto take many important decisions, and we bishops only formally sign it off.”  The bishop of Limburg was speaking days after the publication of a letter from three Vatican cardinals explaining that the Church in Germany could not proceed with plans to create a permanent synodal council.  https://www.pillarcatholic.com/german-bishops-leader-sees-middle-way-on-council-of-laity-and-bishops/__________________________________________________________ 17. Mark Houck trial: Jury deadlocked, will resume deliberations Jan. 30, By Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency, January 27, 2023, 5:48 PM The jury deciding the fate of pro-life activist Mark Houck could not come to a decision Friday on whether the Catholic father of seven broke a federal law in a shoving incident outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic in 2021. U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert entered the courtroom around 5 p.m., almost two and a half hours after he sent the jury out for deliberation, and said that he received a note from the foreman that said, “Your honor at this point we are deadlocked. How long should we continue to deliberate?” Pappert called the jury in and asked the foreman if he thought, with more time, the jury could come to a decision. The foreman said no, but Pappert sent the jury home with instructions to return to court and resume their deliberations Monday morning. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253490/mark-houck-trial-jury-deadlocked-will-resume-deliberations-jan-30__________________________________________________________ 18. Religious Freedom Institute honors Tom Farr, champion of those persecuted for their faith, By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, January 27, 2023, 7:00 AM The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), one of the world’s leading religious liberty organizations, announced on Tuesday the retirement of Tom Farr as president and the appointment of his successor, Eric Patterson. As one of RFI’s founding members, Farr has served as president since 2016. Patterson has served as RFI’s executive vice president since 2019. Other leaders in the religious freedom world responded to the announcement with praise for Farr’s work and enthusiasm for Patterson’s appointment. “The work of RFI is so critical right now, maybe more than ever. Tom Farr’s leadership and vision have been exemplary, and I can’t think of anyone better to lead it into this next chapter than Eric Patterson,” said John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253470/religious-freedom-institute-honors-tom-farr-champion-of-those-persecuted-for-their-faith__________________________________________________________ 19. Pope’s chief of staff could undercut star witness in Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’, By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 28, 2023, Opinion In a decision that could set the stage for a decisive turn in the Vatican’s long-running “trial of the century,” the president of the Vatican’s tribunal ruled Thursday that although the pope himself cannot be called as a defense witness, the pontiff’s chief of staff, Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, will appear. The court also ruled that the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, better known as the “Vatican bank,” French layman Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, also can be questioned. Defense lawyers had also asked that Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State and thus the pope’s top aide, be called to testify. The court reserved judgment on that request pending the results of Peña Parra’s testimony. Both Peña Parra and de Franssu are expected to address a controversial $400 million real estate deal in London which is at the heart of the current trial. Thursday’s hearing was the 45th session of the trial since it began in July 2021, featuring ten defendants, including, for the first time in a Vatican criminal proceeding, a cardinal, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Peña Parra’s testimony is considered especially crucial to the defense case, since theoretically it could undercut the credibility of the star witness for the prosecution, Italian Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. For ten years, from 2009 to 2019, Perlasca was head of the office for administrative affairs within the Secretariat of State, effectively making him responsible for the secretariat’s financial affairs. When prosecutors began looking into the London deal, for which the Vatican eventually absorbed a loss of roughly $140 million, Perlasca was a prominent target of the investigation. In the middle of 2021, Perlasca instead volunteered to become a whistle-blower in the case, testifying against former colleagues and superiors, including Becciu. In effect, Perlasca has attempted to describe himself as a victim of a scheme orchestrated by Becciu in league with unscrupulous Italian financiers, testifying last November: “Becciu made me do the things for which he’s charged in this trial … I’m not an accomplice, nor a conniver, nor an abettor.” Yet in August 2021, Italian news outlets carried reports of a secret memorandum prepared for Vatican investigators in April 2021 by Peña Parra, who had been tapped by Pope Francis in October 2018 to take over from Becciu as the sostituto, or “substitute,” in the Secretariat of State, effectively the pope’s chief of staff. Though the Vatican has never confirmed the authenticity of that memorandum, it’s never denied it either. In it, Peña Parra describes Perlasca as the key figure in a system within the Secretariat of State intended to pressure top officials into making hasty decisions about financial matters, effectively rubber-stamping decisions already made.  Perhaps most damningly, the Peña Parra memo asserts that Perlasca himself signed two key documents authorizing the London deal “before the question had been submitted to the attention of the Secretary of State or the Holy Father,” meaning, effectively, that Peña Parra had presented his superiors with a fait accompli. Should Peña Parra confirm those claims during examination at the trial, it could cast additional doubt on the credibility of Perlasca’s testimony, which has already been damaged, among other things by revelations that he was indirectly coached by Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, an Italian PR consultant previously convicted of leaking confidential documents in the Vatileaks 2.0 scandal. https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2023/01/popes-chief-of-staff-could-undercut-star-witness-in-vaticans-trial-of-the-century__________________________________________________________

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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