Sunday, April 30, 2023

CWI : Operation Laonia (8)

CWI : Operation Laonia 

First and foremost, salutations to Fr Brendan 'Lazarus' Quinlivan, who was appointed by Bishop Fintan 'Fear Na Bruíne' Monahan to throw a beady eye to all that is posted here, and indeed elsewhere in relation to the Diocese of Killaloe.

We sincerely hope that we are not keeping you from your pastoral duties and obligations in that regard, Brendan.

Now, just another piece for Bishop Fintan 'Fear Na Bruíne' Monahan to ponder upon....

Almost 15 years ago, our predecessors published a story here, entitled 'The Bishop And The Blonde',  and no-one would have thought back then, or indeed now, that a similar headline in relation to a bishop of the same said diocese of Killaloe would find itself being published here.

You see, Fintan, we know, but we want to offer you the opportunity to explain, who the blonde female is that loiters around the gates of Westbourne (bishops palace in Ennis) in her jogging gear, waiting for you, on a not too infrequent basis, and as recently observed as last Thursday (27th April 2023).

She is somewhat your own unofficial video recorder of your little online videos on Facebook and elsewhere, of your visits throughout the Diocese of Killaloe, so does she travel in the same car as you?

This could possibly lead to suspicions, whether improper or otherwise, and no doubt you could/will protest that all is above board etc, but do you not still think it somewhat inappropriate?

Considering the advice/instructions you have issued to other clergy in relation to female contact/involvement etc, in recent times, will you be now seeking your own laicisation due to such inappropriate female 'involvement'?

Or will it continue to be rules for you and laws for all others?

Day in the Life: 'That is an issue for the Catholic church, I couldn't comment on it'

Day of fanfare at St Canice's as Bishop Wilkinson enthroned - Diocese of  Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

Bishop Adrian Wilkinson is the new Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory.  His diocese includes counties Kilkenny, Wexford, Carlow, Waterford, as well as parts of Tipperary, Laois, and Wicklow.

From Enniscorthy in County Wexford, Bishop Adrian Wilkinson was born in 1968 and was ordained in 1994.  He initially served as Curate in Douglas Union with Frankfield, in the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross (1994–1997), and then as Rector of Dunboyne Union, in the Diocese of Meath and Kildare (1997–2002), during which time he was also Chaplain at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and a Minor Canon in the Chapter of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

He was also Rector of Rathmolyon with Castlerickard, Rathcore and Agher, in the same diocese (2001–2002), before returning to Douglas Union as Rector in 2002 and serving in that role since then. He was appointed Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne and Ross since 2014. 

Bishop Wilkinson is married to Jacqui, who is a lecturer in teacher education at Dublin City University, and they have three grown–up children – two sons and a daughter. 

Here is a glimpse into his world…

Bishop Adrian, you were enthroned in each of the six cathedrals in your diocese. Tell us about your enthronement?

When I was elected Bishop for Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, I was first consecrated in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin on October 30, as it is the Metropolitan Cathedral for the southern province in the Church of Ireland.

I was then enthroned in my six different cathedrals over several weeks. I left the Kilkenny enthronement to last.  It was like the end of my journey around the diocese. On my very first Sunday as Bishop, I visited places where St Kieran and St Canice started their ministry, and I ended back here in Kilkenny in the main Cathedral that is associated with both those two saints.

Bishop Coll had just been appointed and I attended his ordination. A few weeks later I was able to invite him to my enthronement here in St Canice’s and it was wonderful to have him there. The Mayor of Kilkenny, David Fitzgerald also attended, and Dean Stephen Farrell led the service. I had several family and friends present, but it was also wonderful to see a full cathedral with people from across all the dioceses.

Do you get a choice of which parish you live in?

No, the Bishop lives here in Kilkenny in the Bishop’s House. It is beside the former Bishop's Palace, which is now the headquarters of the  Heritage Council.

You lived the best part of 20 years in Cork. What are the major differences that stand out to you here in your new home of Kilkenny?

Well, I grew up in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, so I knew Kilkenny and it was a place we would often visit. Even when I lived in Cork, my wife and I quite often visited here, if we had a day off or if we wanted to take an overnight break away somewhere. We knew Kilkenny as tourists. We loved the medieval city with all the different restaurants and interesting places to see. Little did we ever think that we would be living here.

Our home is in Troy’s Gate, in the shadow of St. Canice’s Cathedral. So, we enjoy all the benefits of a wonderful vibrant city like Kilkenny and love it.

The very first weekend we arrived; the Savour Kilkenny food festival was on. Since October, there has been a Christmas festival and St Patrick's festival, which I was on the review stand for. I look forward to all the Kilkenny events ahead of us over the summer.

We are also lucky to have St Canice’s Cathedral on our doorstep. It's a beautiful Norman building with its lovely round tower. It’s a wonderful space when you have a large service but also for a service with a very small number of people. There are  side chapels and areas that you can go to for peace and quiet to  pray and reflect.

When you were asked to be bishop, is the process similar to the Roman Catholic church where the appointment of bishops is a bit like the appointment of judges, i.e., you don't apply, and you don't know that you are appointed?

It's slightly different with us in that we are a democratic church, so the people have a say. When a diocese becomes vacant , the elected clergy and people from that diocese and from the wider church meet to  discuss the needs of the Diocese. It's all done very confidentially. When potential candidates are discussed, you might get approached so that you let your name go forward. The process needs a few names and there is an election.

I was invited to allow my name to be entered for consideration. I thought the spotlight would fall on other people and not me, but at the end of it, I was elected and asked to come here. You feel prayerfully that you have the will of the people (the clergy and the lay people) who have elected you.

Do you ever see the Catholic church allowing priests to marry?

That is an issue for the Catholic church, I couldn't comment on it. All I can say is that marriage brings great blessings, and support with my ministry. My wife Jacqui works as well, she's an academic. She's a lecturer in Dublin City University and has a busy career with teacher education. She was a primary school teacher herself, and she lectures there as a specialist in RE.

I have a grown-up family now, but it meant that I was at the school and at the playground gates when the kids were small. It enriched my life, my ministry, and my parish life, and it still enriches my ministry.

Do you ever envisage an Ireland that will be Christian rather than the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church?

I want to think Ireland is changing all the time and we are a pluralist society now with many kinds of different religions. We've been enriched by people coming from different religions and cultural backgrounds into Ireland. So, I don't think it will ever be a monochrome Ireland again.

What I would love to see is the Christian churches working closely together. I know Bishop Coll, and I think that the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland have come much closer together in recent decades. I think Christians do all that they can together in common witness, to try and reach out to people and bring the Christian message to them of hope and love centred on the resurrection of Jesus celebrated at Easter.

So, I would like to think that Christians work together. It is a changing, evolving Ireland and I think that the Christian church is stronger when we do things together, recognizing that Ireland will never be a monochrome culture or society again.

Film focuses on couple who resisted power of Catholic Church

\"Pray For Our Sinners\" is now out in Irish cinemas.

"Pray For Our Sinners," an award-winning documentary telling the story of Irish campaigners who stood up to the Catholic Church over sexual abuse scandals, has been released in select Irish cinemas. 

Sinéad O'Shea's "Pray For Our Sinners" follows a number of inspirational campaigners in O'Shea's hometown of Navan, Co Meath, who stood up to the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s at a time when challenging the church would have been unacceptable. 

The film is not a black-and-white portrayal of saints and sinners but a nuanced account of Catholicism and its all-powerful role in Irish life during the 20th century. 

O'Shea takes a personal approach to the stories of systemic abuse within the Catholic Church, focusing on the tradition of silence in Ireland and how difficult it has been for people in her hometown to articulate their suffering. 

O'Shea interviews those who campaigned against Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries in addition to those who advocated for victims of extreme corporal punishment in church-run schools. 

One such interviewee is Dr. Mary Randles, who complained to the church on behalf of a young boy named Norman Murray, who was viciously beaten simply writing with his left hand after breaking his right arm in a fall. 

Corporal punishment was not outlawed in Ireland until 1982, while Magdalene Laundries and mother and baby homes survived in some form until the latter part of the 20th century. O'Shea's documentary highlights that these changes were not inevitable but the result of the tireless campaigners who took on the church at a time when it was not acceptable to do so. 

"I am very proud to be sharing these stories of resilience and resistance. I hope they provide insights into Irish life and draw attention to the continuing issues caused by the relationship between Church and State here," O'Shea said in a statement ahead of the release of the film.

Catholic Church launches initiative encouraging young Irish men to consider priesthood

The Catholic Church in Ireland has launched an initiative to urge young men to consider joining the priesthood in an attempt to arrest a rapid decline in numbers. 

Just ten seminarians began their studies at St. Patrick's Pontifical University in Maynooth last year, which is actually an increase on the nine seminarians that began training for the priesthood in 2021. 

In total, there were 56 men studying for the priesthood in Irish dioceses in 2022. 

Meanwhile, a report last year found that fewer than 2.5% of Irish priests are under the age of 40, adding that Ireland may lose a quarter of its priests over the next 15 years.

The Archdiocese of Dublin announced last December that it was amalgamating its 199 parishes into 53 super parishes by June 2023 to help cope with the shortage of priests, with priests now expected to oversee several parishes at once. 

According to the Catholic News Agency, there are currently 2,116 priests serving a total of 2,650 churches in Ireland, while more than a third of the priests in the country are over the age of 60. 

Addressing a congregation in County Mayo last July, Archbishop of Tuam Francis Duffy said the only thing certain about the Catholic Church in Ireland is the "ongoing and sustained decline" of parishioners and priests. 

"I suggest you look at your priest, he may be the last in a long line of resident pastors and may not be replaced," Bishop Duffy told a congregation at St. Mary's Church in Westport. 

"I suggest you look at your church, you may be lucky to have a Sunday Mass or several, but for how much longer?" 

The Tuam Archdiocese has since announced plans for lay-led liturgies in churches where no priest is available to help cope with the shortage. 

The church's new year-long vocational initiative, which was launched on Vocations/Good Shepherd Sunday on April 30, attempts to address the rapid decline in numbers. The theme of the year-long initiative is "Take a Risk for Christ". 

Vocations Ireland, an organization that is part of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, will hold events throughout the year aimed at highlighting the different vocations within the Catholic Church. 

Waterford Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is a driving force behind the new initiative and hopes that it will inspire conversations among families. 

The new campaign was launched on the 60th anniversary of the initiation of the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which was introduced by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. 

Fr Vincent Stapleton, a curate in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, is the only priest in his diocese under the age of 50 and told RTÉ News that he would often turn heads when people realized how young he was. 

"I think people are used to me now, but when I’d turn up at Hurling matches; you'd have people turning in their seats to look and they’d say, a young priest and we haven't seen a young priest in so long," Fr. Stapleton told RTÉ News. 

The Catholic Church has conceded that young men joining the priesthood is counter-cultural in modern-day Ireland.

Former Jehovah's Witness worshipper who was raped by an elder 30 years ago after they went door-to-door evangelising together LOSES claim for £62,000 compensation from the church

 Sewell was jailed for 14 years at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court after being found guilty of rape and indecently assaulting three other women

A mother has lost £62,000 damages for being raped by a preacher after a church won a legal battle in the Supreme Court.

The worshipper was attacked by Jehovah's Witness elder Mark Sewell, near Cardiff more than 30 years ago.

Devastated, the victim told leaders of the church about the horrific incident - but an internal inquiry found her allegations 'not proven.'

The Jehovah's Witness organisation has now won a Supreme Court appeal after a High Court judge ruled that a rape victim should get damages. 

But Supreme Court justices on Wednesday ruled against her and concluded that the 'Jehovah's Witness organisation' was not 'vicariously liable'.

Trustees of the Barry Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, part of the Jehovah's Witness organisation, had asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.

Five justices had considered arguments at a Supreme Court hearing in London in February.

They said, in a summary of their ruling, that they had to decide whether Court of Appeal judges 'wrongly' upheld the High Court ruling that the Trustees of the Barry Congregation, part of the Jehovah's Witness organisation, were 'vicariously liable' for a rape committed by one of their elders.

Justices said they had unanimously allowed the appeal by the trustees and concluded that the 'Jehovah's Witness organisation is not vicariously liable for the rape'.

They have not named the woman - she is referred to as 'Mrs B' in the ruling - and said she could not be identified in media reports of the case.

But they have named the man who raped her as Mark Sewell.

He had raped her at his home after they had been out 'evangelising together', justices said.

They said Sewell had been convicted of raping Mrs B - and of indecently assaulting two other people.

'In 2017, Mrs B brought a claim for damages against the worldwide governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of Pennsylvania, and the Trustees of the (Barry) Congregation,' said justices in the summary of their ruling.

'She claimed that they were responsible in law, or, "vicariously liable", for the rape, because of the nature of their relationship with Mr Sewell and because of the connection between that relationship and the commission of the rape.'

A High Court judge had 'found them vicariously liable for the rape' and awarded Mrs B £62,000 'general damages', justices said.

Court of Appeal judges had upheld that decision.

Justices said they had unanimously allowed an appeal by the Barry trustees and concluded that the 'Jehovah's Witness organisation is not vicariously liable for the rape'

The victim, who is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, said she suffered from depression following the attack near Cardiff.

She previously said there had not been a 'proper' internal inquiry and leaders were 'vicariously liable' for the rape.

Sewell was jailed for 14 years at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court after being found guilty of rape and indecently assaulting three other women.

Change and tradition in Coronation liturgy

The Coronation Emblem | The Royal Family

The Coronation will for the first time feature a preface to the Coronation Oath, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury will explain the historical context to the King’s pledge to “maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant reformed religion established by law”.

This is one of a number of innovations in the Coronation liturgy, published last night by Lambeth Palace. These include participation of Christian denominations and faiths besides the Church of England and the King praying aloud in the course of the service.

Lambeth Palace said that the liturgy, based around an Anglican Eucharist, had evolved directly from the crowing of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 937.

Among the pledges the King will make on the Coronation Bible is the promise to maintain the Protestant religion and to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof”.

He must also declare that he is “a faithful Protestant” and will follow “the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession”.

The Oath is a legal rather than liturgical event, its wording prescribed by a 1688 Act of Parliament. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who commissioned the new liturgy and will lead the service, will explain the Church of England’s desire “to foster an environment where all people may live freely”.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson said: “The religious and cultural context of the seventeenth century was very different to today’s contemporary, multi-faith Britain.”

He said that Archbishop Welby’s preface “will contextualise the Church of England’s modern understanding of this legal text”, referencing the late Queen’s statement in 2012 that it has “a duty to protect the practice of all faiths in this country”.

Following the Oath, the King will pray aloud before the congregation – the first time that monarch has done this during a Coronation service.

The newly-written prayer includes the words: “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.”

While Church of England clergy will conduct much of the service, representatives of other denominations and religions will have a significant role.

After the King is anointed with oil consecrated in Jerusalem, he will receive his regalia from members of the House of Lords, including representatives from Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Archbishop Welby will crown the King after the presentation of the regalia.  Following the fanfare and gun salutes, four leaders of other Christian denominations – including the Archbishop of Westminster – will join the Archbishop of York in offering a blessing.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, will pray: “May God pour upon you the riches of his grace, keep you in his holy fear, prepare you for a happy eternity, and receive you at the last into immortal glory.”

Vatican restricted retired French archbishop in 2021

Abandonment of the proceedings against the former archbishop of Auch,  suspected of sexual assault and attempted rape - News in France

Archbishop Maurice Gardès, who stood down as Archbishop of Auch in southwest France in October 2020 at the age of 75, was forbidden from exercising public ministry and returning to his former archdiocese. He was also required to undergo psychotherapy.

Accusations against Gardès were first reported April 26 by the Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, which said that Church authorities reported the archbishop to the prosecutor in Lyon weeks before Pope Francis accepted his resignation for age reasons.

The report was confirmed by a joint statement issued April 27 by Auch’s current Archbishop Bertrand Lacombe, Toulouse Archbishop Guy de Kerimel, and Lyon Archbishop Olivier de Germay.

The statement said that in September 2020, the Archdiocese of Lyon received the testimony of a female religious who accused Gardès of “moral and sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, and sexual assault.”

The Lyon archdiocese alerted the local public prosecutor, who sent the file to the prosecutor in Auch. At the same time, a canonical process began, with precautionary measures imposed by Lyon’s archbishop on Gardès, who had retired to the city.

In April 2022, Auch’s public prosecutor ordered that the case be dismissed, partly on the grounds of “prescription” — the statute of limitations — and partly because of an “insufficiently established offense.” 

The three archbishops said they had not commented publicly on the case until now as they were waiting for the prosecutor in Auch to issue a statement.

The archbishops said that following the prosecutor’s April 27 statement, they were able to disclose information about “the canonical procedure in progress.”

“Given the seriousness of the facts denounced,” they wrote, “sanctions have been taken from 2021 by the Holy See against Archbishop Gardès: Prohibition to return to the Diocese of Auch; Prohibition of all public ministry; Obligation to lead a life of prayer and penance; Obligation to submit to psychotherapy.”

They added: “We express our support to victimized persons, our availability, and our prayer. We share the pain of all those who will be legitimately shocked and affected by the news of these events.” 

“We think in particular of the priests and the faithful of the Diocese of Auch. We repeat our determination to serve the truth. In each of our dioceses, listening and welcoming units are available for those who wish to speak.”

A statement from Auch’s public prosecutor was released in response to the Famille Chrétienne report. It said that the prosecutor received the report submitted by the Lyon archdiocese via the Lyon prosecutor on Dec. 1, 2020, immediately launching a criminal investigation.

“When questioned, the female religious indicated that Maurice Gardès had committed sexual assault and attempted rape against her between late 2007 and 2009 in Gers,” it said, referring to France’s Gers department, which is covered by the Auch archdiocese.

“She did not file a complaint. Investigations were conducted on her denunciations.”

The prosecutor in Auch confirmed that some claims were dismissed because of the statute of limitation and others because it was not possible to establish their “materiality.”

“Therefore, on April 15, 2022, the procedure was closed without further action on the grounds of ‘insufficiently established offense,’” the statement said.

Gardès, who was appointed to the Archdiocese of Auch in 2004, was caught up in the “Preynat affair” that shook the French Church. 

He had served as a priest of the Lyon archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, a period when priest Bernard Preynat sexually abused dozens of children. Preynat was jailed for five years in 2020.

Gardès, a former vicar general of Lyon archdiocese, stood trial for allegedly failing to report abuse at the same time as Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and four other officials. Gardès was acquitted in 2019.

The allegations against Gardès are the latest in a string of scandals involving retired bishops in France.

In November 2022, former Strasbourg Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet admitted to inappropriate behavior toward a young woman in the 1980s.

In the same month, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard acknowledged he had behaved “in a reprehensible way” toward a girl when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Marseille in the late 1980s.

In October 2022, it emerged that former Créteil Bishop Michel Santier had been allowed to resign in 2021 citing health reasons when he was facing claims of spiritual abuse dating back to the 1990s. 

French bishops’ conference president Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort said in November 2022 that a total of 11 French bishops had faced scrutiny by the secular or ecclesiastical justice systems on suspicion of committing or covering up abuse. 

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) estimated in 2021 that as many as 330,000 children were abused from 1950 to 2020 in the French Catholic Church.

Mincione battles Vatican state and Italian press in UK courts

Sloane Avenue: Raffaele Mincione alla sbarra | Silere non possum

Lawyers for both the Vatican Secretariat of State and an Italian news publisher have fired back in court, against the investment manager who sold the Holy See the London building at the center of ongoing Vatican financial scandal.

Raffaele Mincione remains embroiled in multiple court cases, in several jurisdictions, as he attempts to clear his name over accusations of fraud, money laundering, and other allegations over his dealings with the Vatican.

In a UK court, Mincione is asking judges to rule that he acted in good faith in all his dealing with the Holy See, and arguing that the criminal charges he faces in Vatican City are an attempt to undo a legitimate business deal, in which he’s done nothing wrong. 

In a witness statement filed last month at the Court of Appeals for England and Wales, Fr. Carlos Fernando Diaz Paniagua, a canon lawyer speaking for the Secretariat of State, argued that the Vatican could not be compelled to turn over internal communications between the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the sostituto at the department, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, because of the limits of pontifical secrecy.

Arguing that communications between the cardinal and archbishop constituted state secrets, Diaz Paniagua told the court in March that it would be a “grave sin” for the Vatican to turn over messages sent between the two via encrypted messaging apps like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram. 

“Public officials of the Holy See and the Vatican City make a solemn oath not to reveal matters under the pontifical secret regardless of any grave or urgent considerations or the need to protect the common good,” said Diaz Paniagua.

The priest also told the court that the Holy See had already turned over thousands of documents to Mincione’s lawyers in the case and claimed that Parolin’s “peripheral involvement” in the London property deal made any further disclosures unnecessary.

Despite the secretariat’s contention that Parolin played only a “peripheral” role in the London deal, documents filed in a separate UK court case in 2021 appear to show the cardinal personally signed off on the details of the London deal which allowed the businessman Gianluigi Torzi to allegedly hold the building hostage during the transfer of ownership from Mincione.

Once the deal was completed, Parolin also wrote to the president of the IOR, Vatican City’s commercial and retail bank, and pressured him to approve a 150 million euro loan to refinance a high interest mortgage his department had acquired along with the building

Mincione and Torzi are currently on trial in Vatican City over their roles in the London property deal, which saw the Vatican acquire a London building at 60 Sloane Ave. for a total cost of 350 million euros.

Mincione is suing the Secretariat of State in the UK, asking the court to rule he acted in “good faith” in his dealing with the secretariat. After he initially took legal action in 2021, a UK judge blocked Mincione’s suit until the criminal trial in Vatican City had resolved. 

That decision was reversed in August last year.

The Anglo-Italian financier is one of ten defendants charged with a range of financial crimes by the Vatican City’s Office of the Promoter of Justice. The businessman was formally charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, fraud, and money laundering in 2021.

The Secretariat of State acquired the London building from Mincione as part of the terms of its early withdrawal from Mincione’s Athena Global Opportunities investment fund. Previous reporting has demonstrated that Mincione invested millions of Vatican funds into his own companies and speculative investment projects, including the London building, which he owned through a series of nesting holding companies in the Channel Islands.

Previous reporting has also demonstrated close financial links between Mincione and Torzi, the businessman chosen by the secretariat to broker its acquisition of the building from Mincione. Torzi is also charged in the Vatican City trial, and accused of extorting the Vatican for millions for control of the building.

The Pillar has previously reported that Mincione invested Vatican money in debt products marketed by Torzi, some with links to mafia-affiliated companies. Mincione invested Vatican money into one such debt product called Sierra One bond, which was managed by a Torzi associate, Giacomo Capizzi, who was also included in the Italian court order on Monday. 

Torzi, in turn, used his companies to lend Mincione tens of millions of euros during the same period.

In a separate legal action, Mincione is also suing the Italian publisher GEDI Group, which publishes the newspaper La Repubblica and the magazine L’Espresso, for defamation over its coverage of the London deal.

Mincione is seeking damages over coverage by the GEDI group’s publications which suggested the businessman knowingly acted to defraud the Vatican over the building at 60 Sloane Ave., and participated in the diversion of some 100 million euros of Church funds earmarked for charitable purposes in accounts like Peter’s Pence.

In October last year, another Italian publisher, RCS Media, reached a settlement with Mincione for an undisclosed sum in a similar suit concerning its coverage of the same story. 

However, in a filing on March 16, GEDI’s lawyers said it would be defending its coverage as substantially true, that there are “very strong grounds" to accuse Mincione of embezzlement and fraud, and that the facts made them “strongly suspect” he played a part in orchestrating a complicated fraud.

A spokesperson for Mincione told legal press that GEDI’s decision to argue the truth of their coverage was “extraordinary” given the settlement by settling RCA “has already admitted broadly the same allegations were defamatory of Mr. Mincione.”

Mincione has insisted that had the Vatican abided by the terms of its original investment with him, it would have made money. Instead, the London building was sold last year for a loss of more than 100 million euros.

The suggestion that Mincione and others, including Vatican officials, conspired to divert Church funds meant for charitable purposes relates to allegations that the Vatican’s original investment of 200 million euros in Mincione’s Athena fund was, in part, financed with money taken from Peter’s Pence and private papal accounts for the pope’s own charitable giving. 

While some media outlets have reported that funds were directly transferred from these accounts to stake the investment, The Pillar has reported that that the money invested by the Secretariat of State was loaned by Swiss banks, with the Vatican using as collateral other Vatican funds and assets held on deposit with the same banks, including charitable funds like Peter’s Pence. 

The Pillar has also previously reported that this method was used to help disguise the existence of the loans and the investments on internal Vatican balance sheets, a practice prohibited by under norms issued by Pope Francis.

In addition to his suits against the Secretariat of State and GEDI in London, in Luxembourg Mincione is also suing Credit Suisse, one of the banks used by the Secretariat of State, alleging that “failed to divulge crucial information about the origin of the money which they used to subscribe to the WRM Group sub-fund, in order to cover up the exact origin of the funds.”

Last month, it was announced that UBS had agreed to buy Credit Suisse for some $3 billion, in a deal brokered by the Swiss government after the share price of Credit Suisse collapsed.

Church grows as South Korea's population shrinks

South Korea - Martin's Ecclesiastical Heraldry

According to new statistics published April 25 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), there were 5,949,862 baptized Catholics in 2022, a rise of 11,817 (0.2%) from the previous year

Catholics accounted for 11.3% of the East Asian nation’s population, which shrank by 104,000 to 52.5 million in 2022. 

Under pressure from a range of cultural factors, including family breakdown, increasing urbanization, rural depopulation, and unemployment, suicide has become the fourth-highest cause of death in South Korea, which has the highest suicide rate in the developed world. The nation has seen a string of deaths among young celebrities, including the K-pop star Moonbin earlier this month.

Church organizations operate suicide prevention centers, but Catholics helping to tackle the crisis say that demand for counseling far exceeds availability.

Catholicism took root in the country — whose culture was deeply shaped by Buddhism and Confucianism — in the late 1700s and grew amid intense persecution that saw the creation of countless martyrs

The Church’s growth in the past 30 years has been described as “explosive” and a model for other Catholic communities. 

In 1995, South Korea was home to 2,885,000 Catholics. A decade later, in 2005, that had risen to 5,015,000.

The Catholic Church has entered the national consciousness partly due to its role in the country’s shift from military dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s. Prominent cultural figures such as K-pop idol Rain have converted to Catholicism, further raising the Church’s profile.

South Korea has sent Catholic missionaries all over the world, including Fr. John Lee Tae-seok, who served as a priest and doctor in Africa, earning the nickname “the Schweitzer of Sudan” before his death in 2010 at the age of 47.

South Korean Catholicism also forged Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy, who was baptized at the age of 16 after attending a Catholic school.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano earlier this month, Cardinal You said that the Church attracted many Koreans because of its association with freedom.

“The spread of Catholicism in Korea was facilitated by the demands for freedom that it implied in a society and culture framed in rigid social stratification. A society … that was very hierarchical and marked by exclusionary classism,” he said. 

“The sense of fraternity regardless, which is proper to Christianity, had a liberating effect in that context, welcomed by a large part of the population. This also explains why the Korean Church has a good following among young people: young people love freedom.”

The Catholic Church was named the country’s most trusted religious group in a recent survey. 

Yet the rate of Catholicism’s growth in South Korea has slowed in recent years, falling from 3% annually to the current 0.2%. 

The latest figures showed that, on average, 699,681 Catholics attended Sunday Mass in South Korea in 2022. The percentage of Catholics attending Mass weekly rose from 8.8% in 2021 to 11.8% in 2022. The bishops’ conference attributed the rise to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in April 2022.

Mass attendance remains well below the pre-pandemic level of 1,080,687 (18.3%) in 2019. The number of young people attending Sunday Mass has reportedly fallen significantly.

The number of baptisms rose in 2022 by 13.3% compared to the year before, with a total of 41,384 people receiving the sacrament.

There was a slight increase in people receiving other sacraments in 2022 compared with 2021, but the figures have not returned to pre-COVID levels.

There were 5,703 priests in South Korea in 2022, 77 more than in the previous year. There are an estimated 1,051 Catholics per priest in the country, compared with 1,063 in 2021.

Church officials have previously reported that the number of newly ordained priests fell from 131 in 2011 to 87 in 2023, a drop of 35%.

The number of male and female religious combined was 11,576, a decrease of 214 compared with 2021.

The number of overseas missionaries in South Korea in 2022 was 1,007, down 108 from 2021. They came from 69 different countries.