Showing posts with label Pope Francis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Francis. Show all posts

16 January 2020

Carlo Maria Viganò - controversial archbishop

Former papal ambassador who shocked Catholic Church

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò was papal ambassador in the United States
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò was papal
ambassador in the United States
Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States who was twice at the centre of serious corruption allegations against the Vatican, was born on this day in 1941 in Varese, northern Italy.

Viganò, who had occupied one of the most senior positions in the Vatican before Pope Benedict XVI sent him to be his ambassador in Washington in 2011, was a key figure in the so-called Vatileaks scandal in 2012 when the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published leaked documents that included letters from Viganò to Pope Benedict and to the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone complaining of corruption in the awarding of contracts.

The subsequent scandal resulted in the conviction of Benedict’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, who was found guilty of theft by a Vatican court and handed an 18-month prison sentence.

Viganò’s 2011 allegations pale, however, alongside the extraordinary 11-page document he published seven years later, in which he claimed that high-ranking church officials were implicated in a cover-up surrounding sexual abuse allegations against the American former Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick.

He also called on Pope Francis, who succeeded Pope Benedict when the latter unexpectedly stepped down in February 2013, to resign on the grounds that he had ignored warnings about McCarrick, who was forced to quit in disgrace when his behaviour became public knowledge, and removed sanctions placed on him by Benedict.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Viganò
to his US role in 2011
The letter prompted Pope Francis to order a “thorough study” of all documents in Holy See offices concerning McCarrick.  Interviewed about Viganò’s allegations, Pope Francis said he could not recall being warned about McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington.

The decision to appoint Viganò as Apostolic Nuncio - the official title of papal ambassador - in the United States came at a time when some believed he might be in line to become President of the Vatican City State.

Born into a wealthy family in Varese, Viganò was ordained a priest in 1968. For a period he worked in the Vatican's diplomatic corps, where he held positions at embassies in Great Britain and Iraq, and while he had other overseas postings in Kosovo and Nigeria, he spent much of his career in various roles within the Vatican secretariat of state.  He was made an archbishop in 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

In 2009 he was appointed to the high-ranking position of secretary-general of the governorate of the Vatican City State. There he earned a reputation for financial acumen. He turned  a 10.5 million dollar deficit into a surplus of 44 million dollars in one year.

Viganò called on Pope Francis to resign over sex abuse scandal
Viganò called on Pope Francis to
resign over sex abuse scandal
However, in 2011, he was informed by Cardinal Bertone that Pope Benedict was appointing him Nuncio to the United States, a move that was seen to end Viganò’s hopes of himself being made a Cardinal and attaining the position of President.

In a further controversy in 2018, a court in Milan ordered Viganò to pay his brother, Father Lorenzo Viganò, who suffered a stroke in 1996, a sum equivalent to $2 million plus interest after finding him to have failed to share profits made from a $23 million property portfolio they had jointly inherited from their father, a steel industrialist in Milan.

Carlo Maria Viganò had resigned from his position in the United States in 2016, as he was required to on reaching 75 years old.  Since publishing his 2018 allegations, Vigano has been living in self-imposed exile in a location he keeps secret, although he continues to be critical of Pope Francis.

The Basilica San Vittore in the city of Varese in Lombardy, between Milan and the lakes
The Basilica San Vittore in the city of Varese in
Lombardy, between Milan and the lakes
Travel tip:

The city of Varese, in an area in the foothills of the Alps that owes its terrain to the activities of ancient glaciers that created 10 lakes in the immediate vicinity, including Lago di Varese, which this elegant provincial capital overlooks.  Most visitors to the city arrive there because of the Sacro Monte di Varese (the Sacred Hill of Varese), which features a picturesque walk passing 14 monuments and chapels, eventually reaching the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte.  But the town itself and the handsome villas and palaces in the centre and the surrounding countryside are interesting in their own right, reflecting the prosperity of the area. The grand Palazzo Estense is one, now the city's Municipio - the town hall.

St Peter's Basilica is part of the Vatican City, which is the smallest sovereign state in the world
St Peter's Basilica is part of the Vatican City, which is
the smallest sovereign state in the world
Travel tip:

The Vatican City, which occupies an area of 44 hectares (110 acres) within the city of Rome and has approximately 1,000 citizens, is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population. It came into existence in 1929 when an agreement was signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See to recognise the Vatican as an independent state. The treaty - known as the Lateran Treaty - settled what had been a long-running dispute regarding the power of the Popes as rulers of civil territory within a united Italy.  The treaty was named after the Lateran Palace where the agreement was signed and although the signatory for the Italian government was the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, succeeding democratic governments have all upheld the treaty.

Also on this day:

1728: The birth of opera composer Niccolò Piccinni

1749: The death of playwright and poet Count Vittorio Alfieri

1957: The death of conductor Arturo Toscanini 

1998: The death of interior designer Renzo Mongiardino


14 November 2017

Maria Cristina of Savoy

Pious princess was beatified by Pope Francis

Maria Cristina of Savoy
Maria Cristina of Savoy
Princess Maria Cristina Carlotta Giuseppina Gaetana Elisa of Savoy was born on this day in 1812 in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.

She was the youngest child of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia and his wife Queen Maria Teresa of Austria-Este.

Maria Cristina was described as beautiful, but she was also modest and pious and in 2014 she was beatified by the current Pope, Francis.

As a Savoy princess she had been expected to make an advantageous marriage alliance and when she was just 20 years of age she was married to Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, in an attempt to keep southern Italy on friendly terms, at a ceremony in Genoa.

Modest and reserved, she was never comfortable at the royal court in Naples and she was unhappy with Ferdinand. But she was said to be loved by the ordinary people of the Two Sicilies, who were charmed by her beauty and kindness.

Maria Cristina died only five days after giving birth to her son, Francis
Maria Cristina died only five days after giving
birth to her son, Francis
She had always been a devout Catholic and her commitment to God and the Church along with her beauty caused people to regard her as an angelic figure.

She gave birth to her only child, who would grow up to become Francis II of the Two Sicilies, in January 1836. Five days later she died as a result of childbirth complications. The King married again in less than a year.

After her son, Francis II, had lost his throne and was living in exile he began to push for the Church to take up his late mother’s cause for beatification.

Nearly 40 years later in 1872 she was declared to be a Servant of God by Pope Pius IX. In May 1937 she was declared to be a Venerable Servant of God by Pope Pius XI and in May 2013 Pope Francis authorised a decree recognising a miracle due to her intercession, a further stage on her progress to beatification. The beatification ceremony was conducted by the current Pope in January 2014 at the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples, where the now Blessed Maria Cristina is buried.

The Castello is the historic centre of Cagliari
The Castello is the historic centre of Cagliari
Travel tip:

Maria Cristina was born in Cagliari in Sardinia while the Savoy family were living there in exile, having been forced to leave their palace in Turin in Piedmont because the city was under French occupation. Although Cagliari is Sardinia’s main port and an industrial centre it is now also a popular tourist destination, with tree-lined boulevards and a charming historic centre, known as Castello.

The tomb of Maria Cristina of Savoy in the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples
The tomb of Maria Cristina of Savoy in the Basilica
of Santa Chiara in Naples
Travel tip:

Maria Cristina was buried in the Church of Santa Chiara in Via Benedetto Croce, part of Spaccanapoli in Naples. The church is part of a religious complex, which also includes a monastery and an archaeological museum. Maria Cristina’s tomb is in a side chapel along with the tomb of Salvo d’Acquisto, a carabiniere who sacrificed his life to save the lives of 22 civilian hostages during the Nazi occupation of Italy. Outside is the famous majolica Cloister, which was decorated in 1742 with brightly-coloured majolica tiles by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro.

27 April 2017

Popes John XXIII and John Paul II made saints

Crowd of 800,000 in St Peter's Square for joint canonisation

The Basilica of St Peter, in readiness for the joint-canonisation of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in 2014
The Basilica of St Peter, in readiness for the joint-canonisation
of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in 2014
Pope Francis declared Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as saints at a ceremony during Mass in Rome’s St Peter’s Square on this day in 2014.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world converged on the Vatican to attend the ceremony, which celebrated two popes recognised as giants of the Catholic Church in the 20th century.

There was scarcely room to move in St Peter's Square, the Via della Conciliazione and the adjoining streets.  The crowd, probably the biggest since John Paul II’s beatification three years earlier, was estimated at around 800,000, of which by far the largest contingent had made the pilgrimage from John Paul’s native Poland to see their most famous compatriot become a saint.  Thousands of red and white Polish flags filled the square.

In his homily, Pope Francis said Saints John XXIII and JohnPaul II were “priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them God was more powerful, faith was more powerful”.

He added that the two popes had “co-operated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating” the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis delivers his homily to the crowd in the square
Pope Francis delivers his homily to the crowd in the square
Among those attending this morning’s Mass was Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, who in 2013 had become the first pope to resign in 600 years.

Among the foreign dignitaries present, which included 19 heads of state and 25 heads of government, was the former Polish president, Lech Walesa, who had been a key figure in the fall of communism as leader of the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, Solidarity.

Italy was represented by the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, the president, Giorgio Napolitano, and his wife, first lady Clio Maria Bittoni.

Other world leaders present included Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, the French prime minister Manuel Valls, and the controversial Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe.

St Peter’s Basilica was opened to allow pilgrims visit the tombs of both new saints, which rest in crypts inside the building.

Both John XXIII, who was in office from 1958 to 1963 and called the modernising Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, who reigned for nearly 27 years, played leading roles on the world stage.

Every space in St Peter's Square was taken
Every space in St Peter's Square was taken
John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, in 1881, was known as the “Good Pope” because of his friendly, open personality. He died before the Second Vatican Council ended its work in 1965 but his initiative had set off a significant upheaval in church teaching, ending the use of Latin at Mass, introducing modern music and opening the way for challenges to Vatican authority.

John Paul, born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice in 1920, was widely credited with helping to bring down communist rule in eastern Europe and hastening the end of the Cold War.

As pope he continued with reform but tightened central control, condemned theological renegades and preached a strict line on social issues such as sexual freedom. Although a charismatic character, he was criticised by some for being too conservative.

Pope John Paul II was idolised by many Catholics
Pope John Paul II was idolised by many Catholics
However, he was able to inspire adoration from many Catholics, as was witnessed when the crowd at his funeral in 2005 joined in a spontaneous chant of “santo subito”, urging that he be made a saint immediately. Although that did not happen, he was honoured with the fastest declaration of sainthood in modern history.

Among those less enamoured with his canonisation were a group who claimed to have been the victims of sexual abuse by priests, who felt John Paul II did not do enough to tackle the problem, particularly with regard to the controversial Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, whom John Paul’s successor, Benedict XVI, removed from active ministry soon after beginning his papacy.  The group staged a rooftop vigil nearby.

Both canonisations had involved adaptation of the strict rules governing declaration of a saint, which normally involve the attestation of at least two miracles.

In the case of John Paul II, Benedict XVI had waived the customary five-year waiting period before the preliminaries to sainthood can begin, while Francis ruled that only one miracle was needed to declare John a saint.

The Via della Conciliazione at night
The Via della Conciliazione at night
Travel tip:

The Via della Conciliazione, in the rione (district) of Borgo, is the street that connects St Peter's Square to Castel Sant'Angelo on the western bank of the Tiber river. Bordered by shops, historical and religious buildings including the churches of Santa Maria in Traspontina and Santo Spirito in Sassia, it was built between 1936 and 1950 to fulfil Mussolini’s vision of a grand thoroughfare into the square but attracted much controversy because of the destruction of an area known as the ‘spina’ – spine – of Borgo and the forced displacement of hundreds of residents to locations on the outskirts of the city.

The village of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXXIII
The village of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXXIII
Travel tip:

Now renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Pope John’s birthplace was originally a small farming community to the west of Bergamo. It has seen much change as a result of Angelo Roncalli’s elevation to the papacy and subsequent sainthood, attracting many tourists. The house where he was born is in the hamlet of Brusicco and the summer residence at Camaitino that he used when he was a cardinal is now a history museum dedicated to him.  Also worth visiting nearby, on the slopes of Monte Canto, is the Romanesque Fontanella Abbey, dating back to the 11th century.

More reading:

How Karol Wojytla became the first non-Italian pope for 455 years

The farmer's son who went on to become the 'good pope'

The consecration of St Peter's Basilica

Also on this day:

16 October 2016

Election of Pope John Paul II

How Karol Wojtyla became first non-Italian pope for 455 years

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II, who was to have a political and social influence unmatched by any pontiff since the Middle Ages, was elected to be the new leader of the Catholic Church on this day in 1978.

The result of the second Papal conclave in what became known as the Year of the Three Popes was announced after eight ballots. The new pontiff succeeded Pope John Paul I, who had died on September 28 after only 33 days in office, who had himself followed Pope Paul VI, who had passed away in August after reigning for 15 years.

The new man chosen was 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Kraków, the first non-Italian to hold office for 455 years since the Dutch Pope Adam VI, who served from 1522-23.

Wojtyla's stand against Poland's Communist regime had brought him respect but he was not seen as a Vatican favourite and his elevation to the highest office stunned the Catholic world.

Yet he would go on to become one of the most familiar faces in the world, remaining in post for almost 27 years, which made him the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX. He visited 129 countries, beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints.

He was a dynamic and approachable pope, which only enhanced his popularity. Yet to his critics, John Paul II was an arch-conservative who reinforced the Catholic Church's autocratic stance on abortion, contraception and women's rights.

On the other hand, others hail his enlightenment at having helped end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe, at the same time improving the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion.

A stone tablet marks the spot outside St Peter's Basilica where  Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981
A stone tablet marks the spot outside St Peter's Basilica where
 Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981
As a young man, he loved sport, in particular soccer and skiing, and the theatre. He might have become an actor had he not been ordained a priest in 1946. He became archbishop of his home city of Krakow in 1964.

Throughout his time in office, he always wanted to get as close to the public as possible, even when huge crowds turned out to see and hear him. He survived an attempted assassination in May 1981 when, leaning out of his vehicle in St Peter's Square, he was shot and seriously wounded by a Turkish fanatic, Mehmet Ali Agca.

It was his role in the break-up of the Soviet bloc that was his most significant legacy. When Mikhail Gorbachev visited Rome in 1989 it was the first time a Soviet leader had crossed the threshold of St Peter's, and the understanding between the two men is acknowledged as having eased the transition to democracy in the eastern bloc.

Yet critics saw his support for freedom from oppression for Poles and other Eastern Europeans as at odds with his anti-liberal position on other matters.  He called for action to combat world poverty yet insisted that contraception was morally unacceptable even with the need to curb population growth, and while declaring that he wanted to improve the status of women he also stressed that motherhood should be a woman's first aspiration.

The beatification ceremony at St Peter's in 2011 attracted huge crowds
The beatification ceremony at St Peter's
in 2011 attracted huge crowds
He was fiercely and outspokenly against gay rights, believing homosexuality to be another symptom of the moral depravity of which he despaired, particularly in the United States, where headlines concerning radical feminist nuns and gay priests caused him much annoyance, even before the 1990s scandal of paedophile clergy emerged.

Increasingly frail in his later years although still insisting on maintaining a punishing schedule of travel and public appearances, he died in March 2005, having been treated in hospital for pneumonia the previous month.

Pope John Paul II became Pope Saint John Paul II just nine years after his death after a campaign that began at his funeral when crowds began chanting 'Santo subito' - literally meaning 'Saint immediately' - in recognition of his achievements.

He was beatified in 2011 by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and canonised in 2014 by Pope Francis after two women claimed their prayers to John Paul II had resulted in miracle cures, in one case from advanced Parkinson's Disease and in the other from a brain aneurysm.

Travel tip:

The stunning Renaissance Basilica of St Peter in Rome is believed to be the largest church in the world and was built to replace the original fourth century Basilica that had been constructed on what was believed to be the burial site of St Peter. Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini all contributed to the design of the 16th century structure. Located within Vatican City, the Basilica is approached along Via della Conciliazione and through the vast space of St Peter’s Square. The magnificent central dome of the Basilica dominates the skyline of Rome and the balcony above the entrance, where the Pope makes appearances, is instantly recognisable because of the many times it has been shown on television.

The pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo  overlooks Lake Albano
The pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo
 overlooks Lake Albano
Travel tip:

Castel Gandolfo, where Pope John Paul II spent a lot of time while recovering from the attempt on his life, overlooks Lake Albano from its wonderful position in the hills south of Rome. It is traditional for the Pope to take up residence every summer in the Apostolic Palace there. Although his villa lies within the town’s boundaries, it is one of the properties of the Holy See. The palace is not under Italian jurisdiction and is policed by the Swiss Guard. The whole area is part of the regional park of Castelli Romani and there are many places of historic and artistic interest to see there.

More reading:

The day Pope John Paul II came face to face with his would-be killer

(Photo of Lake Albano by Gaucho CC BY-SA 3.0)