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Vatican trial opens into financial scandal rocking papacy

Vatican trial opens into financial scandal rocking papacy

VATICAN CITY — A cardinal who allegedly induced an underling to lie to prosecutors. Brokers and lawyers who pulled a fast one over the Vatican No. 2 to get him to approve a disastrous real estate deal. A self-styled intelligence analyst who bought Prada and Louis Vuitton items with the Vatican money that she was supposed to send to rebels holding a Catholic nun hostage.Vatican prosecutors have alleged a jaw-dropping series of scandals in the biggest criminal trial in the Vatican’s modern history, which opens Tuesday in a modified courtroom in the Vatican Museums. The once-powerful cardinal and nine other people are accused of bleeding the Holy See of tens of millions of dollars in donations through bad investments, deals with shady money managers and apparent favors to friends and family. They face prison sentences, fines or both if convicted.The trial, which will likely be postponed for several months after the first hearings Tuesday and Wednesday, is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the Holy See’s flawed 350 million-euro London real estate venture. That operation exposed the Vatican’s once-secret financial dealings and its structural dysfunction, which allowed just a few people to do so much damage to the Vatican’s finances and reputation, with little expertise or oversight.But the prosecutors’ case also suggests that Pope Francis and his top lieutenants were not only aware of some of the key transactions, but in some cases explicitly authorized them, even without full documentation or understanding the details. Given the hierarchical nature of the Holy See and the obedience required of underlings to their religious superiors, questions also remain about why some people were charged and others not.One Vatican monsignor who until recently was considered by prosecutors to be a key suspect, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, managed to avoid indictment. Perlasca’s office handled the London investment from start to finish and his boss had identified him as the main in-house culprit in obscuring the deal’s costly outcome. But prosecutors suggested that Perlasca flipped and became an important witness, in part after coming under pressure to recant his testimony by the lone cardinal on trial, Angelo Becciu.Francis, who as absolute monarch wields supreme legislative, executive and judicial power in Vatican City, has in many ways already convicted Becciu.Last year, Francis presented Becciu with evidence that he had sent 100,000 euros in Vatican funds to a Sardinian charity run by Becciu’s brother. Francis secured Becciu’s resignation as head of the Vatican’s saint-making office and then stripped him of his rights as cardinal, a sanction that was announced immediately by the Vatican press office.Becciu, who is charged with embezzlement and pressuring Perlasca to recant, has denied any wrongdoing.The onetime chief of staff in the Vatican secretariat of state, Becciu is also linked to a mysterious figure who is also on trial, Cecilia Marogna, whom he hired in 2016 as an external security consultant. Prosecutors allege Marogna embezzled 575,000 euros in Vatican funds that Becciu had authorized for ransoms to free Catholic hostages. Bank records from her Slovenian front company show the Vatican wire transfers were used instead to pay bills at luxury shops and boutique hotels. Marogna says the money was legitimate compensation and reimbursement for her intelligence-related expenses.The London real estate deal dates to 2014, when the Vatican’s secretariat of state decided to invest an initial 200 million euros in a fund operated by Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, with half the money put into the London building, half in other investments.By November 2018, the original investment had lost 18 million euros, prosecutors say, prompting the Vatican to seek an exit strategy while retaining its stake in the building in London’s swank Chelsea neighborhood.Enter Gianluigi Torzi, another broker, who helped arrange a 40 million euro payout to Mincione.But prosecutors say Torzi then hoodwinked the Holy See by secretly restructuring 1,000 shares in the property’s new holding company in a way that gave him full voting rights. Prosecutors say Torzi then extorted the Vatican for 15 million euros to get control of the building that it thought it had already acquired.Mincione and Torzi, who are accused of fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and other charges, have denied wrongdoing.Becciu’s successor as chief of staff, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, told prosecutors that Francis had made clear by November 2018 that he wanted to lose as little money as possible to finally secure ownership of the building and “turn the page and start over.” It was a message Francis repeated to Torzi himself during a January 2019 meeting, Pena Parra told prosecutors.After realizing that Torzi actually controlled the building and based on Francis’ desire to move forward, Pena Parra said the Vatican had two choices. Those were to sue him or pay him off for the 1,000 voting shares that he owned. Pena Parra said the Vatican’s concern was that suing him could take years and even possibly end in Torzi’s favor.“Between these two options, with the advice of lawyers and experts, option No. 2 was chosen because it was considered more economical, with more contained risks and in a more manageable time frame,” Pena Parra wrote in his testimony seen by The Associated Press. “It also simply aligned with the desire of the Superior,” a reference to Francis.And yet the payout of 15 million euros to Torzi is at the heart of the case. Prosecutors accuse Torzi of extorting the Vatican for the money and the Vatican’s financial oversight agency of failing to stop the deal. The oversight’s managers say the Vatican had no choice but to pay Torzi, given the Secretariat of State — knowingly or not — signed legally binding contracts that gave Torzi control of the building.Prosecutors say the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was deceived into approving Torzi’s contract by a lawyer who drafted a one-page memo describing the deal but omitting key details, including Torzi’s voting stake. Pena Parra said only later did the Vatican realize the lawyer was associated with Torzi. Quoting Parolin’s own notes, Pena Parra said the cardinal approved the deal based on the lawyer’s brief memo and assurances from Perlasca and another Vatican money manager, Fabrizio Tirabassi.Parolin, Pena Parra and Perlasca were not charged. Tirabassi is charged with corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of office; he denies wrongdoing.

Pope reverses Benedict, reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass

Pope reverses Benedict, reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass

ROME — Pope Francis cracked down Friday on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on them and the ancient liturgy.Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict relaxed in 2007, and went further to limit its use. The pontiff said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.Critics said they had never before witnessed a pope so thoroughly reversing his predecessor. That the reversal concerned something so fundamental as the liturgy, while Benedict is still alive and living in the Vatican as a retired pope, only amplified the extraordinary nature of Francis’ move, which will surely result in more right-wing hostility directed at him.Francis, 84, issued a new law requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, and requiring newly ordained priests to receive explicit permission to celebrate it from their bishops, in consultation with the Vatican.Under the new law, bishops must also determine if the current groups of faithful attached to the old Mass accept Vatican II, which allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin. These groups cannot use regular churches; instead, bishops must find alternate locations for them without creating new parishes.In addition, Francis said bishops are no longer allowed to authorize the formation of any new pro-Latin Mass groups in their dioceses.Francis said he was taking action to promote unity and heal divisions within the church that had grown since Benedict’s 2007 document, Summorum Pontificum. He said he based his decision on a 2020 Vatican survey of all the world’s bishops, whose “responses reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene.”The pope’s rollback immediately created an uproar among traditionalists already opposed to Francis’ more progressive bent and nostalgic for Benedict’s doctrinaire papacy.“This is an extremely disappointing document which entirely undoes the legal provisions,” of Benedict’s 2007 document, said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.While Latin celebrations can continue, “the presumption is consistently against them: bishops are being invited to close them down,” Shaw said, adding that the requirement for Latin Masses to be held outside a parish was “unworkable.”“This is an extraordinary rejection of the hard work for the church and the loyalty to the hierarchy which has characterized the movement for the Traditional Mass for many years, which I fear will foster a sense of alienation among those attached to the church’s ancient liturgy,” he said.Benedict had issued his document in 2007 to reach out to a breakaway, schismatic group that celebrates the Latin Mass, the Society of St. Pius X, and which had split from Rome over the modernizing reforms of Vatican II.But Francis said Benedict’s effort to foster unity had essentially backfired.The opportunity offered by Benedict, the pope said in a letter to bishops accompanying the new law, was instead “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”Francis said he was “saddened” that the use of the old Mass was accompanied by a rejection of Vatican II itself “with unfounded and unsustainable assertions that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’”Christopher Bellitto, professor of church history at Kean University, said Francis was right to intervene, noting that Benedict’s original decision had had a slew of unintended consequences that not only created internal divisions but temporarily roiled relations with Jews.“Francis hits it right on the head with his observation that Benedict’s 2007 loosening of regulations against the Latin rite allowed others to use it for division,” he said. “The blowback proves his point.”The blowback was indeed fierce, though it’s also likely that many will simply ignore Francis’ decree and continue on as before with sympathetic bishops. Some of these traditionalists and Catholics already were among Francis’ fiercest critics, with some accusing him of heresy for having opened the door to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.Rorate Caeli, a popular traditionalist blog run out of the U.S., said Francis’ “attack” was the strongest rebuke of a pope against his predecessors in living memory.“Francis HATES US. Francis HATES Tradition. Francis HATES all that is good and beautiful,” the group tweeted. But it concluded: “FRANCIS WILL DIE, THE LATIN MASS WILL LIVE FOREVER.”Messa in Latino, an Italian traditionalist blog, was also blistering in its criticism.“Mercy always and only for sinners (who are not asked to repent) but no mercy for those few traditional Catholics,” the blog said Friday.For years, though, Francis has made known his distaste of the old liturgy, privately labeling its adherents self-referential naval-gazers who are out of touch with the needs of the church. He has cracked down on religious orders that celebrated the old Mass exclusively and frequently decried the “rigidity” of tradition-minded priests who prioritize rules over pastoral accompaniment.Traditionalists have insisted that the old liturgy was never abrogated and that Benedict’s 2007 reform had allowed it to flourish.They point to the growth of traditionalist parishes, often frequented by young, large families, as well as new religious orders that celebrate the old liturgy. The Latin Mass Society claims the number of traditional Masses celebrated each Sunday in England and Wales had more than doubled since 2007, from 20 to 46.But for many, the writing was on the wall as soon as Francis stepped out onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica after his 2013 election without the ermine-trimmed red velvet cape that was preferred by Benedict and is a symbol of the pre-Vatican II church.The restrictions went into immediate effect with its publication in Friday’s official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Pope to spend a few more days in Rome hospital after surgery

Pope to spend a few more days in Rome hospital after surgery

Pope Francis will spend a few more days in the hospital following his July 4 intestinal surgery to “optimize” the recovery and rehabilitation treatment and therapyBy NICOLE WINFIELD Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 12:08 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Pope Francis will spend a few more days in the hospital following his July 4 intestinal surgery to “optimize” recovery and rehabilitation treatment and therapy, the Vatican said Monday.The Vatican had originally said Francis could be released from Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic by the end of last week. In its latest update Monday, the Vatican said he had completed his post-operative treatment but “would remain a few more days to optimize medical and rehabilitation therapy.”Surgeons removed half of Francis’ colon on July 4 for what doctors said was a severe narrowing of the large intestine.The 84-year-old appeared for the first time in public since the surgery on Sunday, looking in good form as he delivered his weekly prayer from the 10th floor hospital balcony. He used the occasion to call for free health care for all.Francis scheduled the surgery for July, when he typically suspends all public and private audiences and takes some time to rest. Even as he recovers, plans are going ahead for an autumn of travel, including confirmation Monday from the Scottish church that Francis hopes to make a quick trip to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate conference in November.In a statement, a spokesman for the Scottish Bishops Conference said bishops had written to Francis to assure him of a warm welcome in Scotland and were “delighted to hear that he does hope to attend and would be glad to meet with them in Glasgow.”The climate conference is due to take place Oct. 31-Nov. 12, but Francis is only expected to go “for a very short time,” the bishops said, explaining that his visit consequently wouldn’t include a full program of pastoral gatherings that are normally part of a foreign papal trip.The Vatican hasn’t confirmed Francis’ participation in the Glasgow gathering, though Francis has made environmental concerns a cornerstone of his papacy. The Holy See has confirmed he plans to visit Hungary and Slovakia in September, the only other confirmed trip on his agenda so far this year.Francis had reason for high spirits Monday: His native Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 to win the Copa America, and his adopted Italy won the European Championship after prevailing over England in a penalty shootout late Sunday.The Vatican said the pope, who grew up as a fan of Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, “shared the joy” for the victories of both national teams and repeated his belief about the importance of sporting values and the need to accept any outcome, including loss.The Vatican statement quoted Francis as saying “only this way, confronting the difficulties of life, you can always put yourself in play, fighting without giving up, with hope and faith.”

Vatican: Pope to deliver Sunday blessing from Rome hospital

Vatican: Pope to deliver Sunday blessing from Rome hospital

The Vatican says Pope Francis is walking, working and has celebrated Mass at a Rome hospital where he also will deliver his Sunday weekly blessing while recovering from intestinal surgeryBy NICOLE WINFIELD Associated PressJuly 9, 2021, 10:34 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Pope Francis is walking, working and has celebrated Mass at a Rome hospital where he also will deliver his Sunday weekly blessing while recovering from intestinal surgery, the Vatican said Friday.The Vatican’s daily medical update said that Francis’ temperature was normal again following the slight fever he ran Wednesday evening. It said his treatment and recovery at Gemelli Polyclinic were proceeding as planned.Francis, 84, had half of his colon removed last Sunday for what the Vatican said was a “severe” narrowing of his large intestine. He is expected to stay at Gemelli, which has a special suite reserved for popes, through the week, assuming there are no complications.The statement said Francis would deliver his noontime Sunday blessing from the 10th floor of the hospital, an appointment that will recall the practice of St. John Paul II, who also delivered the Angelus prayer and greeting from his suite during his occasional hospital stays.During one stay in 1996, John Paul quipped that after so many visits, Gemelli had become the “Vatican No. 3,” after St. Peter’s and the papal summer estate in Castel Gandolfo.Francis, for his part, was continuing to eat regularly and walk in the corridor, the Vatican said. It said he had resumed working, “alternating it with moments of reading texts.”He celebrated Mass in the papal private apartment on Thursday afternoon, “attended by all those assisting him during his hospitalization,” the Vatican said.The Argentine pope has enjoyed relatively robust health, though he lost the upper part of one lung in his youth because of an infection. He also suffers from sciatica, or nerve pain, that makes him walk with a pronounced limp.

AP PHOTOS: With 4 million COVID dead, many kids left behind

AP PHOTOS: With 4 million COVID dead, many kids left behind

Some won’t ever remember the parents they lost because they were too young when COVID-19 struck. Others are trying to keep the memory alive by doing the things they used to do together: making pancakes or playing guitar. Others still are clutching onto what remains, a pillow or a photo, as they adapt to lives with aunts, uncles and siblings stepping in to fill the void.The 4 million people who have died so far in the coronavirus pandemic left behind parents, friends and spouses — but also young children who are navigating life now as orphans or with just one parent, who is also mourning the loss.It’s a trauma that is playing out in big cities and small villages across the globe, from Assam state in northeast India to New Jersey and points in between.And even as vaccination rates tick up, the losses and generational impact show no sign of easing in many places where the virus and its variants continue to kill. As the official COVID-19 death toll reached its latest grim milestone this week, South Korea reported its biggest single-day jump in infections and Indonesia counted its deadliest day of the pandemic so far.Victoria Elizabeth Soto didn’t notice the milestone. She was born three months ago after her mother, Elisabeth Soto, checked into the hospital in Lomas de Zamora, Argentina, eight months pregnant and suffering symptoms of COVID-19.Soto, 38, had tried for three years to get pregnant and gave birth to baby Victoria on April 13. The mother died six days later of complications from the virus. Victoria wasn’t infected.Her father, Diego Roman, says he is coping little by little with the loss, but fears for his baby girl, who one day will learn she has no mother.“I want her to learn to say ‘mom’ by showing her a picture of her,” Roman said. “I want her to know that her mother gave her life for her. Her dream was to be a mom, and she was.”Tshimologo Bonolo, just 8, lost her father to COVID-19 in July 2020 and spent the year adjusting to life in Soweto, South Africa, without him.The hardest thing has been her new daily routine: Bonolo’s father, Manaila Mothapo, used to drive her to school every day, and now she has to take public transport.“I used to cook, play and read books with my papa,” Bonolo said. “What I miss most is jumping on my papa’s belly.”In northwest London, Niva Thakrar, 13, cuts the grass and washes the family car — things her dad used to do. As a way to remember him, she takes the same walks and watches the movies they used to watch together before he died in March after a two-month hospital stay.“I still try to do what we used to do before, but it’s not the same,” Thakrar said.Jeshmi Narzary lost both parents in two weeks in May in Kokrajhar, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.The 10-year-old went on to live with an aunt and two cousins, but could only move in after she underwent 14 days of quarantine herself during India’s springtime surge that made the country second only to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases.Narzary hasn’t processed the deaths of her parents. But she is scrupulous about wearing face masks and washing her hands, especially before she eats. She does so, she said, because she knows “that coronavirus is a disease which kills humans.”Kehity Collantes, age 6, also knows what the virus can do. It killed her mother, a hospital worker in Santiago, Chile, and now she has to make pancakes by herself.It also means this: “My papa is now also my mama,” she said.Siblings Zavion and Jazzmyn Guzman lost both parents to COVID-19, and their older sisters now care for them. Their mother, Lunisol Guzman, adopted them as babies, but died last year along with her partner at the start of the violent first wave of the pandemic in the U.S. Northeast.Katherine and Jennifer Guzman immediately sought guardianship of the kids — Zavion is 5 and Jazzymn 3 — and are raising them in Belleville, New Jersey.“I lost my mother, but now I’m a mother figure,” said Jennifer Guzman, 29.The losses of the Navales family in Quezon City, Philippines, are piling up. After Arthur Navales, 38, died on April 2, the family experienced some shunning from the community.His widow, Analyn B. Navales, fears she might not be able to afford the new home they planned to move into, since her salary alone won’t cover it. Another question is whether she can afford the kids’ taekwondo classes.Ten-year-old Kian Navales, who also had the virus, misses going out for noodles with his dad. He clutches onto one of the pillows his mother had made for him and his sister with a photo of their father on one side.“Our house became quiet and sad. We don’t laugh much since papa left,” said Kian’s 12-year-old sister, Yael.Maggie Catalano, 13, is keeping the memory of her father alive through music.A musician himself, Brian Catalano taught Maggie some guitar chords before he got sick. He presented her with her own acoustic guitar for Christmas on Dec. 26, the day he came home from the hospital after a nine-day stay.Still positive and weak, he remained quarantined in a bedroom but could hear Maggie play through the walls of their Riverside County, California, home.“He texted me and said, ‘You sounded great, sweetie,’” Maggie recalled.The family thought he had beaten the disease — but four days later, he died alone at home while they were out.Devastated, Maggie turned to writing songs and performed one she composed at his funeral in May.“I wish he could see me play it now,” she said. “I wish that he could see how much I have improved.”———AP photographers Mary Altaffer in Belleville, New Jersey; Jerome Delay in Soweto, South Africa; Aaron Favila in Quezon City, Philippines; Esteban Felix in Santiago, Chile; Jae C. Hong in Riverside County, California; Anupan Nath in Kokrajhar, India; Natacha Pisarenko in Lomas de Zamora, Argentina; and Thanassis Stavrakis in London contributed.

Pope, recovering well, had 'severe' narrowing of his colon

Pope, recovering well, had 'severe' narrowing of his colon

The Vatican says Pope Francis’ recovery from intestinal surgery continues to be “regular and satisfactory.”By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 10:21 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Pope Francis’ recovery from intestinal surgery continues to be “regular and satisfactory,” the Vatican said Wednesday, as it revealed that final examinations showed he had a suffered a “severe” narrowing of his colon.The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the 84-year-old pope was continuing to eat regularly following his Sunday surgery to remove the left side of his colon, and that intravenous therapy had been suspended.Bruni said final examination of the affected tissue “confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis.”Francis underwent three hours of planned surgery Sunday. He is expected to stay in Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, which has a special suite reserved for popes, through the week, assuming no complications, the Vatican has said.Among those offering get-well wishes was U.S. President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has cited Francis in the past. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing Tuesday that the president “wishes him well and a speedy recovery.”Bruni said Francis appreciated all the prayers coming his way.“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” he said.Francis has enjoyed relatively robust health, though he lost the upper part of one lung in his youth due to an infection. He also suffers from sciatica, or nerve pain, that makes him walk with a pronounced limp.“

EXPLAINER: Pope, though hospitalized, is still in charge

EXPLAINER: Pope, though hospitalized, is still in charge

The Vatican has detailed laws, rituals and roles to ensure the transfer of power when a pope dies or resigns. But none of them apply when he is sick or even unconscious, and there are no specific norms governing what happens when a pope becomes incapacitated.As a result, even though Pope Francis remains hospitalized while he recovers from intestinal surgery Sunday at a Rome hospital, he is still pope and very much in charge. The Vatican said Tuesday Francis had eaten breakfast, read the newspapers and had a walk, and that his post-operative recovery was proceeding normally.Still, his weeklong hospital stay —the first of his papacy — has sparked interest about how papal power is exercised in the Holy See, how it is transferred and under what circumstances.Here’s how it works:THE ROLE OF THE POPEThe pope is the successor of the Apostle Peter, the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Catholic Church on Earth, according to the church’s in-house canon law.Nothing has changed in his status, role or power since he was elected the 266th pope on March 13, 2013, even while he underwent three hours of surgery Sunday to remove half of his colon.That status is by theological design.“The pope’s authority is supreme, full and universal,” said canon lawyer Nicholas Cafardi. “So if his authority is at that level, who gets to decide that he can no longer exercise that authority? There’s nobody above him.”THE VATICAN CURIAFrancis may be in charge, but he already delegates the day-to-day running of the Vatican and church to a team of officials who operate whether he is in the Apostolic Palace or not, and whether he is conscious or not.Chief among them is the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. In a sign that Francis’ hospitalization foresaw no change to the governance of the church, Parolin wasn’t even in the Vatican during Francis’ three-hour scheduled surgery. He was in Strasbourg, France, to commemorate the 1,300th anniversary of the death of the patron saint of Alsasce.Other Vatican functions are proceeding normally. Its daily noon bulletin came out again Tuesday with the names of new bishops appointed by the pope in Nicaragua, Nigeria and Britain. They presumably were approved ahead of time, although Francis could sign decrees and handle other matters of importance from his hospital bed, as St. John Paul II was known to have done during his many hospitalizations.WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A POPE GETS SICK?Canon law does have provisions for when a diocesan bishop gets sick and can’t run his diocese, but none for a pope. Canon 412 says a diocese can be declared “impeded” if its bishop — due to “captivity, banishment, exile, or incapacity” — cannot fulfill his pastoral functions. In such cases, the day-to-day running of the diocese shifts to an auxiliary bishop, a vicar general or someone else.Even though Francis is the bishop of Rome, no explicit provision exists for the pope if he similarly becomes “impeded.” Canon 335 declares simply that when the Holy See is “vacant or entirely impeded,” nothing can be altered in the governance of the church. But it doesn’t say what it means for the Holy See to be “entirely impeded” or what provisions might come into play if it ever were.“Really, we have no rules for this,” Cafardi said. “There are no canons and there’s no separate document that says how you would determine incapacity, whether incapacity could be permanent or temporary, and even more importantly who would govern the church in that time. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We just leave it up to the Holy Spirit.”WHAT ABOUT POPE PAUL VI’S LETTER?In 1965, Pope Paul VI wrote letters to the dean of the College of Cardinals hypothesizing that if he were to become seriously ill, the dean and other cardinals should accept his resignation.Paul foresaw the possibility that as popes continued to live longer, they could become incapacitated by stroke, dementia or some other long-term, progressive ailment that would make it impossible for them to do their job, and unable to freely resign.In one letter, published in 2018, he cited an infirmity “which is presumed incurable or of long duration and which prevents us from sufficiently exercising the functions of our apostolic ministry.”The letter was never invoked, since Paul lived another 13 years and died on the job.But experts say Paul’s letter was unlikely to have ever been used since canon law requires a papal resignation be “freely and properly manifested” — as was the case when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in 2013.The scenario Paul envisioned — laying out grounds for his resignation in advance for a time when he might not be conscious or capable — “is not valid, because for a pope to validly resign from office he has to be lucid,” said Kurt Martens, canon lawyer and professor at Catholic University of America.WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A POPE DIES OR RESIGNS?The only time papal power changes hands is when a pope dies or resigns. At that time a whole series of rites and rituals comes into play governing the “interregnum” — the period between the end of one pontificate and the election of a new pope.During that period, known as the “sede vacante,” or “empty See,” the camerlengo, or chamberlain, runs the administration and finances of the Holy See. He certifies the pope’s death, seals the papal apartments and prepares for the pope’s burial before a conclave to elect a new pope. The position is currently held by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the head of the Vatican’s laity office.The camerlengo has no role or duties if the pope is merely sick or otherwise incapacitated.“You have two options: Either you have a pope or you don’t have one, and as long as you have a pope — and in the case here he’s not dead — he governs the church,” Martens said. “Even if he’s dying, he governs the church.”WHAT ABOUT POPE BENEDICT XVI?Even though there is a retired pope living on the Vatican grounds, he has no formal role to play, either.Benedict, 94, ceased being pope on Feb. 28, 2013, when he became the the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. He has been living in a converted monastery in the Vatican gardens ever since.Citing his private secretary, RAI state television said Benedict was praying for Francis’ recovery.

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