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Pope Francis named  19 new cardinal including   an African Archbishop  Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

"Pope Francis named his first batch of cardinals on Sunday, choosing 19 men from Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, including the developing nations of Haiti and Burkina Faso, in line with his belief that the church must pay more attention to the poor. Francis made the announcement as he spoke from his studio window to a crowd in St. Peter's Square.

Sixteen of the appointees are younger than 80, meaning they are currently eligible to elect the next pope, which is a cardinal's most important task. The ceremony to formally install them as cardinals will be held Feb. 22 at the Vatican." - AP

Pope Francis  ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS/LANDOV

 

The  list of 19  new cardinals  appointed by Pope Francis to be initiated in a Vatican ceremony on Feb. 22:

 

Pietro Parolin, Titular Archbishop of Acquapendente, Secretary of State.

 

Lorenzo Baldisseri, Titular Archbishop of Diocleziana, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.

 

Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Regensburg, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

 

Beniamino Stella, Titular Archbishop of Midila, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

 

Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, United Kingdom.

 

Leopoldo Jose Brenes Solorzano, Archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua.

 

 

Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, Canada.

 

Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

 

Orani Joao Tempesta, O.Cist., Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.

 

Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, Italy.

 

Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea.

 

Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Archbishop of Santiago del Cile, Chile.

 

Philippe Nakellentuba Ouedraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

 

Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato, Philippines.

 

Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti.

 

Loris Francesco Capovilla, Titular Archbishop of Mesembria.

 

Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, C.M.F., Archbishop emeritus of Pamplona.

 

Kelvin Edward Felix, Archbishop emeritus of Castries.

Pope Francis

 

It is not a secret any more that Pope Francis is in a journey to redefine Roman Catholic Church and to make it more inclusive in a likeness of a liberal religious institution. This move by Pope Francis is not going well in the circles of traditionalists and conservatives in the church.


Recently Pope Francis criticism on capitalism has raised some eyebrows  but his utterances on the just concluded Third Vatican Council he convened to “finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council,”  which was concluded in 1962 was challenged by the conservative Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze.

 

Pope Francis was too radical for Cardinal Arinze to stomach in a speech he made at the conclusion of the Third Vatican Council in Rome. Pope Francis was quoted saying, “All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

 

The Pope Francis further said that , “modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.”

 

He continued, “Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”

 

On the racism that was ravaging the world especially on the stiff border that Europe setup  to stop undocumented  migrants into Europe, Pope Francis said, “Racism today is the ultimate evil in the world. When Italians, Spanish or French turn back the boats of African migrants seeking a better life, are they not like the inn keeper who told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them and the infant Christ? These migrants are children of God and we are commanded to love them!”

 

Then Pope Francis said, “Those who would dare to turn immigrants away, be they legal or undocumented, turn their backs on Christ himself! A racist is not a true Christian. A racist casts aside his humanity to become a beast, a demon! He is the embodiment and personification of evil, a Satan!”

 

Pope Francis further stressed “because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God! To reject them to is to reject God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!”

 

Pope Francis dropped the big one, “those who seek to deny a home to the migrant, to the African and the Muslim, risk their membership in the church. We will consider excommunication for those whose souls willingly dwell in the darkness and evil of intolerance and racism. Satan himself is a metaphor or a personification, for the collective evils of mankind. Today, these evils manifest foremost as racism, intolerance, religious persecution and bigotries of all kinds.”

 

Many conservative and traditionalists did not lie low and allow the Pope Francis to have the global stage by himself. Powerful cardinals and top leaders in the church spoke up and lambasted Pope Francis on his progressivism.  Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria was in the vanguard of the rebuttal to the pope’s speech.

 

Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria questioned, “What do we stand for if we declare that truth is relative? On the contrary, truth exists independently of our personal feelings. All of this talk of love and tolerance is hollow if we have no identity of our own, if we stand for nothing. I charge that Francis has become a heretic, and that he is not a valid Pope. Indeed, Francis is no longer even a Catholic. The seat of Saint Peter is vacant. I am now a Sedevacantist. I should have become one long ago. The Vatican has embraced ecumenism in the past, but worse than that, it has now embraced moral relativism on abortion and homosexuality. At the same time it is embracing moral absolutism in favour of illegal immigration and cultural genocide against Europe.”

 

Cardinal Arinze was vehement in his rebuttal and he said “Islam has overrun my own country, and now it threatens to overrun Europe. Some parts of Nigeria now live under Islamic Sharia law. Catholics there are no longer free to practice their faith publicly. Francis is a fool if he thinks that his liberal immigration policy will end well. He has betrayed western civilization. Vatican City will one day become a giant mosque if things continue in Europe along their present course. Those in the West who ignore this truth, do so at their own peril.”

 

With logic and calculation, Cardinal Arinze even supported Europe’s immigration policy and said, “There is nothing wrong with Europeans who want to protect their borders. The problem is that there is not enough border control and the immigration policies are far too lenient in Europe. Is it racist to desire to preserve one’s own home? Why is it racist to want to preserve your own culture and a future for your people and your children? Have white people gone stupid today?”

 

 

"The resignation and final farewell of Pope Benedict XVI leaves unanswered questions about the future leader of the Catholic Church. Several church leaders from nations around the world are being called likely successors. One of those possible pontiffs comes from Nigeria. Benedict's decision to resign due to failing health came as a surprise to the more than 1.1 billion Catholics around the world. The Vatican says it hopes to elect a new pope by Easter and the question on everyone's mind is, "where will he come from?" The growth of the Catholic Church has slowed in Europe and the United States but beyond western shores, Catholicism is expanding. That has many speculating that the next pope may hail from South America, Asia or even Africa, where there are over 185 million Catholics. Two of the frontrunners are Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria."  - CNN

 

1. Cardinal Francis Arinze Photo:CNS/Paul Haring

Country: Nigeria

Age: 80

Title: Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni

Arinze was another popular candidate in 2005, who some think might be too old for the position now. The Nigerian was born into the Igbo tribe but converted to Catholicism at age 9 after attending an Irish missionary school.

 

Angelo Scola 2. Cardinal Angelo Scola Photo By Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Country: Italy

Age: 71

Titles: Cardinal-Priest of Santi XII Apostoli; Archbishop of Milan

Scola is one of the front-runners to be selected, after many considered him a candidate following John Paul II's death in 2005. More academic than pastoral, Scola has published over 100 articles in journals of philosophy and theology and is the founder of Oasis, an organization that seeks to bolster the relationship between the Western and Muslim worlds.

 

Peter Turkson 3. Cardinal Peter Turkson Photo By Max Rossi/Reuters

Country: Ghana

Age: 64

Title: Cardinal-Priest of S. Liborio

Another favorite of the oddsmakers and prediction markets, Turkson was born in Western Ghana but studied at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in New York. His uncle is Muslim, and Turkson has been a leader in smoothing Catholic-Muslim relations across Africa.

 

 

 

Marc Ouellet 4. Cardinal Marc Ouellet Photo: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Country: Canada

Age: 68

Titles:Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria in Traspontina; Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

As the head of the Congregation for Bishops, the Canadian-born Ouellet has the advantage of strong relationships with many of those involved with the conclave. If selected, he would be the first North American pope.

 

Angelo Bagnasco 5. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco Photo By Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Country: Italy

Age: 70

Titles: Cardinal-Priest of Gran Madre di Dio; Archbishop of Genoa

Bagnasco is another Italian candidate, and is considered to be a potential compromise choice between the different voting factions. Bagnasco studied metaphysics and contemporary atheism at the University of Genoa....

 

Source: Reuters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 28 February 2013 15:20

Catholic Church after Pope Benedict XVI

 

The search for a new pope begins as former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger steps down as the head of Roman Catholic Church by 8 pm today. Pope Benedict XVI, who will be 86 years in April, was elected into the throne of St. Peter in 2005. He announced his intention to resign on February 11, citing ill-health and old age. The Pope told the cardinals that his age had deteriorated “to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me”. At 86, Pope Benedict is unarguably the oldest pontiff in recent time. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84. He was 58 years when he was elected pope in 1978 and ruled for a little over 26 years. Pope Benedict XVI on the other hand was elected pope at 78 years of age and has been in office for only eight years.

 

The Pope’s resignation was the first since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resigned his papacy to end the western schism in the church. During Gregory’s papacy, there were three claimants to the throne – himself who was the Pope in Rome, Avignon Benedict XIII and Pisan John XXIII. The two last popes were called Antipope. Pope Gregory XII convened the Council of Constance and authorised it to elect his successor before he resigned from office.

 

Apart from Pope Gregory XII, eight other popes before him had abdicated their papacy.  There were also reports that Pope Benedict XVI’s predecessor, John Paul II in February 1989, wrote a letter of resignation to the Dean of the College of Cardinals. In the letter, the Pope said he would resign “if he had an incurable disease that would prevent him from exercising the apostolic ministry, or in case of a ‘severe and prolonged impairment’ that would have kept him from being the Pope”. Fortunately, none of these happened and John Paul II remained as Pope till death.

 

Pope Pius VII, who ruled between 1800 and 1823, was said to have signed a document of resignation should he be imprisoned in France where he had gone to crown Napoleon Bonaparte king in 1804. And during the World War II, Pope Pius XII signed a document indicating that he should be considered to have resigned from office if he were kidnapped by the Nazis. The Pope instructed that the College of Cardinals should be evacuated to Portugal to elect his successor.

 

The Canon law makes no provision for a Pope to resign from office either due to old age or on health ground, unlike the case of bishop.

 

Catholic scholars, however, were of the opinion that John Paul 11did not consider throwing in the towel, even when his health failed him, because of possible schism this might cause within the church. And in the case of Pope Benedict XVI, it was a commendation because he has been able to separate the holder from the office. Stephen White, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington DC, said the Pope had demonstrated that the primary role of the holder of the office is service.  “The papacy, in other words, was not given him for his sake, but for the sake of the church’s mission,” White was quoted in The Huffington Post.

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation is raising some concerns. Some observers argue that the old age and health conditions he cited as the reasons were not cogent enough. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, despite his age, suffered from Parkinson disease for many years, which even distorted his speech, yet he held on till death.

 

A report credited to an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica linked Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to a 300-page report submitted to the Pope on December 17 last year, which exposes some scandals going on at the Vatican. The report, which was said to have been prepared by three cardinals – Julián Cardinal Herranz, (a Spanish), Jozef Cardinal Tomko (a Slovak) and Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, who was former Archbishop of Palermo, mentioned of “a secret gay conclave at the Vatican being blackmailed over acts of a ‘worldly nature’ with laymen”. The authors were commissioned by the Pope himself to carry out the investigation.

 

But the Vatican dismissed such insinuation, and said it is an attempt to influence the Cardinals in their choice of a new Pope. The Vatican secretariat in a statement said the report is “unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions”.

 

The report is to be presented to the next Pope. There have been calls that the Cardinals who will be in the Vatican for the conclave should be availed of the content of the report, to enable them think of the direction of where Pope Benedict’s successor will come from.

 

Whatever is the situation, the Catholic Church will not be the same again. As the 116 Cardinals (now bring down to 115 after Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation) who are eligible to elect Pope Benedict’s successor gather in Rome for the conclave, it will be a battle line between the conservatives and liberals. The two groups clashed at the election of Pope Benedict in 2005 with the conservatives having the upper hand. And there is no indication that the liberals will win this time. Like his predecessor, Pope Benedict, an unapologetic conservative, appears to have made more conservatives Cardinals than the liberals. For instance, the last six cardinals he appointed late last year are mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America. These are continents where the church is not yet caught up with the wave of liberalism.

 

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, former Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh gave an insight of what might dominate debate among the Cardinals when they go into the conclave to elect Pope Benedict’s successor. Cardinal O’Brien mentioned the issue of celibacy, abortion and euthanasia. Although he said abortion and euthanasia were “basic dogmatic beliefs” of “divine origin” which the church could never accept, he noted that many priests struggle to cope with celibacy, and should be able to marry and have children.

 

Cardinal O’Brien was obviously expressing the liberal views. He, however, came under heavy attacks for expressing such view. The cardinal will therefore be cut in between electing a Pope who will lift the celibacy ban or the one who will maintain the status quo ante.

 

The Cardinals will also consider where the next Pope will come from. For many centuries now, Europe (mainly Italy) has been producing the head of the church. Will the Cardinals therefore be disposed to a Pope from Africa, Asia or Latin America? Pope Benedict was elected at the age of 78; will the Cardinals go for a younger Pope this time?

 

After today, Pope Benedict XVI will retire to a life of prayer and study in a monastery behind the Vatican walls. He said he would not participate in the conclave that will elect his successor. Benedict, who was described when he was elected in 2005 as “an introvert in an extrovert world,” will fade into obscurity.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 14 February 2013 14:08

Cardinal Arinze Reacts to Pope’s Resignation

Francis Cardinal Arinze Reacts to Pope’s Decision To Resign, His words: VIDEO:Cardinal Arinze reacts to pope's resignation

 

“For us it was a surprise, like thunder that gives no notice of it’s coming…

 

We love you Holy Father, we know you’ve done this because of your love for the Church…

 

If anyone is confused, it’s on the side of that person not on the side of the Pope…

 

God is always there, the Holy Spirit does not go on holidays…

 

So there will be another Pope, he will be elected in two weeks or so. There is no danger that Pope Benedict will become a problem for that Pope. Certainly not! Perhaps if he were a politician who was removed by maneuvers, his successor might be afraid. In this case, not so.

 

Some people may be so shaken that it might shake their perception. but my hope is that it will make many more mature in our faith. Our faith is not on the Pope. It’s on Christ who is the foundation of the Church. Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. We all are servants, we come and go. Christ does not come and go. He stays on forever…

 

The Pope is a servant. Indeed one of his titles is the Servant of the Servants of God…

 

So Pope Benedict may be teaching us many more important things than we realise…”

 

- Francis Cardinal Arinze (Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship)

 

VIDEO:Cardinal Arinze reacts to pope's resignation

 


 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 15:39

PhotoNews:Pope Benedict XVI with World Leaders

 

The Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on Feb. 28, and below are his pictures with other world leaders. The Roman catholic pope is both a  political and a religious leader. Pope is the head of Vatican City, the smallest city state in the world and also pastor over one billion flocks.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI, July 10, 2009, at the Vatican.  AP
President Barack Obama meets with Pope Benedict XVI, Friday, July 10, 2009, at the Vatican. | AP PhotoPresident Barack Obama meets with Pope Benedict XVI, Friday, July 10, 2009, at the Vatican. AP
Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush walk down the Colonnade of the White House, April 16, 2008, following an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn. AP
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (second left), talks with Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral, April 19, 2008. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York is at right.  AP
Pope Benedict XVI and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speak at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 16, 2010.  AP
German President Christian Wulff (right) and Chancellor Angela Merkel (center) welcome Pope Benedict XVI, right, as he arrives at Tegel airport in Berlin, Sept. 22, 2011. AP
King Abdullah II of Jordan (center) and Queen Rania of Jordan (right) receive Pope Benedict XVI on his arrival in Amman, Jordan, May 8, 2009. AP
Pope Benedict XVI (right) visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City May 12, 2009.    Reuters
AP
words by Emily Homes

 

Pope Benedict XVI to resign at the end of February 2013

 

Below is the official Vatican translation of Pope  Benedict’s statement on his resignation:

 

Dear Brothers,

 

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

 

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

 

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

 

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

 

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

 

From the Vatican, 11 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI

 

 

 

 

Pope Benedict XVI named six new cardinals including  Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan

 

Pope Benedict XVI named six new cardinals on Wednesday, adding prelates from Lebanon, the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, India and the United States to the ranks of senior churchmen who will elect his successor.

 

Among them is Archbishop James Harvey, the American prefect of the papal household who was the direct superior of the pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele. Gabriele was convicted Oct. 6 of stealing the pope's private papers and leaking them to a reporter in the greatest Vatican security breach in modern times. Harvey will now become archpriest of a Roman basilica. The Vatican spokesman denied he was being removed because of the scandal.

 

Benedict, 85, announced the new cardinals during his weekly general audience and said they would be formally elevated at a consistory Nov. 24. The nominations help even out the geographic distribution of cardinals, which had tilted heavily toward Europe in general in the last few consistories and Italy in particular.

With the new cardinals, there will be 120 cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Europe still has the most, with 62. But with the new additions, the College of Cardinals is a tad more multinational: Latin America will have 21, North America 14, Africa 11, Asia 11 and Oceana one.

 

Aside from Harvey, the new cardinals are: Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, Ruben Salazar Gomez; Archbishop of Manila, Philippines, Luis Antonio Tagle; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

 

Harvey, a native of Milwaukee, became prefect of the papal household in 1998 after serving for less than a year as a top administrator, the assessor, in the Vatican's secretariat of state. His office organizes the pope's schedule, and one of his most visible duties was to escort visiting dignitaries through the Apostolic Palace to the pope's library.

 

Gabriele, 46, worked as an usher in the Vatican's secretariat of state before coming to work for Harvey. In 2006, Gabriele was named Benedict's butler, replacing Pope John Paul II's longtime butler, Angelo Gugel.

 

In announcing the new cardinals, Benedict said he was naming Harvey, 63, archpriest of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, one of the Vatican's basilicas in southern Rome.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi denied any connection between the leaks scandal and Harvey's new posting, saying it was "more than normal" that after 14 years as prefect, Harvey would be named a cardinal. That said, Harvey's predecessor, Cardinal Dino Monduzzi, retired as prefect after reaching 75 and was named a cardinal.

 

Harvey, 63, is well shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

The timing of the move is also remarkable. Just Tuesday, the Vatican tribunal that convicted Gabriele issued its written explanations for reaching its verdict, saying the theft caused "reprehensible" damage to the pontiff, the Holy See and the entire Catholic Church.

 

The Vatican has taken such actions in the past. Last week, Benedict transferred to the United States the No. 2 official in the Vatican's office for religious orders, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who had spoken out in support of American nuns in the wake of a Vatican crackdown.

 

Last year, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the then-No. 2 administrator of the Vatican City State, begged the pope not to be transferred after exposing corruption that cost the Vatican millions of dollars. He was named the pope's envoy to Washington soon thereafter. Lombardi said he "never would have imagined" that a face-saving promotion was behind Harvey's move to St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

___

 

 

 

 

 

Vatican in chaos after butler arrested for leaks

The Vatican's inquisition into the source of leaked documents has yielded its first target with the arrest of the pope's butler, but the investigation is continuing into a scandal that has embarrassed the Holy See by revealing evidence of internal power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church governance.

The detention of butler Paolo Gabriele, one of the few members of the papal household, capped one of the most convulsive weeks in recent Vatican history and threw the Holy See into chaos as it enters a critical phase in its efforts to show the world it's serious about complying with international norms on financial transparency.

The tumult began with the publication last weekend of a book of leaked Vatican documents including correspondence, notes and memos to the pope and his private secretary. It peaked with the inglorious ouster on Thursday of the president of the Vatican bank. And it concluded with confirmation Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI's own butler was the alleged mole feeding documents to Italian journalists in an apparent bid to discredit the pontiff's No. 2.

"If you wrote this in fiction you wouldn't believe it," said Carl Anderson, a member of the board of the Vatican bank which contributed to the whirlwind with its no-confidence vote in its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. "No editor would let you put it in a novel."

The bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, issued a scathing denunciation of Gotti Tedeschi in a memorandum obtained Saturday by The Associated Press. In it the bank, or IOR by its Italian initials, explained its reasons for ousting Gotti Tedeschi: he routinely missed board meetings, failed to do his job, failed to defend the bank, polarized its personnel and displayed "progressively erratic personal behavior."

Gotti Tedeschi was also accused by the board of leaking documents himself: The IOR memorandum said he "failed to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known" to be in his possession.

In an interview with the AP, Anderson said the latter accusation was independent of the broader "Vatileaks" scandal that has rocked the Vatican for months. But he stressed: "It is not an insignificant issue."

Gotti Tedeschi hasn't commented publicly about his ouster or the reasons behind it, saying he has too much admiration for the pope to do so. He also hasn't been arrested, avoiding the fate that befell Gabriele.

The 46-year-old father of three has been in Vatican detention since Wednesday after Vatican investigators discovered Holy See documents in his apartment. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Gabriele had met with his lawyers and that the investigation was taking its course through the Vatican's judicial system.

Gabriele, the pope's personal butler since 2006, has often been seen by Benedict's side in public, riding in the front seat of the pope's open-air jeep during Wednesday general audiences or shielding the pontiff from the rain. In private, he is a member of the small papal household that also includes the pontiff's private secretaries and four consecrated women who care for the papal apartment.

Lombardi said Gabriele's detention marked a sad development for all Vatican staff. "Everyone knows him in the Vatican, and there's certainly surprise and pain, and great affection for his beloved family," the spokesman said.

The "Vatileaks" scandal has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time when it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.

Vatican documents leaked to the media in recent months have undermined that effort, alleging corruption in Vatican finance as well as internal bickering over the Holy See's efforts to comply with international norms to fight money laundering and terror financing.

The Vatican in July will learn if it has complied with the financial transparency criteria of a Council of Europe committee, Moneyval — a key step in its efforts to get on the so-called "white list" of countries that share financial information to fight tax evasion.

Anderson acknowleged that the events of the last week certainly haven't cast the Holy See in the best light. And he said the bank's board appreciated that the ouster of its president just weeks before the expected Moneyval decision could give the committee pause.

"The board considered that concern and decided that all things considered it was best to take the action at this time," Anderson said. "These steps were taken to increase the IOR's position vis-a-vis Moneyval."

The Vatileaks scandal began in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi broadcast letters from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.

Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, last weekend published "His Holiness," which presented a trove of other documents including personal correspondence to the pope and his secretary — many of them painting Benedict’s No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

Nuzzi has said he was offered the documents by multiple Vatican sources and insisted he didn't pay a cent € to any of them.

Gabriele was in Vatican custody and unavailable for comment. No known motive has come to light as to why Gabriele, if he is found to be the key mole, might have passed on the documents. Nuzzi declined to comment Saturday on whether Gabriele was among his sources.

Bertone, 77, has been blamed for a series of gaffes and management problems that have plagued Benedict's papacy and, according to the leaked documents, generated a not inconsiderable amount of ill will directed at him from other Vatican officials.

"For some time and in various parts of the church, criticism even by the faithful has been growing about the lack of coordination and confusion that reign at its center," Cardinal Paolo Sardi, the former No. 2 official in the Vatican secretariat of state, wrote to the pope in 2009, according to the letter cited in "His Holiness."

Anderson, who heads the Knights of Columbus, a major U.S. lay Catholic organization, said he was certain the Holy See would weather the storm and that the Vatican bank, at least, could move forward under a new leader with solid banking credentials as well as a desire to show off the bank's transparency.

"I hope this will be the beginning of a new chapter for the IOR and part of that chapter will be restoring the public image of the IOR," he told AP. "I think we have a good story to tell."

Nigerian Blasts Mar Pope's Christmas Peace Appeal

Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas pleas for peace around the world were brutally ignored in Nigeria, where an explosion Sunday claimed by Muslim extremists ripped through a Catholic church during Mass. Authorities say at least 25 people were killed by the explosion at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, near the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Boko Haram, a radical Muslim sect waging a sectarian fight claimed the attack and another bombing near a church in the restive city of Jos.

 

The locations of the bomb blasts in Nigeria.The locations of the bomb blasts in Nigeria.

 

A crater left by the blast on Christmas Day.A crater left by the blast on Christmas Day AJE

A victim is tended to by medics in an ambulance following a blast at a Catholic church near Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. A victim is tended to by medics in an ambulance following a blast at a Catholic church near Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011.  credit VOA

 

Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERSPolice bomb experts gather around the car used in the explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, near the capital Abuja in north central Nigeria, December 25, 2011. Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it planted bombs that exploded on Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria, one of which killed at least 27 people on the outskirts of the capital. AP

 

A car destroyed by the explosion in Madalla, near AbujaA car destroyed by the explosion in Madalla, near Abuja AJE

 

The St Theresa Church where the attack killed at least 25.The St Theresa Church where the attack killed at least 25. AJE

 

A burnt police truck in north-eastern NigeriaA burnt police truck in north-eastern Nigeria, next to a road sign reading 'Allah the Eternal'. It was destroyed by a bomb during a series of attacks in November claimed by Islamist group Boko Haram. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

 

The devastating scene outside St Theresa Catholic Church near the Nigerian capital Abuja on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI kneels in prayer as he celebrates Chris... Andrew Medichini / APPope Benedict XVI kneels in prayer as he celebrates Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.  AP

 

The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.Benedict didn't refer explicitly to the bombings in his Christmas Day survey of the world's trouble spots, delivered from the sun-drenched loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. But the Vatican issued a statement denouncing them as a sign of "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred" that shows no respect for human life.

 

Elsewhere, Christians braved lashing rains and wind to celebrate Christmas Mass in Jesus' traditional birthplace on Bethlehem's Manger Square. St. Catherine's Church is attached to the smaller Church of the Nativity, which is built over a grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.

 

"We wanted to be part of the action," said Don Moore, 41, a psychology professor from Berkeley, Calif., who came to Bethlehem with his family. "This is the place, this is where it all started. It doesn't get any more special than that."

 

The holy town of Bethlehem is no stranger to violence. Like the rest of the West Bank, it fell on hard times after the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in late 2000. Although civil affairs in the biblical town on Jerusalem's southeastern outskirts are run by Palestinian authorities, security control remains in the hands of Israel, which built a barrier around three sides of the town to keep Palestinian attackers out.

 

Palestinians say the barrier has badly hurt the local economy, which depends heavily on tourism, by severely restricting movement in and out of the town.

 

But as the violence has subsided, tourists have returned in large numbers. On Saturday, turnout for Christmas Eve festivities in Bethlehem was at its highest since the uprising began driving tourists away. An estimated 100,000 visitors streamed into Manger Square on Christmas Eve, up from 70,000 the previous year, according to the Israeli military's count.

 

The Holy Land and the entire Mideast were very much on Benedict's mind as he delivered his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech (Latin for "to the city and to the world").

 

Speaking just a few hours after celebrating a late-night Christmas Eve Mass, Benedict said he prayed that the birth of Jesus, which Christmas celebrates, would send a message to all who need to be saved from hardships.

 

He said he prayed that God would help the Israelis and the Palestinians resume peace talks and "bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed."  He called for international assistance for refugees from the Horn of Africa and flood victims in Thailand, among others, and urged greater political dialogue in Myanmar, and stability in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa's Great Lakes region, which includes Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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