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Swiss court orders full access to records for Vatican financial investigation

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Vatican investigators have been granted full access to Swiss banking documentation related to long-time Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso. The newly announced decision by a Swiss federal court is the latest development in the ongoing financial scandal surrounding the purchase of a London building by the Secretariat of State in 2018.

According to Huffington Post, the decision was issued on Oct. 13 but only published this week. The documents to be turned over to the Vatican include financial records of the company to Az Swiss & Partners. Az Swiss owns Sogenel Capital Holding, the company Crasso founded after leaving Credit Suisse in 2014.

Although the company sought to block full access to its records by Vatican investigators, Swiss judges ruled that “when foreign authorities ask for information to reconstruct criminal asset flows, it is generally considered that they need the entirety of the relative documentation, in order to clarify which persons or legal entities are involved.”

Vatican prosecutors have been working with Swiss authorities since filing letters rogatory in December last year. Letters rogatory are formal requests from courts in one country to the courts of another country for judicial assistance. 

CNA has previously reported that, in response to the Holy See’s request for cooperation in its investigation into Vatican finances, Swiss authorities have frozen tens of millions of euros in bank accounts and sent banking documents and records to Vatican prosecutors.

Crasso, a former banker at Credit Suisse, has been a long-time financial advisor to the Vatican, including introducing the Secretariat of State to the businessman Raffaele Mincione, through whom the secretariat went on to invest hundreds of millions of euros and purchase the London building at 60, Sloane Avenue, which was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018.

Huffington Post reported on Nov. 27 that the Swiss decision also quoted the Vatican’s original rogatory request as citing "investment schemes that are neither transparent nor compliant with normal real estate investment practices," pointing back to the controversial London deal.

Specifically, Vatican investors noted that the pledging of Vatican funds on deposit in Swiss banks, including Peter’s Pence, to secure hundreds of millions of euros in loans from the same banks “represents strong circumstantial evidence that it represented a ploy to avoid making [the transactions] visible.”

Prosecutors contend that the use of liquid assets as collateral to secure loans from the banks for investments, instead of investing Vatican money directly, appears designed to shield the investments from detection and scrutiny.

In November last year, CNA reported on a similar instance in 2015, when then sostituto at the Secretariat of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu allegedly attempted to disguise $200 million loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, an accounting maneuver prohibited by financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.

CNA also reported that the attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Cardinal George Pell.

Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”

Crasso’s Centurion Global Fund, in which the Secretariat of State was the largest investor, is connected to several institutions linked to allegations and investigations of money laundering, a CNA investigation found.

Earlier this month, Crasso defended his stewardship of Church funds controlled by the Secretariat of State, saying that the investments he made were “no secret.” 

In an Oct. 4 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Crasso also denied managing “confidential” accounts for Becciu’s family.

Crasso was named in reports last month alleging that Cardinal Angelo Becciu used millions of euros of Vatican charity funds in speculative and risky investments, including loans for projects owned and operated by Becciu’s brothers. 

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals following the report. In a press conference, the cardinal distanced himself from Crasso, saying he did not follow his actions “step by step.”

According to Becciu, Crasso would inform him of what investments he was making, “but it’s not that he was telling me the ramifications of all these investments.”

‘My Jesus’: Martyred Italian nun saw Christ in young people

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A religious sister who knew Venerable Maria Laura Mainetti said the woman, who was murdered 20 years ago as part of a Satanic ritual, made the ordinary extraordinary by her love, and found joy in her service to young people, whom she called “my Jesus.”

The 60-year-old Mainetti was stabbed to death by three teenage girls in the town of Chiavenna, Italy, in 2000. In May, Pope Francis declared Mainetti to be a martyr, killed “in hatred of the faith.” She will be beatified on June 6, 2021, the 21st anniversary of her murder.

Mainetti was a sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross for more than 40 years, where she knew Sr. Beniamina Mariani, who is her biographer and the postulator of her beatification cause.

Mariani told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language partner, that Mainetti “lived in humility, simplicity and joy the gift of herself to God and to her brothers and sisters.”

The postulator described Mainetti’s day as “a continuous relationship in prayer, at the beginning and at the end of the day and with those whom she called ‘my Jesus’: children, young people, people in difficulty.”

In her biography of the slain religious sister, Mariani wrote that when she was among young people, Mainetti felt “at ease and loved to entertain them both in scheduled meetings and in casual ones.”

Mariani shared the statements of two young students who knew Mainetti when they were guests of the Immaculate Institute, a residence for girls.

One wrote that “in her hands, the ordinary day-to-day became like GOLD because she LOVED it. She was attracted to Jesus because she saw him.”

Another said: “In a terrible time when I had no family, she was the only person who loved me, looked after me ... she spent the nights beside my bed, while I was crying in despair, she never abandoned me, she believed in me.”

Mariani said when Mainetti was young, her answer to a spiritual director’s question about what she wanted to do with her life was “I want to make my life something beautiful for others.” And the postulator confirmed that she really did this.

Sr. Mainetti was always smiling, Mariani said, noting that someone in Chiavenna used to call her “Sr. Smile.”

“She was a happy woman!” she continued, adding that the sister’s message to young people would be: “I am very happy, above all because every day I discover God’s love for me, despite my limitations, and then I try to see it in the faces of my brothers and sisters whom I meet every day, with particular attention to the more disadvantaged or those in difficulty.”

Mainetti was a “small, humble grain that silently turned into a vibrant tree, under whose branches many people, the most different, will find comfort,” Mariani said.

Artist offers to restore beheaded statue of Virgin Mary in Germany

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 10:20 am (CNA).- An art restorer in Germany has offered to restore a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary in Regensburg free of charge.

Known as the “doll doctor” for his work restoring dolls, Marcel Offermann said that he was moved by the news on Oct. 22 that vandals had beheaded a statue of the Virgin Mary in a Jesuit church in Straubing, Germany.

“Since I repair dolls, sacred figures, and statues by trade, I decided to preserve the Madonna from the fate of Mary Stuart and restore it to its original state,” Offermann said in an interview with ACI Stampa Nov. 27.

“I immediately called Mgr. Johannes Hofmann, parish priest of St. James in Straubing, to whom the statue belongs. Now we are in constant contact. He seemed very relieved when I offered to repair the statue.”

Offermann, a Catholic from the German city of Neuss, also works as an emergency room doctor and has been treating COVID-19 patients during the coronavirus pandemic. 

While a job like this does not leave him with much spare time, he said that, for him, offering to repair the statue was “a matter of conscience.”

“For more than 20 years, in my ‘doll clinic,’ I have been restoring and repairing sacred figures or nativity statues throughout the archdiocese of Cologne and beyond. For me, it’s a matter of conscience,” he said.



Offermann plans to work on the decapitated statue during the Christmas season to have it ready for the new year.

“First, we will dry the statue,” he explained. “The figure will stay a week in the drying chamber to remove the moisture from the material. Then we will remove the chips and grind each piece. Then we will fix the head using brackets.”

“We will fill the interstices with plaster. We will file any protrusions of the applications and we will work the whole structure, even Mary’s dress. … Finally, we will apply a base coat and after it has dried, we will apply two or three layers of color. Lastly, a passage of transparent fixative.”

Hate crimes against Christians and Catholic churches are once again on the rise in Europe. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe published data last week documenting more than 500 hate crimes against Christians in Europe in 2019.

In Germany, Catholic churches have been targeted with anti-Christian graffiti and arson attacks.

On Nov. 26, another statue of the Virgin Mary in a public square in Venice was decapitated overnight. 

The local parish is organizing a community rosary to be prayed at the statue on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Believers and all people of goodwill should reflect and distance themselves from those who, out of superficiality and ignorance, or by deliberate choice, offend the dearest feelings of those who live and inhabit our city with them,” the Catholic Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, said.

Patriarch of Venice calls for prayers of reparation after Virgin Mary statue decapitated

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A statue of the Virgin Mary in a public square in a suburb of Venice, Italy, was vandalized Thursday night.

“The head was decapitated and the hands of the monument lopped off” in the early hours of Nov. 26, according to a notice from the City of Venice.

The statue is located in a greenspace at the center of a roundabout in the Venice municipality of Marghera. The act was caught on video surveillance cameras and the perpetrator has been identified and stopped by police.

Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice, called the act of vandalism “a gesture that offends our city, our history and our values.”

Brugnaro condemned the “cowardly act, which aims to hurt our sensibility” and said that workers had been instructed to quickly repair the statue.

In March, the mayor visited Venice’s Basilica of Our Lady of Health to say a prayer consecrating the city to the Virgin Mary. The prayer was written by the Catholic Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia.

Moraglia said Nov. 26 that he was saddened by the vandalism of the Mary statue, calling it an offensive gesture “not only for Christians but for the whole city.”

He also noted that the damage to the statue took place a few days after the feast day of Our Lady of Health, “a festival so dear and rooted in the hearts of Venetians.”

Moraglia asked people to say a prayer of reparation “for the offense inflicted on the Mother of the Lord and also for those who have become protagonists of this insane gesture.”

The local parish is organizing a community rosary to be prayed at the statue on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Believers and all people of goodwill should reflect and distance themselves from those who, out of superficiality and ignorance, or by deliberate choice, offend the dearest feelings of those who live and inhabit our city with them,” the patriarch said.

Catholic archbishop: Pray for priest kidnapped in Nigeria

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2020 / 08:20 am (CNA).- A Nigerian archbishop has asked for prayers for the safe release of a priest kidnapped in Abuja earlier this week.

Fr. Matthew Dajo was kidnapped on Sunday night. Police are currently working to negotiate his release, the archdiocesan spokesman, Fr. Patrick Alumuku, told CNA Nov. 27.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja appealed for prayers for the abducted priest at a virtual event on persecuted Christians Nov. 25.

“My priest in Abuja was kidnapped and he is still in captivity. Kindly pray for his safe release, please,” the archbishop said.

Dajo was abducted by gunmen during an attack on the town of Yangoji, where his parish St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is located. 

“Armed bandits raided the community and shot sporadically for about 30 minutes,” Fr. Kevin Oselumhense Anetor told CNA’s African news partner, ACI Africa.

“The gunmen scaled through the fence of the priest’s house, while others positioned themselves outside, before entering Fr. Matthew’s bedroom and whisking him away.”

Kidnappings of Catholics in Nigeria are an ongoing problem that not only affects priests and seminarians, but also lay faithful, Kaigama said. 

“We have cases of abductions, detentions, and killings by terrorist groups, criminal herdsmen, bandits, and gangs of kidnappers to contend with,” he said.

“Last week, in one of our parishes in Abuja archdiocese behind the parish house, five children of the same parents were kidnapped, and the following day a woman preparing for her church wedding was also kidnapped. They have not been found.”

The Islamist group Boko Haram has been behind many of the abductions, including that of 110 students kidnapped from their boarding school in Feb. 2018. Of those kidnapped, one girl, Leah Sharibu, is still being held. 

“Leah has become a symbol of Christian resilience against forced conversion,” the archbishop said.

He added that “however we must not forget the remaining 112 Chibok girls and others who are held captive with many either dead or forcefully married off,” referring to the kidnapping of 276 girls in the town of Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.

“Others like her are used as human shields, sex slaves, or bargaining chips for ransom from government and international organizations,” he said.

“The forceful abduction and conversion of underage Christians girls is real. On the other hand, Muslim girls who freely choose to marry Christian men face threats of death.” 

Archbishop Kaigama spoke at a virtual event organized by Aid to the Church in Need UK for “Red Wednesday.”  

Aid to the Church in Need began the annual Red Wednesday initiative in 2015 to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world by illuminating in red major landmarks, such as the Colosseum in Rome and Westminster Cathedral in London.

At the event, the Nigerian archbishop appealed for support for his community as it struggled with the attacks of Boko Haram and other groups.

“Western nations need to pay the same attention to this reality as they vigorously do in their countries in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“The Christian-dominated Middle Belt and some parts of northern Nigeria will have no future if groups like Boko Haram and allied terror groups continue to harass them.”

“The U.K. and other nations with Christians roots should speak and act more in favor of freedom in northern Nigeria.”

Kaigama said that the United Nations, the European Union, and key countries like the United States could also do more in sharing strategic intelligence and give more technical support in the face of these terrorist threats.

“We are united in prayer and action for Christians unjustly detained for their faith. We strongly urge that they all be set free,” he said.