Vatican Round-up

Cardinals embrace wide reform agenda

The 10th meeting of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers made recommendations on Vatican reform, finance, safeguarding, and communications, and heard plans for the impending papal encyclical on the environment, according to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi.

The ‘C9’ examined a draft preamble to the new curial constitution, before Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, presented a report on a range of financial reforms and Cardinal Sean O’Malley presented proposals regarding sexual abuse allegations and allegations of the abuse of office by bishops connected to such matters. Originally drawn up by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, these proposals, including the establishment of a new judicial section in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, were accepted unanimously by the cardinals and approved by the Holy Father. 

Msgr Dario Vigano, president of the Commission for Vatican Communications, presented the cardinals with a four-year plan for streamlining all Vatican media operations, and finally Fr Michael Czerny of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace told the cardinals about preparations for the new encyclical’s publication, including how guidance will be given to help bishops explain and propagate the teachings within the encyclical. 

The cardinals will next meet in September. 


Vatican and US sign tax agreement

The Vatican has signed a formal agreement with the US government promising to send a report to the US Internal Revenue Service each year, listing all US citizens and permanent residents with bank accounts or other financial interests at the Vatican.

Under the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, the US tax collector can establish who is failing to file income tax reports by comparing the names on such foreign reports to the lists of people filing tax reports, and can take action against those who should be filing reports but are not doing so.

The agreement, the first intergovernmental agreement between Rome and Washington, was signed by Ambassador Ken Hackett, US envoy to the Holy See, and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, undersecretary for relations with states, who said at the signing ceremony that “As Pope Francis frequently reminds us, evading just taxes is stealing both from the state and from the poor”.

He added that “every person has, in fact, the duty to contribute, in charity and justice, to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, by promoting and assisting the public institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life”. 


Feed the world, don’t just talk about it – Pope

Vague concerns and long-winded reports about hunger must be turned into action, Pope Francis has told the 39th annual gathering of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Everywhere we see growing numbers with difficulty accessing regular and healthy meals, the Pope said, but “instead of acting we prefer to delegate, at all levels”. Describing this tendency as natural, he nonetheless insisted that “we must respond to the imperative that access to food is a right for all. And this right does not allow exclusions.”

Criticising how a third of all food produced is wasted and much agricultural produce used in ways that, though perhaps worthwhile, are not directed to “the immediate needs of the hungry”, the Pontiff said we should consider our own actions. 

“We must make a more decisive commitment to changing lifestyles, and perhaps we will need fewer resources”, he said, arguing that such responsibility is a precondition for sustainable development.

As for the FAO, he said, it must “be on the ground in the rural world and understand the needs of the people that the organisation is called to serve”, so agricultural development can be at the centre of economic activity, with people who work to provide food enabled to cope with all manner of crises.