Opening bell at the cardinals’ meeting with Pope Benedict

Dutch Cardinal Adrianus Simonis arrives by bicycle for a meeting with other cardinals and Pope Benedict. (CNS/Paul Haring)With different modes of transportation, cardinals from around the world arrived for a meeting with Pope Benedict on Friday, the day before a consistory to create 23 new cardinals.

A pool of journalists watched as cardinals entered the Synod Hall building one by one. Some came by foot, some were chauffeured and one — 75-year-old Dutch Cardinal Adrianus Simonis — rode a bicycle to the meeting hall.

Cardinal-designate John P. Foley stepped out of his car and began chatting with reporters on the other side of the press pen. Within seconds he looked up, a bit surprised, to see a cluster of fuzzy boom mikes overhead. “I guess my every word is being recorded,” he remarked.

The Philadelphia native had been feeling under the weather all week, but he wasn’t about to miss this meeting. Like the others being made a cardinal Saturday, he wore his bishop’s purple today.

“The red goes on tomorrow,” he said.

Near the building’s entrance, a vehicle dropped off Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, who went directly inside. Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, energetic as always, jumped out of his car before it even stopped moving and began conferring with fellow Italians in the parking lot.

Those who walked were sometimes intercepted. Down near St. Peter’s Square, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican’s saintmaking office, was sidelined by a stamp collector who asked him to autograph a recent commemorative series.

Inside the atrium of the hall, each cardinal was handed a red folder, which presumably contained a program and the text of the day’s main address on ecumenism by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Old friends and colleagues greeted each other: Cardinal William J. Levada, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief and the former archbishop of San Francisco, conversed with Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles.

Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow was warmly welcomed by everyone in his path. I asked Cardinal Dziwisz how it felt to come back to the Vatican, where he had spent more than 26 years as secretary to Pope John Paul II. He paused a moment and said, “So many memories,” and then moved into the Synod Hall.

We counted 143 cardinals in the hall at the opening bell. Pope Benedict entered the room to applause and bowed his head for morning prayer. When it was over, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, read a greeting to the pontiff and our reporting pool was ushered out. The business part of this assembly was closed-door.

Before leaving I took a last glance at the room. The pope sat in the center of the dais, at a place that was furnished with a microphone, three monitors, a telephone, a water bottle and his own red folder.

Up against one wall, the translators were already working in their booths.

To the pope’s left, the cardinals-to-be were seated in a group. I noticed that Cardinal-designate Foley was in the front row.

It’s official: Pope to sign second encyclical Nov. 30

CNS Rome bureau chief John Thavis reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, made the announcement today. As we reported in October, the pope’s new encyclical is on Christian hope.

Update: Catholic press meeting with Cardinal Levada

Update: Here’s a photo of the Catholic press meeting at the Vatican with Cardinal William J. Levada taken by Chris Gunty of the Florida Catholic:

Inside the doctrinal congregation: Catholic journalists meet Cardinal Levada

Cardinal William J. Levada (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)It’s not every day that a group of reporters can sit around the conference table in the doctrinal congregation’s inner sanctum and toss questions at its cardinal-prefect.

U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, named to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2005, generously gave time during a busy week to a delegation of Catholic journalists. They were in Rome for Saturday’s consistory, on a trip sponsored by the Catholic Press Association.

The setting alone was impressive. Cardinal Levada hosted the reporters in the “Sala di Consulta,” where three times a month about 30 consulters — mostly professors at Rome pontifical universities — meet to offer perspectives on whatever the congregation considers the pressing issues of the day.

Sometimes these discussions are the breeding ground of new documents; sometimes they’re just interesting exchanges of opinions. Participants sit at a large oval table outfitted with microphones. On the wall are portraits of Pope Pius V, a former prefect of the congregation and now its patron saint, and Pope Benedict XVI, who presided here for 24 years before becoming pope.

At the same table, the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation meet once a month — always on a Wednesday — to review issues and make decisions.

With the Catholic journalists, Cardinal Levada fielded questions ranging from ecumenism to excommunication. This was mostly a background conversation, but a few things can be disclosed:

– The cardinal doesn’t anticipate another Vatican document on politics and Communion as the U.S. election campaign gets into full swing over the coming year.

– The congregation is pressing ahead with a global study of “natural law theories for moral theology,” which could turn into a bigger project.

– The cardinal’s weekly meetings with Pope Benedict are not pro forma. As one might guess, the pope still takes a keen interest in the details of doctrinal affairs.

New blog combines reflections on faith, God’s presence outdoors

This one looks like a winner! The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., has announced “a new blog by staff photographer and outdoors columnist Dave Hrbacek” called “Faith Out­doors.” Located at, Dave’s blog looks like it’s perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors — “whether it be fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating or taking pictures” — and loves experiencing God’s presence in outdoor activities. Judging from Dave’s first two blog entries, this looks like it’s worth saving in your Internet favorites, even if you’re not the outdoors type. 

Historic university marks bicentennial

With the U.S. bishops’ meeting earlier this month in Baltimore, it would be easy to miss another story taking place at the same time — the celebration of the bicentennial of Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Catholic history buffs in particular might enjoy the coverage of the celebration by The Catholic Review in Baltimore, where the anniversary was marked on the day before the opening of the bishops’ meeting.

Two more Thanksgiving columns

  • Anna Weaver, writing in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, reflects on the simple gifts everyone should be thanking God for — including, for Hawaiians, “We live in a state that is beautiful and warm year round.”
  • Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, writing in the Rhode Island Catholic, offers a prayer for Thanksgiving that, with only minor adaptations, could be used by almost anyone before a Thanksgiving meal.

Local Catholic tries to bring faith back to ‘Ds’

This story may upset you or please you depending on your political affiliation, but in Oregon the Catholic Sentinel has a story on a Catholic man who is trying to organize and expand the numbers of religious believers in the Democratic Party in a state which is the home of the nation’s largest percentage of residents without religious affiliation.

Home for children touched many lives in Erie

A cute story “of selflessness and commitment, of courage and, most especially, of love” appears in the current edition of Faith magazine in the Diocese of Erie, Pa., about St. Joseph’s Home for Children, which touched many lives and is still fondly recalled today even though the home was closed in 1971.

Another story that won’t die

As the Christmas season of giving approaches, some e-mail scammers are using the name of the Catholic Church to try to give themselves some credibility.

The “lucky” recipients of these e-mails are told they’ve won $2.5 million or some other extravagant sum from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Rome. If they’ll just contact the “cash grant program coordinator secretary” and provide some personal information, the money will be on its way.


As Catholic Charities USA warned in a news release last week, Catholic Charities agencies “do not and will not distribute unsolicited e-mail requesting this type of information. Please be advised that Catholic Charities USA is in no way associated with or responsible for these messages.”

Here at Catholic News Service, we’ve been alerting readers about this scam since late summer, first with an advisory at the end of August to our client editors and then with a story from Cape Town, South Africa, about the international reach of the bogus story.

For those of us who’ve been around a while, the scam’s staying power brings back memories of another story that wouldn’t die — a report that the Federal Communications Commission was considering a petition brought by atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair to ban religious programming from the airwaves. In truth, the FCC turned down a similar petition in 1975 but that didn’t keep the story from continuing to circulate long after O’Hair’s 1995 death and into the 21st century.


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