Interview with Nancy Wiechec

Nancy Wiechec. (CNS/Paul Haring)Many of the photos of Pope Benedict’s historic U.S. visit that you’ve seen on our home page and on this blog were taken by our visual media manager, Nancy Wiechec (right). Many of them are what I consider to be iconic images that you’ll be seeing for years to come, whether in our client publications or in books and other media about Pope Benedict.

But it wasn’t just Nancy photographing the pope. As our director and editor in chief, Tony Spence, noted a few days ago, we had a total of nine photographers covering the papal venues, giving CNS the best collection of U.S. papal images by far.

That’s just a long-winded introduction to the interview in the current National Catholic Register with Nancy about her experiences on the trip and her impressions of the pope. (Update May 1: The interview has been moved to the password-only portion of the Register’s site.)

And when you read the interview (click here), the two shots that she cites when asked about her favorite photos of the trip are posted below. You can also view our best images during the visit by clicking here for the slideshow that CNS photographer Paul Haring created during the trip.

Pope Benedict XVI and New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan walk in the pit of former World Trade Center towers in New York April 20. The pope prayed at site and spoke with family members of some of the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and with those who were first responders to the disaster. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)Pope Benedict XVI closes his eyes following Communion during Mass at Nationals Park in Washington April 17. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)


Left: Pope Benedict XVI and New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan walk in the pit of the former World Trade Center towers in New York April 20. The pope prayed at the site and spoke with family members of some of the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and with those who were first responders to the disaster. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Right: Pope Benedict XVI closes his eyes following Communion during Mass at Nationals Park in Washington April 17. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Students use creativity to cover the pope

If you’ve noticed, a theme here this week is stories being told back home about seeing Pope Benedict.

Sister Carol Hoverman, editor of the archdiocesan newspaper The Witness in Dubuque, Iowa, has her own compilation of personal accounts. As she says, “Each person has a unique story to tell and memories that will last a lifetime.”

My favorite of the bunch is the story of two Loras College students, Lauren Squires and Katrina Berning, video producers for their college TV channel, who got media credentials for the Washington portion of the trip. But when they got here they discovered they couldn’t get into the events because camera spots were limited to the major networks.

Rather than whine about their lack of access, they used their creativity to cover the events. From Sister Carol’s story:

They watched the Mass on the screens outside the stadium, and got text messages from Berning’s grandmother, who was inside. They began interviewing people who were also outside the stadium.

“We spoke with one man who said he wasn’t Catholic, but he told us he could really feel the Holy Spirit when the pope was near,” recalled Squires.

They also shot video of Loras President Jim Collins, who was at an invitation-only papal audience for Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America.

Nice — I love it when journalists find other ways to get the story. Here’s a link to their blog, and here’s one of their stories:

Dream on

My colleague, CNS international editor Barb Fraze, blogged last month about papal-visit nightmares before the trip. As a stringer covering the New York lap of the visit, I too had a couple of unexpected dreams related to missed press buses.

Now, as a “veteran” of the papal visit, I am happy to report that I did not miss any buses — but I also cannot explain why I am now dreaming about papal events that were added to the itinerary, at least in my dreamscape.

The other night, for example, I dreamed there was “just one more papal appearance at Yankee Stadium” to cover.  As I hustled to report it, it felt a lot like that recurring post-college dream about the chemistry class I don’t find until just before the final exam.   

I sure hope His Holiness is not having bad dreams about being pursued by the press corps! 

A great quote about Yankee Stadium and the pope

Pope Benedict XVI emerges from the New York Yankee's dugout to the cheers of approximately 60,000 people who attended the Mass that he celebrated at Yankee Stadium on the final day of his pastoral visit to the U.S. April 20. (CNS/Rick Musacchio)We’ve written before about how Yankee Stadium, the “cathedral of baseball” to many sports fans, looked like a real cathedral for the pope’s Mass.

And we talked here yesterday about memorable moments and memorable quotes from the trip.

Well, following up on yesterday’s post about people bringing memories of the papal trip home to their local communities, I’d like to nominate Mark Moeller of All Saints Church in Dunwoody, Ga., for quote-of-the-week honors. Obviously a fan who appreciates the history of baseball and Yankee Stadium, Moeller wrote:

As if the roof was pulled off of a great cathedral, Yankee Stadium opened wide, with a divine light shining on the surface below. Ruth and Gehrig could never have imagined it like this, as even Yankee and Red Sox fans were moved to civility.

Read Moeller’s entire piece here. Thankful that he was able to represent his parish at a papal event, he also marvels about visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral the day before the papal Mass there as well as seeing the crowds lining the papal motorcade route. It’s in The Georgia Bulletin of Atlanta. 

Talking about the pope back home

Numerous Catholic papers came out this past weekend with coverage of the papal trip but also personal reflections on how the trip touched the lives of local Catholics. Some examples:

Cardinal O’Malley on meeting with victims

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley holds a book containing over 1,000 names of known Boston victims of clergy sexual abuse that was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting between the Holy Father and five survivors of sexual abuse by clergy April 17. Pilot photo/Courtesy Barbara ThorpCardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston gave an interview to his archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, headlined “Cardinal reflects on apostolic visit, meeting with victims.” We’re working on a story on it for today.

In the interview, Cardinal O’Malley calls the presentation of a book of names of abuse victims (left) to the pope a “very poignant moment in the visit.”

… over 1,000 names, first names, done in calligraphy and very beautifully and artistically prepared, with prayers and other reflections interspersed among the names. It was a way to try to underline the fact that the meeting was to be representative of all the victims, not just the ones who were there, or even the ones whose names appeared in the book, and also to underscore the dimension of the problem. The names in the book represent names that have come to us, of cases that have come to us in the last 50 years.

John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter also had details of the meeting in his online column posted last Friday.

Also interesting were Cardinal O’Malley’s comments in the interview about the pope’s health, especially given the French newspaper speculation over the weekend alleging that the pope is in poor health.

I was just pleased that the Holy Father seemed to hold up so well during the trip. It was an exhausting trip. Many people are commenting how quickly he went up the steps and his obvious enthusiasm. For an 81-year-old who has not had the greatest health it was truly a “tour de force.”

The Internet is nice, but …

Yes, you can get all the texts from Pope Benedict’s historic visit to the United States from various locations on the Internet, but wouldn’t you (or your parish study group) rather have them in one easy-to-read, magazine-style format? If so, you’re in luck. Origins, the CNS documentary service which has been chronicling the history of the church for the past 37 years, has all the full texts in its latest edition.

In this expanded issue are all of the papal texts — the homilies at Nationals Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Yankee Stadium and every speech or message, such as to the bishops, to educators, to other Christians and to young people — plus the texts of President Bush, Cardinal George, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Vice President Cheney.

The single-copy price of this extra-large edition is the same as any other single issue: $5. But the real bargain is in the bulk rates: $4.00 each for 2-9 copies; $3.50 each for 10-25 copies; $3.00 each for 26-49 copies; $2.50 each for 50-99 copies; and $2.00 each plus shipping for 100-plus copies.

To order, go to and click on the order form or call (202) 541-3290. And if you’re already an Origins online subscriber, you can click here for easy access to this edition with your username and password.

Around the world in 577 days

VATICAN CITY — Samuel Clear from Tasmania was in Rome this week on the last leg of his walk around the world promoting prayer for Christian unity. You can read about it here.

An official at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity gave me a call Monday morning asking me if I wanted to come over and interview Sam and hear his fascinating story. When I got to the Vatican offices, Sam still hadn’t shown; he was still being interviewed at Vatican Radio.

As we waited over an hour, the Vatican officials started to get worried. Here Sam had successfully navigated his way from Sydney to Rome, could he have gotten lost between the radio and their office — just 100 yards away — they wondered?!

Luckily he had just made a leisurely pit stop to get something to eat and showed up later at the Holy See Press Office for his interview with CNS.

You can read details about his trip on his blog and join a growing list of Christians praying for unity at his Walk4one initiative here.

Where did Sam go and where is Sam now? Just check his map or Excel spreadsheet to find out!

Candid camera

Catholic Press Photo photographer Alessia Giuliani caught the following candid photo of CNS Rome bureau chief John Thavis at Park East Synagogue in New York April 18. Thavis, who has covered the Vatican for more than 25 years for Catholic News Service,  also covered Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to a Rome synagogue in 1986.

Catholic News Service Rome bureau chief John Thavis covers the arrival of the Pope Benedict XVI in the Park East Synagogue in New York April 18. (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Cranking it out during the papapalooza

Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the U.S. was a short one compared to the lengthier jaunts of his globe-trotting predecessor, but this 81-year-old pope packed in a lot during the six days of his Great American Papapalooza.

As journalists, we at CNS throw ourselves into such events and come up for air after the last note of the last tune is played. In this case, once Shepherd One left JFK and the last photos and stories were filed. After that, you realize just how much reporting a short papal trip can take when you’re a wire service with global clients.

For Catholic News Service, here are six days by the numbers:

English language stories filed, including updates and texts: 182

Spanish language stories: 25

Photos and graphics: 570

Texts published in this week’s 36-page issue of Origins, CNS documentary service: 18

Blog entries: 61

Photographers fielded: 9

Reporters fielded: 15

Editors and researchers working the desks: 9

Help from friends and colleagues: much and appreciated

It takes a lot of teamwork to pull off this level of coverage, especially for a wire service that is dwarfed by the likes of AP and Reuters. But it was a great trip reported by a great team.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat. I bet the pope wouldn’t mind coming back either.


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