The eyes (and ears, and beard) have it

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley has the inside track to be elected pope, according to the preliminary analysis of how people reacted to the faces of likely candidates among the cardinals. Yep, their faces alone.

A pair of psychology associate professors from the College of William & Mary in Virginia — Peter M. Vishton and Jennifer A. Stevens — pulled together what was cautiously labeled “Brief technical report — working document — draft” of how study participants reacted to photos of 20 likely contenders for the papacy. They concluded that Cardinal O’Malley will be the next pope.

The cautiously worded preliminary report analyzed the reactions to the photos by 557 participants, who were recruited via something called Amazon Mechanical Turk and paid 20 cents for their participation. Curiously, the participants hardly reflect the demographics of the cardinal electors.

“137 self-identified as Christian; 237 self-identified as Hindu; 169 of the participants self-identified as being from North America; 337 self-identified as being from Asia.”

The unusual approach is based on the principle that although the electors will consider a wide range of skills, personal characteristics, qualifications and geopolitical angles, they also will be influenced by the facial features of the candidates.

“This study explores the prediction that the unconscious assessment of face appearance will strongly, unconsciously affect their selection.”

The report said one reason they chose to study the papal election is that the electors constitute a closed group of highly educated, experienced, senior leaders. If their prediction turns out to be accurate, the pair said:
“It would suggest that the power of a face to drive decisions is truly powerful.”

Sculptor captures ‘heart and soul’ of Mary, Joseph in statues for renovated cathedral

Oregon sculptor's bronze statue of Mary and Joseph capture's realism. (Photo courtesy sculptor)

Oregon sculptor’s bronze statue of Mary and Joseph at Kansas cathedral. (Photo courtesy Rip Caswell)

A world away from Rome, the conclave and the papal watch there’s excitement at the local church level about something entirely different — but a celebration of the Catholic faith nonetheless. The excitement is in Wichita, Kan., about the completion of the renovation of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

In February 2012 we reported on the 18-month project to upgrade, enhance and preserve the cathedral in this story from part of the Catholic Advance.

The Wichita Diocese selected Oregon sculptor Rip Caswell to create the dramatic monuments. Caswell has a reputation for historical accuracy and “painstaking attention to detail.”

“We selected Rip,” explains Msgr. Robert Hemberger, chairman of the Cathedral Arts Committee, “above all, because of his ability to capture the heart and soul of a subject — this especially comes through in the face and eyes of his work.”

Scuptor caswell stands by The Cricifix

Sculptor stands by Crucifix he created for Kansas cathedral. (Photo courtesy Rip Caswell)

The two sculptures, each standing taller than 7 feet and weighing approximately half a ton apiece, are of Mary and Joseph and of the Crucifix. They stand apart in separate east and west alcoves of the cross-shaped cathedral, facing one another across the open space.

“They appear connected, almost as though there is a conversation taking place,” Msgr. Hemberger said in a statement. “Mary and child, with Joseph by her side, has a distant look in her eyes, as though seeing her Son’s future.” About Caswell’s work the priest added: “We’re astounded by the beauty of what he’s created. It’s truly amazing.” Caswell’s figure of Christ on the cross is looking down but his face reflects a sense of calm and peace.

According to a news release, Caswell used wood from Israel and stones from the Jordan River for the cross and the base of his sculptures. A young Jewish girl was his model for Mary and Catholic seminarians were models for Christ.

The artist, who has created more than 200 sculptures, has been sculpting in bronze for 20 years. He was recently commissioned to create a national monument to five-star Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, scheduled to be unveiled Sept. 2 at Pearl Harbor.

In pre-conclave sermon, cardinal dean calls for unity

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Cardinal Angelo Sodano in St. Peter’s Basilica, March 12, 2013 (screen grab from Vatican television)

VATICAN CITY — Hours before the start of the conclave that will choose the next pope, the dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated the papacy as a source of unity among Catholics and of evangelization and charitable service to the world.

Christ “has established his apostles and among them Peter, who takes the lead, as the visible foundation of the unity of the church,” said Cardinal Angelo Sodano in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica March 12. “Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity.”

Cardinal Sodano, 85, concelebrated the Mass “Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice” (for the election of the Roman pontiff) with some 170 other cardinals, including 115 under 80 who will be entering the conclave in the Sistine Chapel this afternoon.

At the start of the Mass, as a choir and the congregation chanted verses from the psalms, the cardinals processed up the main aisle of the basilica, wearing vestments in the red of Pentecost, signifying their invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide the papal election.

Cardinal Sodano’s homily included words of thanks for the “brilliant pontificate” of Pope Benedict XVI, which prompted over 30 seconds of applause.

The cardinal quoted the retired pope’s description of charity as a “constitutive element of the church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her being,” and his warning that charity must not be reduced to “solidarity or simply humanitarian aid,” since the “greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the ‘ministry of the word.’”

Christ’s “mission of mercy,” Cardinal Sodano said, “is especially entrusted to the bishop of Rome, shepherd of the universal church.”

“The last popes have been builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace,” the cardinal said. “Let us pray that the future pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level.”

Given its timing, the homily at the cardinals’ last Mass before a conclave is commonly interpreted as an exhortation to the cardinal-electors on the priorities they should follow in choosing the next pope.

On the same occasion in 2005, the cardinal dean gave a now-famous sermon that warned believers against trends in contemporary culture, particularly a “dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” He emerged from the Sistine Chapel the next day as Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Sodano’s words could also prove influential, but he is too old to vote in this conclave, and while the cardinal-electors are permitted to choose someone from outside their number, the last time they did so was in 1378.

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