30 years of US-Vatican relations celebrated in 500 year-old building

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican foreign minister, and Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, speak in the Palazzo della Cancelleria. (CNS/Alessandro Corradini, courtesy of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See)

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican foreign minister, and Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, speak in the Palazzo della Cancelleria. (CNS/Alessandro Corradini, courtesy of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See)

VATICAN CITY — In a Vatican building that opened for business in 1513, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See celebrated the 30th anniversary of formal U.S.-Vatican diplomatic relations with a photo exhibit and reception.

While some embassies — including the Italian, French and Spanish — have centuries of experience with the Vatican diplomatic corps, the U.S. ambassador and the Vatican’s foreign minister both spoke of the solidity of their three-decade-old ties and, particularly, of the relationship’s potential in furthering the cause of global justice and peace.

And both mentioned the importance of the upcoming meeting of President Barack Obama and Pope Francis at the Vatican March 27.

Speaking in one of the many frescoed halls of the Palazzo della Cancelleria, a Vatican building housing the Apostolic Penitentiary and other Vatican tribunals, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican foreign minister, pointed out how high-level contacts between the Vatican and the U.S. government are much older than 30 years.

“In 1788, George Washington informed Pope Pius VI — through Benjamin Franklin — that in the newly born republic there was no need for authorization from the state for the appointment of bishops in that the revolution had brought freedom to the colonies, first and foremost, that of religious freedom,” the archbishop said.

“The relationship between the Holy See and the United States has grown slowly, but steadily stronger over time,” he said. Formal ties are important “if indeed the United States represents one of the principal actors on the international scene, and the church and the Holy See share in the ‘joys and the hopes, the sorrows and the anxieties of humanity.’”

Archbishop Mamberti quoted from an 1848 U.S. Senate debate about allocating funds for President James Polk’s official envoy to Pope Pius IX.

One senator had said, “the eyes of Christendom are on its sovereign, much is expected of him,” the archbishop said. And while some Christians — and probably Pope Francis himself — would be uncomfortable with the description of the pope as the “sovereign of Christendom,” Archbishop Mamberti said no one can deny how the eyes of the world are on Pope Francis as he “continues to encourage the church and the international community to not be mere onlookers concerning the great challenges that inflict humanity, but to engage in tackling them.”

The problems faced by world today “are so many and so serious,” Archbishop Mamberti said, and responding to them requires “an ever closer dialogue between the Holy See and the United States.”

Ken Hackett, told an audience of Vatican officials, other ambassadors, journalists, priests and religious that he was pleased to be the 10th U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and “I look forward to strengthening our relationship and expanding our partnership to help solve critical global problems.”

Then-President Ronald Reagan and John Paul II agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations on Jan. 10, 1984.

Archbishop Mamberti looks at the photo exhibit. (CNS/CindyWooden)

Archbishop Mamberti looks at the photo exhibit. (CNS/CindyWooden)

The photo exhibit includes pictures of the meetings Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had with the U.S. presidents of their day: Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

But panels also show an 85-year-old Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist, meeting Pope John Paul II in St. Louis in 1999 and blues guitarist B.B. King showing his guitar — named Lucille — to the pope at the Vatican in 1997.

Pope to Davos: consider human dignity, common good

In a message to economic and political leaders meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Pope Francis urges attention to ethical considerations that he says are often “little more than an afterthought” for them.

His message, just released by the Vatican, highlights world hunger and the plight of refugees. It also calls for a “new political and business mentality … capable of guiding all economic and financial activity within the horizon of an ethical approach which is truly humane.”

Here are some key passages:

 Those who have demonstrated their aptitude for being innovative and for improving the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty. …

Such men and women are able to serve more effectively the common good and to make the goods of this world more accessible to all. Nevertheless, the growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all “a transcendent vision of the person” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 11), because “without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space” (ibid.). It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. …

The international business community can count on many men and women of great personal honesty and integrity, whose work is inspired and guided by high ideals of fairness, generosity and concern for the authentic development of the human family. I urge you to draw upon these great human and moral resources and to take up this challenge with determination and far-sightedness. Without ignoring, naturally, the specific scientific and professional requirements of every context, I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.

Top 13 quotable quotes by Pope Francis on sanctity of life

VATICAN CITY — Top 13 quotable quotes from Pope Francis on the sanctity of life:

1.

francis life tweet

2.  “All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life in Britain and Ireland July 28, 2013

3. “Let’s say ‘Yes’ to life and ‘No’ to death.”

Message to Catholics taking part in March for Life in France Jan. 19, 2014

MAN AND CHILD HOLD HANDS DURING ANTI-ABORTION MARCH

A man and child hold hands during an anti-abortion march in central London in 2007. (CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters) (Oct. 30, 2007)

4. “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection. And every elderly person…even if he is ill or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the ‘culture of waste’ suggests!”

Speech to Catholic healthcare professionals and gynecologists Sept. 20, 2013

5. “All too often, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, they do not accept the ‘Gospel of Life’ but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others.

…As a result, the living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.”

– from homily at Mass for ‘Evangelium Vitae Day’ June 16, 2013

Boy carries mortar shell in weapons factory of Free Syrian Army in Aleppo

A 10-year-old Syrian boy carries a mortar shell in a weapons factory in Aleppo Sept. 2013. (CNS photo/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

6. “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”

Speech to diplomats Jan. 13, 2014

7. “Among the vulnerable for whom the church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.

…Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the church cannot be expected to change her position on this question… It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life…”

– Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium #213-214

Pope blesses sick man inside Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari

Pope Francis blessing a sick man inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

8. “The victims of this [throwaway] culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings — the unborn, the poorest, the sick and elderly, the seriously handicapped, etc. — who are in danger of being ‘thrown away,’ expelled from a system that must be efficient at all costs.

…It is necessary to raise awareness and form the lay faithful, in whatever state, especially those engaged in the field of politics, so that they may think in accord with the Gospel and the social doctrine of the church and act consistently by dialoguing and collaborating with those who, in sincerity and intellectual honesty, share — if not the faith — at least a similar vision of mankind and society and its ethical consequences.

Speech to a delegation from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute Dec. 7, 2013

BOY SITS IN DAMAGED HOME AFTER SHELLING IN SYRIA

A boy sitting at his parents’ house damaged by shelling near Homs Aug. 2012. (CNS photo/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

9. “We are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment.”

Message to the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches dated Oct. 4, 2013

10. On the church supporting life: “This young woman had the courage” to carry her baby to term and not have an abortion, Pope Francis said. But this example of an unmarried woman who sought baptism for her baby, “what does she find? A closed door. And this happens to a lot of people. This is not good pastoral zeal. This pushes people away from the Lord.”

Homily during morning Mass May 25, 2013 in chapel of his residence

SISTER TEACHES LOCAL MEN TO PROVIDE MATERNAL CARE IN SOUTH SUDAN

Sister Joana Mai Hla Kyi, a nurse and member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, demonstrating prenatal therapy in Riimenze, South Sudan, in this 2010 file photo. (CNS file photo/Paul Jeffrey)

11. The fight against abortion is “part of the battle in favor of life from the moment of conception until a dignified, natural end. This includes the care of the mother during pregnancy, the existence of laws to protect the mother postpartum, and the need to ensure that children receive enough food, as well as providing healthcare throughout the whole length of life…”

…On science being aware it is human life: “A pregnant woman isn’t carrying a toothbrush in her belly, or a tumor…We are in the presence of a human being.”

– Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in book of interviews “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words”

12. “The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend him or herself.”

– Cardinal Bergoglio with Rabbi Abraham Skorka in book “On Heaven and Earth”

Pope kisses baby as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis kisses a baby before start of general audience in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 18, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

13. “All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth…to give life is to open (our) heart, and to care for life is to (give oneself) in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others.

Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing..So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it.”

–  from a homily in 2005 by Cardinal Bergoglio  celebrating Aug. 31  feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of expectant mothers, newborns

Big and small creatures flock to St. Peter’s

(UPDATE: More photos!)

VATICAN CITY — While the wide boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square can seem like a zoo on general audience Wednesdays, there’s no mistake — it definitely becomes a petting zoo every January 17 — the feast of St. Anthony Abbot, patron saint of animals and farmers.

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A little boy pets a baby donkey during an annual blessing of animals near St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Italian farmers and ranchers bring their horses, donkeys, cows, steer, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits and hens, and local residents come with their dogs, cats and bunnies for the annual blessing.

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Bunnies and geese waiting for their special blessing. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

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Cardinal Comastri, papal vicar for Vatican City, blessed dozens of animals and their owners. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Italian farmers and pet owners have a special devotion to St. Anthony as their patron saint, which is why his feast day marks the celebration and not, like in other countries, the feast of that other famous patron saint of animals: St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.

Bleats, barks and honks accompanied the “Our Father” as Cardinal Angelo Comastri blessed farm animals and pets gathered outside St. Peter’s Square.

Italian police mounted on horseback paraded up the wide boulevard leading to the square and two police dogs, with their agents, circled and sniffed pedestrians enthusiastically — unaware they were off-duty to get a blessing.

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Italian military police on horseback celebrating the feast of St. Anthony Abbot. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

photobombing

Who’s photobombing whom? The goose or the cardinal? (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

elsa

Elsa the Cow is moooving on up! (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

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Bella, a Maltese dog, got a special grooming for her special day. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

mandarins

Fresh mandarin oranges for the crowds. And under all those feathers is a horse. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

horse parade

Another division of Italian police on horseback. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

cleanup

And wherever there are horses, there’s a cleanup crew not far behind! (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

How well do God, Jesus and church hold up over time, over cultures?

VATICAN CITY — How do God, Jesus and the church hold up over the centuries in the print world? Do word frequencies immortalized in books somehow reflect cultural or spiritual sentiments over time?

Well, you can have fun doing a little informal research on those topics or others with the Google Ngram Viewer. The viewer, which came out in 2010, essentially mines the more than 5 million books Google has scanned from the past 5 centuries. That’s only 4% of all books, but it’s working with more than 500 billion words over a vast period of time. There’s bound to be something useful in that.

You type in a word or name, using commas to separate a series of words and then choose the language and time frame you want to survey. Other search tips are here.

The results track how many times the word appears so you’ll have to be careful with the kind of conclusions you draw from word frequencies (i.e. does high usage indicate positive popularity? Probably not, but it does give a glimpse into what and how much was being written about a topic that was considered important and worthy enough of print.)

Here’s just a small look at how God (blue lines), Jesus (red lines) and the church (green lines) fare in different languages and cultures over time:

English:

english 1

Spanish:

spanish1

Italian:

italian1

French:

french1

German: (spike from 1943-1950…)

german1

Russian: (notice impact of Revolution of 1917 and fall of USSR…)

russian1

Have fun with your own combinations! Let us know what you find.

Facing reality: popes have ordinary moments, too

UPDATED Jan. 16: The animated GIF is comprised of a dozen or more still photo frames shot within about 4 seconds. Each was cropped exactly the same. One of these frames is the featured photo. Neither the GIF nor the main photo were taken from video.

VATICAN CITY — Photographers covering the Vatican are witnesses to both the grandeur and ordinariness of the events that unfold here.

In a display of the ordinary, today I shot this unusual frame of Pope Francis as he rubbed his face.

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Pope Francis’ expression invites many captions, but he was really just rubbing his face. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He had just finished delivering his blessing at the end of his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience. The 77-year-old pope first rubbed his eyes, then his face. It was essentially the pope’s four seconds of down time before spending the next hour and a half greeting bishops, people with disabilities and many others.

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An animated GIF of Pope Francis taking a breather at the end of his catechesis. (CNS photos/Paul Haring)

My colleagues and I frequently see the pope doing ordinary human things: blowing his nose, taking a drink of water, scratching his face, etc…. We’ll sometimes photograph these moments but usually don’t use them. There is a certain sense of decorum among us — about what is appropriate for public consumption and what should be kept private.

In this case, the photo seemed to convey just how tiring it is to lead an audience and greet so many people outside in winter weather for two and a half hours.

My colleagues at the Rome bureau liked the photo because it showed a certain vulnerability. What do you think?

As a teen, the Holy Father’s father gave talks on the papacy

Undated handout photo of Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio and family members

The future Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, pictured as a young man in the back second from left, and his family (his paternal grandmother, Rosa, and father, Mario, are seated) in this undated photo. (CNS photo/Clarin handout via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Obviously oblivious to the fact that he would have a son who, one day, would become pope, a 17-year-old Mario Bergoglio actually became a sort of informal expert on the papacy, giving two talks on the subject in his native Italy.

An Italian author, Stefano Masino, made that and other interesting discoveries about Pope Francis’ closest relatives when he conducted detailed research in local, national and diocesan archives in Italy. Some of his findings were published today in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Mario, Pope Francis’ father, grew up in the northern Italian city of Asti in the Piedmont region and took an active part in the diocese’s youth group.

In 1925, when he was a 17-year-old high school student, the Diocesan Youth Federation organized a two-month-long series of conferences dedicated to a variety of topics. Some teens were assigned to give talks on the history of Catholic Action; the relationship between prayer, action and sacrifice; and responsible journalism.

Mario Bergoglio was assigned “The Papacy” and was given a very good write-up in the local paper after his talk.

In the paper’s Dec. 12, 1925, edition, the article said:

“Mario Bergoglio, an accounting student, spoke passionately and forcefully — with frequent and apt historical references — on the theme, “The Papacy.” Captivating his audience and receiving their applause, he can surely be counted on for successfully being an ardent proponent of our ideal.”

Three years later, during an annual Father’s Day celebration organized by a Catholic youth association, he also delivered “a most beautiful explanatory speech on the papacy,” heaping high praise on the pope at the time, Pope Pius XI.

Less than a year before he and his parents were set to immigrate to Argentina, he took part in a “Catechist Contest” in 1928, testing — alongside the local bishop — the line-up of contestants.

Pope Francis has often talked very lovingly of his paternal grandmother, Rosa, who taught him how to pray and helped instill in him his great faith in Christ.

But her son — the pope’s father, Mario — also inherited the same sensibility.

In fact, in this book-length series of interviews, the future pope says his father took his decision to become a priest very well, “More than well, he was happy.”

While the pope’s mother, who was also very religious, worried he was acting too hastily, “I definitely knew my father was going to understand me better,” the future pope said.

His father’s mother, Rosa, “was a very strong religious role model for him (for Mario), and he had inherited that religiousness, that fortitude,” he said.

Pope Francis, too, inherited those gifts and, though he “came from the ends of the earth,” didn’t fall far from the Bergoglio’s tree of faith.

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