An intern’s farewell to CNS & Rome

By Caroline Hroncich

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During my first week in Rome, I attended Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace in Syria (CNS Photo/ Caroline Hroncich)

VATICAN CITY — When I got off the bus before heading into the office on Thursday, I walked down Via della Conciliazione and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. I stopped for a while in front of the Christmas tree, and looked around the square. Over the past four months I’ve been in St. Peter’s Square on many occasions, but there’s something about doing it for one last time that really makes you think.

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my professor’s office at Villanova University discussing the possibility of interning with the Catholic News Service Rome bureau for the semester. I’d never so much as been outside of the United States before, and was unsure what to expect when I set foot in Rome for the first time. But four months later, I can safely say I’ve learned so much about journalism, the Vatican and myself.

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My “paparazzi” photo of Jennifer Lopez leaving a store near the Vatican (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

I felt truly welcomed by the CNS staff and honestly felt like this was a place where I could be creative and explore my own ideas. I’ve met so many wonderful people and explored so many new things I could go on for hours about how great each opportunity has been. I took paparazzi shots of Jennifer Lopez, I sat in the ‘VIP’ section at the papal audience, I helped out with the office move, just to mention a few of my many adventures.

When I arrived at Villanova two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be. With so much pressure to decide, the infamous “undeclared” loomed on my transcript until about the last possible second. Once I decided on communications I faced a bigger challenge: What exactly did I want to do with my life? I’d tried my hand in a few areas, but none seemed to fit.

Writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, and interning at CNS really helped me realize that. With the help of the entire CNS staff, I conducted my first interview, wrote my first news story, and my first blog post.

Capture

A photo I took of Pope Francis arriving at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 20 (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

This semester has made me realize that regardless of what I end up doing in the future, if I don’t get to write, I won’t truly be happy. I’m thrilled that I’ve been one of the lucky few to have had this experience.

When I board my flight back to the United States on December 21, I will be filled with many mixed emotions. When I think about the things I will miss about Rome (most of which will involve food), CNS trumps it all. In the future, if I return to Rome, I know one of the first places I will visit is the CNS office on Via della Conciliazione.

Editor’s note: Caroline Hroncich is a student at Villanova University and she interned at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau for the semester.

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Be sure to check out some of the other stories Caroline wrote during her time here:

English photographer strives to capture spirituality of the homeless

A Jesuit promotes human dignity, from Central America to the Holy See

Vatican official says not to expect papal encyclical on poverty

From New Jersey to the Vatican, opening a dialogue with the Gospel

A trip down under: Exploring the Vatican necropolis

Analog popes taking tentative taps in a digital age

POPE READS BOOK AT CASTEL GANDOLFO

Retired Pope Benedict XVI working at a desk at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, July 23, 2010. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Though he prefers to use pencil and paper, the pope emeritus is fascinated by high-tech tools.

Retired Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told reporters yesterday that the pope shows great interest in the archbishop’s iPad.

“When I show him something on the iPad, and I’m making the information slide by on the screen with my fingers, these new technologies pique his interest from time to time,” he said.

The 57-year-old archbishop said the retired pope “doesn’t think these things are ruled out for an elderly person” like himself.

In fact, some may remember, Pope Benedict became the first pope in history to own an iPod when Vatican Radio staff gave him a 2-gigabyte white nano in 2006.

When the head of the radio’s technical and computer services department identified himself and handed the pope the boxed iPod, the pope was said to have replied, “Computer technology is the future.”

It’s doubtful he’s ever used the iPod, even though it was loaded with works by his favorite composers, like Mozart.

He never used the laptop he got as a gift just a few days after he broke his right wrist in 2009, preferring to use a voice recorder instead to put down his thoughts and ideas.

POPE SENDS FIRST TWITTER MESSAGE DURING GENERAL AUDIENCE AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict posting his first tweet on his Twitter account @Pontifex Dec. 12, 2012. (CNS photo/L ‘Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

But he tapped away with no problems when presented with a tablet launching the very first @Pontifex Twitter accounts and tweets almost exactly one year ago today, and when he inaugurated the Vatican’s online news portal, news.va in 2011.

POPE BENEDICT LIGHTS UP ELECTRONIC CHRISTMAS TREE IN ITALIAN TOWN USING TABLET AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict lights up one of the world’s largest electronic Christmas trees in Gubbio, Italy, using an electronic tablet at the Vatican Dec. 7, 2011. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

He also lit the world’s largest electronic Christmas “tree” from a Sony S Tablet two years ago from his papal apartment.

Though he isn’t immersed in the digital world, Pope Benedict repeatedly endorsed it as the new frontier for evangelization.

Pope Francis, too, is no digital native. As most people know, he prefers phonecalls and letters to IM and email.

Pope Francis launches smartphone app Missio featuring Catholic news, papal homilies, missionary efforts

Pope Francis launching the Missio app with national directors of pontifical mission societies May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)

Though he launched the Pontifical Mission Societies’ Missio App in May, he, like his predecessor, needed close coaching to figure out what to press on the iPad’s smooth button-less screen.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he once said that he would try to start using the Internet when he retired.  Obviously a plan that now may be delayed.

Most mentions? Check out our ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ wordcloud

Wordle: The Joy of the GospelVATICAN CITY — “God,” “church,” and “people” get the most mentions in Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Click on either image to enlarge.

With this handy word cloud, you can see “life,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “new,” “one,” and “Gospel” are all close behind. In case you’re wondering what “AAS” is, it’s for “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” which appears often in the footnotes in reference to other official texts. SnipImage

book coverIf you haven’t got your copy of “The Joy of the Gospel” yet, remember you can:

And in case you missed it, yesterday we posted:

Happy reading! And a have blessed Thanksgiving!

CNS “nuclear football” prevents news coverage gaps during historic move

VATICAN CITY — After 19 years located in an apartment building half mile from the Vatican, Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau was ready for a move — to fresher digs and closer to the action.

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it’s usually not a pretty sight. Not only because a few of us (mostly me) have pack-rat tendencies, there are paper files and valuable archive materials going back to the Second Vatican Council and earlier as CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948.

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The CNS “nuclear football” contained every item that might be needed to cover normal and unusual news events at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Moving a news organization is also challenging because “the show must go on!” The pope and the rest of the Vatican don’t stop working and CNS client papers still need to go to press.

The day before the office was set to be boxed up and shipped off, CNS’s senior correspondent, Cindy Wooden, and I started filling a small cardboard box and wheelie suitcase with essential items that would supply our “mobile newsroom” for the next few days.

Dubbed “the nuclear football” by Rome bureau chief Francis Rocca, the suitcase needed to get us through not just a couple of typical workdays, but also had to cover us in case of some unforeseen news Armageddon.

suitcase contents

Contents of the CNS “mobile newsroom” to be used while the Rome bureau moved to a new office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Essential items included aspirin, gaffer tape, half a bar of chocolate, a safety pin, USB drive, telephone books, personal contacts, recording devices, notebooks and pens. It had started out as a full chocolate bar…

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Books about Pope Francis, style-books, College of Cardinal statistics, batteries, recording equipment were part of the CNS mobile newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

We did pack a laptop, but it decided to give out on the first day we were office-less so I feel it doesn’t deserve to be included it in the photo-lineup. iPad minis and our booth in the Vatican press hall provided us with connectivity.

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CNS senior correspondent Cindy Wooden and senior photographer Paul Haring surveying the new, yet unpacked newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Luckily we were spared an “extreme” news event during the move. However, the “atomic suitcase” has ended up being more of a lifesaver than anticipated since we still are not completely unpacked.

Thanks to the wheelie suitcase contents, we’ve been able to have all the essentials as we continue to settle into our new office — now located next door to the Vatican press hall and 50 yards from St. Peter’s Square.

Enjoy some of these shots of our new home in Rome.

As always, CNS clients and fans are more than welcome to stop by. We still may have a box for you to sit on when you visit!

CNS's new office

CNS correspondent Carol Glatz digs out something useful during a move to the Rome bureau’s new offices on Via della Conciliazione. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS's new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

A nice view of the courtyard from one of the rooms in the new CNS Rome bureau. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

The CNS Rome bureau has moved offices to a renovated building on Via della Conciliazione, just a few yards from St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948. Its new offices on Via della Conciliazione put CNS right at the heart of the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Espionage at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Claims of eavesdropping on the Vatican are nothing new.

But it’s hard to imagine any current foreign snooping could match the spying frenzy of the Cold War when the communist “East” and democratic “West” were locked in an ideological battle.

NEWLY ELECTED POPE RECEIVES WOOL PALLIUM

Karol Wojtyla receiving the woolen pallium during his installation as Pope John Paul II Oct. 22, 1978. (CNS photo by Arturo Mari)

After Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II in 1978, the Vatican did come under increased scrutiny as it was seen to be a decisive player in the anti-communist chess game.

Apparently double agent priests infiltrated the upper echelons of the Vatican and Czechoslovakian spies reportedly bugged the private studio of then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli by planting a hidden microphone inside a statue of Our Lady.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was spied on for three decades before he became pope by the Stasi — East Germany’s communist secret police.

POPE JOHN PAUL II MEETS THEN-CARDINAL RATZINGER IN 1980

Pope John Paul II greeting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at a Munich airport in November 1980 at the end of a papal visit to Germany. (CNS photo from KNA)

According to one agent, the cardinal prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “would have an influence on the growth of anti-communist attitudes in the Catholic Church, especially in Latin America.” Agents wrote that Pope John Paul asked Cardinal Ratzinger to organize help for “counterrevolutionary activities in Poland” after the rise of the Solidarity movement in 1980.

Details of the Stasi’s activities were published in 2005 by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. The Stasi archives show there was one agent in the Vatican who provided “exact details” of the 1978 conclave that elected Pope John Paul II.

The newspaper noted that the secret police had kept an extensive card file on then-Cardinal Ratzinger and had described him as “the most decided opponent of communism in the Vatican.” Spies also described him as appearing “initially shy in conversation,” but that he also possessed “a winning charm.”

Soviet-bloc governments tried to get their Eastern European theology students to spy on the Vatican when they studied in Rome.

FILE PHOTO OF JESUIT FATHER ROBERT GRAHAM

Jesuit Father Robert Graham pictured in Rome in 1992. Father Graham, who died in 1997, was considered an authority on the role of Pope Pius XII during World War II. (CNS photo/Agostino Bono)

“The poor Soviets believed secret sources more than public information, but that was an illusion,” the late-U.S. Jesuit Father Robert Graham, a historian and longtime Vatican observer, told CNS in 1993.

“They had to employ very complicated means to get the same information that was in the newspapers,” he said in this old CNS story that ran on page 12 in the Anchor, the diocesan paper of Fall River, Mass.

One longtime Vatican reporter claimed at the time that two Hungarian agents in the 1960s went directly to him instead of to his tidied and edited news reports.

He said the outrageous stories he made up for them were exceeded only by the outrageously bad vodka they gave him each Christmas.

Presto change-oh! It’s the skullcap swap

Monday Oct. 21, UPDATE and CORRECTION:

First a correction from an attentive Facebook fan who sent us a link showing how the cap swap custom goes way back before our 21st-century popes.

I also heard back from one of the Providence College students, who tried to give Pope Francis a new zucchetto. Here’s her backstage look at how it all happened:

Joe had noticed the tradition of the zuchetto exchange, and had wanted to try it for himself. As we all pointed to it, Pope Francis took notice of it and stopped the Popemobile while he had been passing by.

Prior to this, a friend we were with said that she wanted to write the pope a note, to which I replied that I had a stack of bright pink post-it notes. Upon writing the note and all signing our names, we safety pinned it to the zuchetto to ensure it stayed in place for the Pope to read, which is why he didn’t keep the note. It read, “Providence College LOVES Papa Francesco. [signed by seven PC students].

When Pope Francis stopped in front of us, I couldn’t even react. It was like a dream; I was speechless. He had read our note and told us that the zuchetto was too big. He was so close to us and had been so engaged with us as regular audience members (even for the 30 seconds that it was) that it was so surreal.

 

PILGRIM TRIES TO GIVE ZUCCHETTO AS POPE ARRIVES FOR GENERAL AUDIENCE AT VATICAN

A pilgrim trying to give Pope Benedict XVI a zucchetto when he arrived for a general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 1, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — The “zucchetto switcheroo” is a long-held tradition for popes and pilgrims.

A guest presents the pope with a brand new white skullcap and the pope is expected to take it and swap it with the one he’s wearing on his head.

While many pilgrims are familiar with the practice, we’ve noticed a newly elected pope usually needs a quick explanation from an aide or security guard when someone suddenly presents him with a fresh new cap purchased from the papal tailors at Gammarelli’s.

But once they know the drill, everyone from Blessed John Paul II to Popes Benedict and Francis has happily engaged in the tradition, letting the lucky pilgrim get a souvenir of a lifetime.

Pope leads general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Joseph Day, a student at Providence College, gets back the new zucchetto he had handed Pope Francis before the start of the general audience Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

One such lucky pilgrim at yesterday’s general audience was a student from Providence College, R.I. who is spending a semester studying in Rome.

Joseph Day, a native of Rehoboth, Mass., stretched his arm out over the heads of his classmates to give Pope Francis a zucchetto with a hot pink sticky note stuck inside.

Pope leads general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis briefly putting on a new zucchetto given to him by a Providence College student at the Oct. 16 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Our photographer, Paul Haring, was there with his telephoto lens to capture the moment and the secreted note. According to news reports, Day had written “Providence College loves Pope Francis.”

The pope took off his own cap and put on Day’s gift, but then he gave it right back after glancing at the note.

It’s become a bit of a custom for Pope Francis to choose to keep his own skullcap after he places the gifted one briefly on his head and returns it to the gifter.

It’s just a guess on my part, but maybe he’s doing it to avoid any embarrassing misfits as happened in Rio this summer when someone gave him an oversize cap that looked like it had been stuffed in a pocket or backpack:

Pope arrives for World Youth Day ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro

Pope Francis greets the crowd at the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Why Higgs boson matters

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer  (CNS photo)

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer, said HIggs particle points to deeper reality. (CNS photo)

On Oct. 8 Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics for their theory on how matter acquires mass.

This work — which they began researching  in the 1960s — was confirmed last year by the discovery of the Higgs boson (a subatomic particle nicknamed  “the God particle”) at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva.

If this has anyone scratching their heads or wondering how it  fits in with their faith, then it’s time to check back with what a Catholic physicist and a Catholic astronomer had to say about this mysterious particle during the summer.

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican astronomer,  told Catholic News Service that the particle finding “indicates that reality is deeper and more rich and strange than our everyday life.”

When people go about their everyday business working or relaxing, they don’t think about the tiniest building blocks of physical matter, but “without these underlying little things, we wouldn’t be here,” he added.

Brother Consolmagno said the Higgs boson had been nicknamed “the God particle” as “a joke” in an attempt to depict the particle as “almost like a gift from God to help explain how reality works in the sub-atomic world.”

Because the particle is believed to be what gives mass to matter, it was assigned the godlike status of being able to create something out of nothing, he added.

These conjectures are not only bad reasons to believe in God, they are also bad science, he told CNS.

“You’ll look foolish, in say 2050, when they discover the real reason” for a phenomenon that was explained away earlier by the hand of God, he said.

But he did point out that faith and hope can exist in the scientific community. For example, “no one would have built this enormous experiment,” tapping the time and talents of thousands of scientists around the world, “without faith they would find something,” he said.

“My belief in God gives me the courage to look at the physical universe and to expect to find order and beauty,” he said. “It’s my faith that inspires me to do science.”

Father Andrew Pinsent, a former particle physicist who worked on an experiment at the previously mentioned CERN, wrote a column about the Higgs boson finding this summer for the Catholic Herald in England. The priest, currently a research director at Oxford University, said the discovery has “no obvious implications for theology” but said it is still “worth reviewing its implications for the human quest to understand life, the universe and everything.”

The priest pointed out that the research that went into discovering this subatomic particle was done in part to “fulfill one of the most noble human aspirations: to know the causes of things.”

He said the Higgs boson finding “is a piece of the puzzle of how (not why) the universe works” but he also said it was “scarcely a final answer.”

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