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.”

Saving the children of Syria’s war

????????????????????????????????????There are many tragedies in any war, but none are harder to watch than the suffering of children. Syria’s civil war is no exception. Hundreds of children have been killed and thousands more displaced in refugee camps with poor food and shelter and no idea when they can go home.

In the summer edition of One magazine, the official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal writes about the impact the conflict is having on Syria’s children and the work of the church to save the children in the city of Homs.

As director of St. Savior Center for Education in Homs, Father Hilal is working with his fellow Jesuits and Jesuit Relief Services, the Paulist Fathers, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and dozens of lay Christians, with the assistance and support of CNEWA, to help the displaced and threatened children — Christian and Muslim — continue their lives. Many have lost one or both parents. All are victims of the crush of violence.

Calligraphy teaching priest portrayed in new movie

Father Robert Palladino, an 80-year old priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., might want to get out to the movies — at least to see how he is portrayed on the big screen.

Father Palladino  (CNS photos)

Father Palladino (CNS photo)

The priest  is credited with teaching Apple Computers co-founder Steve Jobs calligraphy that influenced the typeface of Mac computers.

His role as calligraphy professor at Portland’s Reed College with his famous student gets a scene in the biographical movie ” Jobs.”  In the movie, the priest is portrayed by 48-year-old actor and screenwriter William Mapother, best known for playing Ethan Rom on the TV series “Lost.”

Mapother, a native of Louisville, Ky.,  attended St. Xavier High School there and then the University of Notre Dame.

He told the Catholic Sentinel that he intended to portray Father Palladino as “someone deeply committed to calligraphy, and by extension, to life. Someone who cared about beauty, expression, and communication. Someone serious.”

He said he received some background about the priest before the scene was filmed, and would like to have met him but didn’t get time.

About 10 minutes into the movie,  Jobs is wandering around his college campus when he sees a girl under a tree sketching. She says she is taking a calligraphy class taught by a monk. The movie then jumps to Jobs in the classroom, working on calligraphy.

In a later scene, Jobs explodes at an engineer who did not include a button for multiple fonts on a computer toolbar. He fires the man, complaining that obviously he lacked passion for the project.

During a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs said that Reed College in the 1970s offered what he thought was the best calligraphy instruction in the country. “Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed,” Jobs said.

According to the Catholic Sentinel, Father Palladino taught Jobs serif and sans serif type faces and about varying spaces between combinations of letters, and everything that makes typography excellent.

A CNS story on the priest two years ago points out that Father Palladino was a Trappist monk for 18 years. In 1968 he left the order and was dispensed from monastic vows and celibacy by Pope Paul VI. He married and had a son with his wife Catherine.

His wife died in 1987 and five years later he asked Portland’s archbishop,  then-Archbishop William J. Levada, if he could become a  priest. In 1995, with papal approval, the former monk and husband became a parish priest.

He said his role in the movie came as a surprise because he was not consulted about it. He is just now getting around to reading the 2011 book on which the movie is based.

But he was  glad the producers chose “a handsome, athletic, 6-foot-1 actor to portray him. “
“Of course, Hollywood does have a way of getting unhinged from reality, ” he quipped.

Civil rights movement carried on by ‘great souls’

Participants at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (CNS/Reuters)

Participants at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (CNS/Reuters)

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, a 15-year-old seminarian in Chicago during the March on Washington 50 years ago, said he “realized that history was being made” when he watched the event on television.

In an interview with the Georgia Bulletin, archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop talks about his own brushes with discrimination as a seminarian and a young priest. He also notes how the civil rights movement has made huge strides but can still make stronger inroads.

He said the movement has always been “much larger than any single individual” even Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., pointing out that “all of the great souls who spoke, wrote, sat-in, endured water hoses and vicious dogs” contributed to its success.

“The civil rights movement is a testimony of the courage of a pantheon of martyrs from Medgar Evers, to Malcolm X, to Viola Liuzzo, to James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, to the little girls who died in the church bombing in Birmingham, to Dr. King and thousands of unnamed others. Those names punctuated my youth as the civil rights movement advanced toward freedom,”  Archbishop Gregory said.

He also indicated that there is still much work to be done.

As he put it: “We have made unquestioned progress on many fronts, including in the political arena, but we now face other challenges in the pursuit of justice. Violence against all forms of life has persisted, if not increased. We may no longer lynch people, but we euthanize the unwanted, experiment with fledgling human life, kill those we deem dangerous and expendable, we slaughter those within the womb as a perverted expression of freedom. We could certainly learn powerful lessons from nonviolence in such a violent context, as we now seem to find ourselves.”

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.

Bombay Archdiocese launches campaign to stop violence against women

Violence against women in India has been going on for centuries, but recently it seems as if it has reached a tipping point with the news of the terrible gang rapes of several young women. People and institutions across India are taking up the cause and trying to end this national shame.

The Women’s Commission of the Archdiocese of Bombay (Mumbai) is one of the lead lights in this fight with its new campaign, “37 Million Diyas: Say Yes to Love, Say No to Violence.” The number is the difference between the male and female population of the country, one of the biggest factors in the violence, and the result of the widespread practice of aborting female children.

Yesterday, parishes across the archdiocese held a an hour of prayer and remembrance for women victims of violence  — killing, rape, domestic violence and human trafficking of girls. Cardinal Oswald Gracias has vowed prayer and work on behalf of women and “it will continue for as long as it takes  for you and me to bring about change.”

Watch this striking video produced by the archdiocese. It is provided by our sister news agency UCANews, the Asian Catholic news service based in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Marquette’s ‘Tolkieniana’ collection includes manuscripts, drawings

Marquette archivist William Fliss looks over material related to Tolkien collection. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

Marquette archivist William Fliss looks over materials related to Tolkien collection held by university. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

The buzz about “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” preceded the film’s release by months and since the movie opened Dec. 14, it has grossed more than $600 million in box office receipts around the world — and still counting. But as Tom Jozwik writes in a story for the Catholic Herald in Milwaukee, the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien on which the film is based and his other works and papers have been “hot topics around Marquette University for some time.”

The Jesuit-run university has a Tolkien collection — “Tolkienana” — that contains 10,000 pages of the author’s book manuscripts, typescripts and drawings.

As the Catholic News Service review of “The Hobbit” notes, that Tolkien novel was first published in 1937 and “has proved so popular in the decades since that it has never gone out of print.” Almost two decades later, Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was published. His work has been described as Catholic in both the general sense of “universal” and in the Catholic sense of a deeply sacramental understanding of reality. Tolkien also was a good friend of C.S. Lewis, whose work is finding renewed popularity and whose exploration of Christian faith is inspiring a new generation as we reported earlier this month.

Iowa Catholic woman is world’s oldest person

(Photo/Patti Brown, The Catholic Mirror, Des Moines)

(Photo/Patti Brown, The Catholic Mirror, Des Moines)

The Gerontology Research Group announced this week that 115-year-old Dina Manfredini is the oldest person in the world. She is Catholic and a longtime parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in West Des Moines, Iowa. She inherited the title when 116-year-old Besse Cooper of Georgia died Dec. 4.

Here is a link to a profile of Manfredini by Patti Brown published last year in The Catholic Mirror, newspaper of the Diocese of Des Moines, and posted on the newspaper’s blog. Editor Anne Marie Cox tells us the paper was working to update the story on the supercentenarian, who was born April 4, 1897.

According to Brown’s story, she was born in a small town in northern Italy called Sant’Andrea “the month after William McKinley became president of the United States” — he was sworn into office March 4, 1897 — and “just a few weeks before Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless communication over the open sea.”

“She came to America as a bride in 1920 and settled with her husband, Riccardo, in a tiny mining camp on the southwest edge of Des Moines. Riccardo was 15 years old and had come to America first before sending for Dina.” The couple had four children. “My parents lived their faith. They were poor but we didn’t realize it,” daughter Enes Logli told the Mirror.

Some reports put the number of supercentenarians — those 110 years old or more —  living around the world ay 70. The Gerontology Research Group says the figure is between 300 and 450.  Another Catholic paper recently featured a centenarian — Charlie Barcio. At 108, he has a little way to go before he gets the “super” designation. He recently moved to an assisted living facility in Columbus, Ohio, from Victorville, Calif.

Reporter Tim Puet of the Catholic Times, newspaper of the Columbus Diocese, asked Barcio to sum up what’s meant the most to him in his long life, he said: “My church, my work and my wife.” He was born March 22, 1904, in Erie, Pa., three months after the Wright brothers made their first flight. Read more of his story here on Page 11.

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