The synod by the numbers

VATICAN CITY — The extraordinary Synod of Bishops formally opens with Mass Sunday and begins its working sessions at the Vatican Monday morning.

Synod 2014Pope Francis is expected to attend all of the working sessions, along with 253 other people.

By the numbers:

– 191 voting members are expected: 162 attending because of the office they hold (114 presidents of bishops’ conferences, 25 heads of Vatican offices, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches, and 10 members of the synod council); three elected by the men’s Union of Superiors General; and 26 named by Pope Francis.

– Of the 191, 42 come from Africa, 38 from the Americas, 29 from Asia, 78 from Europe and four from Oceania and the South Pacific. The voting members include 61 Latin-rite cardinals, one Eastern-rite cardinal, seven Eastern patriarchs, 67 archbishops, 47 bishops, one auxiliary bishop and seven priests.

– The synod members will be assisted by 16 synod staff members and appointed experts (also referred to as collaborators), including one married couple. Members also will hear from and work in small groups with 38 observers (auditors), including 12 married couples.

– In addition, eight other Christian churches and communities will send delegates as a sign of their shared concern for the pastoral care of families today.

Participants in the 2012 Synod of Bishops in the Vatican synod hall with Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Participants in the 2012 Synod of Bishops in the Vatican synod hall with Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS/Paul Haring)

 

Pope Francis’ baseball moment

By now, more than 24 hours after it happened, there are probably only a few dozen people who haven’t seen Pope Francis bobble the baseball thrown to him from the stands — er, the crowd of pilgrims — at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square yesterday.

If you’re one who hasn’t seen it, watch this closely:

Here’s a better shot, taken by Claudio Peri and distributed by the European Pressphoto Agency:

Pope Francis reaches out to grab a baseball thrown by someone in the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square Sept. 24.  (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis reaches out to grab a baseball thrown by someone in the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

As you can see in the video, Pope Francis leaps and almost catches the high throw. According to Rafael Walter, who posted the “Popeball” video to YouTube, the toss was made by a member of the Koeppel family from St. Edward’s Church in Palm Beach, Fla., reportedly in the hope of raising money for their parish.

For anyone who knows baseball, the error is on the throw, not on the attempted catch.

Scenes from the pope’s garden at Castel Gandolfo

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — Even though Pope Francis has decided not to head out to the cooler climes of Castel Gandolfo for the summer, members of the CNS Rome Bureau decided to spend a morning there.

The director of the papal villas, Osvaldo Gianoli, gave us a three-hour tour to promote the opening of the gardens to the public — when they buy a ticket and follow a guide.

In addition to our story and video about the visit, I thought I would share some more of the photos taken by our intern, Henry Daggett.

 

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The pope is setting aside a special day for those in their ‘Golden Years’

VATICAN CITY — Celebrate Grandparents’ Day with Pope Francis at the Vatican!

The Vatican is inviting the world’s older generation to a special day and Mass with the pope in St. Peter’s Square.

All you have to do is “apply” to request attendance by writing to events@family.va or by sending a fax to +39.06.698.87272.poster elderly

 

“The Blessing of Long Life” event will be held Sunday Sept. 28 — the world day of prayer for the synod of bishops on the family — and a few weeks after National Grandparents’ Day in the U.S. (a number of countries celebrate Grandparents’ Day sometime in September or October).

The Pontifical Council for the Family, which is organizing the event, has chosen verse 18 from Psalm 71 as the theme for the day:

“Now that I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, God,
That I may proclaim your might
to all generations yet to come…”

 

Pope Francis very forcefully reminds people of the untapped riches our elders have to offer with their life experiences, faith and wisdom. He has said communities that do not care for and respect the elderly don’t have a future because they’ll be rootless without their memories.

Pope accepts kiss from elderly woman during general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman in a wheelchair during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 5, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope once said that, when he is feeling blue, he loves to read chapter 26 of Deuteronomy, which talks about God’s plan of letting new generations reap the fruits of their elders.

“To look at the elderly is to recognize that that man made his life’s path toward me…to realize that I am just one more link, that I have to honor those who have preceded me and that I have to allow myself to be honored by those who are going to follow.

…The wisdom of the elderly has helped me a lot and that’s why, time and again, I tend to venerate them.”

– then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in the book, “On Heaven and Earth”

 

If you’re app-y and you know it… show the pope!

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has launched its upgraded Pope App this week, offering “all things pope” for your iPad or Android device.

President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications shows Pope Francis news on tablet during meeting at the Vatican

Pope Francis checks out the updated “Pope App,” developed by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

 

popeapp1President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli, and project coordinator, Thaddeus Jones, showed Pope Francis on Monday the updated version, which features news, images, live-streaming video and more.

It aggregates a large amount of content produced by the Vatican’s many media outlets, like Vatican Radio and Vatican television, and offers alerts so a user will know when a live event is about to begin.

The free app is available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian.

sound cloud

Another platform the PCCS has ventured onto recently is SoundCloud.com, where it’s posting audio content in different languages from Vatican Radio.

The SoundCloud account lets people share, repost, favorite and save the audio interviews and news reports onto their own playlist for listening on any device when they want.

 

Here are a few samples:

 

 

 

 

 

Off the fence? World Cup puts pope on offense vs. his own defense

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A Swiss guard looks on as Pope Francis arrives for a general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 11, 2014. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Even though Pope Francis has repeatedly pledged to root for no one nation and Switzerland has historically held a stance of armed neutrality, those pacifist days may be over.

Pope Francis has reportedly declared, “It’s going to be war!” to his own defenders — the Swiss Guard — ahead of today’s World Cup match: Argentina vs. Switzerland.

The French news service, IMedia, reported that the pope was telling the very men who have vowed to sacrifice their own lives to protect him that it was war. All in jest obviously, and a fun indicator the pontiff will be keeping his eyes and ears open for the final score.

Pope Francis receives Argentine soccer jersey during general audience

Pope Francis grabs an Argentine soccer jersey during his June 25 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

IMedia also reported that the guards invited the pope to come by their barracks tonight to watch the game on their big-screen setup, complete with artificial turf. The pope was said to have replied that “unfortunately” he couldn’t make it.

watching game swiss

Swiss guards and two children watching the World Cup in the guards’ barracks. Photo from the Guardia Svizzera Pontificia’s Facebook page.

 

The last time the two countries faced off at a World Cup game was in 1966 with Argentina taking away a 2-0 win.

 

The pope’s home nation is favored 2-to-1 to win this knockout round and make it on to the quarterfinals. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a disgruntled pontiff like the one below roaming the corridors of his residence:

swiss game

 

THIS JUST IN: Just heard from the Swiss Guard media point-man that while “no special party” has been organized for tonight, guards who are off-duty “will for sure enjoy a cold beer…”

 

 

Footloose: Getting to Rome the old-fashioned way

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Francesco Locatelli walked to Rome from Sotto Il Monte — his hometown and the birthplace of Blessed John XXIII. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Sporting blisters and a pair of split sneakers, Francesco Locatelli finally made it to Rome on foot from his northern Italian hometown of Sotto Il Monte — the birthplace of Blessed John XXIII.

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Locatelli’s backpack says “Sotto Il Monte (Bergamo) Rome by foot.” He left home March 29 and arrived after 27 days of walking. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The journey took him 27 days and he says it was worth every painful step to make it to tomorrow’s canonizations of Blessed John and John Paul II.

“Such an important event… I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he told me this afternoon in St. Peter’s Square.

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Locatelli went through two pairs of shoes on his pilgrimage from northern Italy. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

“I went through two pairs of shoes, my legs are dying, I’ve got blisters from going up and down the mountains,” he said leaning on his walking stick. But “dedicating one month of my life is nothing compared to what these two popes have done.”

Doing a pilgrimage is also a life-changing event, he said. “I feel different. It breaks you out of your usual routine and changes you — when you make such a huge effort and see others exerting themselves, too.”

Locatelli said Pope John always felt like part of the family. “He comes from the same place I come from. I’m a farmer, too, (like the pope’s father was) and we grew up on top of the same land.”

He braved the wet and cold Italian springtime as he made his way from his home and along the famous pilgrim path, the Francigena Way. He carried an official “pilgrim’s passport” that he got stamped along the route.

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Staying at parish shelters and hostels, he met several other pilgrims coming to Rome as well, including two women and a man who spent three months walking from Poland. “We met in Viterbo and came to Rome together; now I lost track of them,” he said, looking over the huge crowds streaming into the square.

I asked if he planned on walking back home. “No, no! Taking the train. My wife hasn’t seen me in a month!”

 

 

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