A “who’s who” look at papal advisers in Rome this week

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VATICAN CITY — This is a big week with new and old cardinals coming to town for 10 days of meetings and ceremonies.

Pope Francis is meeting, for the third time, with his “group of eight” Council of Cardinals yesterday, today and tomorrow to help him in his overhaul of the Roman Curia.

The “Scarlet-G8″ also is meeting with the two new commissions the pope created last year to study the Vatican bank as well as help improve the accounting and administrative procedures of all Vatican offices.

So these new commissions won’t get confusing — who they are and what they do — we created an interactive slideshow to walk you through each one. You can zoom in on any names or details with your scroll-wheel. Move the slides forward with the arrow on the gray bar.

Here’s another screen-grab to give you an idea of what’s inside:

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Just to add to the complexity, other groups of cardinals will be meeting this week and next:

  • All cardinals will meet Thursday and Friday to talk about the pastoral care of the family in preparation for the upcoming synod in October.
  • Council preparing the synod of bishops will meet next Monday and Tuesday to talk about the synod on the family.

Cardinal Kasper to address College of Cardinals on family

VATICAN CITY — Ever since last July, when Pope Francis told reporters that the church’s practices on marriage exemplify a need for mercy in the church today, speculation has been widespread that he might make it easier for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first marriage.

On Feb. 17, the Vatican made an announcement bound to make such speculation even more common.

Cardinal Kasper (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Kasper (CNS/Paul Haring)

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that Cardinal Walter Kasper would deliver the opening talk at a two-day meeting of the College of Cardinals, Feb. 20-21. The spokesman did not specify the subject of the talk, but said it would deal with church teaching on the family.

The cardinals’ meeting will focus on preparation for October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” which Pope Francis has said will take up the question of giving Communion to the divorced and remarried.

That question is one on which Cardinal Kasper has strong and well-known views. In 1993, when the cardinal was a diocesan bishop in Germany, he and two other bishops issued pastoral instructions telling priests they could give Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics convinced their first marriages were invalid, even if they had not received annulments.

That practice was later ruled out by the Vatican, but last year, the Archdiocese of Freiburg, Germany, made a similar proposal. Even criticism from Cardinal-designate Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has not stopped prominent voices — including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras — from suggesting Freiburg might be allowed to carry out the proposal.

Cardinals Marx and Rodriguez Maradiaga are especially influential these days because they both sit on the eight-member Council of Cardinals the pope named last April to advise him on reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and governance of the universal church.

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Meeting with that council Feb. 17, Pope Francis kicked off what Father Lombardi called a “rather full” week and half at the Vatican.

The council is scheduled to meet Feb. 17-19, for its third round of meetings since October.

On Monday morning, the council received a three-member delegation from the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, which the pope established in July to investigate accounting practices in Vatican offices and devise strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency.

Father Lombardi said the commission delivered a report on its work, but he declined to provide any details on the content.

On Tuesday Feb. 18, the council is scheduled to receive a five-person commission Pope Francis established in June to review the activities and mission of the Vatican bank. The commission includes two American members: Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon and Msgr. Peter B. Wells, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

On Wednesday, the pope and his council will meet with the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, a 15-member body that oversees budget making for the Holy See and Vatican City State. (The body will also meet on its own Feb. 24-25.)

On Saturday Feb. 22, the pope will create 19 new cardinals. He will concelebrate Mass with the newly expanded college the following day.

Finally, the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will meet Feb. 24-25.

A rather full schedule, indeed; so watch this space for full coverage.

Pope to engaged couples: After ‘I do,’ comes ‘May I, Thank you & I’m sorry’

St. Valentine pictured in stained-glass window at basilica in Terni, Italy

St. Valentine in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy. CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis had a special date today in St. Peter’s Square with Catholic couples who are preparing to be married this year.

Check out the story with our “Storified” tweets below and the full video of the festive event covered by Vatican television.

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Education and the meme generation

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, who spent many years teaching high school students and seminarians, had a lot of great stuff to say today about the importance of education.

I thought it’d be fun to create a couple of memes to help spread, in new ways, what he had to say .

Feel free to share!

education reach out

education meme

“Listen to your grandparents!” and other papal words of wisdom for kids

VATICAN CITY — The success of a kids’ comic book about Pope Francis has prompted its Italian publisher to turn it into an app for the English-speaking world.

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Screenshot of a new app released Feb. 9 by Master New Media using comics to make Pope Francis’ words more accessible to children.

Called “Pope Francis Comics,” the app offers a kid-friendly mini-bio of the Argentine pontiff and 13 catchy phrases based on tweets or speeches by the pope. Kids can test how well they remember the messages with a fill-in-the-blank and coloring game.

comic book

Screenshot of a new app released Feb. 9 by Master New Media using comics to make Pope Francis’ words more accessible to children.

There is also a full-color, eight-page comic book meant for older adolescents.

While the story is a bit far-fetched (the pope plots an unrealized late-night escape to help the poor with his assistant, Corrado, and encourages Corrado to reprimand any cardinals he sees giving too little money to people on the street), it gets the point across that charity and prayer are important in a world with so much suffering.

It’s a cute and easy-to-use app, but probably a bit over-priced ($2.99) for the small amount of content and limited features. However, the publishing house tells me the app will have automatic updates and will provide new features. Right now, it feels much like the newsstand magazine it’s based on, but without the cool mazes and fun stickers.

In any case, it’s a nice attempt and a good model for new ways to reach young children with the teachings of a pope whose speaking style is already well-suited for kids.

What faith-based apps do your kids use and love? Share some of their favorites with us here!

Behind-the-scenes during the announcement “of great importance for the life of the church…”

VATICAN CITY — One year ago today was not like any other workday for the Catholic News Service Rome bureau.

Pope Benedict XVI attends meeting at Vatican announcing his resignation

Pope Benedict XVI at a Feb. 11, 2013 meeting with cardinals at the Vatican announcing he would resign at the end of the month. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Today we’d like to look back on that historic day in several ways.

First, be sure not to miss this exclusive behind-the-scenes’ look right here at how the CNS staff in Rome was among the first in the world to hear the pope was planning to retire. It runs as a slide show, so just click on the gray arrow to scroll through.

Another fascinating story from that day was it was the very first day our intern from Villanova University started work at the Rome bureau.

Watch Lauren Colegrove’s story unfold here as she is interviewed by Matt Lauer from NBC’s Today show:

 

Cardinal Francis Arinze also gave us his engaging first-person account of hearing the pope’s announcement in the Consistory Hall.

 

And finally, here is the dubbed Vatican television footage of the pope announcing his decision to resign.

Where were you when you heard the news and what thoughts went through your mind?

Hog wild! Pope’s Harley gear nabs record prices

Pope greets Harley-Davidson biker after Mass at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting a Harley-Davidson biker as he meets with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square June 16, 2013. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — A Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide that Pope Francis put up for auction went for a hefty $326,500 today, demolishing its pre-sale appraisal of $16,000.

The record sale was the hit of the day as hundreds of bidders and spectators attending the Paris auction “erupted into applause when the hammer came down,” according to the Bonhams auction house.

bonhams bike sold price

Bidding was fierce, Bonhams said, and lasted a full six minutes. The 2013 autographed bike went to “a private European buyer” who was bidding over the telephone.

A leather Harley jacket, also signed by the pope, sold for $77,644 to someone “overseas,” meaning, not in Europe. A pre-bid estimate had put the 110th anniversary special edition XL jacket at between $1,400 and $2,000.

bonhams jacket sold price

Seems appraisers didn’t factor in how much papal Harley gear was really worth!

Ben Walker, head of motorcycles at Bonhams, said: “It has to be a world record for a twenty-first century Harley-Davidson and certainly for a Harley-Davidson leather jacket.”

– Bonhams press release

All proceeds will go to benefit the renovation of Caritas Rome’s Fr. Luigi di Liegro shelter and soup kitchen. The money looks like it will provide the final funding needed for the project, which had been $270,000 short of its target.

Msgr. Enrico Feroci, head of Caritas Rome, told Bonhams:

“We are delighted with the results of the sale, which far exceeded any of our expectations.

“We would like to thank Bonhams for their professionalism with handling the motorcycle and for all their efforts in helping us to achieve such an amazing result.”

Hark, the heraldry: cracking the coat-of-arms code

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Cover of a new book on the heraldic signs and symbols in the church. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Have you ever wanted to decipher the mysterious signs and symbols on a coat of arms?

An Italian cardinal has just published a book (alas, in Italiano) on cracking the code of heraldry in the church — the unique and personal crest every bishop, cardinal and pope adopts with their episcopal ordination, elevation to the College of Cardinals or election to the papacy.

The author, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, is an expert on heraldry and created Benedict XVI’s blazon when he was elected pope in 2005.

It gives an in-depth look at the history and “grammar” of a properly designed coat of arms.

2008 FILE PHOTO OF POPE GIVING HOMILY AT YANKEE STADIUM MASS IN NEW YORK

Under a large reproduction of his coat of arms, Pope Benedict XVI giving his homily during Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York in this April 20, 2008 file photo. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Pope Benedict introduced a number of radical changes to the papal crest when he and the cardinal set about designing his papal shield.

The pope’s resignation then prompted Cardinal Cordero to think about how the now-retired pope’s coat of arms should be amended, given his change of status to “supreme pontiff emeritus.”

It was a tough question since there were no precedents to look at. Yes, there were popes who had stepped down, but it was not clear if or how their shields ever reflected that change, the cardinal said in the book.

The coat of arms of a retired pope should retain all the symbolic elements on the shield that reflect his personality and history, the cardinal said.

But, he said the external elements — like the two crossed keys, which symbolize the powers Christ gave to the Apostle Peter and his successors — should be abandoned or altered since they represent an office he no longer holds.

The cardinal includes two hypothetical designs of what he thought the new pope-emeritus shield should look like, replacing the bishop’s miter with a white “galero” with 15 tassels and returning the banner with his episcopal motto: “Cooperatores Veritatis” (“Cooperators of the truth”).

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However, the retired pope passed on any changes. The cardinal said Pope Benedict thanked him for his “interesting study,” but preferred not to alter his papal shield.

Other bits of trivia are highlighted in the book such as the elements in Pope Francis’ coat of arms. It’s the first time the emblem of the Society of Jesus ever appears on a papal blazon, Cardinal Cordero said, and probably the first time the spikenard flower has ever appeared on a coat of arms.

But see if you can catch a very small, yet “inexplicable” detail in Francis’ papal coat of arms. I hadn’t noticed the mistake until the cardinal pointed it out in his book. Happy hunting!

Vatican updates coat of arms of Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ coat of arms. (CNS photo).

Coincidence? Or is the pope a secret CNS fan?

VATICAN CITY — There’s been another strange coincidence where we at Catholic News Service have put out a story on a very specific topic and a couple of days later, Pope Francis picks up the same theme.

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during private audience at Vatican

Pope Francis speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a private audience at the Vatican May 18. (CNS/Gregorio Borgia, pool via Reuters)

 

The first time I noticed it was after I wrote a piece on his use of “threes” in almost all of his talks.

Lo and behold, three (!!) days later the pope explained why he likes to break things down into three neat concepts (It’s a Jesuit thing, he said).

Then last Friday, our videographer, Robert Duncan, posted a video with Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who was visiting Rome and gave us a preview of his new book coming out, “The Romance of Religion.”

In the video, Fr. Longenecker talks about two strands running through the history of the church: what he calls the “priestly” with its attention to observing rules, and the prophetic.

And wouldn’t you know, Pope Francis emphasized exactly those two points two days later in his homily at Mass marking the World Day for Consecrated Life.

Consecrated men and women experience an encounter between observance and prophesy, he said.

“We don’t see them as two opposing realities. Rather, let’s let the Holy Spirit animate them both,” he said, urging religious to allow the joy of the Holy Spirit to guide both their observance of their communities’ rules and their willingness to be prophetic.

Obviously the pope is not scanning CNS for ideas, but the coincidences are uncanny!

Pope Francis gives thumbs as he leaves St. Peter's Square after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass

Thumbs up from Pope Francis as he leaves St. Peter’s Square March 24, 2013. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Faster than a speeding bullet, ‘decorum police’ take ‘Super Pope’ down

VATICAN CITY — Like a comic book showdown, Rome’s “decorum squad” took down the city’s latest hero when they scraped off and painted over the “Super Pope” street art very early this morning.

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“Before” and “After” shots of a wall near the Vatican showing the quick removal by city workers of the “Super Pope” street art. (CNS photos/Robert Duncan and Carol Glatz)

It marked a new city record given the piece went up Monday night and most illegal urban “decorations” are ignored for years. Notice the illegal cafe’ sign that quickly filled the void…

The artist, Mauro Pallotta, said he saw the censure coming. He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that “city decorum” officials had been circling “dangerously close” to his piece on Wednesday.

“But the people’s reaction stopped them. There was a small revolution. They left, but they’ll be back,” he said. And right he was.

Pallotta said he draws and paints his “ecological” and removable street art onto paper that he then glues with a water-based adhesive to walls around his historic neighborhood of “the Borgo” — a series of small streets and low buildings near the Vatican.

While city painters scraped off his papered depiction of “Super Pope” and rolled on a fresh coat of paint, they didn’t bother with the street tagging on the rest of the wall or the graffiti plastered throughout the area.

graffitti lives

One of countless patches of graffiti which miraculously survived an early morning blitz by city workers who removed the “Super Pope” pop art. The stenciled slogan (by the same artist) near a restaurant says: “Full tummies don’t think about empty stomachs.” (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Pallotta said he got the idea to draw the pope as superman when he was leafing through a superhero comic book while watching TV. A news story came on about Pope Francis and “It blew my mind like a short circuit: ‘Hey, the pope IS a superhero!’”

“The superpowers which I gave him represent the enormous power at his disposal, which he uses — the only world leader — to do good. He’s the only one who does what he says.”

Pope passes news photographers as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis passes news photographers as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

However, Pope Francis would disagree with being equated with a superhero.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio  told the story of the dangers of trying to play “Tarzan” and boastfully thinking one person alone can save the world.

He says in the book, “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words,” that when he was vicar general of the archdiocese, he brushed off a visitor looking to confess because he had a busy day ahead of him and needed to catch a train.

“I had an attitude of superiority, put another way, I was sinning…I was saying to myself, ‘Look how good I am, how great I am, how many things I can do.’ Pride affected my attitude,” the future pope said.

He said he since learned to “travel in patience” and realized that of all the things that need doing at work and in the world, it’s God who will always “sort out the story!”

“So often in life we ought to slow down and not try to fix everything at once! To travel in patience means: giving up the presumption of wanting to solve everything. You have to make an effort, but understand that one person cannot do everything.”

As he’s said elsewhere, you don’t need to be a superhero to be a saint; you just need to stick close to God.

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