A professional pronounces on Cardinal Foley’s puns

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)Actor-comedian Henry Gibson said the puns and quips for which Cardinal John P. Foley is famous (or infamous) “are excellent. His mind never stops.”

The actor, known for his appearances on “Laugh-In” years ago and currently a frequent guest-star as Judge Clark Brown on “Boston Legal,” traveled to Rome for Saturday’s consistory to see his old friend Cardinal Foley receive his red hat.

But Gibson didn’t actually get inside St. Peter’s Basilica. “It was my fault,” he said. He left his ticket at his hotel and by the time he got back with it, the basilica was filled to overflowing. So, to the delight of many U.S. pilgrims also watching on big television screens set up in St. Peter’s Square, Gibson followed the ceremony with them al fresco.

But he did get into to the Sunday afternoon reception for the new cardinal at the Rome headquarters of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, which Cardinal Foley serves as grand master.

He claimed he and Cardinal Foley were part of a five-member “Rat Pack” at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia. “We’ve been solid friends since 1949,” he said.

“We were involved in all the school activities: drama, debate, anything to do with writing or literature,” he said. “The cardinal and I were in two stage productions together,” one a play called “Green Pastures” and the other an adaptation of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. Indicating how Cardinal Foley towers over his diminutive stature, he said, “We were Mutt and Jeff. He was a wonderful actor.”

And, Gibson said, Cardinal Foley has always been a kind friend and loving priest. When the cardinal was in Philadelphia last year for the funeral of one of the “Rat Pack” members, “all of Philadelphia was flocking around him like always,” but he gently pushed them aside to greet Gibson and inquire about his wife, Lois, who was sick. “He took my hands right there and said, ‘Let’s pray for her.'” She died in May “and he sent the most beautiful letter from the Vatican,” Gibson said. 

Consistory features pieces of liturgical tradition

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate the consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 24. (CNS/Paul Haring)Careful observers at Saturday’s consistory may have noticed the retro style of Pope Benedict’s gold-embroidered miter. In fact, the pope was wearing a piece of history: this particular miter belonged to Pope Pius IX, who reigned in the late 1800s.

The pope also used an antique, carved gilded throne during the consistory, instead of the plainer altar chair employed in most papal liturgies in recent years. This one was said to have been used by Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903.

Some saw significance here. This was the first big liturgy overseen by Msgr. Guido Marini, the new master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, and Vatican-watchers were on the lookout for “traditionalist” touches.

The pope’s silk cope also caught people’s attention. The long golden cloak, so voluminous that it required two prelates to hold it during the entrance procession, incorporated 15th-century embroidered images of saints. In a sense, it was another historical artifact, although the Vatican said it had been worn by Pope John Paul II.

Perhaps the most traditional element of the consistory was that it was held in St. Peter’s Basilica. With bad weather forecast, officials decided to move the ceremony inside, leaving a choice: the basilica or the Vatican’s audience hall.

The audience hall seats many more people, and was used by Pope John Paul for consistories during inclement weather. But it’s not a church, and that seemed to be the determining factor this time around.

For the ring Mass with the new cardinals on Sunday, the older elements had disappeared. The pope wore a modern miter, and was back sitting on an upholstered throne.

Pope supports U.S. ‘day of prayer’ for peace conference

Pope Benedict expressed hope for progress at the upcoming international peace conference in Annapolis, Md., saying Palestinians and Israelis must find a way to reach a “just and definitive solution.”

The pope endorsed the U.S. bishops’ call for today’s “day of prayer” for the success of the conference. He said prayers were needed so that negotiators are granted the wisdom and courage to make real steps toward peace.

The pope said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “for 60 years has been bloodying the Holy Land, causing “so many tears and so much suffering among the two peoples.”

The pope made the remarks Sunday on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of a Mass that he concelebrated with 23 new cardinals.

In a recent letter, Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged U.S. bishops to call parishes and individuals to pray for peace, especially on the Sunday before the peace conference.

The U.S.-sponsored conference opens on Tuesday, and participants include representatives from a number of Arab states.

Cardinals meet the crowds in the Apostolic Palace

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)It’s sometimes dubbed the world’s most exclusive club, but on Saturday the College of Cardinals threw a party with an open invitation.

The courtesy visits in the Apostolic Palace are a consistory’s most democratic moment, as international pilgrims and curious Romans line up by the thousands to meet and greet the newly inducted cardinals.

They were 20 abreast in a solid wall of humanity at 4:30 p.m., when Swiss Guards began letting people through the ceremonial Bronze Doors.

The Apostolic Palace is the pope’s house, among other things, and the cardinals were distributed throughout the ornate rooms and hallways that are rarely opened to the public.

Cardinal John P. Foley, as one of the most senior of the new cardinals, got a prime spot in the frescoed Sala Regia. He sat in a chair and greeted well-wishers with typical good humor, even though he still wasn’t feeling 100 percent after being under the weather all week.

The Polish superior general of the Felician Sisters who staff the Villa Stritch, where Cardinal Foley lives, was among the first people to greet him. She gave the cardinal a bouquet of red roses to match his new robes.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston stood in the Benediction Hall, shaking hands, chatting and answering questions. When one Italian asked if he had heard from President Bush, Cardinal DiNardo said yes, the president had called him three weeks ago. “He said`Congratulations.’ I said, `Thank you,'” the cardinal said.

Nearby, other neo-cardinals from Argentina, India, Iraq, Nigeria and Senegal were also holding court.

The visitors included ambassadors, church officials and politicians, along with lots of ordinary folk who marveled at the sumptuous setting.

Several people found themselves facing a window in the center of the Benediction Hall, peering through sheer curtains onto St. Peter’s Square. They realized with a start that this was the central balcony above the basilica, where Pope Benedict first appeared to the world after his election. One pilgrim stood there and held out his arms — just to see how it feels.

Sandra and Michael Effler of Houston had someone take a souvenir photo of themselves in front of a carved door that led to the Pauline Chapel. They were thrilled to be here, but said standing in the crowded line outside was not a pleasant experience. How bad was it? “It was worse than Mardi Gras down there,” said Sandra.

Among those congratulating the new cardinals were the old cardinals. Italian Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, 84 years old and long retired from a number of Vatican positions, had to introduce himself to Nigerian neo-Cardinal John Njue.

I chatted with Cardinal Silvestrini afterward and he acknowledged that with a record 201 members in the College of Cardinals, not everyone knows each other. “We’re working on it,” he said, and walked slowly toward the next cardinal’s station.

At the end of the Benediction Hall, Iraqi Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly was a much sought-out figure, accepting congratulations and many promises of prayer for his country. The prayer card he handed out to well-wishers quoted the Psalms: “I will rejoice and be glad of your kindness, when you have seen my affliction.”

Cardinal Delly told one visitor he had been moved by Pope Benedict’s appeal for Iraqi Christians during the consistory earlier in the day. “He spoke the truth,” the cardinal said.

I took a look at Cardinal Delly’s distinctive round red hat, which the pope had placed on his head during the consistory. Up close, it looked like someone had simply sewn a red band of cloth around his standard Chaldean patriarch’s black hat — an elegant and creative touch.

I asked Father Philip Najim, the Chaldean procurator in Rome, if my hunch was correct. He nodded. “I did it, in Lebanon,” he said. I told him that it looked wonderful.