Late AP reporter’s love for his Catholic faith

Retired AP reporter Hugh Mulligan, a Catholic who once considered the priesthood but chose journalism as his vocation, died recently from pancreatic cancer. He was 83. He was “a legendary storyteller” with a “wit as penetrating as his humor was revealing,” said Tom Curley, president of AP,  in an AP story about Mulligan’s Nov. 26 death. “He will be missed immensely.”

According to AP, Mulligan could find a story “in almost anything” he came across. He traveled the world  — 146 countries — and his assignments covered the gamut. But colleagues recalled that one of his favorite assignments was traveling with Pope John Paul II, and they joked how he seemed to somehow always manage to mention the Catholic Church in his stories. He worked for AP for 49 years, retiring in 2000.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for him Dec. 2 at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Ridgefield, Conn. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Brigid (Murphy) Mulligan. The couple married in 1948 at her parish in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Another voice weighs in on FOCA

Last week we had a blog item and a news story on the chances — or lack thereof — that the next Congress would approve, and President-elect Obama would sign, the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which would further loosen restrictions on abortion in the United States.

Today, veteran Catholic journalist and Washington observer Russell Shaw posted his own take on the blog site of Our Sunday Visitor. Shaw’s bottom line: dangerous bills must be vigorously opposed.

Four ‘Chicago guys’ mark 25 years as bishops

As The Georgia Bulletin in Atlanta notes in its latest edition:

There’s no place like home, and when you can’t live there perhaps the next best thing may be sharing memories of it with friends.

A cherished camaraderie has formed over the years for the four “Chicago guys” ordained auxiliary bishops together on Dec. 13, 1983. It continues even after they were sent by the church to serve in diverse places.

Two of the four are now prominent archbishops: Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore. The other two are Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, and now-retired Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Timothy J. Lyne.

O Christmas tree…

Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square

A 108-foot Christmas tree being erected in St. Peter's Square (CNS photo by Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — If you thought maneuvering your freshly cut Christmas tree from the car roof to the tree stand in the living room was a feat only for the bold and brawny, well, the Vatican has you beat.

Half of St. Peter’s Square was cordoned off Friday morning as huge flat-bed trucks, cranes and Vatican workers strained to put up this year’s Christmas tree.

This year’s donated tree was cut from the forests near the town of Gutenstein in eastern Austria.

The tree is 120 years old and its felling was part of the region’s regulated forestry program aimed at thinning selected trees to make way for new growth.

With the help of a large crane, Vatican workers carefully raised the 108-foot spruce fir off a flatbed truck and spent at least a couple hours trimming the base and rotating the tree to get it to sit straight in a special stand in the middle of the square.

Tree 2008

Vatican workers fitting the tree into a special stand (CNS photo by Carol Glatz)

With the tree now snug in the square, workers will spend the next couple of days decorating it with lights and more than 2,000 ornaments. Its tip will be crowned with a large star.

Next Friday the pope will meet the Austrian delegation that donated the tree. The official tree lighting ceremony will be on Saturday and entertainment will be provided by an Austrian band and children’s choir.

A wet day for the Vatican fire department

Pope Benedict XVI tries on a fire helmet given as a gift by Italian firefighters last June. (CNS photo from L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI tries on a fire helmet given as a gift by Italian firefighters last June. (CNS photo from L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s firemen — about 30 in all — celebrated the feast of their patron saints Friday with a Mass and a simulated fire call.

The firefighting corps, which dates to at least the early 1800s, is not taken for granted in the 109-acre Vatican City State. So far this year, they’ve responded to more than 600 emergency calls — many of them involving flooded offices and warehouses after recent heavy rains in Rome.

The firemen’s patrons are St. Barbara, who’s protected firefighters and others in dangerous occupations for centuries, and St. Leo IV, who according to legend contained a 9th-century fire near the Vatican by giving a blessing. St. Leo’s gesture has been famously preserved in Raphael’s Renaissance fresco, “The Fire in the Borgo,” which decorates a room of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

The earliest Vatican firemen are remembered for their elegant uniforms, preserved in paintings and etchings held by the Vatican Archives.

The modern firefighting team was reorganized in 1941, and the fire station is tucked into a corner of the Belvedere Courtyard, a crossroads of sorts at the Vatican. Most visitors don’t even notice the fire station, unless their new fire truck, donated by a German company last year, happens to be parked outside.

The feast day went well, according to one fireman, and the squad was able to demonstrate some of the latest firefighting technology in front of Vatican City officials — in the pouring rain.

Not all Advent-wreath candles are purple and pink

There’s been some online chatter in recent days on the colors of the candles in Advent wreaths. (We also saw one semi-sarcastic comment to an earlier post in this blog dismissing home wreaths as a “Lutheran wreath and candles adornment” that ought to be replaced by a trip to church for vespers.)

Pope Benedict XVI’s Advent wreath from last year is shown in this 2007 file photo.  The wreath follows the German tradition of using red candles. (CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Pope Benedict XVI’s Advent wreath from last year is shown in this 2007 file photo. The wreath follows the German tradition of using red candles. (CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

The chatter reminded us of an item we posted on this blog last year revealing that Pope Benedict’s Advent wreath candles were not purple and pink — or even white with purple and pink adornments — but all red. And our intrepid Rome bureau informs us this morning that this year’s wreath is the same.

Why all red? As our Cindy Wooden explained last year, Germans gave us Advent wreaths in the first place and generally used just red candles. “The practice of using three purple and one pink candle was an adaptation made to reflect the colors of the liturgical vestments used on the four Sundays preceding Christmas,” she wrote.

(CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

(CNS/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Here’s another view (right) of last year’s wreath, taken during the pope’s meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the Vatican Dec. 7, 2007.