Pope names veteran diplomat Vatican Secretary of State

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a longtime official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio in Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state.

Although Pope Francis has not been afraid to break with convention during his brief pontificate, the appointment of a seasoned member of the diplomatic corps signals a return to a longstanding tradition.

On Oct. 15 Archbishop Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, who came to the post in 2006 after serving as archbishop of Genoa, Italy.

The secretary of state is the pope’s closest collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios both in their relations with the Catholic communities in individual countries and with their governments.

However, in discussions about the reform and the reorganization of the curia, many observers have mentioned the possibility of the secretary of state’s role changing as well. Because it is so broad — covering the internal workings of the Vatican, international church affairs and foreign relations — Cardinal Bertone often was blamed, at least by the press, when things went wrong during Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

Archbishop Parolin was born Jan. 17, 1955, in Schiavon, Italy, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980. He studied at the Vatican diplomatic academy and in 1986 began working at Vatican embassies, serving in Nigeria and in Mexico before moving to the offices of the Vatican Secretariat of State. He was named undersecretary for foreign relations in 2002.

Archbishop Parolin greeting well-wishers at the end of Mass in 2009. Pope Benedict XVI had just ordained him a bishop. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Parolin greeting well-wishers at the end of Mass in 2009. Pope Benedict XVI had just ordained him a bishop. (CNS/Paul Haring)

For years, Archbishop Parolin led Vatican delegations to Vietnam each year to discuss church-state issues with the country’s communist government, a process that that eventually led to Vietnam’s acceptance of a non-resident papal representative to the country. The move is seen as a step toward establishing full diplomatic relations.

While at the Vatican, Archbishop Parolin also represented the Vatican at a variety of international conferences on climate change, on human trafficking and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including leading the Vatican delegation to the 2007 Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md.

At a press conference in 2006, Archbishop Parolin said Vatican nuncios and papal representatives play an important role “in defending the human being” and in strengthening the local churches, especially in regions where Christians face poverty, discrimination or other hardships.

The Vatican’s presence around the world through its nuncios shows people that the church and the pope are always near, that Christians — no matter how small their numbers — are not alone in the world, he said.

In the current Vatican organizational framework, the secretary of state is the pope’s closest collaborator, the one who traditionally made sure that the pope’s policies and priorities became concrete in the work of Vatican offices. The secretary usually has been very close to the pope and meets with him often.

When Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Bertone secretary of state in 2006 it was a reunion of sorts. Then-archbishop Bertone had been secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for seven years when its prefect was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The appointment raised some eyebrows because most of the time — although not always — the position was held by a prelate who had come up through the ranks of the Vatican diplomatic corps. Cardinal Bertone had a background as a Salesian pastor, an archbishop and as a Vatican official dealing with doctrinal matters.

While Cardinal Bertone had never worked in the Vatican’s diplomatic sector, he had been employed as a type of roving troubleshooter: He flew to Havana in 2005 for talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro; in 2002, he was charged with trying to convince then-Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to give up the idea of marriage and reconcile with the pope; and he met with a Fatima visionary, Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, when he coordinated the publication of the third secret of Fatima in 2000, another delicate task.

In a series of interviews before taking over the helm at the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Bertone made it clear he was not coming to the job with his own agenda. As he put it in one interview, the secretary of state should above all be “a man loyal to the pope,” someone who executes the pope’s projects and not his own.

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.”

“Labor in the Pulpits”

Each year, during Labor Day weekend, churches around the United States take part in an initiative called “Labor in the Pulpits.” Coordinated by Interfaith Worker Justice, it depends on clergy to use their homilies to address issues of importance to workers.

This year’s theme is “fair development,” described as “making sure that monies invested in companies to build the economy are fair to the residents of those communities,” according to Meghan Cohorst of UNITE HERE, a union for workers in the hotel, restaurant and garment industries.

One case in point: Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. “The concession program there, where many of the workers work, is run by a private, for-profit company, not by the airport: Airmall USA, which has a very long-term, lucrative contract with the state of Maryland,” Cohorst said.

“Since January, workers have been organizing around a ‘workers’ bill of rights’ to address issues of job security (and) full-time work,” Cohorst said. “But the workers report they’re having all of these issues, allegedly being intimidated,” she added. “There had been some anti-organizing activity where some of the concessionaries had charges filed against them by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).”

According to a 2011 study issued by an organization called Good Jobs First, the median wage for concessions workers at many of the airport’s eateries and newsstands was $8.50 an hour.

About 50 churches in the Baltimore area will have labor-related preaching in their pulpit this weekend. with workers present in those houses of worship, Cohorst said. Among them will be four or five Catholic churches celebrating a total of 11 Masses.

Keeping the faith on campus takes work

Two women walking on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington June 14 pass a statue of Archbishop John Carroll, Baltimore's first archbishop and founder of Georgetown.

Two women walking on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington June 14 pass a statue of Archbishop John Carroll, Baltimore’s first archbishop and founder of Georgetown. (CNS/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Last week a colleague here at Catholic News Service took his older boy off to college for the first time. It was an emotional time for him and his wife, but a time of great joy and anticipation for their son Matthew. My friends have done a great job in raising their two sons. The boys are smart, gifted athletes, have great values and a solid faith. Like all parents whose children begin this next big step in their lives, they hope the kids hold on to all they have learned as they are exposed to new ideas in a bigger world, not the least of which is their faith.

Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien, vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., wrote Aug. 19 in the Washington Post‘s On Faith section that college is indeed a time when young people are confronted with new ideas and questions that will challenge many aspects of their lives, but that is all part of growing into adulthood. But it can be, well, a bumpy road for students and parents.

“Young adults transitioning to college need to be gentle with themselves and others.  Parents do well to model that patience,” he wrote.

If you have a daughter or son who’s off to college for the first time or heading back again, and you’re holding your breath on how all those years of religious education are going to hold up, check out Father O’Brien’s “How to Keep the Faith on Campus.” It will help you keep your faith in your college student.

Pope Francis’ summer break includes time for writing

VATICAN CITY — Rome and the Vatican are traditionally left to the tourists in August, and it is difficult to find key Vatican officials at their desks this week.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

But Pope Francis continues to hold meetings and to work, although most of those meetings are considered private. Yesterday’s meeting with a group of Japanese junior high school students was an exception.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, the vice director of the Vatican press office, told the handful of journalists working in the press office today that Pope Francis was using these August days to work on two documents — an encyclical on poverty and an exhortation on evangelization.

Catholic News Service has previously written about plans for both documents:

— The encyclical, “Beati pauperes” (“Blessed are the Poor”), reportedly will deal with the topic of poverty, not as an economic or political topic, but from a Gospel point of view.

— The exhortation on evangelization should be published before the end of the year, perhaps in conjunction with the Nov. 24 end of the Year of Faith. Pope Francis had said in June that he’d already begun writing it and hoped to finish it in August. It would take the place of a traditional post-synodal apostolic exhortation by reflecting both on the theme of the 2012 world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization and on sharing the Gospel in general.

Another event we’d reported on earlier is set to begin next week in Castel Gandolfo.

The “Ratzinger Schulerkreis” (Ratzinger Student Circle), a group of retired Pope Benedict’s former students, will meet Aug. 29-Sept. 2. For the first time, the retired pope is not scheduled to join his former students, although a visit by them to the Vatican monastery where Pope Benedict lives has not been ruled out.

Details on the group and the theme they’ll discuss this year are here.

Detroit university sees hope in city despite bankruptcy, offers resources and commitment to community

In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said the bankruptcy of Detroit does not mean the city is dead.

“I would say people are responding with a lot of grit,” he said. Residents and political leaders certainly are challenged and remain uncertain, he pointed out, but added: “Stories about the city being on its death bed are wrong.”

In a recent post on the website of the University of Detroit Mercy, Antoine M. Garibaldi, the school’s president, makes similar points, and also noted the current difficulties facing the city have no direct financial impact on the university.

(CNS photo/Reuters)

(CNS photo/Reuters)

“However, because of the university’s 136-year mission of providing education in an urban context and serving the Detroit community, we will continue to play a vital role in the city as it navigates through this challenging period,” Garibaldi said. “As a Catholic, Jesuit and Mercy university with three campuses in Detroit, this is another ideal time in our history to show and share UDM’s commitment and economic impact on an iconic American city.”

The university website has links to its various outreach initiatives and links to community initiatives. Garibalidi said: “Many exciting initiatives are underway in the surrounding neighborhoods of University of Detroit Mercy, and the city of Detroit has also had numerous successes in recent months.”