Pencil pals for Pope Benedict


Pope Benedict XVI working at a desk at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, July 23, 2010. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — There’s a small movement underway to thank retired Pope Benedict XVI for all he’s done for the church and to urge him to keep enriching the world with his writings.

“Pencils for Benedict XVI” is an informal campaign started by UK Web developer Sonia Swabey and her team at their website and forum — a site named in recognition of the retired pope’s personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

Sonia said they would like people to submit their personal reflections about what Pope-emeritus Benedict means to them and how he has influenced their lives.

The group plans on compiling into a book all the written contributions that are sent to its web address: The plan is to also include a box of pencils — the retired pope’s favorite writing tool — as a symbolic way to encourage him to keep writing.

Despite being gifted a portable laptop just a few days after he broke his wrist in July 2009, Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the pope was “not used to writing with a PC; he isn’t very technological.” Father Lombardi said that, “especially in creative work, (the pope) prefers to use a pen” or as some rare pictures attest, a pencil.

Even though Pope Benedict said he would spend the rest of his days in prayer and meditation, it’s hard to imagine he’s not scribbling away, too.  When I was aboard the papal flight to the Czech Republic with him just two months after he hurt his wrist, he told us how difficult it was for him to have his writing hand immobilized by a cast and injury.

“My thoughts mostly develop through writing, so for me it was truly a test of patience to not be able to write for six weeks,” he had told us.

Sonia said the inspiration behind their “Pencils for Benedict” initiative is something Pope Francis said about having Pope Benedict living nearby at the Vatican. He told journalists this July: “It’s like having your grandfather in the house, a wise grandfather.  When families have a grandfather at home, he is venerated, he is loved, he is listened to.”

Now it’s your turn to tell the retired pope how you feel. The deadline for submissions to the campaign is Sept. 30.