What did the pope’s mechanic say?

pope and car

Pope Francis gets a look at his “new” classic Renault. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)

VATICAN CITY — Leave it to the slapstick brothers, Tom and Ray, at Car Talk to have a field day with the news of Pope Francis’ recent present: a lovingly used 30 hp 1984 Renault 4.

If somehow you missed the story, check it out here.

As soon as the now-retired radio hosts heard the news, they went on Facebook and Twitter and let the witticisms and quips rip.

But the best part was they let their fans join the fun with #PopesRenault and #VaticanMechanic


facebook cartalk

Here’s just a sampling of some of the funny comebacks and play-on-words people came up with. Tell us which is your favorite and give us a zinger of your own!

  • I always thought the Pope would drive a Christ-ler
  • “Tu illam inundarunt” (Latin for “You flooded it”).
  • The pope can easily handle a flooded engine. Even if it’s of Biblical proportions.
  • He needs one of two bumper stickers. #1, God is my co-pilot. OR #2, My other car is the Pope Mobile.
  • I haven’t seen car trouble like this since we tried to fit all the Apostles in one Accord.
  • It’s either burning oil, or you’ve just been replaced.
  • “A little black smoke is fine, just watch out for the white smoke”.
  • If you see a lot of white smoke, it might mean it’s time to elect a new car.
  • The black smoke means that a new car must still be chosen.
  • Ashes to Ashes
    Dust to Dust.
    If not for Renault
    Our tools would rust.
  • Look the Vatican acquired a new relic.
  • “The Spiritus Sancti made manifold…”
  • Last Rides, anyone? (Extreme disfUnction)
  • Pop that lever and let’s see what’s under the sainthood.
  • 20 years to go 186,000 miles? Light can do that in one second.
  • “Well, sir, it keeps overheating because the water in the radiator keeps turning to wine…”
  • If they can cram 6 or 7 parishioners in it to drive to St. Peter’s on Sunday, is it considered Mass Transit?
  • If he wanted to follow The Lord, the Pope would drive a Plymouth: “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, where I have driven them in my anger, and in my FURY” – Jeremiah 32:37, King James Edition
  • and in the UK we use “and Moses came down from Sinai in his Triumph (probably a stag or TR6)”
  • No, no, no. Clearly holy people are Honda lovers. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

Now it’s U-turn. Ready, set, go!


Kentucky bishops support retired mine workers

Retired union mine workers gained four new allies in their campaign to maintain cradle-to-grave health care benefits.

Kentucky’s four bishops have signed on to a statement saying that retired members of the United Mine Workers of America must be able to obtain their benefits, as promised by their original employer, even though a spinoff company that is emerging from bankruptcy protection is now paying those benefits.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro and Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Lexington lent their name to a statement that says it is the responsibility of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to provide the benefits if the spinoff, Patriot Coal, is unable to live up to contract arrangements with the union.

“It’s a justice issue,” Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, told Catholic News Service.

While UMWA and Patriot recently agreed on a new contract, union officials said the amount of money set aside by Patriot is insufficient to provide lifetime health care benefits for current retirees. UMWA president Cecil Roberts has pledged that the union will continue to seek ways to “hold Peabody and Arch accountable.”

By signing the statement, the bishops have opted to support worker rights.

The statement cites Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical “Laborem Exercens” (“On Human Work”), which recognizes Catholic social teaching that the responsibilities of “indirect employers,” like Peabody and Arch Coal, do not cease with the formation of Patriot.

Records show that Patriot was spun off in 2007 by Peabody, which placed all of its unionized mines in Kentucky and West Virginia and more than 40 percent of its liabilities to retirees into the new company. Arch Coal did much the same two years earlier by creating Magnum Coal and placing its unionized mines in that company. Patriot absorbed Magnum in a $695 million deal in 2008.

The arrangement means that very few of the thousands of retirees ever worked for Patriot but still are dependent on the company for their retirement benefits.

Infertility and the ‘logic of profit’


An illustration depicts an early stage human embryo following the union of an egg cell and a sperm cell. (CNS illustration/Emily Thompson)

A powerful op-ed is in today’s New York Times on some of the human costs of the $4-billion-a-year assisted fertility industry.

The authors do not mention the countless embryonic human lives lost to these practices, but they draw attention to the “millions of women and men who have engaged in a debilitating, Sisyphus-like battle with themselves and their infertility, involving daily injections, drugs, hormones, countless blood tests and other procedures” — with a 77 percent failure rate.

“It’s hard to miss the marketing and advertisements associated with fertility clinics and service providers that are understandably eager to do what any business does best: sell to prospective customers,” write the authors, both of them former patients. “But what they’re selling is packaged in hope and sold to customers who are at their wits’ end, desperate and vulnerable.”

At a Vatican conference last year, Pope Benedict XVI warned that “scientism and the logic of profit today seem to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation, reaching a point where it also limits many other areas of research.”

As other conference participants explained, the fertility industry emphasizes expensive high-tech approaches over research and treatments that actually address root causes of infertility in the population at large.

New light is shed on Pope Benedict’s 9/11 memorial prayer


Pope Benedict XVI prayed at site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers in New York April 20, 2008. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI visited ground zero in 2008, he knelt alone and prayed inside the cement-walled crater where the World Trade Center Towers once stood.

As a sign of bringing light and hope to the dark memory of 9/11, the pope was going to light a large beeswax candle adorned with his papal coat of arms.

That simple symbolic act, however, required lots of preparation and a few excruciating seconds of uncertainty.

I found out the story behind the event when I happened to run into the self-described “papal candle maker” this summer.

Martin Marklin from Contoocook, N.H., has been making liturgical candles for U.S. dioceses and churches since 1985 as well as for events during stateside papal visits.

His candles are works of art — seamless and smooth because they’re hand-dipped after they’re released from their molds. They can be hand-carved, decorated with wax inlay or brushed with glittering gold leaf.

The key thing is they’re also made of 51% beeswax. Even though it’s much more expensive, beeswax has long been preferred over petroleum-based paraffin for church candles. Because the female worker bees, who produce the beeswax, do not mate, the beeswax symbolizes the pure flesh of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary.

Martin, whom I met during a regional beekeepers’ meeting in Pennsylvania (long story), told me about how he was commissioned — just a few weeks prior — to provide the 9/11 memorial candle for Pope Benedict’s April visit to ground zero.

The first worry was transport. Wax candles are extremely delicate and they can easily break, crack, melt, bend or get dents. They had to find a reliable shipper from their New Hampshire factory who could get the candle and a backup copy to New York safely and on time.

With three days to go before the event, the candles were put in a special container on a FedEx flight from Manchester. However, the plane broke down and the cargo had to be taken off and loaded onto a different plane. The papal payload, unfortunately, got lost and sent on a flight to Memphis, Tenn.

Martin got on the phone with FedEx right away and said he found “a good Catholic executive” who worked a miracle and got the shipment to New York Friday night for Sunday’s service.

When the candle safely arrived, Martin was then concerned about how it would be lit. It was Pope Benedict’s desire to light the candle himself and Martin wanted to make sure it could be done right. Lighting a candle may not seem like a big deal, but given the huge number of people watching and the importance of the event, the lighting needed to be dignified, smooth and actually result in a flame.

The event organizers took Martin’s advice and supplied a brazier and a taper that the pope would use to light the candle.

However, on the big day, the server was holding the taper in such a way that even though it had a glass draft protector, a breeze came and blew out the flame.

Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, and the acolyte looked at each other. There was no light!

But, instead of panic, the monsignor reached into his pocket and pulled out a plain disposable lighter and helped the pope light the flame.

Msgr. Marini’s resourcefulness saved the day, however, Martin was disappointed that the thing he was trying to avoid (a tacky lighter) was the light’s source.

He confided in me that before he shipped the candle, he carved the initials of his four children in the candle base because “If we’re going to have a world to pass on to our children, we need to pray for peace.”

candle lower

A special beeswax candle handcrafted by New Hampshire-based candle maker, Martin Marklin, in honor of Pope Francis’ election. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan).

A highpoint of meeting Martin was his gift to me of a special candle he made in honor of Pope Francis’ election.

I haven’t been able to bear lighting the candle, feeling somehow it will become ruined. But Martin says, “A candle not lighted is dead,” as the flame proclaims the life and light of Jesus.

So I think today is the day I’ll light my papal candle, in memory of 9/11.

Pope takes classic Renault for spin, leaves security in the dust

UPDATE: Photos of the pope’s “new” car

VATICAN CITY — When an Italian priest handed Pope Francis the keys to his classic 30hp Renault 4, the pope got behind the wheel and took off, leaving security squirming behind, knowing full well this would be just the beginning of a pope truly on the move. Even though he shouldn’t be able to reach Ferrari-like speeds with a 300cc engine, it might be tough keeping up when he hits the hills.

“The security personnel next to me were very concerned because they understood that from now on he would be tooling around the Vatican in my car,” the car donor, 69-year-old Father Renzo Zocca, told the Italian Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana. But the priest told the police, not to worry, “I left some snow chains in the trunk. You never know!”

The new addition to the papal fleet — a silver-white four-door 1984 Renault with 186,000 miles on the odometer — happened on Saturday, just a few hours before the Sept. 7 prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square for peace.


In his July visit to Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis rode in a simple silver Fiat as seen in this photo. Now, the papal vehicle fleet includes a 1984 Renault — a gift from an Italian priest. (CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters).

The pope didn’t get his new wheels on eBay. Father Zocca said he wrote the pope, saying he wanted to meet him, donate his car, and tell him about his ministry: living and working for 25 years in a run-down, working-class neighborhood in Verona — the northern Italian city made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Instead of feuding family rivalries, however, Father Zocca had to face off violent drug pushers who were destroying young people’s lives and leaving the priest death threats. Not even getting stabbed would stop the priest, who said, “I wanted to embody the (Second Vatican) Council in that parish in the outskirts, which has been the center of my life.”

With both parents dead at 35 years old, Father Zocca raised his 14-year-old brother. He revitalized the community and built centers for the poor, disabled and the elderly. He and his brother lived in government housing, and with an apartment on the 9th-floor, “I would joke that I lived in the highest rectory in Italy.”

Then on August 10 at 10:19 a.m., Father Zocca got a call on his cell from the pope. Pope Francis had gotten the priest’s letter and they spent half an hour talking about the priest’s work “in the peripheries,” as the pope has repeatedly called today’s priests to go. Father Zocca reiterated his offer that he had this white Renault in the garage that had been his faithful companion for decades as he drove all over Verona and Italy for his ministry.

The pope was unsure, the priest said, and suggested the priest give it to the poor.

“I answered that this car had already given much to the poor and now it had to go to the pope.” He told the magazine that he wanted to give the pope something that was a testimony to his experience and ministry of going into the outskirts “and what a better gift than my Renault 4?” he said.

When the pope was sure Father Zocca had another car to use, the pope pulled out his appointment book, leafed through the pages and started listing the days and times he would be free in early September. With the appointment set for Sept. 7 at 3 p.m, Father Zocca had his mechanic, Stefano, give the car a tune-up, clean the spark plugs and put air in the tires. The car also runs on methane so “the Vatican won’t have to worry about high gas prices,” the priest said.

On Saturday, the car was loaded on a tow truck with the priest and about 100 townsfolk, including the mechanic, following along on a chartered bus to Rome.

They brought the car to the front of the pope’s residence at Domus Sanctae Marthae where the pope greeted the priest and gave him a big hug. Father Zocca told the pope that he felt bad half of their group was stuck outside the gates because of security concerns, so the pope told him, “Let’s go!”

They hopped in the car with the priest behind the wheel and the pope in the passenger side while the mechanic and the priest’s assistant got in the back. The mechanic warned Father Zocca to “Go slow! We’re in the Vatican” even though they were only going 18 mph.

The pope met the rest of the group and then they headed back inside the Vatican with the car. The pope said he had had a Renault 4 back in the day and that “it had never let him down.”

Before saying goodbye, the pope told Father Zocca, “‘Write me again.’ Then I gave him the keys and he got behind the wheel,” the priest said.

“I watched him drive off in that car as if it were the most normal thing in the world,” he said.

Big papal pow-wow with the curia

Pope greets crowd as he arrives to celebrate private Mass at Church of the Gesu in Rome

Pope Francis greets a crowd before celebrating a private Mass at the Church of the Gesu in Rome July 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Today the Vatican’s weekly schedule announced Pope Francis has called together all heads of the Roman Curia for an early morning meeting tomorrow. Though the pope always meets with them at the end of the year to look back on the last 12 months, this gathering mid-year is highly unusual.

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi told CNS that the meeting is part of “the Holy Father’s reflection on the governance of the church” and that it will be followed by “another important moment with the meeting of the Group of Eight cardinals” in October.

He created the so-called “Group of Eight,” (read here about who they are), in April to advise him on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy. It’s part of a larger effort of reform that includes reviewing the activities and mission of the Vatican bank. The three advisory bodies he has formed so far are all charged with studying specific problems and concerns, drawing up concrete solutions, then relaying all of their studies and results directly to the pope.

Examining the needs of some overlooked Syrian refugees

A new report from the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center takes an in-depth look at the situation of older Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

cover“We know from experience that older persons suffer in silence, quietly stepping aside so that younger members of their families can access services and aid,” said Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon. “Our Christian faith compels us to seek out those who may be left behind and ensure that they are reached by our expression of faith.”

The report, “Forgotten Voices: An Insight Into Older Persons Among Refugees From Syria in Lebanon,” looks at the demographics, nutrition and physical and mental health of the older members of the more than 700,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“Despite our experience in working with older Palestinians, we were taken aback by the findings of this study,” said Kamal Sioufi, president of the board of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center.

The report recommended that older people be prioritized as a specific target population of assistance programs. For instance, it said, they need help in managing chronic illness; assistance with mobility to reduce dependency; and they often need “older person dignity kits” such as incontinence pads, a walking stick or a bed rail.

The report also said they need assistance with mental health. For instance, it said, “older refugees who did not have a friend to care for them were significantly more likely to feel depressed and lonely than those who did have a friend. In addition, many older refugees did not take into consideration that they might be able to provide psychosocial support to younger members of their households.”

Among other recommendations, it said social workers needed to be aware that older people often were overlooked in households. Social workers “should prioritize unaccompanied older persons or older persons without care-takers,” it added.