Planting seeds of hope

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Screengrab of Vatican TV footage of today’s private audience between Pope Francis and U.S. President Barack Obama.

VATICAN CITY — One of the many moments pool reporters look forward to when a head of state meets the pope is the gift exchange.

The Vatican most often offers a unique piece of artisan art with a spiritual or Vatican theme. But when it comes to gifts from visiting dignitaries, it’s anything goes: chess sets, sacred or secular art, traditional and native crafts, books and rare manuscripts or teddy bears.

Today U.S. President Barack Obama gave Pope Francis a small chest full of fruit and vegetable seeds that are used in the White House Gardens.

“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president said.

“Como no!” the pope replied in Spanish, “Why not?” or “Of course.”

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The seeds were inside individual blue velvet pouches.

“These I think are carrots,” the president said as he opened one of the pouches.

The president said the idea for the seeds came after he heard that Pope Francis had decided to open to the public the gardens at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The custom-made box the seeds came in is made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore — the first cathedral in the United States and an international symbol of religious freedom.  [UPDATE: read this story by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s The Catholic Review for more interesting background on the box!]

The basilica’s cornerstone was laid by Jesuit Father John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States.

According to the White House, the inscription on the chest reads:

Presented to His Holiness Pope Francis
by Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
March 27, 2014

In addition to the seeds for the papal gardens, the U.S. president was also passing on a donation from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, which is donating enough seeds to yield several tons of produce to any charity the pope chooses.

“The gift honors the commitment of your Holiness to sow the seeds of global peace for future generations,” a White House statement said.

 

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The gifts the president received from the pope included a large bronze medallion of an angel representing solidarity and peace. The angel is “embracing and bringing together the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth, while overcoming the opposition of a dragon,” the Vatican said.

However, Pope Francis specified that the gift was actually a personal gesture from him, “from Jorge Bergoglio. When I saw it, I said: ‘I’ll give it to Obama; it’s the angel of peace,” he told the U.S. president.

The other medal, which the pope said, “is from the pope,” is a replica of a 17th-century medallion commemorating the laying of the first stone of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

“I will treasure this,” Obama said.

He also received a copy of the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, “Evangelii Gaudium,” a gift the pope has been giving visiting heads of state.

The president said with a smile: “I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated. I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

When the remark was interpreted for the pope, he smiled, said “I hope,” and chuckled, too.

 

 

Second International Human Trafficking Conference to take place in April in Rome

By Emily Antenucci
Catholic News Service

DELEGATE ATTENDS INTERPOL ASSEMBLY IN ROME

The world’s largest international police organization and government ministers from around the world met in Rome Nov. 2012 to address human trafficking and terrorist activities. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — To enhance cooperation between the Catholic Church and law enforcement agencies working in the field, the Second International Human Trafficking Conference will take place in Rome April 9-10.

The conference will bring together church leaders and the heads of police services from at least fourteen countries, including Brazil, India, Albania, Australia, and Germany.

NEWLY APPOINTMENT ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINISTER GESTURES DURING NEWS CONFERENCE IN LONDON

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster at a news conference in London in 2009. (CNS photo/Stefan Wermuth, Reuters)

As Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster explained to reporters in Rome Feb. 24, “it is something very important to us as the church in England that here are very hopeless victims, and by attending to their needs, we can actually make a huge contribution with the police to tackle this problem.”

The conference will highlight the church’s distinctively victim-driven approach to the problem. Because victims of trafficking typically feel trapped and helpless, they often turn to the church as a safe haven: both as a place providing refuge and a comfortable environment where they can feel enough at ease to open up about their experiences. Finally, when the victims are ready, the church works towards their reintegration, either in their native countries or in England.

Cardinal Nichols said the church should not be satisfied with helping only victims who have escaped trafficking. Law enforcement agencies depend on information from church agencies, which in turn depend on the support and protection of the police.

In the words of Cardinal Nichols, “This is a really important initiative…it’s not the only initiative with regard to human trafficking , but it is a unique initiative because it talks about the practice, the day by day work to counter real scourge around the world, of commercial trafficking of human beings.”

Emily Antenucci is an intern in the CNS Rome bureau while she attends Villanova University’s Rome program.

Taking it to the street: the pope’s birthday party guest list

VATICAN CITY — We know from the pope’s sister that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would skip family dinners and picnics to spend special days, like Sundays and holidays, with the poor.

Pope Francis celebrates birthday with men who live on streets near Vatican

Pope Francis talks with three men Dec. 17 who live on the streets near the Vatican. The pope had breakfast with the men as part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Now as Pope Francis, he started his own special day — his 77th birthday — having breakfast with some of Rome’s homeless.

Since he is no longer really free to go as he pleases to those in need, he had to send his almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, out to find them.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop went out early this morning, and didn’t have to go far to find people living on the street.

The first group he found were three men in their forties, who were sleeping under the large portico in front of the Vatican press hall on the main boulevard in front of St. Peter’s Square.

“Would you like to come to Pope Francis’ birthday party?” the Polish archbishop asked the men, who were from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

When they realized the invitation was for real, they immediately packed their belongings into the archbishop’s car, including their faithful dog, who rode in the middle, the paper said.

The four (counting the dog) got to greet the pope right after his morning Mass and, together with the archbishop, gave the pope a bouquet of sunflowers because the flowers always turn to the sun just as the church always turns toward its sun, Christ, the archbishop explained.

The pope invited the men to have breakfast with him in the residence dining room where they talked and had a few laughs.

Apparently one of the men joked with the pope that it was “worthwhile being a vagrant because you get to meet the pope.”

Today the pope gave a clue in a letter he sent today commemorating the 800th anniversary of the death of St. John of Matha (whose feast day is today) as to why he always wants to be close to the poor.

The pope told the religious order the saint founded that “I like to think that you, in your prayers, put the Bishop of Rome together with the poor.” Being among the poor, he said, “reminds me that I cannot forget about them just like Jesus never forgot them.”

An intern’s farewell to CNS & Rome

By Caroline Hroncich

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During my first week in Rome, I attended Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace in Syria (CNS Photo/ Caroline Hroncich)

VATICAN CITY — When I got off the bus before heading into the office on Thursday, I walked down Via della Conciliazione and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. I stopped for a while in front of the Christmas tree, and looked around the square. Over the past four months I’ve been in St. Peter’s Square on many occasions, but there’s something about doing it for one last time that really makes you think.

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in my professor’s office at Villanova University discussing the possibility of interning with the Catholic News Service Rome bureau for the semester. I’d never so much as been outside of the United States before, and was unsure what to expect when I set foot in Rome for the first time. But four months later, I can safely say I’ve learned so much about journalism, the Vatican and myself.

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My “paparazzi” photo of Jennifer Lopez leaving a store near the Vatican (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

I felt truly welcomed by the CNS staff and honestly felt like this was a place where I could be creative and explore my own ideas. I’ve met so many wonderful people and explored so many new things I could go on for hours about how great each opportunity has been. I took paparazzi shots of Jennifer Lopez, I sat in the ‘VIP’ section at the papal audience, I helped out with the office move, just to mention a few of my many adventures.

When I arrived at Villanova two and a half years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be. With so much pressure to decide, the infamous “undeclared” loomed on my transcript until about the last possible second. Once I decided on communications I faced a bigger challenge: What exactly did I want to do with my life? I’d tried my hand in a few areas, but none seemed to fit.

Writing has always been something that I’ve enjoyed, and interning at CNS really helped me realize that. With the help of the entire CNS staff, I conducted my first interview, wrote my first news story, and my first blog post.

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A photo I took of Pope Francis arriving at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 20 (CNS Photo/Caroline Hroncich)

This semester has made me realize that regardless of what I end up doing in the future, if I don’t get to write, I won’t truly be happy. I’m thrilled that I’ve been one of the lucky few to have had this experience.

When I board my flight back to the United States on December 21, I will be filled with many mixed emotions. When I think about the things I will miss about Rome (most of which will involve food), CNS trumps it all. In the future, if I return to Rome, I know one of the first places I will visit is the CNS office on Via della Conciliazione.

Editor’s note: Caroline Hroncich is a student at Villanova University and she interned at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau for the semester.

– – –

Be sure to check out some of the other stories Caroline wrote during her time here:

English photographer strives to capture spirituality of the homeless

A Jesuit promotes human dignity, from Central America to the Holy See

Vatican official says not to expect papal encyclical on poverty

From New Jersey to the Vatican, opening a dialogue with the Gospel

A trip down under: Exploring the Vatican necropolis

Analog popes taking tentative taps in a digital age

POPE READS BOOK AT CASTEL GANDOLFO

Retired 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 — Though he prefers to use pencil and paper, the pope emeritus is fascinated by high-tech tools.

Retired Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told reporters yesterday that the pope shows great interest in the archbishop’s iPad.

“When I show him something on the iPad, and I’m making the information slide by on the screen with my fingers, these new technologies pique his interest from time to time,” he said.

The 57-year-old archbishop said the retired pope “doesn’t think these things are ruled out for an elderly person” like himself.

In fact, some may remember, Pope Benedict became the first pope in history to own an iPod when Vatican Radio staff gave him a 2-gigabyte white nano in 2006.

When the head of the radio’s technical and computer services department identified himself and handed the pope the boxed iPod, the pope was said to have replied, “Computer technology is the future.”

It’s doubtful he’s ever used the iPod, even though it was loaded with works by his favorite composers, like Mozart.

He never used the laptop he got as a gift just a few days after he broke his right wrist in 2009, preferring to use a voice recorder instead to put down his thoughts and ideas.

POPE SENDS FIRST TWITTER MESSAGE DURING GENERAL AUDIENCE AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict posting his first tweet on his Twitter account @Pontifex Dec. 12, 2012. (CNS photo/L ‘Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

But he tapped away with no problems when presented with a tablet launching the very first @Pontifex Twitter accounts and tweets almost exactly one year ago today, and when he inaugurated the Vatican’s online news portal, news.va in 2011.

POPE BENEDICT LIGHTS UP ELECTRONIC CHRISTMAS TREE IN ITALIAN TOWN USING TABLET AT VATICAN

Pope Benedict lights up one of the world’s largest electronic Christmas trees in Gubbio, Italy, using an electronic tablet at the Vatican Dec. 7, 2011. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

He also lit the world’s largest electronic Christmas “tree” from a Sony S Tablet two years ago from his papal apartment.

Though he isn’t immersed in the digital world, Pope Benedict repeatedly endorsed it as the new frontier for evangelization.

Pope Francis, too, is no digital native. As most people know, he prefers phonecalls and letters to IM and email.

Pope Francis launches smartphone app Missio featuring Catholic news, papal homilies, missionary efforts

Pope Francis launching the Missio app with national directors of pontifical mission societies May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photo)

Though he launched the Pontifical Mission Societies’ Missio App in May, he, like his predecessor, needed close coaching to figure out what to press on the iPad’s smooth button-less screen.

When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he once said that he would try to start using the Internet when he retired.  Obviously a plan that now may be delayed.

Most mentions? Check out our ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ wordcloud

Wordle: The Joy of the GospelVATICAN CITY — “God,” “church,” and “people” get the most mentions in Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Click on either image to enlarge.

With this handy word cloud, you can see “life,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “new,” “one,” and “Gospel” are all close behind. In case you’re wondering what “AAS” is, it’s for “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” which appears often in the footnotes in reference to other official texts. SnipImage

book coverIf you haven’t got your copy of “The Joy of the Gospel” yet, remember you can:

And in case you missed it, yesterday we posted:

Happy reading! And a have blessed Thanksgiving!

CNS “nuclear football” prevents news coverage gaps during historic move

VATICAN CITY — After 19 years located in an apartment building half mile from the Vatican, Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau was ready for a move — to fresher digs and closer to the action.

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it’s usually not a pretty sight. Not only because a few of us (mostly me) have pack-rat tendencies, there are paper files and valuable archive materials going back to the Second Vatican Council and earlier as CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948.

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The CNS “nuclear football” contained every item that might be needed to cover normal and unusual news events at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Moving a news organization is also challenging because “the show must go on!” The pope and the rest of the Vatican don’t stop working and CNS client papers still need to go to press.

The day before the office was set to be boxed up and shipped off, CNS’s senior correspondent, Cindy Wooden, and I started filling a small cardboard box and wheelie suitcase with essential items that would supply our “mobile newsroom” for the next few days.

Dubbed “the nuclear football” by Rome bureau chief Francis Rocca, the suitcase needed to get us through not just a couple of typical workdays, but also had to cover us in case of some unforeseen news Armageddon.

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Contents of the CNS “mobile newsroom” to be used while the Rome bureau moved to a new office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Essential items included aspirin, gaffer tape, half a bar of chocolate, a safety pin, USB drive, telephone books, personal contacts, recording devices, notebooks and pens. It had started out as a full chocolate bar…

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Books about Pope Francis, style-books, College of Cardinal statistics, batteries, recording equipment were part of the CNS mobile newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

We did pack a laptop, but it decided to give out on the first day we were office-less so I feel it doesn’t deserve to be included it in the photo-lineup. iPad minis and our booth in the Vatican press hall provided us with connectivity.

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CNS senior correspondent Cindy Wooden and senior photographer Paul Haring surveying the new, yet unpacked newsroom. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Luckily we were spared an “extreme” news event during the move. However, the “atomic suitcase” has ended up being more of a lifesaver than anticipated since we still are not completely unpacked.

Thanks to the wheelie suitcase contents, we’ve been able to have all the essentials as we continue to settle into our new office — now located next door to the Vatican press hall and 50 yards from St. Peter’s Square.

Enjoy some of these shots of our new home in Rome.

As always, CNS clients and fans are more than welcome to stop by. We still may have a box for you to sit on when you visit!

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CNS correspondent Carol Glatz digs out something useful during a move to the Rome bureau’s new offices on Via della Conciliazione. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS's new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

A nice view of the courtyard from one of the rooms in the new CNS Rome bureau. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

The CNS Rome bureau has moved offices to a renovated building on Via della Conciliazione, just a few yards from St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS' new office at Via della Conciliazione 44

CNS has had a full-time presence in Rome since 1948. Its new offices on Via della Conciliazione put CNS right at the heart of the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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