You definitely got mail! What’s inside the papal postbox?

UPDATE: For folks who wish to stuff those mail bags even more, here are the popes’ addresses. There is NO email because the last time they set one up for the pope, the servers crashed.

Pope Francis
Domus Sanctae Marthae
00120 Vatican City State

and

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Mater Ecclesiae monastery
00120 Vatican City State

Pope accepts letter as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis accepts a letter from a pilgrim in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 16, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis gets so much mail — about 30 large mail sacks a week — that the Vatican has set up a special office to sort through and read the overflowing stacks.

Msgr. Giuliano Gallorini of the Vatican secretariat of state is in charge of the “Papal Correspondence Office” and is assisted by a nun and two laywomen.

The sacks are brought from the Vatican post office to the “Terza Loggia” in the apostolic palace where the Vatican diplomats work. There, the papal mail team sifts through everything, sorting the letters into low-tech cardboard boxes whose tops have been torn off and labeled “Portuguese,” “Spanish,” “French” and other languages.

papal mail room

Screen grab from CTV video showing makeshift mail room for papal correspondence.

This video by the Vatican Television Center gives an insider’s look at the makeshift mail room, whose floor, understandably, is absolutely cluttered with boxes chock full of the sorted post.

The video, in Italian, talks about the kind of mail the pope gets. Sometimes there are gifts like a handmade scarf, statuettes, drawings, but Msgr. Gallorini said most of the letters are requests for prayers and support.

“It may be the period we are living in, but many deal with people’s difficulties, especially illness. They ask for prayers for children and they detail difficult economic situations,” he said.

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Screen grab from CTV video showing Msgr. Gallorini, head of the papal correspondence office, going through the mail.

The correspondence team reads all the Italian mail and tries to send the letters on to the right people who can offer help. For example, requests for economic assistance are sent to the appropriate diocesan Caritas office, the monsignor said.

He said they try to do what Pope Francis would want: to listen to people with their hearts and minds, to share in their suffering and to try to find the right words in their replies (they send a reply to everyone!!)

What mail does make it onto the pope’s desk?

Msgr. Gallorini said, “Cases that are more delicate” or sensitive. Those items are sent on to the pope’s secretaries who make sure the pope can look at them himself and decide how they should be handled.

Pope Francis “always says that the pastor has to live with his flock, with his sheep, to feel and live their experiences with them,” the monsignor said. However, because it would be impossible for the pope to read every letter he gets, the pope asks his correspondence crew to approach their work with the same sense of solidarity and affection he would have.

Have any of you written to the pope? Did you get a reply?

A special engagement at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Are you engaged to be married? Have nothing special planned for Valentine’s Day? Want to come to Rome?

Engaged

You have just two days left to register for a special audience with Pope Francis here at the Vatican. The deadline is Jan. 30th.

You must be taking or have finished taking marriage preparation courses and you need to apply for the audience through your diocesan office of the family or by writing to events@family.va by this Thursday.

Also, go here for more details and some valuable relationship advice from Pope Francis!

Feathery fiascos: the unfortunate prey for peace

A dove released during an Angelus prayer conducted by Pope Francis, is attacked by a seagull at the Vatican

A dove released during the Sunday Angelus is attacked by a seagull over St. Peter’s Square Jan. 26. (CNS photo/via Reuters – Alessandro Bianchi)

VATICAN CITY — Photographers in St. Peter’s Square yesterday caught the sad scene of a freshly released dove being attacked by a crow and seagull.

The annual dove launch by the pope and two children is meant to highlight the church’s call for peace in the world.

But, unfortunately, the forces of nature (namely hungry predator birds circling the square) usually prevail every year and the symbol of peace becomes prey.

I did a story several years ago that looked at the problem and an easy solution that would not appall bird lovers and would keep the children’s month of peace tradition flying.

Perhaps the advice and the story originally published Feb. 13, 2004, are worth repeating?

Wing and a prayer: Vatican doves sometimes turn chicken

By Carol Glatz 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The noble white dove has come to symbolize peace, fidelity, fraternity and hope, but the Vatican seems to have seen more than its fair share of doves suffering from a fear of flying.

Some might even say those doves are really just chicken.

What’s meant to be an impressive launch from the fifth-story window of the pope’s studio instead turns into a feathery fiasco. In 1998 both doves recoiled from their release and turned tail back inside the apostolic palace. Delighted, Pope John Paul II said, “It is clear this is a house of peace, because the doves don’t want to leave.”

This scene of one or both doves diving for papal cover has been repeated over the years. Most recently, on Jan. 25, call it stage-fright, call it premonition: One dove refused to leave the pope’s windowsill while the more gutsy of the two flew off to a grisly fate. One Italian newspaper reported the bird of peace was later found injured from a seagull attack.

The dove-launch over St. Peter’s Square occurs the last Sunday of every January after the pope’s Angelus.

The annual avian event started 25 years ago, said Father Antonio Magnotta, assistant to the Rome branch of Italy’s Catholic Action youth group. He said the group asked the Vatican if the kids could help celebrate what’s considered the month of peace with their bishop, Pope John Paul.

Each year, two children join the pope at the end of his noonday prayer, read a message of peace and help launch two white doves.

If only symbolism could be so simple.

“The problem is they toss the doves out with too much force; the bird doesn’t know where it’s going, so it boomerangs back to get its proper bearings,” said Bernard de Cottignies, veteran Vatican Radio journalist and messenger-dove fancier with several champion birds under his cote.

“To get a good takeoff they should slowly open their hands, let the bird get its sense of direction, and then it will go when it’s ready,” he said.

Launching techniques aside, how much is known about where the doves go at the end of the show?

“They head to the Vatican gardens, I think,” Father Magnotta said.

But officials at the Vatican’s immaculately pruned gardens told CNS that there are no white doves there.

“We have lots of grey pigeons, but white doves? I never saw them here,” said the head of the gardens, Elio Cortellessa.

De Cottignies said the white doves end up homeless and starving.

“White doves are usually bred for meat and lack the homing instinct of messenger-doves” — which are also known as “racing pigeons,” he said.

Another problem with farm-raised fowl, he said, is that the white dove cannot fend for itself in the city.

But luckily for the doves, there was a Good Samaritan looking out for them for a while.

“For five years I picked up the stray doves, half-starved and lost in St. Peter’s Square on my way home from work to take them to a friend’s house in the country,” confessed de Cottignies.

Although the release of doves onto St. Peter’s Square is wholly organized by Italian Catholic Action, once upon a time the Vatican used doves in its beatification and canonization ceremonies.

According to a Franciscan Web site, the Mass’s offertory after the act of canonization was made up of “wax candles, bread, wine, water, two turtle doves, two pigeons and a number of smaller birds” in gilded cages.

These offerings were presented to the pope and were meant to “lift up our hearts and minds to the love and contemplation of the supernatural,” the Web site explained.

“I remember in 1976 when the Scottish Jesuit martyr (John Ogilvie) was canonized, the Jesuits turned up with wine and a dove,” said Msgr. Charles Burns, a church historian who spent more than 25 years as an official of the Vatican Archives.

But Archbishop Piero Marini, the pope’s master of liturgical ceremonies, said that after the Second Vatican Council, the use of doves and other symbols in liturgical ceremonies was phased out in favor of simpler gifts.

“But the present-day tradition of the children coming to the pope’s window to release the doves is very nice,” Msgr. Burns said. “It’s a lot like Noah’s Ark,” the dove flying back from land, symbolizing hope and peace.

De Cottignies said there is a solution that would not appall bird lovers and would keep the children’s month of peace tradition flying.

“They could use white messenger-doves. They would have a much more stunning takeoff since the bird knows where home is and would head straight there with impressive speed,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 13 quotable quotes by Pope Francis on sanctity of life

VATICAN CITY — Top 13 quotable quotes from Pope Francis on the sanctity of life:

1.

francis life tweet

2.  “All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life in Britain and Ireland July 28, 2013

3. “Let’s say ‘Yes’ to life and ‘No’ to death.”

Message to Catholics taking part in March for Life in France Jan. 19, 2014

MAN AND CHILD HOLD HANDS DURING ANTI-ABORTION MARCH

A man and child hold hands during an anti-abortion march in central London in 2007. (CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters) (Oct. 30, 2007)

4. “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection. And every elderly person…even if he is ill or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the ‘culture of waste’ suggests!”

Speech to Catholic healthcare professionals and gynecologists Sept. 20, 2013

5. “All too often, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, they do not accept the ‘Gospel of Life’ but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others.

…As a result, the living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.”

– from homily at Mass for ‘Evangelium Vitae Day’ June 16, 2013

Boy carries mortar shell in weapons factory of Free Syrian Army in Aleppo

A 10-year-old Syrian boy carries a mortar shell in a weapons factory in Aleppo Sept. 2013. (CNS photo/Hamid Khatib, Reuters)

6. “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”

Speech to diplomats Jan. 13, 2014

7. “Among the vulnerable for whom the church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.

…Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the church cannot be expected to change her position on this question… It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life…”

– Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium #213-214

Pope blesses sick man inside Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari

Pope Francis blessing a sick man inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

8. “The victims of this [throwaway] culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings — the unborn, the poorest, the sick and elderly, the seriously handicapped, etc. — who are in danger of being ‘thrown away,’ expelled from a system that must be efficient at all costs.

…It is necessary to raise awareness and form the lay faithful, in whatever state, especially those engaged in the field of politics, so that they may think in accord with the Gospel and the social doctrine of the church and act consistently by dialoguing and collaborating with those who, in sincerity and intellectual honesty, share — if not the faith — at least a similar vision of mankind and society and its ethical consequences.

Speech to a delegation from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute Dec. 7, 2013

BOY SITS IN DAMAGED HOME AFTER SHELLING IN SYRIA

A boy sitting at his parents’ house damaged by shelling near Homs Aug. 2012. (CNS photo/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

9. “We are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment.”

Message to the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches dated Oct. 4, 2013

10. On the church supporting life: “This young woman had the courage” to carry her baby to term and not have an abortion, Pope Francis said. But this example of an unmarried woman who sought baptism for her baby, “what does she find? A closed door. And this happens to a lot of people. This is not good pastoral zeal. This pushes people away from the Lord.”

Homily during morning Mass May 25, 2013 in chapel of his residence

SISTER TEACHES LOCAL MEN TO PROVIDE MATERNAL CARE IN SOUTH SUDAN

Sister Joana Mai Hla Kyi, a nurse and member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, demonstrating prenatal therapy in Riimenze, South Sudan, in this 2010 file photo. (CNS file photo/Paul Jeffrey)

11. The fight against abortion is “part of the battle in favor of life from the moment of conception until a dignified, natural end. This includes the care of the mother during pregnancy, the existence of laws to protect the mother postpartum, and the need to ensure that children receive enough food, as well as providing healthcare throughout the whole length of life…”

…On science being aware it is human life: “A pregnant woman isn’t carrying a toothbrush in her belly, or a tumor…We are in the presence of a human being.”

– Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in book of interviews “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words”

12. “The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend him or herself.”

– Cardinal Bergoglio with Rabbi Abraham Skorka in book “On Heaven and Earth”

Pope kisses baby as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis kisses a baby before start of general audience in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 18, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

13. “All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth…to give life is to open (our) heart, and to care for life is to (give oneself) in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others.

Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing..So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it.”

–  from a homily in 2005 by Cardinal Bergoglio  celebrating Aug. 31  feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of expectant mothers, newborns

Big and small creatures flock to St. Peter’s

(UPDATE: More photos!)

VATICAN CITY — While the wide boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square can seem like a zoo on general audience Wednesdays, there’s no mistake — it definitely becomes a petting zoo every January 17 — the feast of St. Anthony Abbot, patron saint of animals and farmers.

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A little boy pets a baby donkey during an annual blessing of animals near St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Italian farmers and ranchers bring their horses, donkeys, cows, steer, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits and hens, and local residents come with their dogs, cats and bunnies for the annual blessing.

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Bunnies and geese waiting for their special blessing. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

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Cardinal Comastri, papal vicar for Vatican City, blessed dozens of animals and their owners. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Italian farmers and pet owners have a special devotion to St. Anthony as their patron saint, which is why his feast day marks the celebration and not, like in other countries, the feast of that other famous patron saint of animals: St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.

Bleats, barks and honks accompanied the “Our Father” as Cardinal Angelo Comastri blessed farm animals and pets gathered outside St. Peter’s Square.

Italian police mounted on horseback paraded up the wide boulevard leading to the square and two police dogs, with their agents, circled and sniffed pedestrians enthusiastically — unaware they were off-duty to get a blessing.

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Italian military police on horseback celebrating the feast of St. Anthony Abbot. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

photobombing

Who’s photobombing whom? The goose or the cardinal? (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

elsa

Elsa the Cow is moooving on up! (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

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Bella, a Maltese dog, got a special grooming for her special day. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

mandarins

Fresh mandarin oranges for the crowds. And under all those feathers is a horse. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

horse parade

Another division of Italian police on horseback. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

cleanup

And wherever there are horses, there’s a cleanup crew not far behind! (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Facing reality: popes have ordinary moments, too

UPDATED Jan. 16: The animated GIF is comprised of a dozen or more still photo frames shot within about 4 seconds. Each was cropped exactly the same. One of these frames is the featured photo. Neither the GIF nor the main photo were taken from video.

VATICAN CITY — Photographers covering the Vatican are witnesses to both the grandeur and ordinariness of the events that unfold here.

In a display of the ordinary, today I shot this unusual frame of Pope Francis as he rubbed his face.

Image

Pope Francis’ expression invites many captions, but he was really just rubbing his face. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He had just finished delivering his blessing at the end of his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience. The 77-year-old pope first rubbed his eyes, then his face. It was essentially the pope’s four seconds of down time before spending the next hour and a half greeting bishops, people with disabilities and many others.

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An animated GIF of Pope Francis taking a breather at the end of his catechesis. (CNS photos/Paul Haring)

My colleagues and I frequently see the pope doing ordinary human things: blowing his nose, taking a drink of water, scratching his face, etc…. We’ll sometimes photograph these moments but usually don’t use them. There is a certain sense of decorum among us — about what is appropriate for public consumption and what should be kept private.

In this case, the photo seemed to convey just how tiring it is to lead an audience and greet so many people outside in winter weather for two and a half hours.

My colleagues at the Rome bureau liked the photo because it showed a certain vulnerability. What do you think?

As a teen, the Holy Father’s father gave talks on the papacy

Undated handout photo of Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio and family members

The future Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, pictured as a young man in the back second from left, and his family (his paternal grandmother, Rosa, and father, Mario, are seated) in this undated photo. (CNS photo/Clarin handout via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Obviously oblivious to the fact that he would have a son who, one day, would become pope, a 17-year-old Mario Bergoglio actually became a sort of informal expert on the papacy, giving two talks on the subject in his native Italy.

An Italian author, Stefano Masino, made that and other interesting discoveries about Pope Francis’ closest relatives when he conducted detailed research in local, national and diocesan archives in Italy. Some of his findings were published today in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Mario, Pope Francis’ father, grew up in the northern Italian city of Asti in the Piedmont region and took an active part in the diocese’s youth group.

In 1925, when he was a 17-year-old high school student, the Diocesan Youth Federation organized a two-month-long series of conferences dedicated to a variety of topics. Some teens were assigned to give talks on the history of Catholic Action; the relationship between prayer, action and sacrifice; and responsible journalism.

Mario Bergoglio was assigned “The Papacy” and was given a very good write-up in the local paper after his talk.

In the paper’s Dec. 12, 1925, edition, the article said:

“Mario Bergoglio, an accounting student, spoke passionately and forcefully — with frequent and apt historical references — on the theme, “The Papacy.” Captivating his audience and receiving their applause, he can surely be counted on for successfully being an ardent proponent of our ideal.”

Three years later, during an annual Father’s Day celebration organized by a Catholic youth association, he also delivered “a most beautiful explanatory speech on the papacy,” heaping high praise on the pope at the time, Pope Pius XI.

Less than a year before he and his parents were set to immigrate to Argentina, he took part in a “Catechist Contest” in 1928, testing — alongside the local bishop — the line-up of contestants.

Pope Francis has often talked very lovingly of his paternal grandmother, Rosa, who taught him how to pray and helped instill in him his great faith in Christ.

But her son — the pope’s father, Mario — also inherited the same sensibility.

In fact, in this book-length series of interviews, the future pope says his father took his decision to become a priest very well, “More than well, he was happy.”

While the pope’s mother, who was also very religious, worried he was acting too hastily, “I definitely knew my father was going to understand me better,” the future pope said.

His father’s mother, Rosa, “was a very strong religious role model for him (for Mario), and he had inherited that religiousness, that fortitude,” he said.

Pope Francis, too, inherited those gifts and, though he “came from the ends of the earth,” didn’t fall far from the Bergoglio’s tree of faith.

Church-state cooperation on the world stage: one nation’s milestone

VATICAN CITY — It seems hard to believe, but it took 117 years for the United States to re-establish full diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

Decades of debate (that are periodically re-ignited) voiced concern that any formal relationship by the U.S. would signal improper government support of religion. The argument against has said that diplomatic ties were inappropriate because the Vatican, though constituted as a civil state, is the Holy See of the Catholic Church.

However, the increased push on the world stage by Blessed John Paul II and his predecessors for peace and human rights played a big role in building a sense of there being common ground and goals between the two countries.

The upgrading of relations with the United States was followed by a big expansion of the diplomatic corps to the Vatican.  Blessed John Paul’s pontificate saw a near-doubling of the number of countries with which the Vatican holds diplomatic relations.

1985 FILE PHOTO OF AMBASSADOR WILSON WITH POPE JOHN PAUL II

The late William A. Wilson was the first U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. He is greeted by Blessed John Paul II at the Vatican in this 1985 file photo. U.S. President Ronald Reagan named Wilson ambassador in 1984 after establishing full diplomatic relations with the Vatican. (CNS photo)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the official resumption of U.S-Vatican relations and we thought we’d dig into our CNS archives to see how we covered that historic moment.

First, the story from Washington covered by the intrepid Jim Lackey: (Click the link for a more readable pdf version: 1CNS_USVaticanRelations)

1CNS_USVaticanRelations

And here’s a look at Vatican reaction from the Rome bureau by John Thavis:

(Click the link for a more readable pdf version:  CNS_USVatican)

CNS_USVatican

A hitchhiker’s guide to the popemobile

VATICAN CITY — With eagle eyesight, Pope Francis spotted him in a crowd of 50,000 people. Or maybe he first recognized the voice — one of dozens screaming “Santo Padre!” “Holy Father!”

Today at his first Wednesday general audience of the new year, Pope Francis plucked a fellow Argentine out of the throng and gave him the ride of his life.

Fr. Fabian Baez

Screen grab of Argentine Father Fabian Baez from Buenos Aires hitching a ride on the popemobile during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 8.

Father Fabian Baez is a parish priest at the Our Lady of the Pillar church in the pope’s former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

He told La Nacion that he shouted “Santo Padre” to get the pope’s attention.

The pope saw the priest, made his driver stop the popemobile and gestured to him to come see him. They waited until the priest could make it past the people in front of him, the large wooden barricade and security.

As you can see in the video, the two hugged warmly, the pope asked if he were by himself and when he said, “Yes,” told him, “Come! Get on!” and take a seat next to the papal assistant.

As the priest clambers on, the pope rightly tells him:  “The picture will go around the world.”

After we asked the Vatican press hall to find out who the then-mystery hitchhiker was, they got back to us not just his name, but that the pope also told his aides that the priest is “a great confessor.”

Father Baez got to ride the whole long way around the square with the pope and then was given special seating at the start of the audience. The two even got to chat briefly at the end of the audience before the pope returned to his residence.

The priest summed up the day best on his Twitter feed:

“I’m going to change my biography. ‘The poor priest who got on the popemobile today with #PopeFrancis’”

If you know Spanish, check out his Twitter feed @paterfabian and his tumblr account paterfabian.tumblr.com

Two popes sending holiday “thank you” messages

Pope receives letter from child as he visits Bambino Gesu children's hospital in Rome

Pope Francis receiving a letter from a child during a visit to the Bambino Gesu children’s hospital in Rome Dec. 21. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — If you sent Pope Francis a card or letter for his birthday, Christmas, and/or the new year, he says, “Thank you!”

Even though he likes to call or write back directly to the people who contact him, he knows he can’t do so for everyone.

So this Sunday he gave a general shout-out and heartfelt thanks to all his well-wishers, saying he received “many messages” over the holidays from all over the world.

“I would love to, but unfortunately it’s impossible to reply to everybody! Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the children for their beautiful drawings. No kidding, they’re really beautiful! Kids make beautiful drawings. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

First of all, I thank the children. And I thank young people, the elderly, families, parishes, religious women, Catholic associations and movements and different groups that wanted to show their affection and closeness. I ask everyone to keep praying for me; I need it, and to pray for this service to the church.”

– Pope Francis’ Angleus address Jan. 5

Pope Benedict also thanked those who took part in a recent initiative that gathered hundreds of greetings and personal reflections, and presented him with a special box of pencils (his preferred writing instrument) to encourage him to keep writing.

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A box of pencils sent to retired Pope Benedict by a group of fans. Photo courtesy of Sonia Swabey.

The “Pencils for Benedict XVI” campaign gathered 479 messages from people worldwide. People were asked to highlight what the pope-emeritus means to them and how he has influenced their lives.

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A hardcover book compiling people’s reflections on Pope Benedict. It was delivered to the retired pope before the holidays. Photo courtesy Sonia Swabey.

The reflections were compiled and published in a hardcover book that was then delivered to the retired pope along with the pencils.

The collection and gifts were organized by UK Web developer Sonia Swabey and her team at their website and forum www.georgganswein.com — a site named in recognition of the retired pope’s personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

Sonia sent me an update saying Pope Benedict replied with a letter asking her to tell people how happy he was with the collected messages.

Here is an excerpt from the retired pope’s letter:

“Time after time it is a great experience of real catholicity to, through these texts, meet people who have been touched by my Petrine ministry and feel strengthened on their way. It is really moving for me how with this the living worldwide church stands concretely before me and speaks to me. By this I may see and feel how faith transcends all boundaries of geography, culture, language and profession and this brings about communion.

… Let them all know how thankful I am for their good words and how in this way a spiritual communion is built up, which carries us all towards the Lord.”

– Retired Pope Benedict to Sonia Swabey

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