Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Papal Transition: The Cardinals Meet The Media

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Media were here early for this historic day, February 28. An ABC producer even helped me find a cappuccino at North American College while waiting for George Stephanopoulos to go up on the roof for his interview with Cardinal Dolan.

Both voting cardinals and  those over 80 left for the Vatican at 10:15 a.m. to say goodbye to Pope Benedict. There’s both a prayerful and excited atmosphere here at this historic moment. I viewed the meeting on CNN, which we have on all the time. We started out looking at BBC but switched to CNN when one of its staffers came in and expressed mock horror at our supposed viewing indiscretion.

CNN asked me to be on their morning program. The set was scaffolding on Via Della Conciliazione. I asked a  reporter what Soledad O’Brien would ask about and he said, “Heck, it’s a morning show. No problem.” So as people were having coffee, Soledad queried me on the sexual abuse crisis. Swallow that with your bagel. I got a ride back to NAC with Christiana Amanpour, who was on her way to NAC to interview Cardinal Dolan in the NAC courtyard.

CNN stayed to cover live our presser at 6:30 p.m. with Cardinals Francis George of Chicago, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sean O’Malley of Boston. Topic was reaction to today’s meeting with the pope. .About 50 media showed up, eight of them cameramen. There were some laughs. When asked how their lives would change when the pope officially resigned at 8 p.m., Cardinal George opined that given the possibilities, seminarians might look at him with more respect than he gets now. Asked who they would recommend to be next pope, Cardinal DiNardo trying to dodge the question, saying, “Cardinal O’Malley” as he passed him the microphone.

Don Clemmer of our media relations office is capturing on camera some behind-the-scene moments. We’re posting them on our Facebook page at In one, you feel like you can hear Cardinal Dolan smile.

We’ve increased Spanish-language services, an effort that Mar Munoz-Visoso is spearheading here. Cardinal O’Malley and Cardinal McCarrick, who are fluent in Spanish, are invaluable in this effort.

We’ll be without power for two hours tomorrow morning, as the college changes from one transformer to another. No lights, no power for the routers, no elevators. I hope that the sun will be bright for our morning meeting with communication directors.

I did get some time to think while waiting an hour for my one-minute CNN moment. I asked for a chair in the sun while I waited and enjoyed a light breeze. It was a perfect Roman experience, reminding me, as Robert Browning wrote, that “God’s in His heaven – All’s right with the world!”


Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director for the USCCB.

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict: On Poverty and the Economy

By Kathy Saile

One of the legacies of Pope Benedict XVI is his teaching on our Christian responsibility to care for poor and vulnerable people with Christian love. Pope Benedict XVI wrote three encyclicals, and two of them were dedicated to the social mission of the Church and our obligation to serve the “least of these:”

- In his first encyclical, God is Love, he wrote….love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word. (DCE 22)

- In his encyclical, Charity in Truth, he wrote…To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.... The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity... (CV 7)

Although Pope Benedict is most known for his scholarly writings, these encyclicals were very pastoral. He wrote them when the world was going through a devastating economic crisis. He identified with those who were suffering and challenged all people of goodwill to rebuild an economy that allows people to live in dignity and to provide for their families. He taught through his preaching and writing that the human person – not the GDP or profits – should be at the center of economic life.

Kathy Saile, MSW is Director of Domestic Social Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy Index

Below is a series of short blogs created by USCCB staff members to reflect on the various aspects of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI:

Kathy Salle - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict: On Poverty and the Economy

Father Juan Molina - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Benedict XVI – Social Justice and the Faith

Cecilia Calvo - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict and the Environment

Ambassador Johnny Young - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Welcome the Stranger

Father John Crossin - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Benedict XVI—On Christian Unity

Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap. - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict XVI – Promoter of Faith and Evangelization

Father Daniel Merz - Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict XVI – Liturgist

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Benedict XVI – Social Justice and the Faith

By Father Juan Molina, OSST

(Photo courtesy Catholic News Service)
Pope Benedict XVI has had a sensitivity to the wide discrepancy between the rich and poor of this world and has urged people to come together to address human needs. He has talked about solidarity among churches and continents, for example. As part of doing so, he has addressed the world’s economic system and urged more ethical action on the part of businesses. He also has talked about environmental issues and made the connection between spirituality and care for the earth.
Among his key concerns are the faith and how Catholics can live their faith in Christ more fully. He holds that non-believers can come to have Faith in Christ if Catholics proclaim it and live it more fully—that the Truth will appeal to people. His efforts to energize Catholics in their relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ have brought him much praise.

He is not without criticism, however. Some have found him too strong in asking the faithful and bishops to stay on what they see as the more conservative side of the Church. Some criticize him for his positions on social issues and others on his positions on ecclesial ones.

He really cannot be pigeon-holed, however. He turned out to be more pastoral than people expected when he was elected in 2005 after decades as head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His first encyclical, Deus caritas est, was about the nature of God and human relationships. He also has worked hard to bring about more transparency and accountability in the Church. 

In the future it is likely that historians will deem him a pope who sought the revival of the faith especially in areas of the world where people no longer believe in anything. This is surely a wonderful and noble contribution.
Father Juan Molina, OSST is director for the Church in Latin America of the National Collections Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Papal Transition: The Media Gathers In Rome

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Our three-person team arrived in Rome this morning amidst a media onslaught. It is challenging to accommodate media who want to interview cardinals and cardinals who still don't know what their schedule will be. Still, they're trying to reach the public through the ubiquitous reporters and commentators. For instance, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington is slated for ABC with George Stephanopoulos ( unless the pope decides he should be elsewhere) on Thursday after the cardinals meet in the Sala Clementina to say their goodbyes to Pope Benedict. NBC interviewed Cardinal Wuerl this morning.

Networks have platforms all around the Vatican. EWTN and NBC sit on the roof of the Augustinianum overlooking St. Peter's Square. The European Broadcast Union has set up shop on scaffolding outside the Vatican Press Office. ABC has a balcony at Holy Spirit Hospital on Borgo Santo Spirito (literally the neighborhood of the Holy Spirit), where they will interview Cardinal William Levada, former head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. CBS, meanwhile, is atop a convent roof a stone’s throw from the colonnade around the Square.

Many cardinals are staying at the North American College on the Janiculum Hill which also boasts a view of St. Peter’s. For some it is old home week. Eight U.S. cardinals are NAC alumni; Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Edwin O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, are past rectors.

Satellite trucks will pull in and out for interviews from NAC, where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Media Relations has set up an office. Catholic News Service’s video operation is filming from here, too. NAC seminarians present an impressive image of the church and are becoming media stars as their local U.S. outlets seek the stories of fellows from back home. The seminarians will likely have studies interrupted a bit but the living history education will stay with them forever. The pontifical universities cancelled classes today so students could attend the Wednesday audience, the last public activity of the pope. An estimated 150,000 persons filled St. Peter’s Square and overflowed down Via della Conciliazione, the broad street leading to St. Peter’s.

Media outlets are pouring resources into this and media pros tell me it is because their readers and viewers like religion stories. It’s always amazed me that, while more people attend church each Sunday than attend professional sports activities, newspapers devote an entire section to sports and barely a dozen column inches to religion regularly.

The time difference between Rome and New York benefits cardinal guests on morning shows. When it is seven a.m. in New York, it is one p.m. in Rome, so cardinal guests are wide awake. At home they have to be up very early to accommodate morning shows. Evening news segments will likely be taped because when it is 6 p.m. in “the city that never sleeps” it’s midnight in the Eternal City.

The story now is Benedict's legacy, but soon will move on to who will succeed him. The prognosticators will be in high gear, the Italian media will run quotes from those who don't know - the more salacious the better - and the Holy Spirit will breathe over all.


Sister Mary Ann Walsh is the director of media relations for the USCCB.

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Pope Benedict and the Environment

By Cecilia Calvo

Pope Benedict XVI is sometimes called the “Green Pope” because of his environmental concerns, which are a hallmark of his papacy. He is not embracing a new cause, but calling Catholics to recover and live out the duty to care for creation that is anchored in Scripture, reflected in the lives of Francis and other saints and articulated in Catholic teaching.

Many may be surprised to learn of the pope’s extensive writings on the environment, including an entire World Day of Peace Message dedicated to this topic, and of his leadership in guiding the Vatican to reduce its carbon footprint. During his papacy, the Vatican installed solar panels on its main auditorium and is taking steps to offset its carbon emissions by participating in a reforestation project. The Pope even has an electric car designed for use inside the Vatican territory at Castel Gandolfo.

Pope Benedict has been most praised for simply bringing the importance of environmental concerns to the public’s attention. He has successfully built upon concerns raised by earlier pontiffs, and has been able to use his high profile to draw the attention of the international community.

Pope Benedict has shown a wonderful ability to articulate how interconnected and integral environmental issues are with other areas. He has woven this concern into many discussions of other topics such as development, the economy and globalization.  The pope is particularly concerned with the preservation of human dignity in the consideration of environmental questions, paying close attention to the needs of those who are poor and vulnerable. In his 2009 Encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth) Pope Benedict reminds us, “The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.”
Cecilia Calvo is the Environmental Justice Program Coordinator at the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Welcome the Stranger

By Ambassador Johnny Young

From his first day in office, Pope Benedict XVI has called on the church and the world to do what the bible has commanded for over two millennia, to welcome the stranger. This theme drives the work of the U.S. bishops Office of Migration and Refugee Services: resettling, providing services to unaccompanied children, working in anti-trafficking, striving for justice for the undocumented. What has mattered most in this outreach to welcome the stranger has been the consistency, resolve, clarity and unwavering moral authority with which the pope has spoken out on this issue through statements, speeches and private audiences. He continually reminds his followers and the world to give dignity and respect in the welcome to the stranger.

A vivid example of his resolve, determination and consistency on this issue is easily seen in remarks he made just prior to his arrival in the U.S. for an official visit in 2008.During the flight, he held a press conference, during which he strongly appealed to the U.S. to be true to its history and not forget its immigrants and to be an generous to them as it had been in the past. His calls of welcome are unending.  His words have been helpful in supporting the work done by the Church in so many ways to welcome the stranger through efforts in anti-trafficking, caring for children, resettling refugees and working for justice the undocumented. These issues affect human dignity and his pronouncements on them have been clear, consistent and inspirational.  His continued leadership on this is needed and will not be forgotten.

Ambassador Johnny Young is director of the Office for Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.