POPE-POURRI: 'Light' news items, anecdotes about Pope Benedict now

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00Wednesday, October 3, 2007 4:46 PM

From the Italian news agencies this morning:

The Osservatore Romano's calendar for 2008 features 13 previously unpublished pictures (cover picture and one for each month) taken during the Holy Father's vacation in Lorenzago di Cadore last July.

According to a Vatican Press Office note, the large format (42 cm X 30 cm, approx 16-1/2" x 12"), the thickness of the paper used, and the fact that the pages are printed only on one side, are intended to make the images suitable for framing afterwards.

The calendar is now on sale for 5 euros at the OR's photo service on Via del Pellegrino and in the bookstores and newsstands around the Vatican.

The calendar may also be ordered from:
Tel: +39.06.698.847.97
Fax: +39.06.698.849.98
e-mail: photo@ossrom.va


P.S. PETRUS now has a photo of the calendar cover.

00Wednesday, October 3, 2007 11:02 PM

Chico the cat
pens Pope's biography

By Malcolm Moore in Rome
The Daily Telegraph

Animated teaser ad from
the santantonio.org site

This story adds some more details about the book. The Telegraph, of course, loves anecdotes and gossip - it was principally responsible for the canard about the Pope's Prada shoes - and Moore doesn't miss the chance to draw a conclusion from the well-known teddy-bear episode!

Pope Benedict XVI’s childhood has been revealed in an authorised biography narrated by his favourite cat, Chico.

The nine-year-old ginger tabby lives next door to the Pope’s holiday home in the small Bavarian village of Panting, and used to spend time with the Pope as he read or played the piano.

The Pope’s love for cats is well known, and he used to feed hordes of strays that congregated outside his apartment when he was a Cardinal.

The biography, Joseph and Chico, is aimed at children and is introduced by Father Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s private secretary, who wrote that “everything in the book is true and interesting”.

He wrote: “Here, dear children, you will find a different sort of biography, because it is told by a cat, and it does not happen every day that a cat considers the Holy Father to be his friend. They have known each other for a long time.”

He added: “The Pope of course loves cats and all animals because they are creatures of God, and often, like Chico, they have lessons for us that are worth learning.”

Father Gänswein even refers to himself in the introduction as an “older brother” to Benedict. [OOPS! Major translation mistake by Moore - Gaenswein was referring to the Pope's brother, saying he, Georg Gaenswein, has the same first name as the Pope's older brother! See earlier story two posts above.]

The Pope has not seen Chico for two years, despite visiting Pentling on his trip to Germany. The papal entourage were said to have created so much noise that the cat was frightened off.

Jeanne Perego, the author of the book, said she decided on a feline narrator to capture the imagination.

“If I had just told his life story, it would have been boring,” she said.

“He has, after all, lived a fairly calm life, with the exception of his time during the war. The cat was the key.”

The book paints a portrait of a fractious child.
[On the basis of something that happened when he was two years old? All children throw tantrums once in a while! But watch this interpretation take its place in the MSM mythology on the Pope!]

“There was a time just before Christmas when he noticed that the teddy bear he wanted had vanished from the shop window. 'Where is my teddy bear - I want it!’, shrieked Joseph, stomping his feet in front of the window.”

The episode concludes with the revelation that his parents had already bought him the bear.

The book also touches on the Pope’s encounter with Nazism during the war: “During that time he discovered fear. When the war finished, he found himself in a prisoner of war camp, forced to live in the open with a piece of bread and a spoonful of soup a day.”

His desire to enter the Church is revealed when, at three years old, he saw the shiny black limousine, red silk robes and gold ring of a Cardinal.

“He said: 'I am going to be a Cardinal when I grow up too!’” the cat wrote.

Previous popes have also been animal lovers: Pope Leo XII had a dog and a cat, while Pius XII kept caged birds and a goldfish called Gretchen. [A goldfish?!? Named Gretchen yet! I read the birds were goldfinches, not that there was a goldfish!]


Chico is now the world's most famous pet - more so than Millie, the older Barbara Bush's dog who 'wrote' two best-sellers in her day.

And now Chico's on the international wires. The ff Reuters story, with an illustration from the book, was the teaser even for the 'Europe' section of Yahoo's International News:

Cat tells life story
of his "best friend" the Pope

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Chico the cat describes the life of his "best friend", Pope Benedict, in an authorised biography for children released this week.

"Dear Children, here you will find a biography that is different to others because it is told by a cat and it is not every day a cat can consider the Holy Father his friend and sit down to write his life story," the Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, says in the foreword.

"Chico and Joseph -- A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI" is narrated by Chico who took up with the Pope in his native Germany when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The illustrated 44-page book is written by Italian author Jeanne Perego and set mostly in Germany in the years before Benedict was elected in April 2005.

Chico is a real cat who belongs to a German couple in the German city of Pentling, where the Pope lived until he moved to Rome in 1981. The couple are caretakers of the house where Ratzinger had hoped to retire had he not been elected Pope.

Chico tells the story of the life of "my best friend" from his birth in Germany in 1927, through his days as a young man, priest, bishop and cardinal. It ends with his election as Pope on April 19, 2005.

recounts the Nazi era in Germany when the Pope was a teenager, calling the war years "one of the most dramatic and shameful times in the history of man".

"At that time, Joseph was forced to do something which was absolutely against his will: john the army and leave for the war. We cats do not make war," Chico narrates.

Chico recounts how each time then Cardinal Ratzinger returned to Germany for a vacation, the cat would run into his house and sit on his lap as he played the piano.

One Christmas, when the future pope tried to put the cat out of the house "I misbehaved" and scratched him. "He forgave me right away but told me: 'Don't do it again".

In his foreword Ganswein tells the children: "Keep in mind that the cat is writing from his point of view. At the end of the day he is a cat, even if he is a cat who is a friend."

During the years when he was a cardinal in Rome, the future Pope befriended another cat he found on the street and kept him in his apartment until he was elected pope.

There have been conflicting reports about whether that cat moved into the Vatican with the Pope.

On Bloomberg News, whose reporter mistakenly identifies Chico as belonging to the Pope:

Pope's Cat Tells Benedict XVI's Story,
From Birth to Pontiff

By Flavia Krause-Jackson

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) - Chico, Pope Benedict XVI's nine-year-old ginger Siamese cat, has published a tell-all book for children about the life of Joseph Ratzinger, from his childhood in Nazi Germany to his election as supreme pontiff in 2005.

``The story of my friend starts on April 16, 1927 on a very cold night,'' begins the tongue-in-cheek biography of Chico's master, told from the point of view of his favorite pet by German author Jeanne Perego.

``Joseph and Chico'' (Edizione Messaggero Padova) has papal authorization and includes a foreword by Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's personal secretary since 2003.

``Here, dear children, you will find a biography very different to the others because telling the story is a cat -- and it's not every day that a cat can call the Holy Father his friend and write his story.''

Chico, who confesses to having scratched Benedict's face one Christmas, tells his readers how he knew the pope was feline-friendly after spotting a sculpture of a cat in the garden. If it had been one of a dog ``I would have thought twice before setting a paw'' there, he says.

In the Times of London, Richard Owen even gets a byline for a three-paragraph rehash of the preceding ones:

October 4, 2007
A cat’s eye view of the Pope’s life
By Richard Owen

ROME - A children’s book telling the story of the life of Pope Benedict XVI through the eyes of a Bavarian cat will be published in Italy next week.

Joseph and Chico, by Jeanne Perego, features Chico, a cat belonging to Rupert and Therese Hofbauer, the Pope’s former neighbours in the village of Pentling, where he once taught theology. [Properly speaking, he taught in Regensburg; Pentling is a suburb.] The story imagines the cat visiting Rome for the Pope’s election two years ago.

Ms Perego said that the Pope had “always made a great fuss of Chico” but that he had not seen the cat since his election.

The Russian agency Novosti adds some relevant data of its own to the story:

Pope's cat to tell his master's life in book

Rome, Oct 4 (RIA Novosti) A nine-year-old ginger Siamese cat, Chico, will narrate the biography of his master, Pope Benedict XVI, in a book, an Italian publishing house spokeswoman said.

'The book will be released next week,' she said Wednesday.

The book's author, Jeanne Perego, said the book, 'Joseph and Chico', was intended as a children's book, which describes the Pontiff's life, from his birth until his election as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perego said she has never met Benedict XVI, but always wanted to write a book about him, as, in her opinion, he is an example of diligence, tenacity and sobriety.

In the foreword, Father Georg, the Pontiff's secretary, says: 'Here, dear children, you will find a biography very different to others because telling the story is a cat - and it's not every day that a cat can call the Holy Father his friend and write his story.

'They have known each other for years and the things Chico has to say are truly interesting - obviously bearing in mind that his point of view is that of a cat,' he adds.

Books written by pets are nothing new in literature. 'Connie's Stories', published in 2005, is the tale of Putin's dog, a black Labrador retriever named Connie. The 60-page brochure in English was printed by Detskaya Literatura, a publisher of Soviet children's tales about Granddad Lenin's kindly deeds.

The Scotsman plays on the UK media's obsession with the Pope's "Nazi past" in an extended story:

The truth about how the Pope
joined the Hitler Youth,
by Chico the cat

By NICK PISA in Rome

POPE Benedict XVI's early life has been laid bare in an authorised biography narrated by his favourite pet cat, Chico.

Aimed at children, the book, entitled Joseph and Chico, even has a preface written by Pope Benedict's secretary, Father Georg Ganswein - a further ringing endorsement.

The book details his early life in Bavaria as Joseph Ratzinger, a trainee priest, and ends with his election as leader of the Roman Catholic Church in April 2005. It also tells of his time fighting as a young man in the German army late in the Second World War.

In the foreword, Fr Ganswein writes: "Joseph and Chico, that's the title of the book you are about to read, a book which will tell the life story of a unique person in the world - the Holy Father.

"But here, dear children, you will find a biography very different to others, because telling the story is a cat and it's not every day that a cat can call the Holy Father his friend and write his story.

"They have known each other for years and the things Chico has to say are truly interesting, obviously bearing in mind that his point of view is that of a cat."

The nine-year-old ginger tom divides its time between the Papal apartments in the Vatican City and the Pope's native Germany. [Whoa! Not fact at all!]

Chico tells of Pope Benedict's controversial membership of the Hitler Youth and his involvement with the German army.

He recalls: "While Joseph and Georg [the Pope's elder brother] near their future in the Church, a tragedy is developing in Germany that will shake the world.

"I am talking about Nazism, one of the most dramatic and shameful moments in the history of Man.

"In that period Joseph [Pope Benedict] was forced to do something completely against his will: enter the army and leave for war. First Joseph was sent to defend a factory making aeroplane motors, then he had to prepare barricades in case of an attack by tanks.

"When the war ended, he found himself in a prisoner of war camp along with 50,000 prisoners, forced to live in the open with just a piece of bread and soup a day.''

Yesterday, the author Jeanne Perego said: "When Pope Benedict was elected I was in Germany and I had an idea to write on the origins of his life. It's a biography of his life for children.

"What I needed to convey to younger readers was something they could associate with, so I had the idea of Chico, the Pope's cat - and I even met him. He's a lovely ginger tom."

The current Pontiff has porcelain statues of cats dotted around his home in the Vatican.

The 44-page book costs 12 and is out next week in bookshops in Italy. The publishers may later release it worldwide.

Of the death of Pope John Paul II and Benedict's election, Chico says: "On the 2 April, 2005 Pope John Paul died. The pain for Joseph was immense because he not only lost his best friend but his boss."

A spokeswoman for the publisher, Padua-based Messaggero di Sant'Antonio, said: "It's a highly original way to provide a biography of the Pope's life.

"Pope Benedict has approved of it and read the text, otherwise his personal assistant, Father Georg, would not have written the foreword."

The newspaper adds this backgrounder:


FOLLOWING his 14th birthday in 1941, Joseph Ratzinger was enrolled in the Hitler Youth - membership being legally required after December 1939 - but was apparently an unenthusiastic member.

His father was a bitter enemy of Nazism, believing it conflicted with the Catholic faith.

At around the same time in 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down's syndrome, was killed by the Nazi regime in its campaign of eugenics.

In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft corps. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigours of military duty. [Not fact! He had an infected thumb which could have been fatal if untreated, but his military unit did what it was assigned to do - anti-aircraft defense.]

As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household.

As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but released a few months later at the end of the war in summer 1945.

AP was a latecomer to the wire derby:

Chico the cat tells pope's life story

ROME, Oct. 4 (AP) - The story of Pope Benedict XVI's life — from his birth in Germany to his election as pontiff — is told through the eyes of a tabby cat called Chico in a new children's book.

In "Joseph and Chico: A Cat Recounts the Life of Pope Benedict XVI," the orange tabby cat tells readers the pope is "my dearest friend, a wonderful man with whom I've spent many happy moments."

He recounts Benedict's childhood and his passion for reading and playing the piano. The books depicts the future pope's early steps in the Catholic Church, from when he entered a seminary in 1939 to his ordination as a priest in 1951.

The book will hit Italian bookstores on Monday.

The feline narrator is inspired by a real orange tabby cat in Pentling — the German town where the pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, lived for a period before moving to Rome in 1981 — that belonged to the family next door.

"I can assure you that what you will find in this book ... is all true and interesting," Benedict's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, says in the preface of the book.

The 44-page book also touches on the Nazi era, when a teenaged Ratzinger enrolled in the Hitler Youth. "In that period, Joseph was forced to do something that absolutely went against his will: enroll in the Army and leave for war," it says.

The pope eventually deserted without seeing combat and was taken prisoner by U.S. forces before being released several weeks later.

The biography ends with Pope John Paul II's funeral and Benedict's election to the pontificate on in April 2005. "Now Joseph Ratzinger is not only my friend, but the great friend and leader of all Catholics," Chico says.

Benedict is known to like cats. Before he became pope, he looked after stray cats in his old neighborhood near the Vatican.

The book, written in Italian by Jeanne Perego and illustrated by Donata Dal Molin Casagrande, will go on sale Monday, publishing house Edizioni Messaggero Padova said. The publisher will negotiate international rights at the Frankfurt Book Fair next week.

00Friday, October 5, 2007 8:53 PM
Pope's book passes 2 million in sales

Rome, Oct. 5, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Jesus of Nazareth, the new book by Pope Benedict XVI , has already sold more than 2 million copies, the official Vatican publisher has announced.

Jesus of Nazareth has been printed in 15 different languages, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana reports. The Vatican publishing house, which holds the rights to the Pope's written work, made an agreement with the Italian Rizzoli house to market the book in that country. In Germany the Pope's book is published by Herder Verlag; in the US, by Doubleday.

I apologize - I could have posted this item yesterday, because it comes at the end of an interview about various things by Angela Ambrogetti of PETRUS with the director of the Vatican Publishing House.

I hesitated to jump on it because the figure of 2 million for 15 editions seemed to me too low, if the first five editions had already sold 1.5 million copies five weeks after initial publication - especially considering that the Spanish edition alone which came out in September has already sold 200,000.

Not knowing what the other languages the other 9 editions are in, the difference of 300,000 divided by 9 wokrs out to an average of about 33,000 sold in each of these other editions

00Friday, October 5, 2007 9:58 PM
Extreme makeover:
Vatican newspaper's survival
depends on its revival

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 5 (CNS) -- The recent change at the helm of the Vatican newspaper marks an effort to revive a publication that has gone from glory days to malaise.

Founded 146 years ago, the daily L'Osservatore Romano once had a circulation of more than 60,000 and was considered a rich source of ecclesial news and critical commentary.

Today, the paper sells only a few thousand copies - on a good day. With few advertisements and more than 100 employees, it loses about $6 million a year.

In early October, Pope Benedict named Giovanni Maria Vian, a 55-year-old church historian and commentator, to replace Mario Agnes, 76, as the newspaper's director. A new vice director also was named, adding to the expectation that L'Osservatore will get a serious makeover.

The newspaper functions in part as an official organ of information, publishing every word the pope says or writes, often under eight-column banner headlines like the recent: "Communion Favors Missionary Dynamism."

The photo below the headline showed the pope addressing five bishops in a dimly lit room.

Some 46 years ago, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini - who later became Pope Paul VI - lamented that L'Osservatore's grey pages and drab content were unlikely to grab the attention of an average newspaper reader.

He pointed out that there was no coverage of theater, sports, finance, fashion or criminal trials, and no comics or puzzles. Even the news stories, he said, were so sanitized that they seemed designed to shelter the reader from any distress or thrill and instead "train him in serenity and good mental hygiene."

Cardinal Montini's remarkably candid article, recently resurrected in the Web log, or blog, of Italian reporter Sandro Magister, was printed in L'Osservatore on its 100th anniversary in 1961. It was a rare act of self-criticism.

The daily newspaper hasn't changed much since those days, except for losing more circulation. It is published in Italian (except for original-language versions of papal speeches and documents) and its pages are overloaded with Italian news.

Although a recent full-page ad showed Pope Benedict reading the newspaper, he would no doubt learn more about world events by reading the daily press summary prepared by the Secretariat of State.

There are two groups of professionals who pore over the pages of L'Osservatore with special interest, however: diplomats and journalists.

Diplomats read the paper for telltale indications of political shifts on global issues. The lead paragraphs of international news stories, for example, can reflect high-level input from the Vatican's foreign policy experts. Or maybe not - that's the problem.

In 2002, for example, an Israeli diplomat was shocked to read a L'Osservatore article that described Israeli incursions in the Palestinian territories as "an aggression that is turning into extermination."

After quietly consulting with the Secretariat of State, the diplomat concluded that in this case the newspaper and the Vatican's foreign policy experts were not on the same page.

Journalists read the newspaper for news, also presuming that the Vatican newspaper speaks for the Vatican.

In the 1990s, a diminutive Franciscan, Father Gino Concetti, churned out frequent commentaries on hot topics like abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, artificial procreation and capital punishment.

Journalists reported on them, and their articles often began, "The Vatican today condemned ... " That once prompted Father Concetti to remark with a laugh, "I am not the Vatican's moral voice."

When the newspaper does want to emphasize that it speaks with the authority of high Vatican officials, it has a code: three asterisks at the bottom of the article.

The confusion over which articles reflect input from "on high" was addressed by Cardinal Montini back in 1961. He said there was constant doubt about the weight that can be attributed to news stories and commentaries. Some readers, he said, presume a "halo of reverence" around everything printed in L'Osservatore.

The newspaper's new director, who takes office at the end of October, doesn't want to talk about his plans yet. But many expect him to revamp L'Osservatore, shifting the focus from Italian to international events, making the paper more colorful and user friendly, and launching an expanded Web site.

The idea is to make better use of L'Osservatore's position at the center of the universal church and its potentially rich network of sources.

Naturally, L'Osservatore Romano is not trying to remake itself as a typical Italian daily. The new management team knows the newspaper always will be an instrument of formation as well as information - but only if people read it.


Translation note: This item refers to Vian as the newspaper's new 'director', translating the Italian word 'direttore' to its English cognate 'director.'

However, every Italian-English dictionary - not to mention common sense - translates 'direttore', when used to refer to someone who runs a newspaper, as 'editor(-in-chief)'. All my translations referring to the editorial changes at the OR have consistently used the word 'editor in chief' for Vian and deputy editor for his 'vice-direttore', Carlo Di Cicco. Similarly, I have always referred to Magdi Allam as deputy editor (vice-direttore) of Corriere della Sera.

00Saturday, October 6, 2007 12:53 AM

And here he is, the world's most famous cat, photographed in Pentling,
from Repubblica's photogallery! Thanks to Lella for the lead:

The photographs were taken this week in Pentling. Therese Hofbauer is shown petting Chico,
and of course, the cat is photographed with Papai's house in the background. Now, why
didn't they think of taking a picture of him by the cat sculpture in the garden?

AP also took this photo of author Jeanne Perego outside her home
in Landshut, Bavaria. Obviously, she still did not have an actual
copy of the book, as she is photographed with the Messaggero
magazine cover only.

00Saturday, October 6, 2007 3:29 AM

What a cat!

Lovely cat, obviously highly literate and an excellent judge of character. Thanks Teresa for the photos. He looks just like the book cover. When is the book coming out in English? I plan to be first in line at the bookstore. Does Chico do autographs?

00Saturday, October 6, 2007 5:05 AM
Chico the Author
My guess, Benefan, is that Chico would do paw-tographs!
So corny ...

[SM=g27827] [SM=g27827] [SM=g27827]


PAW-TOGRAPHS! Very clever, Papabear!!!
Could apply both to Chico's writing and his p(h)aw-tos!

00Saturday, October 6, 2007 9:35 PM

Translation from an Avvenire interview with the new ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, Antonio Zanardi Iandi, after he presented his credentials to the Holy Father on Thursday:

The question may not be quite diplomatic, but may I ask you what was your impression on meeting Benedict XVI in person?

To take part in one of the most solemn ceremonial rituals that exist in the world is always something surprising, I cannot deny that. But through all of it, what really struck me was the Pope's great simplicity, his warm and encouraging manner which places his interlocutor completely at ease, and the way he ineracts with children. Like when he told my daughter, whose name is Benedetta, "But you know, of course, that we share the same name?"

Benedetto and Benedetta.

00Sunday, October 7, 2007 1:41 AM
Italian donors to provide Vatican Christmas tree for 2007

Rome, Oct. 5, 2007 (CWNews.com) - The Italian region of Val Badia, in the Dolomite Mountains, will donate this year's Christmas tree for the Vatican.

Each year the Vatican accepts a giant fir tree from a different European region, to be set up in St. Peter's Square at Christmas time. Last year the tree came from the Italian region of Calabria, the previous year from Austria.

In addition to the immense tree that is illuminated in St. Peter's Square, the donors supply 50 other smaller trees to decorate the Vatican, including five for the papal apartments and one for the Vatican Museums.


Interesting! The Dolomites 'hosted' Papi on his summer vacation this year, obviously, and now, his Christmas trees will be coming from the same region. I checked the map - Val Badia is a ski resort not far from Cortina (Italy's most fashionable resort, near Lorenzago) but already in a different province (Alto-Adige).

00Monday, October 8, 2007 7:09 PM

Sandro Magister's Oct. 5 blog, translated here, informs us that the Italian premiere of the Mass for Benedict XVI, TU ES PETRUS, reported in this thread last week, will be part of this year's International Festival of Sacred Music and Art. I am also posting this item in the MUSC NOTES thread.:

The sixth edition of the International Festival of Sacred Music and Art will take place in Rome from October 10-14, with the events to take place within the four papal basilicas - St.{Peter's St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Paul outside the Walls.

The Vienna Philharmonic has now become a fixture of the festival. This year, it will present Verdi's Requiem Mass, under the baton of Daniele Gatti, and the participation of the Choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the following soloists: Fiorenza Cedolins, soprano; Dolora Zajick, mezzosoprano; Fabio Sartori, tenor; and Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass. This event will take place in the evening of October 11 at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls.

On October 12, Vincent Dumestre will conduct a concert of early 17th-century sacred music from Milan.

On October 12, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, under Ton Koopman, will perform Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B-minor at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

But this year's festival will open with the Italian premiere of the first Mass composed for a Pope since the 19th century: Wolfgang Seifen's Mass, TU ES PETRUS, composed for Pope Benedict's 80th birthday last April. Archbishop Angelo Comastri will celebrate the Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at 5 p.m. om Wednesday, October 10. (Seifen is a noted organist and choir master from Berlin).

The annual Festivals are under the sponsorship of the Fondazione Pro Musica e Arte Sacra, under Hans Albert Courtial, together with Daimler Chrysler Italy. The festivals raise funds to finance the restoration of selected churches and other sacred monuments.

This year, the target work is the complete restoration of the Valerian Mausoleums in the ancient Roman necropolis underneath St. Peter's Basilica.

For more information about the festival, its site is at

Wednesday October 10, 2007 - 17:00

Wolfgang Seifen, Missa Solemnis "Tu es Petrus"
for choir, orchestra and organ
Solemn Holy Mass dedicated to His Holiness Benedict XVI

Symphonisches Orchester der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Humboldts Studentische Philharmonie
Humboldts Philharmonischer Chor
Constantin Alex, conductor

Tu es Petrus: a taste of something new, a contemporary sacred mass dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict is indeed the Petrus of our time. The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei: the catholic liturgy enriched by music, today, as it was in the past. A truly auspicious gesture for art and the Church.

Five prayer stations along the Eucharistic Sacrifice leading towards communion, bringing us in union with God, performed in the most solemn of settings, the Basilica of St Peter. Stately ceremonial music composed for large orchestral forces, choir and organ, the instrument that does most justice to the liturgy. The Mass, dedicated to the 80th birthday of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, is a momentous celebration. Each element contributes to an artistic and cultural event of profound spiritual and religious significance to be embraced with joyous celebration and humble wonderment.

The work, composed by the fifty one year old German composer, distinguished organist and choir director, Wolfgang Seifen, displays total fidelity to the sacred text. It is an outpouring of the religious nobility of the catholic liturgy, a discourse on the mystery that elevates the prayers of the Mass to music and chants. The church pays thanks, the artists pay homage and men of faith gather to listen.

Thursday October 11, 2007 - 21:00

Giuseppe Verdi, Messa da Requiem

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Rome
Fiorenza Cedolins, soprano
Dolora Zajick, mezzosoprano
Fabio Sartori, tenor
Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass

Daniele Gatti, conductor

An immense masterpiece of vast proportions, an uninhibited and bold proclamation that consumed all the creative energy of the composer whose music conveys austere recollections through a highly personal stylistic vocabulary.

In his Messa da Requiem, Verdi exerts a very subjective interpretation of religion, in which apocalyptic visions of the last judgement are alternated with the soul's retreat in front of the omnipotence of God. It is the drama, and a theatrical drama at that for Verdi, faced by the souls of the departed when confronted with Eternal life as they wait for the final judgement. A drama that is moulded, indeed almost sculpted, as the most consummate of sacred works: it is "music of massive proportions" as described by the musicologist Franco Abbiati "rich in melodic lines and true-to-life evocations".

Ringing through this seven movement work, each one a portrayal of the "immense Christian tragedy" is the Dies irae, resounding within the vast expanses of the Christian Temple built in memory of Paul the Apostle. During his life he was the very incarnation of the tragedy we speak of: he became a disciple and apostle of Christ whose death redeemed us from sin. Libera me Domine is intoned by the soprano in the closing bars of this masterpiece: free me from earthly bonds and sin so that I may be free to rejoice in the infinite joy of the Lux aeterna.

Friday October 12, 2007 - 21:00

Nova Metamorfosi -
Musica Sacra a Milano nel primo Seicento

Le Poème Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre, conductor

A quest for rapturous ecstasy so that we may see with our eyes the golden wonders of art and hear with our ears the sweet melodies of Paradise, already here on earth. Everything, including our senses, works towards glorifying the Almighty, as do our souls, both pure and unguarded, rejoicing in this glory. The reactionary rigour of the music spurns all that is worldly and mundane transforms it into something sacred. Homophonic music that reigns supreme in the earthly and heavenly courts expunges any hint of sensual pleasure.

Yet it is almost by stealth that the music's refined and genteel ornamentation, so rich in invention, engages us; it is an understated prelude to the splendours and freedom of expression of the baroque. The temporal madrigal is put to one side, yet its spirit still lingers; its character changed, very much like the mortals in the Metamorphoses by Ovid. The senses are stripped of all pleasures and earthly vices as we reach up towards God and in doing so experience the purest of pleasures. The voices and instruments resound in unison in a meditative, noble and solemn proclamation.

Saturday October 13, 2007 - 21:00

Johann Sebastian Bach, Mass in B minor, BWV 232

The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir
Marieke Steenhoek, soprano
Iestyn Davies, countertenor
Jörg Dürmüller, tenore
Klaus Mertens, bass

Ton Koopman, conductor

St John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome, "is very well worth a Mass": particularly when it comes to a great timeless and universal monument of music. A monument "aere perennius", one that is more lasting than bronze, as indeed are Ovid's Odes. Johann Sebastian Bach's colossal B minor Mass, was this magnificent and august ode not composed in tribute to the mystery and glory of God? A sublimely holy, sacred work of rigour and complexity in whose intricacy we escape to a fantasy of self indulgent pleasure that evokes feelings of profound emotion.

The architecture of the music is literally a representation of a Christian basilica: the Credo, the "symbol of faith" is the central nave, the doctrinal heart that branches out to the chapels, the mysteries of the faith and liturgical actions. Bach's Mass incorporates the ordinary of the mass, the set of texts of the Church, each glorified by the music and voices and each contributing to the creative wholeness of the music.

An exacting symmetry and symbolic language infuse the music of Bach: ancient techniques and style alternate with modern expression much like a Basilica housing a collection of works of art torn between the past and present. This choral fugue reaching towards the Almighty is an act of exaltation and one from which the listener emerges exhilarated and ecstatic. Stricken with awe and freed from earthly suffering, he remains enraptured by extraordinary beauty shrouded in mystery.

00Tuesday, October 9, 2007 6:38 PM
A homage for the Pope
on his visit to Naples

by Donatella Trotta

'Come to us', a large portrait (3.6 meters by 3 meters) of Benedict XVI painted by artist Gianni Pisani for the Pope's coming visit to Naples, is ready.

The painter said he finished the job in a record two months and hopes to present it to Cardinal Cresencio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples,
to give to the Pope, "because the cardinal represents the Church in our diocese and he has surprised me with his enormous charitable commitment, his work for the poor of Naples and his evident affection for this city since he was appointed here."

Pisani says he undertook the portrait because of 'an interior need' to do so. It shows the Pope in white with his arms raised - as in greeting or in prayer - with the city's Piazza Plebiscito [where the Holy Father will celebrate Mass on Oct. 21], metaphorically empty, in the background.

The Piazza in the painting is even devoid of its equestrian statues, but instead, nestled next to the Pontiff's right foot is a plump white cat, with bright green eyes echoing the emeralds in the Pope's pectoral cross.

Pisani recounts how he came to add the cat:

"Two days after Il Mattino came out on July 31 with the news that I was working on a portrait of the Pope, I received a visit from a priest sent by the Vatican to check on the story. I welcomed him with some surprise, we got settled and started discussing the work.

"At one point, the priest said, 'Do you know that after Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, one of the things that concerned him was how to manage the transfer of his two beloved cats?'

"I thought of my own cats and penguins in another room, and then I was surprised by the priest's next words: "I must ask you a great favor, Maestro. If you can, please include a cat in the portrait.'

"So I immediately started to rethink my sketch and its composition - gladly giving up the horse statues - and made room for a cat, who is modelled after my own Cinco [five], thus accommodating the request."

Curial sources in Naples say the portrait will most likely be installed at the Major Seminary on Colle Aminei, where the Pope will be having lunch on Oct. 21 with delegation leaders to the 21st inter-Religious Prayer Encounter for Peace.

Pisani himself would prefer the Church of San Francesco di Paola. "I would feel the same joy as I did parting with the Madonna I painted for the Basilica of Sanita."

He is already preparing for his next exhibition on November 23 called "Travel', which will feature the artist's 50 paintings and sculptures from the past two years that show the artist's existential and artistic itinerary.

Il Mattino, 7 ottobre 2007


I have been unable to find quickly an English account about Pisani, but I gather from the first Italian items I have googled that he is Naples's leading contemporary artist. He was born in 1935, started his artistic career in 1953 after studying at the Naples Academy of Fine Arts (of which he came the director, from 1984-1998), and spent his first 20 years executing conceptual art much influenced by surrealism and the post-cubist deconstructionism.

He has since apparently evolved a style that is more objetively representative, and I found online an article with pictures of an exhibit he held in February 2002 at the 14th century Basilica of Santa Chiara in Naples entitled "Via Crucis-Via Lucis" - 16 canvases on the Stations of the Cross and the Resurrection. The exhibit was introduced by Archbishop Bruno Forte, who comes from Naples.

He has painted cats before. By chance, this was
one of the first Pisani paintings I saw online.

Keep your fingers crossed about the B16 portrait!

00Thursday, October 11, 2007 12:15 AM
Joseph and Chico
All the stories about the Chico book have brought a lump to my throat. Thank you, Teresa, for posting the stories and those superb photos of Chico himself.
But, I can't place my order for the book. You have to give the name of your Italian province and, without that, the page won't let you order.

Ideas, anyone????????
We can try to buy it in Rome.....but what if we don't see it?

I get myself in a state, especially where animal books are concerned.

Luff, Mary x [SM=g27811]
00Thursday, October 11, 2007 2:45 AM

Papa and Chico book

Does anybody know whether the book is coming out in other languages and, if so, when and who is publishing it? If anybody at the Vatican is reading this or if Chico is, can you post that information for us and let us know how to place an order? Thanks. [SM=g27823]

@Andrea M.@
00Thursday, October 11, 2007 7:12 AM
benefan, 11.10.2007 02:45:

Papa and Chico book

Does anybody know whether the book is coming out in other languages and, if so, when and who is publishing it? If anybody at the Vatican is reading this or if Chico is, can you post that information for us and let us know how to place an order? Thanks. [SM=g27823]

Dear benefan,

I think I read in some English-language article or somewhere else that the publisher would be negotiating international rights during the "Frankfurt Book Fair" which is held this week.

So let us keep our fingers crossed that it will come out in other languages, too.

maryjos, 11.10.2007 00:15:

All the stories about the Chico book have brought a lump to my throat. Thank you, Teresa, for posting the stories and those superb photos of Chico himself.
But, I can't place my order for the book. You have to give the name of your Italian province and, without that, the page won't let you order.

Ideas, anyone????????
We can try to buy it in Rome.....but what if we don't see it?

I get myself in a state, especially where animal books are concerned.

Luff, Mary x [SM=g27811]

Dear Mary,

I would suggest that you send them a "normal" email, rather than using the form. Try this address: emp@santantonio.org and let us know if you were successful.

00Thursday, October 11, 2007 2:25 PM

These came out in Il Messaggero, while the 'cover' picture is from PETRUS:





00Thursday, October 11, 2007 11:29 PM
Thank you!
Dear Andrea, Thank you. I'll try e-mailing them. I can hardly believe they would restrict sales to Italy.
And it looks hopeful regarding an English translation!

Lovely pics from the new calendar. Now, I DO think we'll be able to buy that in Rome.

I'm so thrilled about the Joseph and Chico book. As a cat lover, it really made my day yesterday - and I told Sixpence, my cat, all about it. She agreed with me that it would help to have an English version! She was also surprised that a German cat wrote a book in Italian!!
[SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828]
00Friday, October 12, 2007 2:43 AM

In the German section, Jil posted this 'cute' item from express.de,
dated 10/1/07, translated here:

Sieglinde in the kitchen at Castel Gandolfo.

Erkelenz – Sieglinde Wolf is famous for her sweets. In her family, among her friends. And since this summer, even with Pope Benedict XVI.

Who had Sieglinde at Castel Gandolfo for five weeks as his personal baker! Saturdays, to make tiramisu, Sundays apple or cheese cake, Frankfurt Kranz [a ring cake?] or tiramisu.

One can say the 70-year-old lady from Ekelenz led the Pope into temptation for five weeks, and he did not resist.

"The Pope is really a nibbler", she says. [The German word is Naschkatze, literally a 'snack cat']"And my cakes apparently tasted excellent to him."

How did she get the job? "Rosi, a work colleague of my daughter has an aunt who is a nun, and has been cooking for years in the Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. When someone dropped out [from the kitchen crew, obviously], Rosi asked me if I could fill in, and of course, i said yes right away."

It was to her advantage that she is 70, because young women are usually not employed in the Papal household in order not to distract the Swiss Guards!

Sieglinde left for Italy by train on July 24, bringing with her a suitcase full of bakers' aids and ingredients. "It's not easy to get some things like shaved almonds, for instance, in Italy," she says.

At Castel Gandolfo, she also took care of the Swiss Guard's meals. And daily, at lunchtime around 1:30, Sieglinde chatted with the Pope. Besides, " His balcony is catercorner to ours, and we could always wave. The Holy Father is very relaxed!"

Benedict's summer stay in Castel Gandolfo has ended and he has returned to the Vatican. Sieglinde Wolf too is back home.

"I would love to bake for him again next year. Maybe this time, I can sit down to coffee with him."

00Friday, October 12, 2007 3:50 AM
Joseph and Chico, cont.

Thanks, Andrea, for the information on the new book. I, like Mary's cat, Sixpence, wonder why a German cat chose to write its first book (I'm sure there will be a sequel) in Italian. I would imagine that at the Frankfurt Book Fair there will be some announcement about a German edition and eventually an English version.

Andrea, if you hear anything about that, please let us know. I would like to get information on how to order it in both languages.

The Calendar

What can one say? He is so papally cute! Looking at photos like that of him is like overdosing on sugar.

00Sunday, October 14, 2007 3:43 PM
Strangely, it is from Beatrice's site benoit-et-moi.fr/
that this post come from - an unusual 8-page spread in the current issue of the Italian Diva e Donna magazine. While none of it may be news to Benaddicts, it provides a general audience with much that may be new and unfamiliar to them about Benedict XVI.

The article is by Giuseppe Di Carli, head of RAI state TV's Vatican bureau, who produced and hosted RAI's 80th birthday documentary on the Pope, from which most of the photos shown are taken. He writes about how the documentary came to be done and the unprecedented privilege of filming daily life in the papal apartments. In the process, he gives background information about Mosnignors Georg and Mietek, the 4 Memores Domini sisters and valet Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's factotum.

Let me quote, in translation, the final paragraphs of Di Carli's article, which contains a little surprise:

At 4:30 p.m., the third floor of the Apostolic Palace empties out. Only the two secretaries and the 4 Memores sisters remain. Ratzinger lives in near-monastic solitude, like St. Benedict.

Also leaving at this time is the Dottoressa Ingrid Stampa, the Pope's 'sub-secretary', official translator from German of the Pope's addresses and his most important works, such as JESUS OF NAZARETH. Also the only one in the Vatican who can enter the Pope's office without having to be announced beforehand...

Jospeh Ratzinger does not have the physical impetuosity of Karol Wojtyla. But his fascination impresses itself slowly, inexorably.

His words are not said for effect. They are written in stone.

This is a man enamoured of the truth who has never deigned to compromise. A shy man on the world stage. A Pope who never ceases to surprise.

I lifted TWO of the photos from the page-size enlargement - First, the Pope reviewing
his Angelus message, while a TV monitor shows him what's it like among the faithful waiting down
on the Square

Then, the Pope and Monsignors Giorgio and Mietek taking a walk in the Vatican's roof garden:

These are the links from Beatrice for the page-size enlargements:








Click on the sizing icon that pops up at
the lower righthand corner of the photo
to get the page-size enlargement.

00Sunday, October 14, 2007 4:48 PM

Another treat from Beatrice: In the October 13 issue of PRESENT, a French Catholic newspaper, its founder-editor Jean Madiran has an article in which he describes, among other things, a meeting with Benedict XVI after the general audience on October 3.

Madiran was with Mons. Gilles Wach, superior-general of the Institut du Christ-Roi, the worldwide Institute of Christ the King, which has been one of the staunch institutional promoters of the traditional Mass through the years, with its own seminaries for training priests. It has several centers in the United States.

Beatrice picked out the relevant portions of the article, translated here:

The Pope with Mons. Wachs.

"Now then, how are you, Monseigneur?", the Pope asks as he holds out his hand with the ring.

He speaks French perfectly and implies a nuance of familiarity in his greeting.

Earlier, when the Popemobile passed alongside the guests int he special sector, Benedict XVI made a little sign towards Mons. Wach to acknowledge he had noticed his presence.

He arrived by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo, where he was still in residence for the summer, on this day, the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Now, he is walking and talking individually to some of the special guests.

What leaps to one's eye is that Benedict XVI is no longer Cardinal Ratzinger. The cardinal wore a thin shell of severity, of distance, some shyness. That shell has burst open.

One is in the presence now of a Pope on whom the grace of his office has conferred full assurance, but a humble one, with evident good nature, or better said, a simple radiant goodness, welcoming in his look and in his voice. He listens attentively to what he is told, he reads whatever is shown to him, he takes his time.

His first concern, apparently his priority - in any case, his first question to Mgr. Wachs was:

"Do you continue to have vocations?"

This year, precisely, the Christ the King Institute had 15 novices enrolled in its seminary in Gricigliano (Tuscany) - and 13 of them are French.

The Supreme Pontiff quickly reviews the foundations, establishments, and ministries of the Institute as well as its priests. They are found in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Benedict appears particularly happy about the missions in Africa.

"In short, you are now everywhere," he tells Mons. Wach.

In France, the Institute has a priest in the dioceses of Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nice, Versailles, Rennes, Agen, Cahors, Tulle, Limoges, and Montpellier.

The Pope asks Mons. Wach about his relations with bishops in general as well as in particular dioceses. It is obvious he does not miss an occasion to get first-hand information. Those familiar with the cogs and wheels of the Roman Curia are aware that not everyone regards Benedict XVI with enthusiasm.

In addition, with the growing preeminence of the Secretariat of State - starting with the change of name and subsequent 'demotion' of the Holy Office into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - a spirit of administrative bureaucracy and Montinian favoritism too often prevails, devaluing or neutralizing the feedback about the doctrinal situation in the dioceses and on religious realities such as they are actually experienced locally....


Visiting the Christ the King website where I picked up the color photo of the Pope with Mons. Wach above, I also found this picture of Cardinal Ratzinger when he ordained Michael Schmitz into the priesthood on Oct. 10, 1982.

Mons. Schmitz is now Vicar General of the Christ the King Istitute and its Pronvicial Superior for the USA. We posted his reminiscences about Cardinal Ratzinger to INSIDE THE VATICAN in this Forum in the early months.

Silver Jubilee of Monsignor Schmitz's Ordination

On October 10th, 2007, Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, Vicar General of the Institute of Christ the King and its Provincial Superior for the United States, will be celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood.

Monsignor Schmitz was ordained in Rome on October 10th, 1982, by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. From the Archdiocese of Cologne, he entered the German College in Rome in 1976, and pursued his seminary and graduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, earning a Doctorate in Dogmatic Theology in 1988. Subsequently, in 1992, he received a Licentiate in Canon Law from Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.

Pope John Paul II elevated him to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness in 1998. Monsignor Schmitz is a member of the Academy of Theology in Rome since 1988 and a chaplain of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

A friend of the founders of the Institute of Christ the King, Monsignor Gilles Wach and Father Philippe Mora, Monsignor Schmitz collaborated with the Institute as visiting professor at its seminary, eventually founding its German Province.

He was incardinated into the Institute in September 2000 and was appointed its Vicar General that same year, also taking on the responsbility of Provincial Superior for the United States.

00Monday, October 15, 2007 1:21 AM

When I bought my copy of JESUS OF NAZARETH last May, I saw this book on the shelves, flipped through its pages quickly, and meant to mention it somehow on the Forum, but I forgot all about it, until seeing it on one of the FFZ 'ads' today. I'm sure many of you would have seen it on the bookshelves, too, But for those who have not, I have also copied the blurb for the online ad.

Do you supppose they asked permission to use Ratzi's photo on the cover? Is anyone aware of any other book or commercial product that has used the Pope's picture to 'sell' it? And what is the propriety of using the Pope as the cover for a book - even if it is light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek - that, in effect, 'pushes' alcohol?

The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song
ISBN 082452411X
John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak

This book views Catholic life from a unique perspective: through a shot glass darkly. Ask anyone the question — “What is the difference between “whisky” and “whiskey’” And you will learn more about them than if you ask them about their favorite politician. Starting with the wines, beers, liquors and liqueurs made around the world by monks, the authors serve up a lot of facts, then add chasers of drinking games, food, and drinking songs, and cocktail recipes from past and present. This A-Z dictionary of alcohol serves at once as a bartender's guide, a party planner, and a screwball catechism.

00Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:09 PM
I just can't resist saying.......
it was a good job they didn't call the book "Wine, Women and Song" !!!
[SM=g27828] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27816]

I think "whiskey" is the American spelling and "whisky" the British spelling!!!! Am I right?
00Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:22 PM
Mary, I can't help but grinning after reading what you wrote. [SM=g27828] [SM=g27816] Yes, the American spelling is 'whiskey.' Interesting that its titled "The Bad Catholic's Guide..." What? Good ones don't drink? [SM=g27828] Or perhaps, as they say in moderation.

Two cool articles from Beatrice, thanks for posting!

00Tuesday, October 23, 2007 6:10 AM

Anyone making wedding plans? Here's a suggestion.

Couple Wed at Vatican

Oct. 23, 2007

It may have taken 15 months of meticulous planning but bride Samantha Wheeler had the wedding she had always dreamed of – at the Vatican in Rome.

And the real icing on the cake for the Walsall couple came when her marriage to car salesman Tim Palmer was later blessed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Samantha, a sales representative for laminate flooring specialist Abet Limited, and Tim, who have now set up home on the Yew Tree estate, flew to Rome with 100 guests.

Samantha, aged 34, originally from Wolverhampton, and Tim, 45, from the Mossley Estate held their wedding at The Choirs Chapel at Basilica of St Peter’s.

The couple’s priest, Father Patrick Daley, of St Peter and St Paul Roman Catholic Church in Wolverhampton, had written to the Pope for special permission to allow the marriage to take place at the Vatican.

Father Daley was then invited to perform the wedding ceremony.

The couple and all of their guests had to pass strict security checks.

Mr Palmer, who works for Evans Halhaw said: “Samantha always had a dream to marry at the Vatican.”

Samantha’s gold dress, which was made from duchess silk cost around £1,500.

Following the wedding the couple travelled to Sorrento for four days before returning back to the Vatican to have their union blessed by the Pope along with other married couples.

“To meet the Pope was just unbelievable,”Mr Palmer added. “I was totally stunned. He shook both of our hands and then he blessed Samantha. It was an incredible moment.”

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 4:33 AM
In a new (?) feature of Catholic News Servce called the Hub, there are items like the following, posted by John Thavis from Rome on Oct. 21. Although he titles the piece 'When routine is not...', he might as well have called it "It's all Ho-hum to me!"

I suppose I can't admit that anyone could ever find seeing the Pope - under any circumstances - routine. But to say, as he does, that it was a wasted morning, and that he had no choice but to go and greet the Pope as well, lest he should be the only one in the room not to do so, is an unwarranted display of callousness, and an appalling lack of taste. This is abolutely ungracious, and worse, he even appears to be making fun of the Tanzanian 'first-timers'.

Even if he felt this way, did he have to spell it out? He did not even have to write this piece. If you can't say anything good, then shut up - is a good rule in this case.

When routine is not...
Posted by John Thavis
Oct. 21, 2007

Getting a place on a Vatican reporting pool can be a mixed blessing for journalists. If often means a chance to see Pope Benedict and a world leader up close. But it consumes a morning, and there’s usually not much news to report.

When Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete showed up for a papal audience on Friday, I was one of two journalists who trekked up to the papal library, notebook in hand, hoping to hear a snatch of conversation or glean a stray bit of information that might go into a pool report.

The drill on these encounters seems pretty routine to me, but not to first-timers. We were accompanied by four Tanzanian reporters who were in awe from the moment we walked through the bronze doors of the Apostolic Palace.

In the San Damaso Courtyard, where arrival rituals are played out, a picket of Swiss Guards was lining up, the red carpet was being swept off and Vatican officials were taking their places in the October sunshine.

We rode an antique elevator four floors up and walked through a succession of ornate halls and frescoed rooms. In the Clementine Hall, still more Swiss Guards were assembled. The papal gentlemen adjusted their tuxedos and prepared to receive the honored guest.

The press pool was accompanied by Sister Giovanna Gentili, who works for the Vatican press office. Sister Giovanna, a stickler for rules, has taken some hits on reporters’ blogs over the years for her by-the-book approach. But today she was the Holy See’s friendship ambassador.

She explained to the Tanzanian reporters how the event would unfold, took out a map and showed them the names of all the rooms and the artwork they included, and made them understand that for the visit of a head of state, the Vatican pulled out all the stops.

Soon enough, here came the president and his entourage, accompanied by U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, the head of the pontifical household, and assorted other Vatican officials. They walked at a processional pace, and as soon as they passed the journalists were hustled through a door and along a narrow passageway — a hidden short cut to the papal library.

Here we watched the pope come out and greet Kikwete in English. Turning toward the photographers, the smiling pontiff remarked, “Some photos,” and then led his guest into his library. The doors were closed and we went around the corner into a kind of holding tank, hobnobbing with Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the pope’s personal secretary.

Msgr. Ganswein, taking his cue from Sister Giovanna, promised the African reporters something special — at the end of the audience, they could personally greet the pope. They reacted with stunned gratitude, amplified a minute later when a papal usher came round holding a silver tray of rosaries for each of them.

“Have they been blessed by the pope?” one of the Tanzanians asked. “Yes, of course,” Sister Giovanna assured him. “Can I take two?” he ventured, and soon another trayful was brought into the room, along with a stack of papal prayer cards. “Do you know how many people in Tanzania would like to have one of these?” one journalist said, as he reached into the pile.

A bell rang — a little earlier than anyone expected, it seemed. Presumably the pope has a button under his desk so he can signal to aides when to enter the room and wrap it up. In this case, the aides had to scurry a bit to assemble. We followed them through the door to watch President Kikwete introduce members of his entourage to the pope.

The pope and president next walked to a table for an exchange of gifts. I happened to be standing directly in front of the two, and I pricked up my ears for conversation. But although the Tanzanian gift was impressive — an ebony table with inlaid chessboard, decorated with carved giraffes, rhinos and other African fauna — the pope said very little. He looked tired, in fact. “A very beautiful gift,” he murmured. Then he gave the president a papal medallion.

When the delegation left and only reporters were left in the library, Msgr. Ganswein motioned for the Tanzanians to come forward. They were thrilled to meet the pope and have their photo taken. My Vatican colleague, a reporter on her first papal pool, was also introduced. And then, fearing lest I remain the only person in the room not to greet Pope Benedict, I went up and said hello, too.

On the way back to the press room, I realized we had precious little to put in a pool report for fellow Vaticanisti. But I felt pretty certain that the Tanzanian reporters would be writing about this in detail, and remember it for a long time to come.


Next time, when it's Thavis's turn once again to be on the pool, he should decline it and give it up to someone who will appreciate the opportunity, or at least not diss it!

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 7:14 AM

PADUA, Italy, Oct. 24 - No one doubted it was a great idea. And there's more than ample proof these days.

'JOSEPH & CHICO: A cat tells the story of Benedict XVI' , written by Jeanne Perego and illustrated by Donata Dal Molin Casagrande, 'broke the bank' at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair.

Publication rights were sold to practically every country in the world. Between Christmas and the New Year, the entertaining true story for children published by Edizioni Messaggero of Padua, will be published in USA, Canada, Ireland, Spain and Slovakia, for starters.
Andin the first months of the New Year, it will be found everywhere, from Australia to Brazil, from Indonesia to Japan. And in Braille editions, too.

"It was beyond all expectations, and we are, of course, very happy," said Fr. Danilo Salezze, editor of Messaggero Sant'Antonio magazine, and Massimo Maggio, director of the Messaggero publishing house.

The book is in its second printing in Italy, when its modest first run of 20,000 sold out almost instantly - even if it won't be officially presented to the Pope until November 14.

Of course, the book had the Pope's 'official' blessing beforehand, since it has a foreword written by his personal secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein.

"One day, I wrote Don Georg," recalls Jeanne Perego, "asking him if he would agree to introduce the book. I really didn't have great hopes. But one morning, I found a positive reply on my fax machine. What a great joy that was!"

It's not difficult to see why the book is successful. Perego, a Milanese who moved to Bavaria five years ago, has worked for a long time on 'Topolino' [Italian version of Mickey Mouse] and is a critic of children's books - so she got the idea of telling a story as fascinating and complex as he life of Joseph Ratzinger through the eyes of a normal ordinary cat.

And except for his marmalade fur, Chico is an ordinary cat, without a pedigree even. Except that when Joseph Ratzinger became Pope, he gained instant worldwide fame as 'the Pope's cat'. Now 9 years old, he still lives in Pentling with his real owners, next-door neighbors of the man who would become Pope.

The childhood of Joseph who, like all kids wanted a teddy bear for Christmas, ran around, rolled on the ground, and at age 6, fell into a pond and almost drowned while playing with his siblings Georg and Maria, is woven into the story of the Ratzinger family as they moved from town to town, in a life that was not always easy.

"Thanks to Chico, the person of Joseph Ratzinger can be brought to the day-to-day, is 'humanized', so to speak," says Perego. "It's a book to be read by parents and grandparents even to younger children to make them know about his extraordinary story."

Casagrande, who illustrated the book, is a cat lover, and succeeded in giving the 'Pope's cat' a very domesticated but captivating appeal.

Il Gazzettino nordest, 24 ottobre 2007



Rome Reports did this video-feature on the book, interviewing Therese and Rupert Hofbauer in Pentling with their pet 'author'....

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 8:28 AM

Translation of the blurb:

Itinerario teologico di Benedetto XVI
João E. M. Terra S.j.
Edizioni AdP

Richness and clarity of thought, amiability and refinement in person. The multi-faceted personality of Benedict XVI has conquered the hearts of believers and the esteem of all men of goodwill.

But what human and religious course preceded the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the seat of Peter? This volume offers an ample fresco of the human and theological formation of Papa Ratzinger, starting from his childhood in Bavaria, his education and university career, and how he carried out his important functions in the Roman Curia.

The author draws widely from the vast bibliography of Joseph Ratzinger but also on his direct knowledge of the future Pope, having lived several years of service in Rome with him.

From that emerges a complete profile of the biographical and theological milestones that are the basis for all the actions of Benedict XVI.

00Thursday, October 25, 2007 4:46 PM

Translated from PETRUS:

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir under Mariss Jansons will present a concert for the Holy Father on Saturday, OCt. 7, at 6 p.m., in the Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican.

The main number will be Beethoven's Ninth symphony, with its famous final movement in which Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' is set to choral music.

At the request of the Pope, the Otrchestra and Choir will also perform Palestrina's motet TU ES PETRUS.

The performance will be transmitted live on both Italian and German TV.

00Thursday, November 1, 2007 6:58 PM

The Italian media call it a tractor - it's actually a tow truck of sorts, presented Wednesday to the Pope after the general audience by Fiat administrator Sergio Macchiano.

It is one of a kind, because it was custom-made by Fiat's New Holland group, its division for heavy machinery, to tow the 17-ton modular roofed stage that the Pope has been using for a few months now, for the general audiences and other non-Mass public events in St. Peter's Square.

The stage was designed to be mountable in a short time, but probably, the special tow truck will do away with having to assemble it every time it must be used.

(Adapted from an ANSA item)

The Pope gets the key to the tow truck...

....but he's not about to drive it!

00Friday, November 2, 2007 7:32 PM
Benedict XVI's Pep Talk
By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, NOV. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Last Sunday Benedict XVI read my mind. After a week of being trapped alone among very secular intellectuals smugly parroting anti-Catholic dogma, I passed St. Peter's Square to see an image of the newly beatified Spanish martyrs proudly emblazoned on the broad stone facade of the basilica.

"The martyrs had it easy," I thought, as I stood in the back of the square, just out of reach of Bernini's colonnade.

Laden with books and papers to prepare arguments against the mindless mudslinging of hate speech toward the Church, I envied a few short hours of witness in the arena with the lions. An afternoon of being mauled and chewed seemed preferable to a lifetime of inconclusive arguments.

Faced with the modern hypocrisy of false tolerance, where all beliefs are accepted except the "arcane and rigid" morality of Catholics, I longed for the intellectual honesty of Diocletian. The Roman emperor simply hated Christians and wanted them dead.

Stressed by the difficulty of bearing witness out in the world, and struggling to understand the best way of testifying to the truth without compromise or aggressiveness, I dreamed of the straightforward choice between the pagan idols and the executioner's sword. The martyrs always knew they had done the right thing.

A roar echoing through the piazza interrupted my moment of self-pity as Benedict XVI came to his window for the Sunday Angelus. Moving a few steps forward, I could see the tiny dot of the Pope at the window. I hoped that his blessing would fire me up to return to the fray, but Benedict XVI gave me much more.

As if privy to my inner musings, the Pope started to speak of "white martyrdom," no blood and guts, but the glory of earning one's way to heaven through "daily witness."

With terms like "heroic testimony," and "bold participation," the Holy Father presented the vocation of Christians in a different light from just attending Mass and being nice to others. He reminded us that we are called to be better than we are, to greatness.

The beauty of Christianity is that one can achieve greatness without fame or far-flung adventure. The Church recognizes the valiant endurance of men and women who bear witness to the Gospel in a world growing more overtly hostile to Christians every day.

Benedict XVI then observed that "this martyrdom of ordinary life is a particularly important witness in the secularized societies of our time." I thought he was speaking to me, but indeed, all of us have experienced these moments.

The Sunday Angelus had always seemed like a wonderful treat to see the Pope and get rosaries blessed; never before had I seen that short Sunday interval like a boxer's few moments in the corner between rounds when his trainer tends his wounds and preps him for next bout.

Standing in the embrace of St. Peter's Square, and looking up at the statues of the saints while Benedict XVI, from his window, urged me to join the cloud of witnesses, my books seemed less heavy, my battles less frightening and my path less unsure.

I started out this week feeling like Rocky, ready to fight "the peaceful battle of love."

Thank you, Holy Father.


A very beautiful reflection. As someone who has, almost daily for the past two years, read, translated and been struck in the soul by the words of the Holy Father, it goes without saying that I thank the Lord every conscious moment that we have someone like him who makes Christ alive for us today in more ways than one.

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