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

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00Thursday, December 11, 2008 5:06 AM

Dublin choir to perform 'Messiah' in Vatican

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
The Irish Times
Dec. 10, 2008

ONE OF Ireland's leading choirs has been invited to perform Handel's Messiah for the pope next year as part of celebrations to mark 80 years of the Vatican City state.

'Our Lady's Choral Society, a choir of the Archdiocese of Dublin, will perform for Pope Benedict XVI next February.

The invitation was extended to them through the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who made the announcement prior to the opening of the choir's annual performances of the Messiah in the National Concert Hall, beginning this evening at 8pm. They will be accompanied by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Dr Martin described the invitation as a great honour for the archdiocese and said it was a tribute to years of dedication and to the exceptional talents of those involved in Our Lady's Choral Society.

The soloists in the National Concert Hall performances this week, Lynda Lee (soprano), Robin Tritschler (tenor), Ian Caddy (bass) and Ulrike Schneider (mezzo soprano), will also be soloists at the Vatican. Ms Schneider is from Halle in Germany, birthplace of George Frederick Handel.

The Messiah was first performed at the Old Music Hall on Dublin's Fishamble Street in April 1742. Our Lady's Choral Society has marked that anniversary in recent years by singing choruses from the Messiah on the street there to audiences of thousands.

00Friday, December 12, 2008 11:48 PM
The Holy Father's thoughtfulness

My day for stumbling on some interesting items online - in a fruitless search for a photograph of the Palazzo Sant'Uffizio!

This one is from Father Z

By Father John Zuhsldorf o{]:¬)

on April 20, 2008, that I don't remember seeing before - but it figures because it was posted during the US visit when I was wrapped up in it to the exclusion of my other 'regular' 'references of interest' for the Forum:

One year ago, a pivotal figure for liturgy and sacred music in the American, indeed international Church died. Msgr. Richard J. Schuler’s first anniversary is today.

I humbly ask that you say a prayer today for the repose of his soul.

Papa Ratzinger knew Msgr. Schuler well, and Schuler was a friend of the Holy Father’s brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who himself was a great Church musician in his day. Card. Ratzinger would often express interest to me when I would run into him at the Palazzo Sant’Uffizio, where I worked for some years, about the music program at St. Agnes [apparently in Fr. Z's hometown of St. Paul, MN] and ask about Msgr. Schuler.

When Msgr. Schuler died, I got a note to Msgr. Ganswein, the personal secretary to His Holiness, to inform the Pope. I requested a telegram, if deemed opportune. His Holiness was so kind and sent a telegram to St. Agnes parish in St. Paul in time for Monsignor’s funeral. How many parish priests get for their funerals telegrams from the Pope?

00Saturday, December 13, 2008 1:50 AM
Still looking for a good photo of the Palazzo Sant'Uffizio online, I decided I'd try a Google satellite look and came out with something even better - a graphic view of the center of the Benaddict universe, the Ratzicosmos. And it's amazing how his life since 1981 has been centered in this small area - bottom of the photo, with red dot, the Palazzo Sant'Uffizio (with Aula Paolo XVI to the left of it); the two buildings with the red dots near the top of the photo are, of course, teh Apostolic palace on the left, adn Piazza della Citta Leoninan,1 almost directly across it.

00Friday, December 19, 2008 5:21 PM

I like the elephant they introduced to the Nativity scene! Not that any of the Magi would have ridden a pachyderm to Bethlehem,
but it's an image association for their exotic Gentile origins

Czech carvers create
Nativity scene for pope

Prague, Dec 18 (ČTK) - Two Czech carvers, Pavel Svoboda and Karel Tittl, have created a Nativity scene for Pope Benedict XVI who received one of them on this occasion on December 17, the daily Pravo reports Thursday.

It adds that only Tittl took part in the audience and handed the artifact to the Pope in person. Svoboda unfortunately could not go to the Vatican over health troubles.

The carvers from Susice, west Bohemia, in the Sumava mountains have already made many carved artifacts but they have for the first time worked on an order from the Vatican where their Nativity scene was displayed before it was given to the Pope, Pravo writes.

It says the story started in the spring when an Italian film crew, hired by the Czech Centres Foundation, arrived in the Czech Republic to shoot a documentary on mechanical Nativity scenes.

The film-makers took a fancy to the Susice nativity scene carved by Svoboda and Tittl who were also the only authors who are still alive. Then they were asked to create a gift for the Pope, LN adds.

Svoboda made designs first. Then Tittl created the whole scenery and Svoboda carved the 16-cm figures, completed the scene and fitted it with lighting.

The Nativity scene of linden wood is in a 110x85x65cm [approx 43x34X26 inches] case mounted on a thick base. It weighs some 30 kilos, Pravo writes.

Originally, the Nativity scene was to be mechanical with movable figures, but the carvers eventually gave up the idea.

"If it broke down, it would be complicated to go to the Vatican to mend it," Svoboda told the paper.

He added the creation of the Nativity scene for the Pope was a great satisfaction to him and the peak of his long work as a carver.

00Saturday, December 20, 2008 3:04 AM

Infallible Christmas gifts: Pope's courier reveals secrets

Kate Connolly in Berlin
The Guardian
Saturday 20 December 2008

If you ever wanted to know what the pope wants for Christmas, Thaddeus Kühnel has the answer: a cosy foot-warmer and a carload of German sweetmeats.

Kühnel, a Bavarian banker nicknamed the "pope's courier", has just delivered his annual load of Christmas goodies to the pontiff, including Christmas trees, cakes, biscuits and a present from his brother.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Kühnel, 62, offered to be at his beck and call whenever he wished to stock up on German delicacies that are hard to come by in Rome, including sausages, strudel and dumpling mix.

Kühnel drove from the pope's home state of Bavaria to the Vatican yesterday to personally deliver this year's boot-load of food, as well as five Christmas trees that were strapped to the roof of his car.

Lebkuchen (honey and spice biscuits), stollen (German Christmas cake), and chocolate were among the treats, Kühnel told German media. Of the trees, which came from the pope's home town, Marktl am Inn, Kühnel said: "One is for the Pope's living room, and two are for private chapels."

Butchers in Marktl am Inn began selling Ratzinger sausages in his honour when he became pope in 2005.

There was also a present from the pope's brother, Georg, 84, a retired priest. Kühnel would not reveal what it was, but said "usually they give each other practical things, like wristwatches and electric foot-warmers".

Kühnel said he had already clocked up around 250,000km (150,000 miles) in his car, delivering goods to the pope that he had personally requested, along with presents from his old friends, staff and distant relatives. "I deliver all the things he misses about Bavaria, including fruit nectar, Bavarian sausages from his favourite restaurant, advent wreaths and German sweets. He has a very sweet tooth," Kühnel said.

"The first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. He likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachen."

00Saturday, December 20, 2008 2:01 PM
Sweets for the sweet!!!

When I lived outside of Germany for a few years, I would have died for a Stollen/Strudel/Cookie/whatever traditional German Christmas goodie delivery service!!
It's not the same without. For sure!!!

He surely deserves all the sweets in the world!!!
00Sunday, December 21, 2008 11:10 PM


I came across this British site by chance today, and I found this most unusual and very informative report of the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father at St. Peter's last October to mark the 50th death anniversary of Pius XII.

It turns out they have been doing this since 1998 - having members report their experiences at various churches around the world. What a great idea!

Especially if their correspondents are all as informed and informative as 'Pew Hymnal' is in this report. To insure uniformity, it appears the reports all follow the same format - namely, answer the headings and questions as they are on this report.


Mystery Worshipper: Pew Hymnal.
The church: St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.

The building: St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. Its architects and artisans read like a Who’s Who of the art world: Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, Maderno, etc.

The church was begun in 1506 as a replacement for the crumbling 4th century Constantine basilica built over the traditional burial spot of St Peter, and was more or less completed by 1626.

When you walk into the nave, your sense of size is skewed. It is difficult to understand how large everything is.

Some sense of perspective is gained when you look at the lettering at the base of the dome, which reads: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam" etc. (Matthew 16:18 – "Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church"). The letters are no less than six feet high.

Among the many priceless artworks are Michelangelo’s Pieta, in a side chapel and protected by bulletproof glass. Aside from the statuary, almost all the artworks are mosaics; for this reason, visitors are allowed to use flash photography.

Near the crossing on the right side is displayed the body of Pope John XXIII, in an almost perfect state of preservation 45 years after his death. Some call it a miracle, although Signore Gennaro Goglia, the pope's embalmer, credits it to the composition of the embalming fluid used, plus a judicious application of wax. Be that as it may, I was taken aback by how short the pontiff looks (John XXIII was 5'6" tall in life).

If you visit St Peter’s, be sure to go down into the crypt, where you can see the entrance to St Peter’s tomb and the tombs of many other popes, including John Paul II.

The church: St Peter's is the Pope's cathedral when he exercises his role as Pope (although as Bishop of Rome his seat is at St John Lateran). I don’t think there is a regular parish community, although I suspect that people who live and work in the Vatican and the Vatican area attend mass here regularly. The Basilica is open every day to visitors, and masses and devotions are scheduled at all hours.

The neighbourhood: The Vatican is the smallest sovereign state in the world, a walled enclave surrounded by the city of Rome, approximately 110 acres in size and with a population of around 800.

Created by treaty in 1929, Vatican City is strictly speaking not a vestige of what were once called the Papal States; it is, however, all that remains of the Pope's worldly dominions.

The area between the Vatican and the Tiber is known as the Borgo, and is an area of quaint shops and fabulous eateries filled with people from all over the world.

The major landmark, aside from St Peter’s, is the Castel Sant’Angelo, originally the mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian but converted into a fortress by the popes in the 6th century. Opposite the castle is the bridge known as Ponte Sant’Angelo, built by Hadrian in AD 136. It collapsed in 1450 and was subsequently rebuilt using parts of the ancient bridge.

The cast: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, assisted by about 30 to 40 cardinals and approximately 225 bishops, all of whom were already in Rome for the latest synod on sacred scripture.

The date & time: Fiftieth Anniversary of the Death of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII, 9 October 2008, 12.00pm.

Pictures of the Mass from our Forum postings.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Mass.

How full was the building?
It was very difficult to estimate the total number of people present. Admission was by ticket. The central nave from the altar to the great doors was full. As well, there were many people in the left side aisle without tickets who were let into the Basilica. A conservative guess would be about 10,000 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We had to go through an airport-like security check before entering. Once inside, there were ushers directing ticket holders to the seating area in the nave.

Was your pew comfortable?
The chair was a standard plastic chair which allowed several breaks from standing for the duration of the two hour mass.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service was quiet, considering the large number of people present. About 20 minutes before mass actually started, the organist played Bach’s chorale prelude on O Sacred Head, using a cornet stop for the melody in the right hand. [This would seem to give the lie to Sandro Magister who claims there is no pre-Mass music.]

The choir sang several motets which sounded like they were composed by Domenico Bartolucci, director of the choir of the Sistine Chapel from 1956 to 1997. [And the music is by Bartolucci, too, not by his successor Liberto! 'Pew Hymnal' seems to know whereof he/she speaks.]

Considering the fact that the choir and organ were about three city blocks away from the nave, it sounded relatively clear – plus it was "gently" miked.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spirtus Sancti. Dominus vobiscum.' Spoken by Pope Benedict.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An elaborately decorated booklet containing all the prayers and music. [Those booklets are really one of the great free souvenirs from the Vatican!]
The Gregorian chants were written in four line chant notation, which purists consider easier to read than the modern five line notation.

The Mass was in Latin with the Italian translation printed beside it. The intercessions included prayers in seven different languages.

What musical instruments were played?
The Basilica's grand pipe organ, built in 1954 by the Tamburini firm and refurbished in 1962. The pipes occupy two identical cases, with a four-manual console sitting in front of the north case. A smaller portable console can be connected via coaxial outlets at various points around the Basilica.

Did anything distract you?
The biggest distraction was the behaviour of many people who stood on their chairs as the Pope and procession entered and left. Many people were elbowing each other in order to get "their" picture of the Pope. They behaved like paparazzi.

One Italian lady in front of me tried to get people to sit down without any success. At length she cried out "Shame!" in English but with a heavy Italian accent.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was a formal Catholic high Mass with incense and all the rest. The booklet encouraged the assembly to join in the sung parts with the choir.

The Pope actually sat off to the side for the scripture readings, homily and post communion prayers, instead of in the front of the altar. A deacon chanted the gospel in Latin.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pope Benedict is a good speaker and can preach in as many as eight languages. However, he reads all his texts and never raises his voice or engages in emotive hand waving. He remained seated in his chair. The only annoying thing is that periodically he coughed right into the microphone. (I heard him speak in 2006 as well and he had the same cough then.) [I expressed some concern about this recently, hearing his Audience and Angelus deliveries regularly - and frequently repeated - now. I'm still praying a good throat specialist will help him do something about it. It sounds like the involuntary cough caused by a partial obstruction to one of the minor airways to the lungs.]

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His Holiness referred to the day's reading from the Book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiastes), saying that those who intend to follow the Lord must be prepared to face trials and suffering.

He traced the life of Pius XII and pointed out that in contrast to the criticism of some who say that Pius ignored the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust, he in fact secretly aided many Jews and championed the cause of persecuted people through many charitable works. Pope Benedict even quoted Golda Meir’s praise of Pius XII while she was Israel’s foreign minister.

He then mentioned several of Pius's many encyclicals and reminded us that it was Pius who in 1950 pronounced the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. ['Pew Hymnal' apparently understands Italian, and he/she does pay real attention!]

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Holy Father's thought-provoking homily on the war years and Pius XII. I was wondering what I would have done in his place. Would I have spoken out more emphatically or worked behind the scenes? [Pew Hymnal, how eminently sensible you are!]

Also, the music with the glorious amount of reverb in such a large space was heavenly.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
As mentioned above, the worst thing was the behavior of people standing on chairs, jockeying for position to take a picture and see the Pope. Not a very dignified start and end to the Mass. It looked like a free-for-all!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance of any fellowship or coffee after Mass; there were simply too many people. My friends and I went for a cappuccino and a bowl of risotto at the Rome bus terminal cafeteria right beside St Peter’s Square. Not your typical cafeteria food.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
As mentioned above, nothing was served; there was no place to serve anything.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – If I lived in the area, I would attend faithfully.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes it did. The extra special feature of this Mass was the fact that there were people from every corner of the globe attending, all praying together.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The Pope's homily and the heavenly choir. [I think Pew Hymnal has the right attitude - not expecting concert-hall performance or repertory: just appropriate music, decent singing and proper worshipfulness among musicians and Massgoers alike. Anything more is a bonus. But I did watch this particular Mass, and I do not recall that I was anything less than happy with the music.]

I thought I'd throw in another picture to give a better idea of the scale of those letters. I looked it up -
they're actually 2 meters high - so more like 6-1/2 feet:

The facade is Pew Hymnal's picture; the earlier interior of the dome I picked up from stpeter's.org.

00Monday, December 22, 2008 1:47 AM

reports that at his audience yesterday for the faculty and students of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Archeology, they gifted him with sdveral volumes about sacred art.

The Holy Father was very appreciative, but remarked: "Thanks for these beautiful books, but you should make me a gift as well of time to read them!"

00Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:14 AM

Some December goodies from LEV:

From left, above:
Instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
56 pp, 12x17cm, booklet

PREGHIERE (Prayers) - Benedict XVI, 72 pp., 12x17cm, booklet

24 pp, 12x17cm, booklet

From left, above:

(Let us prepare for Christmas with Benedict XVI)
56 pp, 12x17cm, booklet

I PADRI DELLA CHIESA, VOL. 1 (Edizione Artistica) - Benedict XVI
96 pp, 18x25cm, bookbound

Bishops Synod, XII Assembly on the Word of God
38 pp, 12x17cm, booklet
00Thursday, January 1, 2009 2:22 AM

What do you think? If the Pepperl-pic were in color to show his blue eyes, it's a near-perfect match.

00Sunday, January 4, 2009 9:14 PM
I don't think Catholic bloggers should be indulging in this sort of conjecture, much less write it up on their blogs. This one comes from a site that calls itself rather presumptuously, if not outrageously - 'St. Robert Bellarmine's Blog'. the blogger professes to be 'faithful to the Magisterium' but that's no excuse.

Which Pope is more popular?
Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI

by John Quinn
January 3, 2009

It's been nearly four years since our beloved Pope John Paul II completed his earthly mission, so that raises the question. Does he have staying power? Is he more beloved than the blessing God granted us with the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter?

According to Google's number of keyword searches for terms like John Paul, Ratzinger or Pope Benedict there is a clear winner. And it is . . .

Pope John Paul II.

For obvious keyword searches Pope John Paul II has 793,000 monthly searches, as compared to Pope Benedict's 268,000 searches. Did you notice that number? That's over a million monthly searches combined!

But Not So Fast . . .

I must confess. Pope Benedict could be the winner. There are two terms that are too generic to give credit to either of these great Popes. The term "pope" gets 1.5 million searches and "benedict" gets 550,000 searches.

Of course most of the searches for Benedict would be for our current Pope [just as most of the searches for 'Pope' would be about him!], but you could be looking for St. Benedict, Benedict College, Benedictine, Benedict Arnold etc, which makes the correct percentage clearly foggy and would be a uneducated guess at best. The term Pope is just too generic of a search term.

There it is.

The most obvious conclusion is that people love their Papa's, whether it is John Paul or Benedict. With over 2.5 million monthly searches, the Holy Father has a strong influence even in today's secular world.

00Friday, January 9, 2009 3:49 AM
Couple receives blessing
of a lifetime from the Pope

Brick Township Bulletin
Jan. 8, 2009

Charming local-area news item, and a great tip for Catholic newlyweds everywhere.

BRICK, NJ - Four days and 4,300 miles after Joseph and Jaclyn DiNardo exchanged their "I do's," the couple donned their wedding attire again to receive a once-in-a-lifetime blessing of their union.

The couple, who were married at Star of the Sea Church in Long Branch on Oct. 18, received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Oct. 22.

"We were already honeymooning in Italy and we thought what better way to start off our honeymoon and marriage," said Joseph DiNardo, 36. "It was pretty overwhelming to get blessed by the Pope."

A special section at the Pope's Wednesday general papal audiences is reserved for couples who have been married in the Catholic Church for two months or less.

Pope Benedict XVI walked over to the section to greet some of the newlyweds individually after the blessing, which was delivered in Latin.

"We were in the second row, but luckily we got to meet him," said Jaclyn Di Nardo, née Millman, a lifelong Brick resident. "He walked right up to us and started speaking English. He asked us where we were from and where we got married."

The couple was fortunate enough to shake hands with the Pope and was photographed with him.

"It made everything feel a lot more real," said Jaclyn, 25, who recently converted to Catholicism at the Church of the Visitation in Brick. "So many people lose sight of the religious aspect of a marriage when they're planning a wedding."

The DiNardos also hope that their experience will encourage others to visit the Vatican if they have the opportunity.

"It doesn't cost anything to get the blessing," Joseph DiNardo said. "You don't have to buy a ticket."

However, there is a process that requires newlyweds to send a letter with their marriage information to the Bishops' Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican, in order to secure their seats.

The couple said that the Rev. Sam Sirianni, who officiated at their wedding ceremony at Star of the Sea Church, was instrumental in helping them receive their papal blessing.

"Older people tend to be more religious than younger people," said Jaclyn Di Nardo. "We want to try to inspire other newlyweds who might be interested in receiving this blessing."

Following the blessing, the couple, who were still dressed in their wedding attire and accompanied by a photographer, were driven around Rome and took pictures at the city's famous sites.

"The Romans' reaction to us in our attire was amazing," said Joseph DiNardo.
"They were applauding and taking pictures of us."

After Rome, the couple embarked on their 2½-week honeymoon throughout Italy.

"It was a whirlwind," Jaclyn DiNardo said. "It definitely wasn't relaxing!"

The couple lives in Brick, but are planning to move to San Diego, Calif.

For information on papal blessings and visiting the Vatican, go to www.pnac.org/general/visiting_ vatican.htm.

00Monday, January 19, 2009 5:42 PM


Here are pictures of the event captured from the CTV-RV videonews clip. The initial report and pictures posted in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT follow. I still have to translate the full transcript of younger brother Joseph's loving tribute to the birthday celebrant:


Among Popes in recent history before Benedict XVI, only John Paul I was given the grace of having his immediate family (many brothers and their families) alive to share his singular destiny, even if only for the short time God gave him as Pope.

For this reason, the fact that the reigning Pope has an older brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, who is not only a priest himself but particularly close to his younger brother as to be almost a twin, is gratifyingly unusual.

When that brother marks his 85th birthday - a significant milestone in any man's life - and the Pope honors him with a concert in the Sistine Chapel, it is more than just peripheral news

Musical homage from Benedict XVI
to his brother on his 85th birthday

Translated from

January 18, 2009

(I have incorporated within Santamaria's story additional quotes from the Pope as reported by Vatican Radio's Italian service.)

A 'song of joy for the beauty of God' has accompanied 'even the many dark moments" in the life of Mons. Georg Ratzinger - life dedicated to music and liturgy which has now reached 85 years - in the words of his brother, Pope Benedict XVI.

To express his wishes for his older brother, Papa Ratzinger offered his homage in a Sistine Chapel performance of Mozart's Grand Mass in C-minor by the the baroque orchestra Orfeo, the Regensburger Domspatzen and soloists.

After the concert, the Pope, speaking extemporaneously in both Italian and German, reviewed some of the most significant stages of their personal and priestly life together.

"When you were born," he said, "inflation had been barely over and the people, including our parents, had lost all their savings. Then came the world economic crisis, the Nazi dictatorship, the war, imprisonment".

After that, he said, "with new hope and joy, in a Germany that had been ruined and bled dry, we began our way [to priesthood]". Both brothers then took their own way, "not without difficulties but always accompanied by the support of God""

His older brother immediately manifested "a double calling to music and to priesthood - one embracing the other", a calling shared by the Pope himself, a music lover and amateur piano player.

Referring to his brother's career with the Regensburger Domspatzen, he said he was thus able to “serve music as a priest and to transmit to the world and to mankind the joy at the existence of God through the beauty of music and song".

Appropriately, the music that honored Mons. Ratzinger was by the composer most loved by both brothers. Benedict XVI described the C-minor Mass as 'a magnificent and profound sacred music by that great son of the city of Salzburg', a Mass that had been composed by Mozart for a wedding.

Therefore, said the Pope, it expresses joy, "not something superficial but as a grace which makes us see all the profoundness of his search for the merciful God".

"How many times after the war we went together to Salzburg to listen to this Mass at the Cathedral," he said to his brother, "after the first time we went in 1941".

“We were able to attend some splendid concerts, and among these, at the abbatial basilica of St. Peter, the Mass in C-minor. It was an unforgettable moment, the spiritual peak, I might say, of our cultural tour."

Even as a youth, he continued, "I understood that we had experienced something other than just a concert - it was music in prayer.... And in that Mass, we were able to grasp something of the magnificence and beauty of God himself."

And yesterday, under the Michelangelo-frescoed vault of the Sistine, visual and musical art came together in this homage to his older brother who marked his birthday privately on January 15.

Expressing his thanks to everyone who made the concert possible, Pope Benedict ended with a request: "Let us pray together that the Lord may grant more years of life to my brother in dedication to music and above all, to the priesthood, giving happiness to others".

It was fitting that the performance featured the Regensburger Domspatzen, the oldest boys' choir in the world (founded 965), which Mons. Ratzinger had led as musical director for 30 years (1964-1994) at the Cathedral of Regensburg. They were led in the performance by his successor as Domkapellmeister, Roland Buechner.

Before the performance, the Bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, announced the naming of Mons. Georg as honorary canon of the Cathedral of Regensburg, in recognition of his services to the cathedral and its choir. He pointed out that the members continue to surround their old master with affection, helping him in daily routine, such as reading him his correspondence and his books, since his almost blind now).

Afterwards, the Italian government also honored the Pope's brother with the Grand Cross of the Republic, conferred on him by Gianni Letta, undersecretary of the Prime Minister's Council.

Trivia: Take a look at the Pope's shoes. They appear to carry his seal!

00Monday, January 19, 2009 6:09 PM
Thanks, Teresa
Thanks, Teresa, for the report on the concert. Was this the Great Mass which is without an Agnus Dei? If so - I have it on CD!!!!!! Super stuff!!!!
Wonder if it was the only item in the programme?
Wish we could see Papa's shoes more clearly! He may well have a special pair with his coat of arms now - and why not? He deserves the best!

Both brothers are constantly in my prayers. May God preserve them to be together for many years to come!
00Monday, January 19, 2009 10:42 PM

As I suspected, the partial quotations reported from the Holy Father's remarks last Saturday were quite deficient and inadequate. Not only did they fail to capture the tone and the thought flow that are very characteristic of Benedict XVI, but also the unusually personal nature of the remarks he addressed directly to his brother, and his original thoughts on the ultimate meaning of Mozart's great (though unfinished) Mass.

This is most definitely a B16 address to treasure.

The joy of faith
in Mozart's Mass -
Tribute to an older brother

Unfortunately, the original photo OR online does not have good resolution.

Here is a translation of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's tribute to music and to his older brother at the Sistine Chapel performance of Mozart's Great Mass in C-Minor on Saturday. It was delivered off the cuff in Italian and German.

[Cari Fratelli nell'Episcopato e nel Sacerdozio,
verehrter Bischof Gerhard Ludwig,
sehr geehrte Gäste aus Regensburg,
geschätzte Musiker und liebe Domspatzen,
lieber Georg,
cari amici di lingua italiana!
Dear brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Honorable Bishop Gerhard Ludwig (Mueller),
most honored guests from Regensburg,
cherished musicians and dear Domspatzen,
dear Georg,
dear Italian-speaking friends:

He starts in Italian:

As I was listening just now to the Mass in C-minor by Mozart, I thought back to far-off 1941, when, on the initiative of my dear brother Georg, we went together to the Salzburg Festival.

We were able at the time to attend several splendid concerts, among which, at the abbatial Basilica of St. Peter, was the performance of the Mass in C-minor. It was an unforgettable moment, the spiritual summit, I would say, of that cultural tour of ours.

Thus it has been for both of us a particular joy, on the occasion of this happy birth anniversary of my brother, to be able to listen to this magnificent and profound sacred music composition of that great son of the city of Salzburg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In the name of my brother as well, I thank you for this stupendous gift which has allowed us to relive moments of extraordinary spiritual and artistic intensity.

He switched to German, addressing himself mainly to 'lieber Georg':

It has been almost 70 years since you took the initiative and we travelled together to Salzburg, and there in the majestic abbey church of St. Peter, we listened to Mozart's C-minor Mass.

Although I was then just a gawkish boy, I was able to grasp as you did that we had experienced more than just a concert, that it was a prayer in music, a divine service, in which we had touched something of the magnificence and beauty of God himself, and that we had been touched by him.

After the war we went to Salzburg together again in order to hear the Mass in C-minor, and so, it is deeply inscribed in our inner biographies.

Tradition says that Mozart had composed this Mass to fulfill a vow: in gratitude for his marriage to Constanze Weber. This also explains the great soprano solos which Constanze herself was called on to sing, in gratitude and joy.

"Gratias agimus Tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam" - thanks for the goodness that she had received from God.

From the strict liturgical perspective, one might object that these great solo arias deviate somewhat from the sobriety of Roman liturgy, but one can also ask: Can we not hear in it the voice of the bride, the Church, about which Mons. Mueller spoke to us earlier?

Is it not the voice of the bride who expresses her joy over being loved by Christ and by her own beloved - thus, in her gratitude and joy, bringing us as a living Church before God?

Mozart has placed in the grandeur of this music and this Mass - which surpasses every individuality - all of his most personal gratitude.

In this past hour, together with you, lieber Georg, we thanked God, in the harmony of this Mass, for the 85 years of life that he has given you so far.

Professor Hommes, in the article prepared for this concert, underscored forcefully that the gratitude expressed in this Mass is not something superficial and lightly given by a man of the Rococo era, but that this Mass also expresses all the intensity of his interior battle, his search for forgiveness and God's mercy - and therefore, his joy in God rises even more radiantly from these depths.

The 85 years of your life have not always been easy. When you came into the world, inflation had barely ended, and the people, including our parents, had lost everything that they had saved.

Then came the worldwide economic crisis, the Nazi dictatorship, the war, imprisonment...

And then, with new hope and joy, we started to make our new way in a Germany that had been ruined and bled dry. And even then, there was no lack of obstacles adn dark moments, but always, we could feel the goodness of God who called you and has guided you.

From the very beginning and early on, this double calling - to music and to the priesthood, one embracing the other - was evident in you, until Providence gifted you with the position in Regensburg with the Domspatzen, whereby you could serve music as a priest, and in this way, transmit joy in God, to the world and to men, through the beauty of music and song.

But even there, you had your share of hardships - each rehearsal is an effort, we know that - but also other travails... But then, when the choir sings out brilliantly and brings the joy and the beauty of God to the world, then everything is great and beautiful once more.

For this, today, together with you, we thank the dear and good God, and we thank you because it was his will that you could place all your strength, your discipline, your joy, your imagination and your creativity, into your 30 years with the Regensburger Domspatzen, leading them ever anew to God.

Naturally, we also rejoice at this time that this choir - that, for more than a thousand years without interruption, has sung God's praises in the Cathedral of Regensburg, and is the oldest choir in the world - remains youthful, and with youthful power and beauty, has sung God's praises to us today.

To you, dear Domspatzen, a heartfelt 'Vergelt's Gott' (Thank you - May God reward you!) to the Domkapellmeister, and everyone, the orchestra and the soloists, who have gifted us today with the original sound of Mozart's time. A heartfelt 'Vergelt's Gott' to all of you.

Although human life is always imperfect, as long as we are on the way, in every act of human gratitude, there is also expectation, hope and prayer.

Therefore, let us pray the Good God today that he may give you, lieber Georg, more good years in which you can continue to live the joy of God and the joy of music, and continue to serve others as a priest. And let us pray that he may allow us all one day to enter into the celestial concert, in order to finally experience the joy of God.

He said some concluding words in Italian, saying first:

I lost my paper... In German, I can speak off the cuff, but in Italian... [He is, of course, being 'cute'. Look at all those Q&A sessions over the past 3-1/2 years!]

While I renew in the name of the Italian-speaking guests a fervent thank you to those who organized and executed this most beautiful initiative, I also express the wish that the splendid music we heard, in the unique setting of the Sistine Chapel, may contribute to deepen our relationship with God.

May it serve to revive in our hearts the joy that comes from our faith, so that each of us may give convincing witness of it in our daily lives.

Of course, a great Thank You to the Bishop of Regensburg and to the Cathedral's (canonical) chapter, and all those who contributed to the realization of this concert.

With these sentiments, I affectionately impart to everyone the Apostolic Blessing.

L'Osservatore Romano had more details about the concert.

Pope's brother made
an honorary canon
of Regensburg Cathedral

Translated from the
1/18-/1/19/09 issue of

"In consideration of exceptional merits for the worthy realization of liturgy in the Cathedral and in directing the choir of the Regensburger Domspatzen," Mons. Gerard Ludwig Mueller, Bishop of Regensburg, named "the apostolic proto-notary Prof Georg Ratzinger as honorary canon of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Regensburg".

The conferment took place at the start of the concert offered by the diocesan community in the presence of Benedict XVI at the Sistine Chapel on Saturday afternoon, January 17. on the occasion of the 85th birthday of the Pontiff's brother, who was the choirmaster of Regensburg Cathedral from 1964 to 1994.

The Pope arrived at the Sistine Chapel with his brother, accompanied by Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the Pontifical Household, Bishop Paolo di Niccolo, regent of the Prefecture, and Mons. Georg Gaenswein, the Pope's private secretary.

Bishop Mueller gave opening remarks.

In the name of the diocese of Regensburg, I thank Your Holiness for the great honor given to the choir of our Cathedral, popularly known as the Regensburger Domspatzen (the 'sparrows' of the Regensburg cathedral), to be able to perform the Great Mass in C-Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the Sistine Chapel.

Following the wishes of our sainted bishop Wolfgang, who established this boys choir in 975 to preserve and promote sacred music, a thousand years later, our boys and youths continue to sing with their beautiful voices in honor of God and for the joy of men.

Sacred music is the expression of God's movement towards immanence in the world and in us, even as it manifests our movement towards the transcendence of God.

It means listening in anticipation of and in preparing onself for the celestial liturgy, of which the sacramental liturgy of the Church is but an image.

Sacred music does not 'entertain'; rather, it renders divineness because it indicates to man the road to full realization of God's love.

After the bishop's words, the Orfeo Baroque Orchestra of Linz (Austria) and the Domspatzen performed Mozart's Mass in C-Minor (K 427) under the direction of Roland Buechner.

Soloists were sopranos Simona Saturova and Stella Doufexis, tenor Robert Buckland, and bass Wilhelm Schwinghammer.

At the end, the Pontiff congratulated the musicians and addressed the assembly.

Afterwards, the undersecretary of the President of the Council of Ministers [office of the Italian Prime Minister] presented Mons. Ratzinger with the Grand Cross of the Republic conferred on him by President Giorgio Napolitano.

Guests at the concert included the heads and other prelates of the Roman Curia and of the canonical chapter of the Cathedral of Regensburg; the ambassadors from German and Italy, Hans-Henning Hortstmann and Antonio Zanardi Landi, respectively, Archbishops Fernando Filoni, deputy Secretary of State, and dominique Mamberti, Undersecretawry for Relations with States; the mayor of Regensburg with a large delegation of faithful from the diocese; and Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano.

00Thursday, January 22, 2009 6:48 AM

Pope Benedict is made
an honorary citizen of Mariazell

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 21 (Translated From SIR) - This morning, Benedict XVI was conferred honorary citizenship by the Commune
of Mariazell in Austria.

After the General Audience, the Pope met with an Austrian delegation led by the mayor of Mariazell, Helmut Pertl; the Bishop
of Graz-Seckau, Mons. Egon Kapellari; and the rector of the Shrine of Mariazell, Benedictine Fr. Karl Schauer.

The conferment comes 16 months after the Pope's visit to Austria on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the shrine.

Recalling the heavy rain and unseasonal cold that characterized his trip, the Pope also said "Mariazell is more than
just a place - it is the living realization of a pilgrimage of faith and the prayer of centuries. And it will always
live in me."

"In my mind," he continued, "I will always return to make a stop in Mariazell, because there, I feel how the Blessed
Mother comes to us and brings us all together."

Mariazell is Austria's oldest and most popular shrine, having been established in 1157. Along with Altoetting in
Bavaria and Czestochowa in Poland, it is the most visited shrine in central Europe.

Because SIR actually had a nice little item about the Pope getting honorary citizenship from Mariazell, Austria's premier Marian shrine, I am surprised
I could not find any photo of the ceremony anywhere- not on the Vatican site (have you tried going through 32 pages of contact photos with 14 photos
to each page?), on Felici (almost as many, but at least they are segregated according to groups, and Catholic Press Photo, but I could not see anything
that looked like a a presentation ceremony, and Felici would certainly have labelled it as a separate event.
So here is what I picked up from the Mariazell site itself

There's a backgrounder that says the town officials had wanted to give the Pope the honorary citizenship soon after his visit
in 2007. But it appears they did not get the go-ahead from the Apostolic Nuncio in Austria till last November that the Pope
had agreed to accept the gesture.

The communal council approved the resolution unanimously, and Mayor Pertl led the delegation which came to confer it formally
on the Pope today.

Note the close-up of the Pope from the Mariazell website - the original is 48x36 inches large. The 9-inch format below
is awesome enough, despite the shorn hair. Without the skullcap, it reminds me of those glamour photos they used to have
of 'matinee idols', though here we have a round-the-clock-24/7 icon, idol and 'beau ideal' all in one, who is also
the Vicar of Christ!

00Thursday, January 22, 2009 11:05 PM

L'Osseervatore Romano carries the full text of the Pope's extemporaneous remarks at the Mariazell cttizenship conferment yesterday, but it does not have a photo for the occasion, either.
P.S. I finally found a photo- captured from the Vatican'sbrief video newsclip of the event.

Here is a translation of the Pope's remarks given in German:

dear Bishop Kapellari,
honorable Mayor,
dear Father Karl,
honored friends:

I cannot now list all those whom I must name - Mr. Ambassador, of course... At this time, I can only say to you simply a heartfelt Thank You, and reiterate 'Vergelt's Gott'.

I am very happy that I am now a 'Mariazeller' which means I will be specially close to the Mother of God. Of course, the two visits I have made there come to mind - in 2004, with the European notaries, in bright sunshine, when together we felt what Europe can build, where it had come from, what her identity is, and that it can once again be itself as it always was - through an encounter with the Lord, for which we are assisted by our Mother Mary. Because it is in the mother that we truly fell that God became man. And thus we felt strongly the joy of togetherness, the strength of our roots, and thereby, the possiblity of a future together.

During my apostolic visit [in 2007), it rained hard, but I found that the rain brought us nearer together, standing more firmly alongside each other. The rain drove us closer together and gave us the feeling of togetherness - with each other, and with the Lord and his Mother.

Bishop Kapellari has said "Catholics are weatherproog' - and we saw then how true that is. Joy withstood even in that weather, We remarked then that sometimes it can be good to be in the rain, even rain can be a grace - and the editor of L'Osservatore Romano described it as a 'pioggia di grazie' (rain of graces), for which it is good to stand in the rain and be in the right place, to do the right thing.

Mariazell is more than just a 'place' - it is the living history of centuries of pilgrimages, of faith and of prayers, and in this centuries-old history of prayers, one can physically and materially perceive, not only the praying and pleading by men, but also the reality of an answer. We feel that there is an answer, that we are not just grasping onto something unknown, but that God is there, and that he is especially near to us through his Mother.

This feeling of gratitude overcomes the pilgrim, and so, I rejoice that now, I can consider myself settled in Mariazell not only in my heart but also 'by right', so to speak.

Under all foresseable circumstances, i will no longer be able in this lifetime to make a p[ilgrimage there, but now I am a 'resident', and in that sense, I will always be near you. And when I roam thorugh the landscape of my memories, I will always make a stop in Mariazell, where I will always feel that here the Mother meets us and lrads us to each other.

The Madonna of Mariazell has many titles: Magna Mater Austriae, Domina Magna Hungarorum, Magna Mater gentium slavorum - and these grant titles express that, wherever men come to the Mother and the Father, they become brothers and sisters, they are one, and that out of such unifying force, we can build society.

Above all, she is the Magna Mutter, the great Mother, but her greatness lies in that she is there with the little ones and for the little ones, that one does not need a ticket to get to her, only our hearts.

And so, we also learn from her what is truly great: not unneighborliness, not external grandeur, but the goodness of a heart that is open to everyone.

In conclusion, I can only say once again a simple 'Vergelt's Gott' and many thanks, that I am now a Mariazeller - that fact will remain anchored in my heart.

Dear Bishop Kapellari, dear professors, perhaps I should say something more for (about) the book*, but the Mother of God is so great that in (speaking of) her, even the book has been covered.

My heartfelt thanks for everything!

*Presumably, they presented him with a book, either about Mariazell or about his pilgrimage to mariazelll in 2007.

00Monday, March 9, 2009 4:50 PM

New stamp to commemorate papal voyage to Africa

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2009 / 10:21 am (CNA).- The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State has announced the issuance of a special stamp commemorating the visit of the Pope Benedict XVI to Cameroon and Angola, which will take place March 17-23.

The press release published by the L’Osservatore Romano states that the stamp will feature a picture of Pope Benedict XVI, the African continent and the two countries which the Holy Father will visit.

The stamp will bear the inscription: "Benedictus XVI Camaruniam Angoliam adit" and "Vatican Postal Service • 17 - 23 March 2009". The stamp was designed by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office.

00Friday, March 13, 2009 12:44 AM

This isn't exactly "light news" but I am putting this story here since it deals with the pope but is not international news about him.

Praying for a miracle: Girl to meet pope in hopes of healing her tumor

By Yadira Betances
Eagle Tribune
March 12, 2009 11:06 am

METHUEN (Massachusetts)— After undergoing chemotherapy for 15 months and having 25 blood transfusions, 8-year-old Caroline Hamilton is looking for a miracle to cure the tumor lodged in her brain.

So the second-grader, her parents and her brothers are heading to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI in hopes of making that wish come true.

"I want to see him so he can heal my brain tumor," Caroline said confidently about her reason for wanting to meet the pontiff. "I want it to be gone. It's no fun that other people don't have to go through this."

Once in Rome, the Hamiltons will be part of a papal audience for sick pilgrims from across the world. During the service, Caroline, who will sit in the front row, will receive a personal blessing from the pope.

The trip is made possible through the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts.

Caroline was referred to the foundation by her doctor at the Jimmy Fund Clinic in 2007. Going to Rome was not her first choice, however.

An animal lover who wants to be a veterinarian, she wanted a hamster as her wish. Her mother said that was out of the question.

When a fellow patient at the Jimmy Fund Clinic returned from a trip, it piqued her interest to travel. Caroline chose Rome to meet Pope Benedict XVI, whom she admired since he was elected in 2005 to replace Pope John Paul II.

"This is a first for our chapter. It's a very unique wish," said Lauren Cotter, wish program manager for the foundation. "We're extremely happy for her."

Her parents and teachers were not surprised by Caroline's wish to meet the pope, as she enjoys reading the Bible and books on the saints of the Catholic Church.

"You wouldn't know she has that beast in her head because she's a miracle," her mother, Sarah Hamilton, said. "I'm excited to see her happy. This is a dream come true for my husband and I to see her happy because she deserves it."

At her mother's suggestion, Caroline will bring a set of rosary beads for each of her classmates at St. Michael School in North Andover to be blessed by the pope. Those classmates will then carry those beads when they receive their First Communion May 2.

"It's the least we can do because the school and the parish community have been incredibly loving and supportive," Sarah Hamilton said.

Caroline has her own reason for bringing the beads.

"I want him to make them holy because he's very special," she said.

The past two years have been a nightmare for Rick Hamilton, a major in the National Guard, and Sarah Hamilton, a criminal defense attorney who has been staying home with the children since Caroline's brain tumor was diagnosed.

The tumor, which is the size of a plum, was discovered when Caroline had difficulty with a portion of her kindergarten vision test. Her parents then noticed a "jerking movement" in their daughter's left eye in April of that year. While the ophthalmologist said the girl's eyes were both healthy, doctors concluded there was a possible brain lesion.

The tumor is incurable and inoperable, and Caroline went through toxic chemotherapy treatments designed 25 years ago to keep the tumor from growing.

The first treatments caused her to lose some of her vision and an MRI showed the tumor had grown. The second round of chemotherapy made her nauseous, lose her appetite and her black hair.

"Losing my hair was something I didn't like. I just missed it. I cried and I was angry when I lost it," said Caroline, now sporting two ponytails tied with a silk white ribbon.

"The problem is still there, but we're giving her body a break," her mother said.

In addition to the Vatican, Caroline, her parents, and brother William, 9, and Aidan, 4, will go on a sightseeing trip. The Hamiltons have been learning about the Vatican and other landmarks, including the Colosseum, through the Internet and books they borrowed from the public library. To prepare for the trip, the family also has been learning key phrases in Italian and German, the pope's native tongue.

"It's going to be interesting to see a different culture," Caroline said.

Caroline has several euros and American coins which she is ready to throw in the Trevi Fountain. It is said that a person who uses their right hand to throw the coins over their left shoulder into the fountain will assure a return to the city.

Caroline has faith Pope Benedict XVI can cure her.

"He is the head of the church and the power comes from God," she said.

Upcoming fundraising events

Caroline Hamilton's uncle, Albert Previte and his crew will embark on a trans-Atlantic trip aboard Vision Quest, a 42-foot sailboat in June to raise money and awareness. Departing from Portsmouth, N.H., the trip ends in six weeks in Portugal. Donations can be made by logging on to www.plgaquest.com.

Second annual golf tournament takes place on July 13.

About Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts

Grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, between 2¬ï¿½ and 18.

The foundation granted 339 wishes last year statewide. Its goal for 2009 is to make more than 350 wishes come true.

The average cost to fulfill a child's wish is approximately $6,500, with no cost to the family.

Popular wishes granted include meeting favorite celebrities, receiving bedroom makeovers, and meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

00Wednesday, April 15, 2009 10:40 PM

[He's really a Domspatz, but
from Rome, not Regensburg

One of my 'back' items. It's a new children's book from JEANNE PEREGO,
who gave us JOSEPH AND CHICO, and it's coming out in time for Papino's
82nd birthday.

A solitary sparrow narrates
the Pope's day

by Jeanne Perego
Illustrated by Donata Dal Molin Casagrande
Preface by Mons. Damiano Marzotto, CDF
56 pp, € 12,00
Order through

When people pass through St. Peter's Square, they generally look up above the right arm of Bernini's colonnade, to the two lighted corner windows of the Apostolic Palace, usually lit until late at night.

And they would say, "The Pope lives there. He is still at work". But what work does the Pope do?

From the Preface by Fr, Marzotto:

After the great success of JOSEPH AND CHICO: A cat narrates the life of Pope Benedict XVI, writer Jeanne Perego has written a new book to be released on April 16, the Pope's 82nd birthday, in which she tells children what the Pope does.

Or rather, through the eyes of a tiny sparrow who presents himself thus: "I am Max, I am a lone sparrow, a little blue bird who loves to live where it is not too cold."

Max chose his name because he lives in one of the front eaves of St. Peter's Basilica, on the facade of which is written PONT. MAX. [for Pontifex Maximus, Supreme Pontiff].

"Max is a strong name, it sounds fast! Like a well-set pair of wings."

From his privileged perch Max does not need to go far to watch Joseph Ratzinger - a pleasure he has indulged in since before he became Pope.

Now that he is Pope, Max watches him start his day at dawn. Then he sees him at his desk, where, reading reports and files, "he looks at the life of the Catholic Church in very part of the world".

It's a refreshing story in which some of the basic points of Pope Benedict's thinking are also told, rich in details one can describe to smaller children of the Pope's long and demanding work day, through the curious and chatty point of view of this church sparrow [a 'Domspatz'!].

"The sparrow is a genuine Roman bird," writes Fulvio Fraticelli of the Rome Biopark in his 'post-face'. "A species that has chosen the old walls of Rome and Vatican city state for its habitat. From the rooftops, it has looked down on the excesses of imperial Rome, the barbarian invasions, the famines and pestilence, war and peace, as well as events like the construction of St. Peter's Basilica."

Jeanne Perego, a journalist who lives in northern Bavaria where it is nearest to Italy, follows up the success of JOSEPH AND CHICO - which has sold hundreds of thousands in 14 countries - with a convenient account of the Pope's working day, recording the testimony of people who know, combined with 'onsite' verification by herself.

The illustrations are by Donata Dal Molin Casagrande, a veteran illustration of children's books, who also illustrated JOSEPH & CHICO.

NB: The phrase 'passero solitario' is associated in Italy with the title of a famous poem by one of the great Italian poets,
Giacomo Leopardi, although tHe usual translation is 'the lonely sparrow'

Thanks to Lella's blog and one of her followers,

for this interview with Jeanne Perego:

Max flies with the Pope:
A book from a former Como resident

by Barbara Faverio
Translated from

April 9, 2009

"Wait, let me transfer to a corner of the house where we can't hear the dogs or the waterfall".

Jeanne Perego's love for nature and animals is her calling card. From her house in Bavaria ('at the edge of a nature reserve'), the writer who lived for years in these parts - she attended the Volta lyceum in Como - speaks to us on the phone about her new book, primarily for children, dedicated to Joseph Ratzinger.

The first two were JOSEPH & CHICO: A cat recounts the life of Pope Benedict XVI, and bnfore that, THE BAVARIA OF JOSEPH RATZINGER (a travelogue).

The new book, MAX AND BENDETICT: A solitary sparrow narrates the Pope's day, reprises the successful formula of JOSEPH AND CHICO. This time, the task of telling readers about the Pope's working day is entrusted to a tiny sparrow who inhabits one of the eaves of St. Peter's Basilica.

Madame Perego, why another book on Ratzinger?

I find the Pope fascinating, and so I wanted to continue telling his story. But I didn't have a plan for this second book. It was born by chance on November 14, 2007, when I brought a copy of the first book to present to Benedict XVI after a General Audience at St. Peter's.

It was cold, and it was raining - and I was thinking that my father was the same age as the Pope, and what it would be like for someone like him to be in thet middle of that iimmense crowd, under the rain, in the cold.

I thought to myself - how tiring it must be to be the Pope - and I mean physically tiring, not just mentally. How many children appreciate what it means to be a Pope, the tasks he must do every day....

And why the choice to continue narrating about the Pope through animals...

I adore animals and nature. As a believer, I think they are wonderful gifts from God. Yesterday, I spent at least half an hour just watching a hair caterpillar crawling....

That day, at St. Peter's Square, I saw two beautiful gulls flying just above the head of Benedict XVI, and I thought - there they are, they can see everything the Pope does. And that was how I thought of having a bird narrate the Pope's working day - which, as I explain in the book, is every day for him, because even when he is on vacation, he works...

Is Max pure invention, or does he exist as Chico does?

I wanted my book to be scientifically correct, precisely because I love nature. I researched and found two ornithologists, Giacomo Dell'Omo, a specialist in kestrels, and Fulvio Fraticelli, director of Rome's Biopark, with whom I had an electric meeting - he can transform your life, really, because after talking to him, you will no longer walk looking ahead but upwards!

Together we watched all the birds in the Vatican Gardens, and we eventually settled on the lonely sparrow, which notwithstanding its common name, is really a thrush, a bird typical of warm Mediterranean areas, which loves to be by itself. It has a wonderful birdsong, and it is impossible not to stop and listen.

I liked the similirity with this Pope who really knows how to make himself be heard.

Has the Pope read your book? Did you meet him before you wrote it?
No... But i am very shy, and all the times I have met him face to face, I have been so caught up in emotion. I had asked Mons, Gaenswein to give him a copy of the first book. I don't know if the Pope read it, but Fr. Georg wrote me that "It will please him very much".

Mons. Georg wrote the introduction to JOSEPH & CHICO. Who is introducing the Max book?

That would be Fr. Damiano Marzotto, a head of office at the Congregation for teh Dotrine of the Faith. He worked for almsot 25 years elbow to elbow with Cardinal Ratzinger, and he is very familiar with how he works.

But there is also a 'post-face' by Fraticelli, who certifies to the scientific correctness of what I write about the bird.

How have you gone about documenting the Pope's activities?

Compared to the first bok, this time it was more complicated. Anyone can write a factual biogrpahy if one can gather all the basic data. But in this case, there are very few accounts.

So in order to picture a composite day in the Pope's life, I looked through all the printed acts of the Holy See as well as the archive of CTV. I saw so much raw footage of the Pope's daily activities and his vacations that I was able to reconstruct his 'typical' days.

What does this book add to the previous one?

It brings it up to date. The first book told the story of Joseph Ratzinger's life up to the time he was elected Pope. This one tells what he does as Pope. I have also worked in some of his basic thoughts and teachings.

Besides, I confront an issue that I feel strongly about: the continuous comparison of Benedict XVI with John Paul II. Max explains things in his own way:

"When visitors climb up to the dome", he says, "I always hear people making these comparisons, which is stupid, because it's about two persons who are as different as they are extraordinary. It's like comparing me to a grey heron - I cannot fly as high and glide elegantly through the air as a grey heron does, but when I sing, people stop and listen to me."

And your next book - will it be about Papa Ratzinger again?

I am working on a small book of civil satire for children, like a snapshot of our society today. As for the Pope, I don't know. Right now, I have nothing in mind.

00Thursday, April 16, 2009 2:18 AM

Books about Papa for Kids

Jeanne Perego is a clever lady. Her books are cute, respectful, and informative. She has created quite a niche for herself. More power to her and, of course, to her favorite subject, our always fascinating pope.

00Wednesday, May 6, 2009 6:33 AM

Hey, girls, this could be the way inside. Mary, dust off your resume.

Pope's army might one day include women

May 6, 2009

The Vatican's Swiss Guard could one day in the distant future welcome women among its ranks, the head of the small force said on Tuesday.

Daniel Anrig, commandant of the papal guard charged with protecting Pope Benedict XVI, said it was "possible" women could one day don the flamboyant uniform.

"Personally, I can imagine it one day or another," the former police chief from canton Glarus told Italian television on the eve of a swearing-in ceremony for 32 new Swiss soldiers.

When pressed for more details, a spokesman for the world's smallest army said allowing women to join the Swiss Guard would present logistical problems, particularly with sleeping quarters.

Anrig, who assumed the command in December 2008, did not deny that having women on the force "could cause some problems". But he added, "each problem could be resolved".

The commandant's comments mark a shift from his predecessor, Elmar Mäder, who vowed that under his tenure women would never be allowed among the 110 men who make up the largely ceremonial force.

00Wednesday, May 6, 2009 12:04 PM

oh yes...one day

in secula seculorum

[SM=x40797] [SM=x40797] [SM=x40797] [SM=x40797]

00Thursday, May 7, 2009 1:35 AM

At today's General Audience, Papa did his usual things:

Drove through the crowd...

Waved at everybody...

Kissed a few babies...

Walked around a bit...

Meanwhile.... Hey, is that... benedetto.fan and benevolens?

Ha ha, girls, he sees you! Can't fool Papa.

00Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:00 AM
At today's General Audience, Papa did his usual things:
[SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] LOL... I'm cracking up here!!!
00Thursday, May 7, 2009 12:05 PM
benefan, 07.05.2009 01:35:

At today's General Audience, Papa did his usual things:

Meanwhile.... Hey, is that... benedetto.fan and benevolens?

Not quite, not quite, benefan, hehe!!! [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828]

But you're right, you can't hide from Papa:

(Photo credit Stefano Spaziani)

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00Thursday, May 7, 2009 2:06 PM
What a photo!!!!!!
Benevolens: Voll Kraus!!!!!! You must frame THAT photo!!!!!!! Well done! But if you'd tried to do it you wouldn't have - it was sheer luck! I'm so delighted!!!!! [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836]

Flo: Female Swiss Guards! Would they allow English women over a certain age, do you think? Dream on!!!!!!!!
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00Saturday, May 9, 2009 3:19 AM

But you're right, you can't hide from Papa:

[SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] [SM=g27828] WOW!!! Awesome photos Benevolens [SM=x40794] [SM=x40794] [SM=x40794] [SM=g27824] [SM=g27824] [SM=g27824] [SM=g27823] [SM=g27823] [SM=g27823] very nice [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816]
00Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:02 AM

Mary and Nan are right!

Those are great photos, Benevolens, definitely frame-worthy. What a coup to be pictured next to Papa and you both look so delighted about it. My gosh, I don't know how you manage to get so close to him. Well, except for the disguises.


00Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:42 AM
These photos were sent to me more than a year ago by Yvonne of Poland who was lucky enough to visit the Holy Land several times that year.

Things Papa might see in Israel

Vast areas of desert....

The Dome of the Rock...

Nightlife in the city...

Jewish rock...

And, as always, a friendly cat.

Oops, sorry about the size of the photos. I'm afraid I don't know how to shrink them. [SM=g27813]


Dear Benefan -

I came to this thread tonight to look up some previous pictures I posted about Fr. Ratzinger's work on St. Bonaventure and saw these photos.

I have taken the liberty of reducing them to 9 inches instead of the 31 inches wide that they were, because that meant that all the line lengths on the page became 31 inches wide, which is a long way to scroll.

I think the 9-inch-wide pictures allow each photo to be seen at a glance and are large enough without skewing the line lengths....


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