Search this Topic:
Jul 7 15 5:31 AM
Jesuit church where pope will pray in Ecuador known as 'Baroque icon'
QUITO, Ecuador (CNS) -- When Pope Francis enters the Jesuit church here July 7 for a moment of private prayer, he will step into an architectural gem where trees once grew up through the floor.
The Iglesia de la Compania -- the Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, are known as the Compania de Jesus in Spanish -- is a "Baroque icon" that drew 150,000 visitors last year, architect Diego Santander, who heads the foundation that manages and maintains the building, told Catholic News Service.
Although the church's interior glows gently with light reflected from floor-to-ceiling gold leaf, "There aren't tons of gold in the church," as some have claimed, Santander said.
The gold, which he said weighs a little more than 100 pounds, adorns the elaborately carved altarpiece, the eight-pointed stars on the columns, the intricate side altars and the graceful curves of the ceiling.
The symmetrical building draws on two churches in Rome, taking its cross-shaped layout from the Church of the Gesu, while the side altar carvings of Sts. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius echo those of the Church of Sant' Ignazio.
Despite the European influence, several touches -- including a sun motif above the main entrance and in the dome -- hint at the building's roots in the New World.
Beneath the main altar lie the relics of St. Mariana of Jesus, and over the altar hangs a miraculous image of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Those are two key reasons why Pope Francis requested time for prayer there with fellow Jesuits, said Father Gilberto Freire, Jesuit provincial in Ecuador.
Begun in 1605, the church was built in stages, starting with a simple structure that was open to the public while the larger building was underway. Italian Brother Marcos Guerra oversaw construction of the main structure from 1620 to 1670, while the carving of the side altars followed in the late 1600s.
The imposing facade of volcanic stone came last and was completed in 1765. Just two years later, however, the Jesuits were expelled from Ecuador and the building began a slow decline.
The Jesuits returned to Ecuador in 1852, but were forced to leave again. When they finally returned in 1862, the decades of neglect had left their mark.
The magnificent altarpiece of La Compania's high altar"The inside of the church was like a forest," with vegetation growing up through the floor, Santander said.
Some of the church's treasures -- including a monstrance and the originals of the huge, graphic paintings of the "Last Judgment" and "Hell," which hang in the back of the nave -- had been spirited away during those years, and an earthquake in 1859 had damaged the bell tower.
At 150 feet tall, the tower was a landmark, with chimes that marked the pace of life in the city, Santander said. After another quake weakened it further in 1868, the tower was reduced to less than half its original height.
Inside the church, beside the carved wooden pulpit, a pillar topped by a statue of St. Mariana of Jesus marks the spot where the young woman used to pray.
Born in 1618, Maria Ana de Paredes Flores Jaramillo was orphaned as a child and led a life of austerity and penitence, with Jesuits as her confessors.
When several earthquakes and a plague struck Quito, the young woman offered her life to stop the disasters. She became ill some time later and died in 1645, at age 27. A lily sprouted in a place where some of her blood spilled, in what is now the Monastery of El Carmen Alto in Quito.
St. Mariana of Jesus was beatified in 1853 and canonized in 1950, five years after the Ecuadorean government proclaimed her a national heroine for her sacrifice.
Between those years, the miracle most closely associated with the church occurred in the adjoining school, where a print of Our Lady of Sorrows, her heart pierced with swords, hung in the dining room. On the evening of April 20, 1906, more than 30 boys, a priest and a brother were in the dining room and saw Our Lady's eyes open and close, during a period of about 15 minutes.
At the time, the government was taking steps to reduce the Catholic Church's influence in public education, and the miracle was taken as encouragement to continue efforts to promote education in the faith.
The devotion to Our Lady of the School, as the image became known, began to grow in the mid-20th century. Now one of Ecuador's major religious devotions, it centers on a novena of prayer around April 20.
The Iglesia de la Compania underwent a more scientific restoration after an earthquake in 1987, with input from architects, archaeologists, historians and other experts, said Santander, who has worked with the Iglesia de la Compania Foundation since the late 1990s and is now director of the organization.
The entrance fee paid by tourists supports the $500,000 budget for maintaining and operating the church.
"The greatest work that remains to be done is further research on religious and cultural aspects related to the church," Santander said.
Jul 8 15 8:28 AM
Pope's speech to Congress to be broadcast from US Capitol
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pope Francis' historic speech to Congress in September will be viewed by tens of thousands on the Capitol grounds and beyond in a landmark event to rival any presidential inauguration or State of the Union address.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday the pontiff's Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of Congress will be broadcast live from the West Front, allowing the public in the shadow of the Capitol to watch along with those in the House chamber. Jumbotrons, typically used for Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations as well as for presidential inaugurations, will be set up on the West Front of the Capitol.
The speech will mark the first time the head of the world's Roman Catholics addresses Congress, and the chamber is expected to be packed with lawmakers, members of the president's Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and the diplomatic corps, similar to attendance for a State of the Union address by the president.
Demand for tickets to the visitors' gallery in the House chamber is high, especially since lawmakers are limited to one guest ticket per office.
Boehner said that after the speech, the pontiff wants to make a brief appearance on the West Front.
"The visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol is a historic moment for the country," Boehner said in a statement. He added: "We look forward to welcoming Pope Francis and Americans from all walks of life to our Capitol" on Sept. 24.
The outspoken pope is expected to challenge Democrats and Republicans on abortion, immigration and climate change, the issue of his recent encyclical. (Or, he just may surprise everyone, and focus on something completely unexpected.)
During the pontiff's nine-day visit to the U.S. and Cuba, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and celebrate Mass in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Boehner, who is Catholic, invited the pontiff to address Congress in March 2014, and the Vatican accepted the invitation in February.
Jul 10 15 4:24 AM
How the Secret Service, Vatican Security Are Teaming Up to Protect Pope Francis During US Visit
Ensuring the security of a world dignitary can be a huge logistical challenge, but when that dignitary also loves to mingle with the crowds, and the crowds clamor to be near to him -- as with Pope Francis -- the challenge gets even more complicated.
That's why top officials at the U.S. Secret Service, including Director Joseph Clancy, traveled to Italy in June to prepare for Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the United States.
Secret Service agents in charge of the pope’s security detail met with the head of Vatican security, both in Rome and in the United States to discuss details of the trip.
“I went out to Rome to see firsthand how their detail works, protecting the pope and what he likes to do and how he travels within the crowds,” said Clancy in an interview with ABC News' Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas at the Secret Service Rowley Training Center.
Pope Francis, who has been traveling throughout South America this month, is set to arrive in the U.S. from Cuba in late September. While in the U.S. he is scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. He has several masses planned, as well as meetings with President Obama and an address to a joint session of Congress.
The pontiff's visit, which coincides with the U.N. General Assembly meeting, presents a “tremendous challenge,” Clancy said.
“He loves to be out with the people,” he said.
Francis has become known for mingling with and shaking hands of people in the crowds that amass for his public appearances.
During his South American trip, Francis has used an unarmored car and was seen with his window rolled down in Bolivia. Tens of thousands of Bolivians gathered today for the pope’s first public Mass in the country.
The Secret Service has been watching closely as the pope travels throughout South America to see how the interacts with crowds.
“Each protectee is different, whether it's presidents or certainly the pope and we have to adapt to some of the things that they want to accomplish,” Clancy said.
Pope Francis has already drawn record-breaking crowds. The largest ever papal event took place in Manila, Philippines, in January, where millions of people came out for an open-air Mass.
Clancy said the Secret Service is also working with its partners within the Department of Homeland Security, as well as local and federal law enforcement to ensure a safe visit.
“We expect large crowds for the people and we're prepared for that,” he said.
Jul 13 15 6:05 AM
Spectacular Paraguay altar destined to be broken down, recycled
Asunción, Paraguay, Jul 12, 2015 / 03:07 pm (CNA).- The more than 60,000 corncobs, 20,000 squashes and 150,000 coconuts that adorn the altarpiece in Asuncion’s Ñu Guazú park where Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the last day of his visit to Paraguay won’t be going to waste.
Now that the Mass and the Pope have come and gone, the products will be recycled.
“The coconuts will be used to make soap and the corncobs are destined to feed animals. The squash will be given to people. From it, a sweet called ‘andai’ is made,” the artist, Kiko Ruiz, told CNA days before the celebration.
“It’s made me very happy to do this job. There’s a great excitement among the people who collaborated with me in making the altar. This happiness motivated me to make this artwork,” he said.
“I know that the Pope’s visit has great significance because it’s bringing happiness and a message of peace.”
Ruiz is the plastics artist who was charged with the creation of the altar. The structure’s base is 131 feet long and nearly 56 feet tall with a pyramidal shape. The total surface area is more than 4,305 square feet covered with corn, coconuts and squash. In the center, there’s a cross.
On either side are mosaics, St. Francis on the left and St. Ignatius of Loyola on the right, in honor of the Franciscan and Jesuit missions that evangelized Paraguay. For this job, thousands of local seeds were used.
Ruiz worked with 20 other people on the design, while for the actual adornment of the altar, the numbers were boosted by 200 volunteers. Many of them found out about the work on social media and offered to help.
“With this work, I’d like to show that art is not exclusive to any inspired person. Art is in reach of everyone and it doesn’t need anything strange, but normal everyday things, and what one produces can become a part of them,” said Ruiz.
Aside from those who got their hands on the work, the artist explained that it was Paraguayan farmers who donated the fruits used in the altar. All of them knew that the products would be “valued and appreciated by the whole world,” he said.
Associated PressAnd the reaction was formidable. It was by far the most discussed part of the day on social media. A hashtag was even created on Twitter solely to speak of it: #altardemaiz, meaning “altar of corn.”
For each square meter, 1,200 coconuts were used, and a special glue was made to stick them together. The 60,000 corncobs were tied to wooden bases.
The Guarani coconut is small and lasts up to 14 months. “It has a very hard shell that can be easily painted because when they peel them, they have a very smooth and hard surface. That’s why you can draw on a coconut,” Ruiz explained.
The coconuts were placed in the altar weeks prior to the July 12 Mass. When all the decorations were ready, a special ointment was applied that would preserve it from the elements and dirt.
The structure of the altar was built in modules to facilitate its decoration and transport. Ruiz, artisans and volunteers first built and decorated the pieces in Tañarandy, a part of San Ignacio Iguazu in Paraguay’s Misiones.
Ruiz has done artistic work in the area for the last 23 years. His most recognizable pieces are the altarpieces for Holy Week celebrations that were also created with fruits of the earth.
The artist commented that the objective of these altars is to represent the nation’s mixed culture as well as the Guarani culture.
“Two years ago we made the first altar where the culture mix of Paraguayan history with Baroque motifs was represented. It was adorned with the fruits of the earth that Guaranis used,” Ruiz said.
“These fruits were corn, coconut and andais – we call it squash – and they were the most prized possession.”
Jul 14 15 4:30 AM
Francis in America: a radical pope journeys to the 'heart of the machine'
On his Latin American tour he called unfettered capitalism ‘the dung of the devil’, but he will face a very different political landscape in Washington
Anti-capitalist, anti-war and anti-oil activists who question the world order don’t usually get much of a hearing inside the halls of the US Congress, where most lawmakers have little patience for views deemed too far outside the mainstream.
But if there is one thing to be gleaned from Pope Francis’s trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, it is that an exception may have to be made in September. When the Argentinian pontiff arrives in Washington for his highly anticipated visit, his message will be just as contentious and radical as any protester calling for change.
When he addresses a joint session of Congress on 24 September, Francis will have a captive audience, and his speech will be aired across the country. Indeed, it will even be shown on big screens that are being set up on the National Mall outside the Capitol building.
“I have no doubt that he is taking his message about the dysfunctions of global capitalism to the heart of the machine and it will be very, very challenging,” said Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of the pope.
When reporters asked Francis on his return flight to Rome on Monday whether he would be bringing the same messages he delivered in South America to the US – in Bolivia, he called unfettered capitalism the “dung of the devil” – he said he would begin “studying” for his trip now.
That preparation would include a review of the economic arguments and criticism made in the US about his comments in South America. He added that his assertion that “this economy kills” – his lament that both the poor and the Earth are exploited through capitalism – was based on his belief that Christians have a profound duty to the poor.
The high point of the eight-day trip was the pope’s fiery speech in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in which he called for the acknowledgement that “change is needed”, not just in South America, but for all of humanity.
“Do we realise that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farm workers without land, so many families without a home, so many labourers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?” he said.
There was an “invisible thread joining every one of those forms of exclusion”, he said, and it was the global system that imposed “the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature”.
John Allen, a Vatican expert and associate editor of the Crux news website, said the Latin American trip was a preview of the pope’s visit to the US, especially on the themes of economic justice, the environment, and the family.
“While that may prove controversial in some quarters, remember that Francis has awfully high approval ratings in the States as well as a genius for broadcasting images of warmth and love for ordinary people that usually takes the edge off his politics,” Allen said. “In other words, he may be a populist but he’s not a firebrand or demagogue.”
While the upcoming visit may have Democrats gleefully awaiting an awkward encounter between Francis, who is likely to repeat his call for action on global warming, and Republican climate change deniers, Ivereigh said the pope’s advisers would want to avoid confining him to one “partisan corner”. Abortion and gay marriage, which the church vehemently opposes and which Democrats generally support in the US, are also likely to be raised.
As in South America, Francis’s visit will also highlight the plight of the poorest Americans. He is due to visit homeless people in Washington and immigrant families in Harlem, where he is likely to champion a more open immigration policy and greater aid for struggling migrants.
The politics Francis will encounter in the US are vastly different than those he faced in the three Latin American countries, particularly Bolivia, where President Evo Morales handed him a large crucifix on top of a hammer and sickle. The crucifix was a replica of one designed by a Jesuit priest, Luís Espinal, who was killed by paramilitaries in 1980 and who was honoured by Francis on his visit.
Asked what he made of the gift – which some saw as a sly propaganda attempt by Morales – Francis said that while it was obviously “protest art”, it did not offend him. And, contradicting earlier news reports that the crucifix had been left in Bolivia, he said: “I’m taking it home with me.”
Aug 4 15 5:35 AM
CNA - Uganda, Central African Republic … and Kenya? There are no details yet for Pope Francis' trip to Africa this November, but Kenyan media have announced that a Vatican delegation is expected next week to prepare for the Pope's arrival.Initially, according to the website of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, Pope Francis was expected to travel to Africa Nov. 27-29, visiting Uganda and Central African Republic. Later the idea of Kenya was added: it borders Uganda's east, and locals are already betting on a three-day papal visit to their nation. The supposition is supported by the fact that the prefecture's website now lists the Africa trip as lasting Nov. 25-30.The Daily Nation, a Nairobi-based paper, maintains that the precise size and dates of next week's delegation from the Vatican remain unknown.But the paper writes that the delegation will be welcomed by Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi and Archbishop Charles Balvo, apostolic nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan.Archbishop Peter Kairo of Nyeri has said the delegation will oversee preparations for the Pope's arrival, and discuss security issues with the relevant government bodies.According to the archbishop, the Pope's visit in Kenya should last three days – he said that “We are expecting him to arrive here on November 25 whereby he will be welcomed in the country by President Uhuru Kenyatta.”He added that three committees are being formed at the moment, composed of archbishops and other Church figures who have previously helped in coordinating large events, such as the beatification of Sister Irene Sefani.Fr. Peter Githinji of the Nyeri archdiocese, who coordinated that beatification, hopes Pope Francis will declare as martyrs the 75 faithful who were killed for their faith during the Mau Mau Uprising during the 1950s.Such a celebration tie in with Pope Francis' visit to Uganda, where he is expected to canonize that nation's martyrs.
Aug 8 15 3:26 AM
NY workers building altar, lectern for Pope Francis' visit
PORT CHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Carpenter Hector Rojas tried to explain the emotion behind cutting, sanding and assembling a wooden chair that Pope Francis will use during a Mass at Madison Square Garden in his first U.S. visit.
"It's a beautiful feeling, when people count on you," said Rojas, who is from Mexico but lives in Port Chester, north of New York City.
Rojas, 30, Francisco Santamaria, 61, of Nicaragua and Fausto Hernandez, 51, of the Dominican Republic are day laborers from Don Bosco Workers and Obreros Unidos de Yonkers, chosen by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York to build the chair.
"They could have called a large company, but they called us," Rojas said. "We are very happy to help them."
"It is a great pleasure to do this. The pope is our idol," Santamaria said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, visited the workers Thursday at the garage where they were working and congratulated them. He also visited Lincoln Hall Boys Haven in Lincolndale, where young men are building a lectern and alter for the Mass at the Garden.
"We are very proud of you," Dolan told the three men.
The trio has spent more than a week so far working on the chair. It will be light brown with a white backing and mahogany trim. They were assisted Thursday by Brother Sal Sammarco, a member of the Salesians order who traveled from Florida to coordinate the project.
During his visit to the United States in September, Francis will travel to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. He will meet some of the laborers from Don Bosco and Obreros Unidos during his visit to a Catholic school in East Harlem on Sept. 25.
Some of the workers are in the U.S. illegally, but Dolan defended them.
"They are allies, hard-working people," the archbishop said.
Francis also will meet some of their wives, who are weaving and embroidering 10 white tablecloths for the pontiff's visit. Tablecloths with images of a heart and a dove will be used on the altar for the Mass. Others will be placed on tables at the Harlem school.
"I will ask many blessings for my family," said craftswoman Agueda Zavaleta of her plans when she meets the pope.
Aug 8 15 4:11 AM
Pope Francis to speak from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address lectern
When Pope Francis delivers his address at Independence Hall next month, he will stand behind a nondescript lectern of dark walnut, largely unused since it was placed in a cemetery in Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863. There, President Abraham Lincoln gripped its softly curved sides and etched into the history books, "Four score and seven years ago. . . ."
Amid the hustle of big-picture logistics and intense plans for Francis' visit to Philadelphia Sept. 26 and 27 is the chest-high lectern that will link the Gettysburg Address to the pope's widely anticipated speech on religious freedom and immigration.
Privately owned and on loan to the Union League of Philadelphia, the lectern will be moved to Independence Hall for the pope's speech that Saturday. Only the pope and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will speak from it, before about 35,000 people on Independence Mall - and thousands more watching on Jumbotrons around the city.
The address at about 4:45 p.m. will precede the evening Festival of Families gala on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The piece is part of the nationally recognized J. Howard Wert Gettysburg Collection, Civil War artifacts amassed by a Gettysburg college professor during the war. The collection's owner, who wants to remain anonymous, agreed to donate the lectern for the event after Vatican officials saw it at the Union League.
The adjustable lectern stands four feet, five inches when fully raised. (Lincoln, at 6-foot-4, would have towered over it.) Its curved-edge reading platform sits atop a chamfered post set into a heavy, square walnut base. A thin, raised edge kept papers secure from slipping.
According to historical accounts, the lectern came from another professor at Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg and was chosen for the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery. It was intended to hold the notes of former Secretary of State Edward Everett, the event's main speaker. Everett spoke for two hours before Lincoln approached the lectern for his two-minute address.
Fellow professor Wert recognized the lectern's significance and added it to his Civil War collection. The items were passed down through his family and then sold to a friend. A Pennsylvania resident bought the collection when that friend died, said James Mundy, education director of the Union League's Heritage Center.
The items had been gathered by Wert, who was acting as a guide, taking troops to the battlefield.
"There's like 6,000 acres covered with thousands of bodies and horses, and Wert began picking pieces off the battlefield itself - what made it unusual was he wrote down what he found, where he found it, and possibly to whom it belonged," Mundy said. As time passed, Civil War veterans sent items of their own.
Mundy said the collection "is considered to be the best Gettysburg collection in the country."
Mundy, who knows the current owner, asked about bringing Wert pieces to display at the Union League during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2013. Most items have since been returned, but the lectern remains - sitting inconspicuously in the second-floor hallway, a "members-only" space. Mundy said the lectern will be put on public display at the club before the pope arrives.
"The beauty of the lectern is, it's extremely simple. I think that ties into who Pope Francis is," said Bob Ciarruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families 2015 and a member of the Union League who said he walks by it almost every day.
"His desire to speak on key issues of immigration and religious freedom - it's no different than Abraham Lincoln addressing the most important issue of his time almost 150 years ago," Ciarruffoli said.
Lincoln famously said he belonged to no religion, but Mundy said he thinks the nation's 16th president would be pleased to share with the pope.
"Lincoln, while he wasn't a religious man, I think, believed in God as the creator," Mundy said. "His second inaugural is more of a sermon than a state talk. I think Lincoln would be very happy to see it used the way it will be on Sept. 26."
Matt Slocum - APMore than a dozen U.S. presidents who have delivered addresses in front of Independence Hall. Lincoln spoke there in 1861 ahead of his first inaugural address, where he raised a flag of 34 stars, representing the 34 states then in the Union.
John F. Kennedy, the nation's first Catholic president, spoke there July 4, 1962.
The historical significance of the space was not lost on Fred Stein, president of the Creative Group, which is producing the papal events at Independence Hall.
In talks with the Vatican, Stein said, he was told often that the pope is not an "object" person but a people person. Still, he explained the significance of the lectern, the Liberty Bell, and the backdrop.
"It would be our hope that when he stands at the stage, looking across the street at an assembled group of 30,000 to 40,000 and the Liberty Bell on the left, and the National Constitution Center, the Jewish History Museum, and the African American Museum all right there, it'd be nice if the one thing he said in English was, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
The inscription on the Liberty Bell, Stein noted as he gave a tour to Vatican representatives in the spring, is taken from Leviticus 25:10.
So convincing was Stein's pitch, he said, a Vatican representative confirmed for him that day, "This is where the Holy Father will deliver a speech on immigration and religious freedom."
Then came the task of making sure the lectern was the real deal. Stein went back to the Union League, which had verified it in 2013 and had it checked again to ensure a duplicate was never made.
"This indeed is the original and only one," Stein said.
A conservator was brought in to make sure the joints were tight and to plan installation of separate hand rails so the pope will have something sturdy to lean upon.
Thomas Moser of Auburn, Maine, a master at historical furniture-making, said the handmade lectern is Pennsylvania black walnut (though its aged patina looks more like cherry), with a knob to adjust the height. It stands 48 inches high at its highest point downstage and 53 inches high upstage.
Moser's company is crafting the chairs for the stage and an exact replica of the lectern to use in planning the railings of cherry wood and steel.
The work is uniquely suited for Moser, formerly a college professor with a doctorate in rhetoric and public speaking.
"I would argue the Gettysburg Address was the most important speech spoken on U.S. soil," Moser said. "The fact that this would be used is astounding."
The Independence Hall event - including performances and speeches leading up to Francis' address - is free but ticketed. Details on how tickets will be distributed are yet to be announced, Stein said.
He said some consideration will be given to cultural groups that represent the city's diversity, given the pope's focus on immigration.
If Americanism can be considered a civil religion, Lincoln's lectern and his Gettysburg Address are two defining elements of it, said Maureen O'Connell, chair of the religion department at La Salle University.
The Civil War, she said, "was about a moment of defining identity and who constitutes an American, in which Lincoln wrestled with the contradictions of 'all men are created equal.' "
Francis, with his focus on economic inequality, imprisonment rates, and immigration, is in many ways stepping into the situation Lincoln was in on that day in Gettysburg, she said.
"To stand in Independence Hall, to stand at that podium, provides the pope with a moment to stand back and name the contradictions in the history of this great American experiment, but also to list off the unique resources we have . . . human rights, the right to work, religious liberty, the common good; things central to American civil religion, all of which have been recognized by popes that predate him as ingredients for creating strong, inclusive, local, and national communities.' "
Aug 9 15 6:04 AM
Pope security measures excessive, some experts say
The massive security efforts planned for next month's papal visit to Philadelphia are unnecessarily burdensome and might not be effective, according to some security and counterterrorism experts.
The closure of major highways and bridges for more than two days, a three-square-mile traffic-free zone in Center City, restricted transit access, and the closing of offices and businesses "is a disproportional reaction," said Scott White, a former security agent for the Canadian government and now a professor of homeland security and security management at Drexel University.
"What are we attempting to do here? Are we attempting to protect the pontiff, who already has - and always has - rings of security? Or are we attempting to protect one million or two million people?"
"We can't protect 40 people in a cinema," White said, referring to the spate of recent theater shootings. "How are we going to protect two million people?"
White worked for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and was involved in coordinating security measures for the Olympic Games and other large-scale events.
Mayor Nutter on Wednesday announced a plan to ban vehicle traffic within Center City, close the Vine Street Expressway and other major highways, and close the Ben Franklin Bridge to vehicle traffic. SEPTA earlier announced its plans to close all but 21 train stations and require special papal passes to travel on Regional Rail trains.
Henry Willis, director of the RAND Homeland Security & Defense Center in Pittsburgh, said: "You have to do security in a way that doesn't ruin the primary purpose of the event. You want to try to not disrupt the city too much.
"You've got to balance control, based on what you know, versus the purpose of the visit and the disruption that you're causing."Sophisticated terrorists could elude many of the security measures during the papal visit, and "lone wolf" actors might be undeterred by them, some experts said.
Terrorists could simply come to Center City months or weeks in advance of the pope's visit on Sept. 26 and 27 and wait, safely within the security ring.
A lone-wolf attacker might be stopped from attacking the pope, experts say, but not from exploding a bomb or firing into a crowd waiting at a security checkpoint.
"It's virtually impossible to set up a police perimeter around a crowd that large," said Edward Davis, who was Boston police commissioner at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. "You have to concentrate your security on certain points."
Typically, security is based on concentric rings of protection around the protected person, with increasingly intense security near the VIP.
"People closer to the pope will have been screened . . . while those farther away probably will be separated by fences," said Davis, who is now president of a security consulting company, Edward Davis L.L.C. "They're not going to be able to screen everyone."
Everett Gillison, deputy Philadelphia mayor for public safety, said Friday that the papal visit comes with "huge logistical and security responsibilities."
"The U.S. Secret Service and the city, working with many other partners, are developing very detailed plans, some of which have been completed and made public," Gillison said in a statement.
"At its core, the multifaceted plan balances the desire for a smooth running series of events involving perhaps 1.5 million faith visitors to the City with vital security and logistical requirements that 21st Century events demand.
"At a very practical level, the huge crowds expected will be walking on narrow city streets and sidewalks. To accommodate this unprecedented influx of people, thoroughfare closures are mandatory.
"Allowing vehicles to attempt to move through large crowds would be an invitation to disaster. Further, providing emergency services to more than a million visitors requires dedicated emergency routes free of civilian vehicle traffic."
Gillison dismissed the "instant 'analysis' from those who know little about the complexity of the approaching events."
Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said others "haven't seen our plan, since we haven't released it." He said the city was responsible for the plan announced Wednesday by the mayor that described the no-drive zone and highway and bridge closures.
Hoback said the Secret Service security plan for the "innermost secure perimeter, where the pope will be," will be released about three weeks before the pope's arrival.
"The Secret Service, in conjunction with its law enforcement and public safety partners, will publish a list of prohibited items once the information is finalized," Hoback said in a statement Friday. "This list of prohibited items will only apply to visitors who are accessing specific papal venues in Center City."
Jeff Tomlinson, a former supervisory special agent for the FBI in Philadelphia who was the supervisor of the Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force, said he was not privy to specific threats that law enforcement agencies may have, so he wouldn't second-guess their actions.
"I can't speak as to whether it's an overreaction by the Secret Service," he said. The security perimeter "looks like a big area, but that might be the right way to do it."
"It's better to have over-prepared and nothing happens than the flip side," Tomlinson said. "The mind-set now is to be proactive rather than reactive."
(Oh, most definitely. I'm sure the US Security
Service saw the precautions the authorities in Manila took for the
Pope's visit here - we also had "traffic-free" zones, but people coped
well and without complaint. My septuagenarian mother and I walked two and a half miles to see the Pope along one of his motorcade routes because there was no vehicular transportation whatsoever on account of the "traffic-free" zones, and so did countless other people who
lined the streets of the Papal motorcade. No one argued with the need
to make sure that the Pope was safe. If anything had happened to the
Pope while he was here, we Filipinos would never forgive ourselves.) Despite the high profile of foreign terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, Tomlinson said it was vital not to forget about "domestic threats and lone individuals."
Heavy security might discourage lone wolves, Tomlinson said.
White said that individual attackers might take advantage of crowds at choke points, such as at the Camden side of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which is to be closed to all but foot traffic during the papal visit.
The massive steel bridge would not likely be harmed by an individual with an improvised explosive device, but people queued up for screening could be, White said.
"We can keep pushing our perimeters farther and farther out, but if I'm carrying a backpack with an explosive, maybe I'll just walk up to the choke point and detonate there.
"Does it make a difference to the families if a person is killed on the New Jersey side of the bridge?" White said.
Law enforcement officials familiar with security plans have said that all bridge travelers will be screened on the Camden side of the bridge.
The Secret Service said Friday that neither the Secret Service nor the City of Philadelphia would be screening papal visitors on the bridge. It did not address any screening by other law enforcement agencies, such as Camden County police.
The Delaware River Port Authority, which operates the bridge, has declined to disclose its security plans for the bridge.
"What visitors should expect is some type of law enforcement presence on the bridge to ensure those who wish to cross, can do so in a safe and expeditious manner," according to the Secret Service statement.
"We don't have anything to do with security at the Ben Franklin Bridge. Why would we?" Hoback said in Friday's statement. "We don't control the bridge."
John Hanson, the chief executive of the DRPA, publicly complained last week that the DRPA and other agencies were frustrated about their inability to make security decisions, until the Secret Service announced what it was going to do.
Davis, the former Boston police commissioner, said security for large-crowd events with important dignitaries "is very much a balancing act" between protection and freedom of movement.
"The scale tilts toward protection when you have someone like the pope," Davis said. "I can't think of a more important person. . . . This is probably the height of extreme measures. You're probably going to see unprecedented security."
Sometimes, highways and bridges may be closed to traffic, experts say, to allow quick movement of emergency vehicles, or to provide for safe exits for crowds if something goes wrong at a large public event.
Meanwhile, security has intensified since the last papal visit to Philadelphia in 1979, because of terrorism fears brought on by the Sept. 11 strikes and other high-profile attacks.
And technology has advanced, giving new tools both to terrorists and security agencies.
If the goal of the security efforts for the pope's Philadelphia visit is to protect two million visitors, White said, the heavy restrictions "will protect them from a large truck bomb that could kill thousands, but the individual actor with a firearm or explosive device is almost impossible to prevent."
The bottom line, White said, is: "What risk are we prepared to live with?"
Aug 26 15 5:26 AM
Pope Francis: the Patron Saint of Tourism?
Folks in Philadelphia still speak with pride about the time Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1979. Next month a new pope, with an even higher profile (and certainly a much larger social media following), will once again bless the City of Brotherly Love with his presence, along with a formidable boost in tourism.
“We know Pope Francis attracts attention wherever he is and this visit will touch the perception people have of Philadelphia,” said Meryl Levitz, the CEO of Visit Philadelphia. “In addition to being a religious figure he is a world figure so we expect tourism in the short-term and long-term to be affected by his visit.”
Call it a papal bump if you will. Pope Francis has been a boon for tourism all over the world. In 2013, in the first nine months following his election, three times as many tourists visited the Vatican as came the previous year — 6.6 million tourists visited compared to 2.35 million the year before.
Hotels and services in the Philippines received a similar bump in January of this year when the Pope made his visit there.
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alfredo Yao called the papal visit “advertising for the Philippines.”
And when the Pope visited Albania in 2014, it was described as nothing short of a game changer.
“The visit of … figure like the Pope is positive PR, and the attention it will draw in the media will counterbalance the unfair image of Albania as Muslim and backward,” Kliton Gerxhani, an Albanian tourism consultant said at the time.
Next month will be the first trip to the United States for the head of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church. While Francis will also be visiting New York and Washington D.C. during his trip to the States, Philadelphia is the one stop where visitors are expected to be able to see and spend time with the pope in the flesh.
Pope Francis will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He will arrive on Saturday, Sept. 26 and speak at Independence Hall before celebrating at the Festival of Families, a free party held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. On the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 27, the pope will say a mass for hundreds of thousands of people, also on the Parkway.
Anticipating a demand for information, the World Meeting of Families created the “Go Philadelphia!” mobile app, which provides a guide to all things papal, including places to visit, emergency information, and public transportation information. The app will also provide real-time translation and captioning in eight languages during portions of the Papal Mass and maps of papal visit locations.
Hotels in the city and surrounding towns are already sold out, and this coming Thursday the home rental site Airbnb is holding an event in Philadelphia specifically for those thinking about hosting so they can meet the Airbnb team, other hosts in the area, and local city officials to get advice on how to best prepare their home for those traveling to the city for the visit.
“We’ve seen a 270 percent increase in listings on Airbnb.com since April, which means more people are starting to list their private rooms or entire homes up on Airbnb.com for events like the Made in America Festival and the papal visit,“ said Alex Ward, the general manager of new markets in the United States for Airbnb. “The papal visit has definitely had an effect on demand and as a result, more people are becoming hosts in the city to welcome them.”
The home rental site HomeAway also says that it has seen a 795 percent increase in demand in Philadelphia short-term rentals, which is based on a combination of bookings and inquiries versus the same time last year.
HomeAway has also seen an uptick of 45 percent in demand in D.C. and 40 percent increase in the surrounding D.C. area across Virginia and Maryland suburbs during the pope’s visit.
The papal bump also seems to have a spillover effect. Lancaster, Pa., about two hours outside of both Philadelphia and Washington D.C., is also preparing for a boost.
“We’re aware of up to two dozen bus groups that are actually staying here in Lancaster, and then going on down into Philly,” Joel Cliff, of Discover Lancaster, told the local news station Fox 43. “So they’re using hotel rooms here simply because it works better for their itinerary, their costs.”
Cliff is also hoping that groups take a day trip to see the local attractions in the region, which includes Amish country.
Beyond a spike in September, the city of Philadelphia is hoping to see more long-term effects from the visit.
“There will be a carry-over. People will see things that intrigue them and they will come back,” Levitz said.
Other locations around the globe are hoping to see a similar interest from papal tourism. In November, Pope Francis will travel to Africa, where he is scheduled to visit Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic. Francis’s visit to Uganda will be the third by a sitting pope, and the Uganda Tourism Board estimates that around 10 million tourists — both local and international — will turn out for the visit.
“Tour operators are expecting to gain from this visit. Many people from different continents will be persuaded to explore more about this East African country as a result of pope’s visit. Being the fact that he will visit some cultural and religious sites like Namugongo shrine, it will help in boosting the country’s tourism,” the tour company Marantha posted on their website.
“Hopefully this upcoming event will help in boosting the country’s tourism, which has of lately been affected by various happenings in the world.”
Aug 28 15 7:31 AM
Vatican Radio - The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya (and South Sudan) Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo has said that the proposed Apostolic visit of the Holy Father to Africa, the first to the continent since he became Pope, is being worked on, revealing that the trip would involve three capitals beginning with Nairobi in Kenya, then Uganda’s capital Kampala and conclude with Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.In an exclusive interview with CANAA on Tuesday, 25 August at his residence in Nairobi, Archbishop Balvo said that an official statement about the proposed November Apostolic visit will be released in September and the full formal announcement including details of the trip published sometime in October.Meanwhile, Rose Achiego of Catholic Waumini communications in Kenya has told Vatican Radio's English Service for Africa that the The Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Philip Anyolo,yesterday 27 August, officially announced the coming of Pope Francis to Kenya in a letter to the Christian faithful issued on behalf of the Bishops. Bishop Anyolo said, “The Holy Father has accepted our invitation and will visit Kenya in November 2015.”Bishop Anyolo, who is the Bishop of Homabay also revealed that the Pope’s visit is a state and pastoral visit, hence the Church will collaborate with the Government of Kenya on logistics.Interview with the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Balv.CANAA: On June 12 this year, the Holy Father reportedly confirmed his first trip to Africa since becoming Pope. He said that he would visit the Central African Republic and Uganda in November this year, and that Kenya would only be a possibility. What do you know lately about the Pope’s visit to Africa?Apostolic Nuncio: Earlier than this, when he was returning from Asia last year, in one of his conversations with the journalists, he indicated his interest (to visit Africa). He had mentioned first to Central African Republic and also Uganda. I think it was in relation to the political situation in Central African Republic, the serious unrest, the violence, that was a concern to him. These kind of things, migrants, immigrants, places where there is some social unrest, are of special concern to him. If people can remember, the first trip out of Rome that he made was to the small island of Lampedusa, where many of the migrants on these ramshackle boats that leave the North African coast often end up.As far as I am concerned, when I was first informed in the middle of June (2015), the capitals of the three countries were on the Pope’s planned trip: Nairobi, Kampala, and Bangui. I don’t know if the visit of the Kenyan Bishops after Easter for their Ad Limina probably had something to do with it, because when the Pope receives bishops from all over the world for their Ad Limina visits, I’m sure they all say, ‘Holy Father come and visit us.’Considering that he wanted already to come to East and Central Africa, adding Kenya and considering Nairobi as a major hub for Eastern Africa, then this would be the first stop. In essence, from my first hearing of this, Kenya was part of the programme.CANAA: As far as I know, there has not yet been a formal announcement about the Pope’s visit to Kenya. When can we expect this?Apostolic Nuncio: The first formal and official announcement will take place in September, indicating that the Pope is visiting these three countries. About a month later, the full formal announcement including the details of the trip will be published, because it has to be coordinated with the three countries.I have an idea obviously of the programme here, but I do not know at all what is going to take place in Uganda specifically. There is always going to be Mass in any of these places. In Kampala you have the Martyrs’ shrine in Namugongo and the Pope is surely going there.CANAA: Even as we wait for the formal announcement and the official release of the schedule, what kind of programme do you foresee? Apostolic Nuncio:There are activities that are already in the planning. There is the welcoming at the Airport on Wednesday afternoon. At that point, it is the State involvement and there is the welcome at State House. On Thursday, there will be Mass, the meeting with priests and religious, then there will be a short visit to the United Nations office in Gigiri, Nairobi. Friday morning, there will be a visit to a slum, and then the youth at Kasarani Stadium, then he leaves in the afternoon for Uganda.So, we have a proposed schedule, we have to put specific times and places. We have concrete ideas, we just have to finalise them. The visit as planned will be from here (in Nairobi), Wednesday the 25th (November )to Friday the 27th midday-afternoon, then he continues on to Uganda, and as far as I know, two nights in Uganda and one night in Central African Republic.CANAA: This is going to be a complex visit involving the State and the Catholic Church in Kenya, isn’t it?Apostolic Nuncio: The Papal visits are always pastoral visits. They have some governmental State aspects to them, but the primary purpose is to visit the local Church in each and every place that the Pope goes to, but there is always some relationship with the host government as well. Here that will take place pretty much at the beginning. But the day-and-a-half that the Pope is really here is dedicated to the Church.CANAA: What preparations would you recommend for ordinary citizens of these countries, ahead of the Papal pastoral visit?Apostolic Nuncio: Well certainly the local Church through the Bishops’ Conferences has Commissions to prepare the different aspects of the visit. It is obvious that in any Papal visit anywhere, not everyone can see the Holy Father, or hear him, that can’t just happen. He is just coming to Nairobi and there is going to be a limited number of people who’ll actually see him and hear him speak.The Bishops have the theme for the visit, “To stay strong in the faith.” In parishes, they (faithful) can participate in organised activities like Masses, talks, prayer sessions, Small Christian Communities to reflect upon the faith.CANAA: As the representative of the Pope in Kenya and South Sudan, the Pope, or at least the Pope’s representatives at the Vatican, will surely be consulting with you ahead of this pastoral visit. What do you think will be his message when he finally comes?Apostolic Nuncio: As far as the Holy Father’s message is concerned, he will receive suggestions from the local Bishops and the Nuncio along some themes and ideas. But we don’t know what is in his heart and what he wants to say here. We will not know that until he actually says it.The Holy Father is the shepherd of the Church throughout the world. He has a message for the Americans, for Latin Americans, for Europeans, for Asians; what his message will be specifically for Africans, we’ll know when he comes. We know already some main themes of his Papacy: the notion of the Church as being open and welcoming, inclusive, as he says the world being a battlefield and the Church is a field hospital, helping people who are trying to respond to the needs of humanity. These are obviously general themes: poverty, simplicity, humility. Any specific idea that he may have at the back of his mind that he wants to communicate in his first trip to Africa, that we’ll know when he comes.CANAA: What does this visit mean to you personally?Apostolic Nuncio: Well, I have had the experience of Papal visits. In 1997, I was the Secretary at the Nunciature in the Czech Republic when the Pope (John Paul II) made a trip there; it was the commemoration of 1,000 years of a particular saint of that region.In the year 2000 when Pope John Paul II wanted to commemorate the great Jubilee with pilgrimages to different places, he started his Holy Land trip in March 2000 in Jordan where I was assigned. There, I was alone in the Nunciature in the sense that the Nuncio lived in Iraq and because of the embargo at the time, communications were reduced, traveling was only by road, so the Nuncio would only come from time to time, so I had a lot to do with the local Church of course. So, that was invaluable experience for me to know in general the kind of things you need to do for the preparation of a Papal visit and there are pretty much the same. You have to organize all the things about the press and communications, security, transportation, and then what is going to happen, the various liturgies or encounters, the meetings, prayers, etc.The Commissions of the Bishops’ conference and their committees will do the bulk of the work for the local Church. The State has its part, but that is really very limited, whereas much of the footwork will be done by the local Church.CANAA: You have talked about a limited number of people being able to actually see the Pope during his visit. How do you think the limiting of people can be handled?Apostolic Nuncio: I really don’t know how they will do it. In certain places, and I say this from my lived experience that I had from my home country in the Archdiocese of New York when they had these events, each parish is given a certain number of pass tickets. Then it is up to the Parish Priest. They may have a lottery.For example, when we have Mass in a park, a great many people can participate. So, whether the Bishops will organise that each diocese can send a delegation, each parish in Nairobi, since it is the closest, can send a delegation, they will organise how best to do that. The Church will try to get as much of a representation as possible for the different events.It will really be up to the Bishops how they do it for the different dioceses, parishes, institutions, and all those who will be able to participate. The rest, obviously you have communications and I am sure that certain events like the Mass and the youth gathering can be transmitted by the Kenyan television and broadcast on radio, so that people can have access. I realise that in rural areas the access is limited, but most people can somehow get radio.CANAA: Any last message with regard to the visit of the Holy Father to this part of the world?Apostolic Nuncio: Well, I know that the Bishops here have chosen as their theme “To stand strong in the faith,” and I think that when the Holy Father comes, one of the tasks that Jesus gave to St. Peter (and just before he denied that he had known Jesus) was to strengthen his brothers in the faith. I think the Holy Father wants to do that, to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith, his presence to be a kind of something that will push people to encourage to live their faith not only interiorly in their life of prayer but also in their life in influencing society so that the society in Kenya can also be even more filled with the values, which come from the gospel for our faith.
Sep 2 15 10:34 AM
The Vatican's ambassador to Kenya and South Sudan has revealed a number of details of Pope Francis' expected November visit to three African countries, including the likely dates of the pontiff's travels and the issues he may highlight in his first sojourn to the continent.Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo says Francis is planning a whirlwind five-night tour to three African capitals: Nairobi, in Kenya from Nov. 25-27; Kampala, in Uganda from Nov. 27-29; and Bangui, in the Central African Republic from Nov. 29-30.Taking place just two months after the pontiff's upcoming September visit to Cuba and the U.S., the African tour could be the scene of some dramatic moments -- especially in the Central African Republic, which has experienced reoccurring and bloody sectarian conflicts over the past decade. Balvo, the apostolic nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, spoke about the trip in an exclusive interview last week with the Catholic News Agency for Africa, a new independent news service focused on covering Catholic news on the continent.The archbishop spoke most of the Kenyan part of the trip, saying Francis is expected to have a public Mass in Nairobi and a meeting with area priests and religious. The pontiff, said Balvo, will also likely visit the U.N. offices in the city and one of the area slums.Slums in Nairobi are known for their expansive and permanent nature, with one, Kibera, housing a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.Balvo says he thinks the pope wants to make the trip particularly "in relation to the political situation in Central African Republic, the serious unrest, the violence, that was a concern to him.""These kind of things, migrants, immigrants, places where there is some social unrest, are of special concern to him," said the archbishop. "If people can remember, the first trip out of Rome that he made was to the small island of Lampedusa, where many of the migrants on these ramshackle boats that leave the North African coast often end up."Balvo also reveals the theme the Kenyan bishops have given Francis' visit to their country: "To stay strong in the faith." The archbishop says he is not sure how the bishops will manage the high numbers expected at the pope's events and says that for those living in rural areas, the only access to events may be by radio."I know that the Bishops here have chosen as their theme 'to stand strong in the faith,' and I think that when the Holy Father comes, one of the tasks that Jesus gave to St. Peter ... was to strengthen his brothers in the faith," states Balvo."I think the Holy Father wants to do that, to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith, his presence to be a kind of something that will push people to encourage to live their faith not only interiorly in their life of prayer but also in their life in influencing society so that the society in Kenya can also be even more filled with the values, which come from the gospel for our faith," he said.
Sep 19 15 6:46 PM
As the plane carrying Pope Francis to Washington, DC, nears Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 22, American TV likely will be full of breathless references to “Shepherd One” being on approach, “Shepherd One” touching down, and, eventually, the pontiff descending the steps of “Shepherd One.”It’s not often that a mere two words manage to convey three complete misconceptions, but the phrase “Shepherd One” pulls off the hat trick.The plane isn’t really called “Shepherd One.” People in the United States call it that, but the phrase is a media conceit rather than an actual call sign.Formally speaking, the papal plane doesn’t have a name. Its designation is usually just Alitalia flight AZ 4000 on the outbound leg, and beyond that Italians simply call it the volo papale, or “papal flight.”The pope doesn’t own a plane. The term “Shepherd One” suggests that the pope actually owns a plane, which he doesn’t. Even the term “papal plane” is something of a myth, since the pontiff does not have his own personal aircraft.The Vatican always charters a plane for the three or four foreign trips a pope usually makes every year, often using a different aircraft for each leg of the journey. These are regular commercial planes that were in use making the Rome to London run, or something like it, the day before the trip and will be again once it’s over.The tradition is for the pope to take the Italian national airline, Alitalia, to wherever he’s going, and then fly the national carrier of that country on his return. When Francis travelled to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, for instance, he took Alitalia to get there and Philippine Airlines to get back to Rome.On this trip, Francis will take Alitalia as far as Washington and then American Airlines the rest of the way.(As a footnote, the dirty little secret of papal travel is that the press corps actually subsidizes the pope’s movements, since the roughly 70 reporters on the plane are asked to pay business class airfare in order to fly in coach. Since the 30 members of the pope’s entourage who fly in business aren’t paying anything, this means the cost of the charter is borne almost entirely by the people in steerage.)(This time, the Alitalia fare from the Rome-Cuba-Washington part of the trip is roughly $3,200 while the Washington-NewYork-Philadelphia-Rome part on American Airlines is $2,300, for a grand total of $5,500. That means 70 reporters are contributing $385,000 to the cost of the trip.)The plane is nothing like Air Force One. Calling the plane “Shepherd One” suggests an analogy with Air Force One, summoning images to mind for Americans of conference rooms with large round tables, a presidential suite, red hotline phones, communications rooms with technicians tracking satellite telemetry, and so on.Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the papal plane is a normal commercial jet, and usually the only real perk enjoyed by the pontiff is that he gets to sit in the first row of business class by himself.Years ago, for especially long journeys, airlines would pull out the first couple rows of seats in business class in order to install a bed for the pope. Today there’s a museum in Kansas City where one can still see the bed used by St. John Paul II in 1979 when he flew TWA, complete with a seatbelt. (Bishop Fulton Sheen jokingly said the airline’s initials on that occasion stood for “Traveling With Angels.”)Now, however, given that most carriers already have seats in first and business class that turn into fully-flat beds, there’s generally no need to modify the normal configuration of the plane.None of this probably will convince TV hosts narrating the pope’s arrival to lay off the “Shepherd One” references, because the term is just too tempting for American ears, but don’t be fooled: a papal version of Air Force One it’s not.Here are a few other fun facts about papal travel.Meeting the pressWhen Pope Paul VI flew to Jordan and Israel in January 1964, he became the first reigning pontiff in history to travel by airplane. One year later, Paul VI visited New York, which means Francis’ American debut falls on the 50th anniversary of the first papal appearance ever in the States.Since then, each pope has had his own approach to speaking to the reporters who travel with him.In the early years of his papacy, St. John Paul II would come back to the economy section and talk to reporters in language groups, spending a few minutes with the Italians, a few with English-speakers, and so on. It was all off-the-cuff, and all on-the-record.Later, however, when age and illness made that impossible, the custom became for reporters to be called up one-by-one and have a minute or so to sit next to John Paul, usually just for a quick hello.With Benedict XVI, he would conduct a sort-of press conference at the beginning of the trip. They were highly choreographed affairs, with the Vatican spokesman collecting questions 48 hours in advance by e-mail and picking a few to ask the pontiff. Sometimes reporters would be called upon to put the questions, and sometimes the spokesman would just do it himself.Even so, those sessions did sometimes make headlines.When Benedict went to Cameroon in 2009, for instance, he sparked a firestorm by claiming that distributing condoms in Africa makes the problem of HIV/AIDS worse. (The line drew a formal censure from the Belgian parliament, and prompted the Spanish government to airlift a special batch of condoms to Africa in protest.)Francis has adopted the custom of moving around to say hello to reporters on the outbound leg of the flight, then holding a full-blown, no-holds-barred news conference on the way back. Those sessions have produced numerous memorable soundbites, including “Who am I to judge?” about gay people on the way back from Brazil in 2013, and the pontiff’s insistence that Catholics aren’t required to “breed like rabbits” returning from Manila in January.Indeed, the pontiff’s penchant for stirring the pot has led to the wry observation that while the seats on the papal plane are generally uncomfortable and the food mediocre, at least with Francis the in-flight entertainment is spectacular.The entourageGenerally speaking, the pope travels with an entourage made up of roughly 30 people.Known is Italian as the seguito, literally the “following,” the papal party is typically composed of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin; one or two other cardinals and bishops; 10 priests, most of them officials of the Secretariat of State; and 20 laity, most employees of the Vatican Press Office as well as plainclothes agents of the Vatican security service and the Swiss Guard.Given that there are basically 70 journalists on the plane, each papal flight is composed of around 100 passengers plus the flight crew.For reporters, the best moments on long flights often come when members of the entourage come to the back of the plane to use the bathroom, and can be pulled aside to take a question, provide background on something, or simply offer some insight into what the pope’s doing up front.Bell to bellReporters who travel aboard the papal plane are required to take the entire trip from bell to bell, rather than being able to drop out along the way. If someone decides on their own to skip the return leg, for instance, it’s virtually a guarantee they’ll never be allowed to fly with the pope again.Several years ago, I asked special permission to fly back from a trip on my own, since I had been asked to speak the next day in Washington, DC for the American presentation of Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth by the papal ambassador, who at the time was Archbishop Pietro Sambi.The request had to go all the way to the secretary of state, then Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to get the green light. Even then, it was clear officials on the plane weren’t thrilled with the precedent they feared was being set.I later asked Sambi why the Vatican was so concerned about how reporters got home, since we’d already paid for the ticket and presumably having one or two fewer passengers on board would make things a little easier.Sambi’s answer was simplicity itself: “The pope cannot be allowed to fly on an empty plane,” he said. “It might look like the trip was a disappointment.”The return flightBy now, Alitalia has flown popes so often the carrier has become a bit blasé about the whole thing. It used to be that when reporters boarded a papal flight, Alitalia would provide sacks full of swag – bottles of wine and perfume, cartons of cigarettes, boxes of chocolate, and so on.Today, the only real memento Alitalia provides is a cloth headrest with the papal seal that most reporters snag from the back of their seats as they disembark.When the pontiff takes the national carrier of a country on the way back to Rome, however, things are often different. Those carriers rarely get to ferry a pope, so they make a big deal out of it. Often they provide a larger aircraft, so people can spread out, and the food and beverage service is usually first-rate.In the old days, reporters thus looked forward to the return flight because it meant relaxation time. The story was basically done, so you had several hours to hang out with colleagues, enjoy a good meal, maybe watch a movie, or just catch up on days of missed sleep.With Francis, however, all that has changed because of the press conference.Generally, the session begins about a half-hour after takeoff and runs for an hour. He usually speaks in Italian, so English-speaking reporters divvy up his comments afterwards to translate them into English, often having to play and replay the tape several times to get it right.The remaining time generally is spent hammering out stories or preparing material for broadcast upon landing, so there’s precious little time to catch one’s breath.Nobody’s complaining, of course, since those airborne news conferences are a precious gift to the media. On the other hand, they do mean that traveling with the pope has become a more demanding affair, which is one more way of confirming that Francis really is a change agent.
Oct 6 15 11:17 AM
Zenit - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that Pope Francis will be visiting Mexico early next year.
In an interview with Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki of Noticieros Televisa, the director of the Holy See Press Office said that the Pope is expected to make the journey in the early months of 2016. Fr. Lombardi also said that more details on the official dates and schedule will be released some time in November.While no details of the Pope’s visit has been released, it is almost certain that he will visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.During an in-flight press conference from Santiago de Cuba to Washington, D.C. on September 22nd, Pope Francis said that his original plan for his Apostolic Visit to the United States was to enter by Mexico. However, due to the re-establishment of relations between the U.S. and Cuba and time constraints, the plans were changed.“Initially the idea was to enter from Ciudad Juárez, on the border with Mexico,” the Pope said. “But to go to Mexico without going to Our Lady of Guadalupe would have been an insult! So that didn’t happen.”
Oct 27 15 11:17 AM
CNA - Milan’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Scola, made an informal announcement Tuesday that Pope Francis will visit the archdiocese May 7, marking the first papal visit there since 2012.“With joy and emotion we announce that Pope Francis, accepting our invitation, will be among us in Milan May 7,” Cardinal Scola announced in an Oct. 27 statement, posted to the diocese of Milan’s website.The Pope’s visit, he said, “is a delicate sign of affection and esteem for the Ambrosian Church, for the city of Milan and for all of Lombardy.”Cardinal Scola made the initial announcement of the papal visit during an Oct. 27 meeting with Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï.Milan is the second largest city in Italy, and serves as the capital of the country’s northern Lombardy region. The last Pope to visit Milan was Benedict XVI in 2012, when he traveled to the diocese June 1-3 for the 7th World Meeting of Families.In his statement, Cardinal Scola said the diocese is grateful to the Pope, “who will come to confirm us in the faith as his Petrine Ministry demands; a ministry of personal and ecclesial love.”“All those who, people and social subjects, live the Milanese and Lombardian reality – we are certain – will welcome this great gift with gladness.”Cardinal Scola noted how the Pope’s visit will take place within the context of the Jubilee for Mercy, which is set to begin Dec. 8, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.The Holy Year will show “the closeness of the Church, in truth and charity, to every man and woman, of every age, state and culture,” he said, noting that this proximity to the people of God was communicated in a special way during the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family, which closed Sunday.Pope Francis’ presence will help the Milanese people “to better understand and implement the purpose of the Pastoral visit to take place in our Church,” the cardinal said.“Each community, while verifying their path, feels encouraged to recognize themselves as the presence of the Catholic Church, that is, universal, because it is missionary for all men, for each person in this season of transition and compassion, of tribulation and sanctification.”The cardinal explained that the diocese is already preparing for the Pope’s visit with prayer, and will meet tomorrow morning to begin organizing the preparations.Each person, he said, priests, religious and laity included, should turn to Mary and “ask God for the grace of conversion so that the papal visit is for all a tangible sign of the loving presence of Jesus, died and risen for us.”
Oct 29 15 12:21 PM
Today, the Holy See Press Office made public the programme of the Holy Father's visit to Prato and Florence, Italy on 10 November for the Fifth National Congress of the Italian Church. The Pope will depart at 7 am from the Vatican heliport and will arrive an hour later at the municipal sports camp in Prato. From there he will transfer to the cathedral and will address workers from the square. As previously forecast, the group will probably include some Chinese workers. At 9 am he will travel by helicopter from Prato to Florence where, after arrival at the Luigi Ridolfi stadium, he will visit the baptistery and will meet with the representatives of the National Congress of the Italian Church in Piazza Santa Maria del Fiore. At midday he will pray the Angelus and greet the sick in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, after which he will lunch with the poor who attend the San Francesco Poverino refectory. After celebrating Holy Mass in the Artemio Franchi municipal stadium, the Holy Father will greet the authorities and depart for Rome at 5 pm, where he is due to arrive around 6 pm.
Nov 1 15 3:00 PM
CNA/EWTN - Pope Francis will visit Mexico City in February 2016, Cardinal Norberto Rivera announced on Sunday. “I have a piece of news that everyone already knows: the Holy Father comes to visit us, and he comes on the afternoon of Feb. 12. So from that day we will receive him with much love,” the cardinal said.The cardinal made the announcement during Sunday Mass at Mexico City’s cathedral Nov. 1, Televisa reports. He suggested that the date of the Pope’s arrival in Mexico was “very close” to Feb. 12.The Vatican has not yet made an official announcement of the trip.On Oct. 6 Father Ciro Benedettini, the vice director of the Holy See Press Office told CNA that the Pope was seriously considering a trip to Mexico next year. He said that if the trip takes place, an agenda is expected to be released in November.Mexico would be Pope Francis’ fourth trip to the Americas. He visited Brazil for World Youth Day in August 2013. In July of 2014 he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. He visited the United States and Cuba Sept. 19-27.The Pope has indicated he wanted to spend a full week there, especially to visit the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In March he told the Mexican media group Televisa he had wanted to enter the U.S. from the country’s Mexican border as a symbolic gesture. However, he decided that would be too short a visit for Mexico.“So I promise a trip to Mexico as it deserves, and not to hurry and pass through,” the Pope told Televisa in March.
Nov 6 15 12:09 AM
A Honduran cardinal who is a top adviser to Pope Francis said he expects the pontiff to travel to Mexico’s border with the United States when he visits that country in February.“I think it’s almost sure he will go to the border. I don’t know which cities,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who heads a special council of nine cardinals that Francis set up in 2013 to advise him on reforming the Vatican.“Knowing him, he will go … I don’t know yet where,” Rodriguez said in an interview on Tuesday before taking part in a Fordham University panel on “Laudato Si’,” the pope’s groundbreaking encyclical on the moral duty to protect the environment.Francis has made a concern for migrants and refugees a focus of his pontificate. He said that he had initially wanted to arrive in the United States on his first visit here in September by crossing the border from Mexico as a sign of solidarity with immigrants.He mentioned Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, as a possible destination.But he realized he would have to spend at least a week beforehand in Mexico, and he did not have enough time. So instead he visited Cuba for three days before arriving in the States on Sept. 22 for a six-day visit.“Going through Mexico without going to Our Lady of Guadalupe (the popular shrine to the Virgin Mary in Mexico City) would have been a slap” in the face, Francis told reporters on his flight to the United States. He also pledged to visit Mexico soon.Last Sunday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico Cityconfirmed in a homily that Francis would visit the country starting on Feb. 12. Rivera provided no further details of a possible itinerary, and Vatican officials just arrived this week in Mexico to begin planning the trip.But Ciudad Juarez, a key border crossing, continues to be mentioned as a venue.“The subject he (Francis) wants to address is migration, and Ciudad Juarez is being signaled,” Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla told a Mexican newspaper.During his US visit, Francis repeatedly called on Americans to be more welcoming to immigrants. If Francis does go to the border, it would send a powerful message about the Catholic Church’s long-standing demand for immigration reform and better treatment of Mexicans and others who enter the United States.In April 2013, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and other US churchmen, along with a dozen other bishops from three other countries, celebrated Mass on the US side of the border fence in Nogales, Ariz., as a sign of solidarity with immigrants.That is the kind of gesture Francis is known for. On his first trip outside Rome after his election in 2013, he celebrated Mass on an altar made from an old boat on the remote Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, where refugees from Africa often land — or where their bodies wash ashore after drowning during the dangerous passage.When he visited the Holy Land in 2014, Francis also made an impromptu stop to pray at the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank.But if the pontiff stops at the Mexican border with the United States, he could prompt more criticism from conservative Catholics who have not been happy with his social justice agenda or the Church’s push for immigration reform, in particular.When O’Malley and the others celebrated Mass at the border, commentator George Weigel criticized the bishops for turning the Mass “into an act of essentially political theater.” He said it wasn’t clear why Catholics should support immigration reform.Wisconsin Republican US Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic who was just elected House speaker, has ruled out considering immigration reform while President Obama is in office.
Nov 19 15 8:08 AM
Nov 20 15 5:42 AM
Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine made during a meeting Friday at the Vatican with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to a statement from the country’s leader.
While such invitations are routinely made by heads of state meeting with the pontiff, and the Vatican has yet to confirm the pope’s acceptance, a visit to Ukraine would carry high significance given continuing international outcry over Russia’s annexing of Crimea in 2014."I invited His Holiness to visit Ukraine and he accepted the invitation,” Poroshenko wrote on his Facebook page following Friday’s meeting, which saw the president meet privately with the pope for about 22 minutes in the Vatican’s apostolic palace. The possible visit by Francis would be only the second of a pontiff to the former Soviet nation, following a five-day visit by Pope John Paul II in 2001.The situation in the country has been unsettled since early 2014, when Russia effectively took over the Crimean peninsula, part of Ukraine, by deploying unmarked trips to the region before holding a referendum for independence and absorption into the Russian Federation.Do you know a volunteer religious ed teacher who inspired you or your kids? We want to tell their story in our upcoming Volunteers special section (only available to subscribers). Click here for more info.The Russians are also now threatening Ukraine with a food-trade ban should the country conclude a trade deal with the European Union, a move Ukrainian authorities say could cost some $600 million in revenue.The meeting between Poroshenko and Francis was held privately Friday.In a statement afterwards, the Vatican said discussions “were dedicated principally to matters connected with the situation of conflict in the country.” The two leaders focused specifically on humanitarian concerns and spoke particularly of economic and social consequences of the conflict, the Vatican said.After their meeting Friday, Francis gave Poroshenko his traditional gift of a bronze medallion showing an olive branch holding together two parts of a rock face, a symbol of the duty of political leaders to overcome what divides and work for peace.“This is my desire of peace for Ukraine,” the pontiff could be heard telling the president.Poroshenko gave Francis a small glass sculpture of angel, made by Ukrainian artisans and accented with pieces of Ukrainian amber.“I pray that this gift will remind you of Ukraine,” said the president.Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said Francis had first greeted Poroshenko during their encounter in the Ukrainian language. The pontiff learned the greeting as a young boy while serving Mass for an Ukranian priest living in Buenos Aires, said Lombardi.
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.