Vergelt’s Gott, Heiliger Vater!

BXVI Farewell

Remembering Pope Benedict’s resignation one year later

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

The momentous occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation one year ago on February 11, 2013, stands as an important moment in the life of the Catholic Church and in the life of the world. To his brother Cardinals gathered in consistory that February morning last year, he startled them, the Church and the entire world with these moving words:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Pope Benedict XVI submitted his resignation freely, in accordance with the Church’s Code of Canon Law. It was an unprecedented decision in modern history and offers the church and the world a profound teaching moment. It is perfectly in line with one of the greatest teachers of the faith that the church has ever known. By his bold and courageous decision, Benedict told us that we must be painfully honest with the human condition, that we cannot be enchained by history. A man who had been the champion of tradition and labeled “conservative” left us with one of the most progressive gestures made by any pope. This man known for brilliant writing, exquisite kindness, charity, gentleness, humility and clarity of teaching, offered us the epitome of a courageous and humble decision that will forever mark the papacy and the life of the Church.

Benedict’s resignation provides a rare but profound example of humility in action. True leaders put their cause before their power and self-interest. Far from a failure or weakness, his resignation was the most shining moment of Benedict’s papacy, and what will turn out to be a historically brilliant move. He has set a new course for the church.

The Great Teacher

Benedict was pigeonholed from the beginning as the “conservative” pope. For eight years on the chair of Peter, Pope Benedict turned to Scripture far more than doctrine, making connections between the early Christians and people of our time struggling to live their faith. He tackled contemporary social and political issues by emphasizing a few main principles: that human rights rest on human dignity, that people come before profits, that the right to life is an ancient measure of humanity and not just a Catholic teaching, and that efforts to exclude God from civil affairs are corroding modern society. For Benedict, Christianity is an encounter with beauty, the possibility of a more authentic, more exciting life. His mantra was about friendship with Jesus and with God.

Benedict set the stage for the age of the New Evangelization by focusing in on three basics. His first three encyclicals examined the three cardinal virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. His first three books focused on the center of the Catholic Faith: Jesus Christ. This great teaching pope lectured every Wednesday on issues like the catechesis, the Fathers of the Church, the Saints, the Doctors of the Church, the Psalms and prayer. In October 2013, he held a synod on the New Evangelization and in his opening speech declared “The Church exists to evangelize!” Pope Benedict brilliantly emphasized the need for intense theological life, constant prayer and quiet contemplation which would naturally give way to good moral living, a commitment to others, and a life of charity and justice. 

Early in his Pontificate, Benedict XVI told a group of priests in northern Italy, while he was vacationing, “The pope is not an oracle; he is infallible on the rarest of occasions, as we know.” Acknowledging that the Church was moving through some painful moments, he admitted, “I do not think that there is any system for making a rapid change. We must go on, we must go through this tunnel, this underpass, patiently, in the certainty that Christ is the answer…but we should also deepen this certainty and the joy of knowing it and thus truly be ministers of the future of the world, of the future of every person.” So many moments of his papacy seem to have been lived out in a dark tunnel where light was very distant.

As I look back over nearly eight years of his Petrine Ministry, I am grateful for the special moments I spent in his presence. I had known Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict XVI for many years. I was with him in Rome, Germany, Australia, the United States and Spain on his unforgettable papal pastoral visits. I served as the English language media attaché at two Synods of Bishops where we had the privilege of being with Benedict for days on end in the Synod Hall in Rome.

When I was with the Pope in Cologne for his first World Youth Day in August 2005, he exclaimed to the throngs of young Christians and the curious mixed in: “The Church can be criticized, because it contains both grain and weeds, but it is actually consoling to realize that there are weeds in the Church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners.”

If any pope dealt with the weeds among the wheat during his pontificate, it was Benedict XVI. He called sin and evil by their right names, and invited people to become friends with Jesus Christ. He faced head-on scandals and was unafraid to speak about them; he admitted errors made under his watch; he reached out to schismatics and experienced rejection of his efforts for unity; he extended peace branches to the great religions of the world unafraid to name the things that divide us and also the great hopes that unite us. He walked among kings and princes but never lost the common touch. As one who was not expected to travel due to old age, he surprised all of us with a daunting schedule of world travel during his papacy. Aware of the “filth” in the Church in so many areas, it was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who pushed for new rules to weed out abuser priests in the Pope John Paul II years and who wrote those rules into law as pope. Benedict, too, was the first pope to meet with victims of sex abuse, the first pope to apologize for the crisis in his own name, and the first pope to dedicate an entire document to the abuse crisis in his 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

It was Benedict who established the new financial watchdog agency, who opened the Vatican for the first time to outside secular inspection through the Moneyval process (the Council of Europe’s anti-money-laundering agency), and who began to tackle the problems of the financial mismanagement and lack of transparency at the Vatican.

During these days of retrospection and commemoration of the first anniversary of Benedict’s resignation, many feel that in order to highlight the positive aspects of the “Franciscan” era, we must describe in negative terms the pontificate of Pope Benedict. That is not only absurd, but it is also indicates blindness, deafness and ignorance to what this great man accomplished. Comparisons between Francis and his predecessor are inevitable, and it’s no secret that Pope Francis is more appealing to the crowds… the huge masses that continue to throng the Vatican to catch glimpse of the first Pope from the New World. There is a shift in tone under Francis in what could be described as a “moderate” or “pastoral” direction and a real concern for those on the peripheries of society and the Church.

Let us not forget that many of the reforms now underway under Pope Francis’ leadership actually began on Benedict’s watch, especially in two chronic sources of scandal for the church: money and sex abuse. I am convinced that if today we are basking in the Pope Francis’ light, we must forever be grateful to Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI who has made Francis possible for the Church and the world. We owe Benedict immense gratitude.

The Farewell

Having had the privilege of serving as one of the “spokespersons” for the Vatican during the momentous papal transition last year, I experienced everything up close, and emotions were very high at various moments.

One of the most touching moments of that Roman experience took place on February 28, the last day of Benedict’s pontificate. His carefully orchestrated departure from the Apostolic Palace and the Vatican captured the heart and mind of the world. The touching farewell from his co-workers on that crisp, Italian afternoon, the brief helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo, his final words as Pope, reminding us that he would become “a pilgrim” in this final stage of his life, moved the world. There were no dry eyes in Rome that evening. I was sad to witness this incredible leave-taking. I grieved because I knew deep down inside that this great Church leader, teacher, a real “doctor” of the faith had been very poorly served by some of his closest collaborators during his papacy.

Joseph, our brother

In the Old Testament, we find the moving story of Joseph, who, after generations of family turmoil, disunity and even hate, united his family in forgiveness and love. In emotional scenes that could easily be part of a great opera, Joseph questions his brothers, who do not recognize him, about their beloved father, still grieving over the supposed death of his missing son. When he confronts them and sees that they have undergone a change of heart, he embraces them and utters the immortal words, “I am Joseph, your brother” (Genesis 45:4).

Blessed John Paul II taught us the profound lesson of suffering and death with dignity. Joseph Ratzinger taught us the meaning of sweet surrender- of not clinging to power and the throne, of prestige, tradition and privilege for their own sakes. Pope Benedict taught us what it means to serve the Lord with gladness, humility and joy. He was for us, Joseph, our brother – the one that many refused to accept in the beginning, but in the end, recognized and embraced as a beloved brother. 

During my German language studies in Pope Benedict’s Bavarian homeland, I learned the wonderful expression “Vergelt’s Gott!” It is much more than a mere “Danke” or “thanks” but really means, “May God repay you or reward you!” As I look back over those momentous days one year ago, I say,“Vergelt’s Gott, Heiliger Vater!” The Church and the world will never be the same because of what you have done for us!

What Benedict stored, Francis scatters…Some Reflections on the Papal Transition

Francis and Benedict seated cropped

The following address was given to over 500 Catholic journalists and those working in Catholic Media in Canada and the United States at the Presidential Medallion Awards Luncheon of the Catholic Media Convention in Denver, Colorado on June 21, 2013.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

First of all I wish to thank you for the great work that you all did during the Papal transition.  I had the pleasure of dealing with many of you during those momentous days from my position in Rome and was able to witness up close your dedication, zeal and journalistic excellence.  I wish to thank in particular our friends from Catholic News Service for their outstanding work and assistance to the secular media, and many television and radio networks.  CNS, along with Catholic News Agency helped us to fill in the gaps of solid, Catholic information on many occasions.

For four solid weeks this past Lent, through the momentous transition in the papacy, we had a golden opportunity to teach, catechize and evangelize the nations and put the Synod on the New Evangelization into practice.    Pope Benedict’s resignation on 2/11, shifted the plates of the earth for the Church.  We had no playbook, script, notes or film footage left behind by that Benedictine monk, Pietro Morrone who would later become Pope Celestine V.  Overwhelmed by the demands of the office, Celestine stepped down after five months as pope in 1294.

Almost six hundred years later, acknowledging what he called his “incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” Benedict told us that we must be painfully honest with the human condition, that we cannot be enchained by history.  A man who has been the champion of tradition and labeled “conservative” left us with one of the most progressive gestures made by any pope. This man known for brilliant writing, exquisite kindness, charity, gentleness, humility and clarity of teaching, offered us the epitome of a courageous and humble decision that will forever mark the papacy and the life of the Church.

Two Popes in PrayerOne of the most poignant moments of my Roman sojourn took place on February 28, the last day of Benedict’s pontificate.  His carefully orchestrated departure from the Apostolic Palace and the Vatican captured the heart and mind of the world.  The touching farewell from his co-workers on that crisp, Italian afternoon, the brief helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo, his final words as Pope, reminding us that he would become “a pilgrim” in this final stage of his life, moved the world.  I experienced that moment with the heads of many of the television networks of the world.  There were no dry eyes in Rome that evening.

Then began the ‘Sede Vacante.’  We were off to the races!  I cannot tell you enough what a great pleasure it was to work closely with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ throughout the entire transition.  He is a good and honest man skilled in communicating.  We owe him an immense debt of gratitude.  Sitting at his side, spending hours with him on daily scavenger hunts for Vatican information, admiring his patience with journalists taught me many lessons about patience, charity and the necessity of humor through it all!

The Vatican strategy of spreading the multi-lingual banquet table of information during the papal transition bore much fruit this past Lent. As Cardinals gathered in Rome and met in secret sessions (at least we thought they were secret!) to assess the state of the Church and trace a profile of the next pope, many of you saw Fr. Lombardi, Msgr. Gil Tamayo and me answering hundreds of questions on a daily basis from the media around the world.  Those daily televised press conferences and briefings topped some of the Italian soap operas for viewership.

Questions coming to us at press conferences and briefings revealed an immense interest (some would say obsession) in things Church!  From the Italian fascination with the retired Pope’s abandonment of the red shoes; to the Mexicans’ delight with the emeritus Pope’s predilection for brown loafers from Leon, Mexico; to the Germans’ intense preoccupation with environmental dangers of black and white smoke pollution over the city of Rome; to the French “souci” with just about everything, and again to the Italian preoccupations with the sealing of Papal apartments and the smashing of Papal seals… we had our hands full.  The world was watching and listening.  I chuckled several times thinking that the Church had made such great strides these past years in the area of social communications.  But for such a major event and happening as a conclave, we still relied on smoke signals.

I was asked to handle the media requests in English (and later French) and thus worked 18-hour days with television, print and radio media from every corner of the globe.  My young colleague, Sebastian Gomes guided me through the maze of media requests and kept me steady through it all.  I lost count after doing 165 television and radio interviews with every possible network you can imagine… first in English, then French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

The Conclave

When the College of Cardinals finally entered into the conclave on Tuesday, March 12, the excitement and expectation were palpable.  As much as Italy tried to dominate the whole process, and delight in the so-called Vatileaks that continued to flow during the pre-conclave meetings, they got it all wrong… as did many others throughout the world who stared in utter amazement at the man who appeared on the loggia of St. Peter’s basilica the night of March 13.

With the “Habemus Papam” came the name of a stranger, and outsider, who instantly won over the crowd in the Piazza and the entire world with the words, “Fratelli e Sorelle, buona sera!” (Brothers and sisters, good evening!)  Who would believe a pontificate beginning with those simple, common words?  Never in my wildest imaginings did I expect a Pope to be called Francis!  Nor could I comprehend the scene of well over one hundred thousand cheering people suddenly becoming still and silent as Papa Franceso bowed and asked them to pray for him and pray over him.  It was the most moving moment I have ever experienced at a Vatican celebration.  His words “Pray for me…” still resound in my ears.

From the very first moments, Pope Francis stressed his role with the ancient title of “bishop of Rome” who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch.  Francis has brought to the papacy a knack for significant gestures that immediately convey very powerful messages.

Francis the “defibrillator”

Some have called the man from Argentina a “tweetable” Pope made for 140 characters! We delight in his words of wisdom telling us: “Eternity will not be boring”; “Long faces cannot proclaim Jesus”; “War is madness.  It is the suicide of humanity”; “We are not part-time Christians”; and “The Church is not ‘spa therapy’.”  He’s got the world talking, and listening!  With each day’s new provocative statements, Pope Francis tells those privileged to work at the Vatican and for the Vatican that it’s time for a change, that the Church does not belong to them, that the movement of the Holy Spirit cannot be managed or scripted. He is sending a message with the style, as well as the substance, of his remarks.

Pope Francis embraces emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at papal summer residence in Castel GandolfoA French journalist recently referred to Francis as a “defibrillator” pope. We need defibrillators when we have serious heart problems.  Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening heart rythms, blocked arteries, and problems with pulses.  Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the affected heart.  This depolarizes a critical mass of the heart muscle, terminates the dysrhythmia, and allows rhythm to be reestablished by the body’s natural pacemaker.  Francesco is a badly needed ecclesial defibrillator for our times!

Let’s look at a few of Francis’ electroshocks over the past three months:  He started changing the tune of the papacy from day one, when he returned to the Casa Paolo VI to pack his bags and pay his bills!  He has made it pretty clear to us that he is not fascinated with a certain form of unhealthy traditionalism and pomp which seemed to be on the rise.

He jolted some liturgists and canonists on Holy Thursday night when, in a Roman prison, he washed the feet of outcasts, including two women and two Muslims in a gesture of profound service.

He has established a new form of magisterium at Domus Sanctae Marthae, by celebrating mass with various groups of Vatican employees each morning and giving a homily  which has become a staple in spiritual nourishment for millions around the world – Chrstian and non-Christian.  The colorful, provocative and off-the-cuff homilies he delivers have become one of the distinctive features of his pontificate.  Perhaps some curial types are wringing hands and quietly singing a new version of one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s masterpieces: “How do we solve a problem like Francesco?  How do we hold a moonbeam in our hands?”

He has railed against the scandal of poverty and stressed the importance of personal involvement with the poor.  Money must “serve” man, not “rule” over him.  The pope’s condemnation of runaway capitalism and an exclusive focus on profit are ideologically in line with Pope Benedict, but the energy and frequency with which Francis strikes these chords are definitely new.

He has decried the “self-referential” mentality of Catholics.  He has challenged the mentality of ecclesial framework managers and been critical of a Church  that loses its dynamic spiritual principles.

He has challenged priests and bishops in the exercise of their ministry and their stewardship of material goods.  This morning, in a long, heartfelt address to a rare meeting of the Nuncios of the world gathered in Rome, Francis told them that pastors “must know how to be ahead of the herd to point the way, in the midst of the flock to keep it united, behind the flock to prevent someone being left behind, so that the same flock… has the sense of smell to find its way.”

Christianity, for Francis, is not a “salon Christianity” where we sit around at high tea and discuss religious or theological things that do not have a direct impact on our lives.

He has cried out against hypocrisy, clericalism, duplicity, narcissism, consumerism and hedonism in all their ugly forms.

To representatives of communities and movements gathered in Rome on Pentecost weekend,  Francis asked them if they were open to surprises of God?   Are we brave enough to go through the new paths that the novelty of God offers us, or do we defend ourselves, trapped in obsolete structures that have lost the purpose?

Pope Francis’ daily mantra can be summed up in one expression: “Go out to the peripheries.”  He calls us out of our cocoons to go to “the existential peripheries.”  Think outisde the box.  Go to uncharted places on the fringes.  You will be surprised who you find there!  For the Pope, the Church is Missionary or she will die.  Do we really want to go to these “existential peripheries”?  How many times do we feel assaulted and challenged by them?

Personally, I needed to experience these “Franciscan” electroshocks.  I think the Church needed to experience them.  They are never pleasant, but they often reverse death-dealing powers, unblock arteries of life, give us back our pulse, depolarize our atrophied muscles and help us to live again and love again.  They invite us into a deep conversion of mind and heart.

Benedict and Francis

My favorite biography of St. Francis of Assisi is that of the great British writer, G.K. Chesterton. I have read that work many times throughout my life, and one passage has taken on new meaning for me over the past months.  Listen to Chesterton’s words:

“St. Francis must be imagined as moving swiftly through the world with a
sort of impetuous politeness; almost like the movement of a man who
stumbles on one knee half in haste and half in obeisance.  The eager
face under the brown hood was that of a man always going somewhere, as
if he followed as well as watched the flight of the birds.  And this
sense of motion is indeed the meaning of the whole revolution that he
made; for the work that has now to be described was of the nature of an
earthquake or a volcano, an explosion that drove outwards with dynamic
energy the forces stored up by ten centuries in the monastic fortress or
arsenal and scattered all its riches recklessly to the ends of the
earth.

In a better sense than the antithesis commonly conveys, it is
true to say that what St. Benedict had stored St. Francis scattered; but
in the world of spiritual things what had been stored into the barns
like grain was scattered over the world as seed.  The servants of God
who had been a besieged garrison became a marching army; the ways of the
world were filled as with thunder with the trampling of their feet and
far ahead of that ever swelling host went a man singing; as simply he
had sung that morning in the winter woods, where he walked alone.”

“What Benedict had stored, Francis scattered…”  Yesterday Pope Francis marked his first 100 days in office next week, but what is that in light of an institution that thinks in centuries?  These days offer us a time to look back, to give thanks, and to look forward.  Many of us in both religious and secular media have been a bit too quick to interpret Francis’ gestures as a sign of discontinuity with the work of his predecessor. What we forget is that more than any of the choices made by Francis, it was Benedict XVI’s resignation that represented the greatest change of the papal office.  Benedict’s decision does not in any way undermine the papacy.  It really does make little difference what vestments the Pope choses to wear or not to wear, or whether he wears a fanon at a canonization mass or prefers fancy thrones or heavy golden crosses.

There is no question that all of these external things place proper emphasis on the sacredness, uniqueness and universality of the papal ministry.  Benedict, the great teacher also taught us something else: that the Petrine ministry is not about externals, power, prestige and privilege.  Pope Benedict brilliantly emphasized the need for intense theological life, constant prayer and quiet contemplation which would naturally give way to good moral living, a commitment to others, and a life of charity and justice. With Francis, it seems that the perspective is the other way around – it is concrete, charitable actions and visible human affection that redefine the theological life, giving it depth and breath.  And such actions attract others to Christ and the Church and serve as privileged instruments of evangelization.

Francesco Piazza JeepWhat Benedict stored, Francis scatters…  Francis has not yet promulgated any encyclicals or “moto proprios.”  But his striking symbolism is becoming substance. Francesco seeks a simpler church, more closely identified with the poor.  He is undoubtedly aware of the scandals, the corruption, the hypocrisy, the challenges, the leaks and the lobbies, and the things that need to be fixed inside the Vatican.  But many around the world, inside and outside the Church, from the left, right and centre of the Church are witnessing something new happening.  Smallness of mind and meanness of spirit are slowly transformed into wideness of thought and generosity of spirit.  We have heard that many people are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because of what is happening in Rome.  Could this not be a gift of the Spirit and a sign that the New Evangelization has begun in some unexpected places?

What Benedict stored, Francis scatters…  “In the world of spiritual things what had been stored into the barns like grain was scattered over the world as seed… .”  Let us never forget the deep continuity between Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. It is manifested in their outlook on faith and their awareness that it is the Lord who leads the Church, not the Pope.  Francis teaches the doctrine identical to that of his predecessors.  He reminds us of the words of his predecessor Blessed John over 50 years ago at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way it is presented is another.”  With Francis, it’s the same Petrine brand but the packaging has changed!

And now, in the frequent words of the reigning Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ,  Successor of St. Peter, Prince of The Apostles; Patriarch of The West; Servant of the Servants of God; Primate of Italy; Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province; and Sovereign of Vatican City State and Bishop of Rome:

Buon pranzo!

Buen provecho!

Buon appetito!

Have a good day and a good lunch!

Thank you!

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Unscripted

This past week Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna participated in the Leadership Conference at Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican parish in the heart of downtown London. Cardinal Schoenborn’s presentation was more of a Question and Answer session with Holy Trinity pastor Nicky Gumbel. He spoke about Christian Unity, Pope Francis, the Conclave, and was also asked about his family. In his characteristic style, he spoke openly and diplomatically about his family saying his family were not most exemplary of Catholics. Still, he discovered his faith and his calling at an early age. Watch the full interview in the video above.

New documentary asks: Who is Pope Francis?

Do you remember where you were when the white smoke appeared, heralding the election of Pope Francis? That will always be an easy question for me, since I was in the S+L studio doing live commentary. The third smoke signal of the conclave looked distinctly different from the first two, which were easily discernible as black. Initially, this one appeared grey — light grey — and we, along with most other media outlets, were hesitant to make the call. But then as the plumes grew, it became clear: we have a Pope.

I relived these moments as I watched the documentary “Who is Pope Francis?” The conclave ended a mere eight weeks ago. Still, I felt chills as I watched, once more, the announcement of Georgium Marium Cardinalem Bergoglio as Pope Francis. It was an electrifying moment of live television. In hindsight, it’s even more breathtaking, now that we’ve seen his early effect on the Church.

Created by Madrid-based Goya Productions, “Who is Pope Francis?” is one of the earliest and best biographies of the new pontiff. Through interviews and historical footage, a portrait emerges of Jorge Bergoglio, anticipating how his background and character will impact the papacy.

“Who is Pope Francis?” airs tonight on S+L at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT, repeating at 1:00am ET/10:00pm PT. It airs again on Thursday night at the same times. Consult the S+L schedule for additional repeat times.

Momentous transitions and awesome joy

Pope Francis and Fr. Thomas Rosica
Photo caption: Pope Francis greeting Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., at Audience for Journalists following the Papal election on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Vatican.  Courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano photographic service.

The following article appeared in the Catholic Courier of the Diocese of Rochester, New York on May 2, 2013.

Source: http://www.catholiccourier.com/

Editor’s note:

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is a Rochester native who attended Nazareth Hall, St. Ambrose School, Aquinas Institute and St. John Fisher College before being ordained to the priesthood for the Congregation of St. Basil by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark on April 19, 1986, at St. Ambrose Church, Rochester. Chief executive officer for the past decade of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Toronto, Father Rosica assisted in the Holy See Press Office with media relations subsequent to the resignation of Benedict XVI through the election of Pope Francis. Father Rosica agreed to our request that he offer some reflections on the experience for his hometown readers.

February 11, 2013, did not only shift the plates of the earth for the church, but marked a seismic shift in my life. Early that morning in Rome, the pope resigned and caught the world and the church off guard. When my colleague and friend, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, phoned and asked me to come quickly to Rome to assist him, I understood that help was needed in dealing with a deluge of media requests in the aftermath of the pope’s surprise resignation.
Having run World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, founded and led Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada since 2003, and served as the Vatican-appointed media attaché at two world Synods of Bishops in 2008 and 2012, I had some idea of media work for the church. But nothing came close to the daunting experience of serving as a Vatican spokesperson during Lent 2013. The adventure included a papal resignation, the sede vacante (or interregnum), a conclave taking place without the atmosphere of a papal funeral, and the surprise election of the first pope from the Americas — not just any pope, but a Jesuit pope — the first modern pope to have been ordained to the priesthood after the Second Vatican Council.

Over the next month, I experienced not a deluge but a tsunami of images, stories, encounters, people and opportunities that would change the life and direction of the church! Thank God I was accompanied by one of the young producers from Salt and Light Television in Canada, Sebastian Gomes. Together we worked day and night, and Sebastian kept me steady through the experience. [Read more…]

A papacy of surprises

Pope Francis greets people before celebrating inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square at Vatican
In less than a week Pope Francis has delivered several surprises: he called the Superior General of the Jesuits, nearly giving the receptionist a heart attack, made an impromptu visit to a nearby hospital to visit his friend Cardinal Mejia, who had a heart attack during the conclave, and decided to celebrate Mass at the tiny Vatican parish of Santa Anna. It should not have been surprising then that he would make an impromptu phone call to Buenos Aires and ask to be connected to Plaza de Mayo where people were gathering to watch his installation Mass.

Celebrations in Buenos Aires began Monday night with a vigil in Plaza de Mayo, directly in front of the Cathedral. At 4am the faithful were scheduled to march from the Cathedral to the famous obelisk on Avenida Corrientes. Jumbo screens were set up at the obelisk for the people of Buenos Aires to watch their beloved Archbishop begin his Petrine Ministry.

Before the march started, at 3:30am in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis made one phone call home. He called Father Alejandro Russo, the rector of the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. Very quietly, Fr. Russo had arranged to the archdiocese’s television station connect the phone call to the sound system in the plaza where the faithful of Buenos Aires were gathered.

El Clarin, a national newspaper in Argentina, reports Fr. Russo was speaking to the crowds in the plaza and announced he had a surprise for the crowd. The call from the Holy Father was connected and as soon as people recognized his voice, tears started flowing in the plaza.

Giving the faithful a preview of what would be in his homily, he asked them to take care of each other, especially the weak, poor, elderly and children. He asked the people of Buenos Aires, “don’t let there be hate, or arguments among you, leave behind envy and don’t talk about people behind their backs.” Pope Francis called on the faithful of his former diocese to draw closer to God because “he always forgives” and then asked “please don’t forget this bishop who is far away but who loves you very much.” He ended the call invoking God’s blessing on the people of Buenos Aires.

Habemus Papam! Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio now Pope Francis

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The conclave has chosen to elect 76 year old Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. He has chosen the name Pope Francis. Watch coverage live at http://saltandlighttv.org/live

White smoke! Habemus papam!

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Habemus Papam! At approximately 7:13pm (Rome time) on Wednesday March 13, 2013, the world has witnessed white smoke!

Follow everything live at saltandlighttv.org/habemuspapam

Media Coverage of the Conclave – Perspectives Weekly: Conclave Special

As anyone following newspapers, blogs, newscasts, and social media will know, media coverage of the papal transition can range from the minute to the absurd. What are the issues the media should be talking about? How does a Catholic spokesperson inform an often misinformed society? On today’s episode of “Perspectives Conclave Special”, S+L Producer Kris Dmytrenko will speak with two such people on their recent media appearances, and about whether all this attention can really be a blessing in disguise for the Church.

Fr. Rosica on CNN

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Anderson Cooper, CNN journalist, author and television personality, interviews Fr. Thomas Rosica, assistant to Fr. Lombardi for English Language at the Vatican Press Office, and John Allen Jr (left), American journalist and Vatican analyst.