10/25/15 In his final address to the Synod on the Family, Pope Francis stated, “The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion and lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.” Clearly, this quote that has received the most attention, in the varied attempts to parse the overall outcome of the complex deliberations in Rome.


Years ago, the veteran American newsman who covered Vatican II, Robert Blair Kaiser would ask his audience, what would you want a pope to be — either a dictator or a democrat? In effect, dictators and monarchs make life easier when their subjects fall in line; whereas even presidents and prime ministers must gather votes and deal with the day to day needs of constituents. So while the process of the synod may be messy, the overall discussion about family life may help uncover the deeper spiritual anchors of faith in the spiritual lives of very courageous mothers, fathers, and yes, grandparents and godparents.

In a crisp review of the the present and future “work to be done,” David Gibson of RNS keeps score in his post-Synod article “Who won? Who lost? 5 Points on the Contentious Vatican Summit.”

“Who won? Who Lost? 5 Points…”

John Allen has weighed in on the synod, here’s his first take entitled “After the Synod, can Catholics put Humpty Dumpty together again?”


But also, these broader concerns about family life have found their way into the opinion pages of the New York Times in order to foster discussion, something journalism does. Read Frank Bruni in his commentary “What Family Means.”


10/24/15 NCR’s Josh McElwee is among the first to provide his assessment of the final document coming from Rome’s Synod on the Family.


McElwee’s article is based on the Italian version of the 66 page document, the English translation is not available at this point. The most hopeful aspect about the document are the pope’s remarks to the 270 Cardinals and bishops as well as the need for greater pastoral discernment when dealing with divorced Catholics, and others whose lives do not fit neatly into the footnotes to the tine compartments that make up Church law.


Laurie Goodstein, who covers the religion beat for the New York Times, has been in Rome for the duration of the Synod, and today provides this front page news article, entitled “Vatican Split on Rules Over a More Inclusive Church.”


Elisabetta Povoledo also has a key Sunday background article about the Synod entitled, “Voice is Sought at the Vatican on Remarriage.”


Also, in today’s New York Times, there are letters to the editor regarding opinion writer Ross Douthat‘s “The Plot to Change Catholicism.” In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “you may have the right to your own opinion, but you don’t have the right to your own facts.” Any seminary student in first-year fundamental theology would have to agree to the growth and change in theology and doctrine reflective of both the culture and the time.

For Douthat, he sounds like a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was in charge of the “Holy Office.” Ottaviani’s motto was “Semper Idem,” or “Always the same.”  Read the letters to the editor, thankfully there are theologically articulate readers, in response to the unstudied opinion of Mr. Douthat.


Here are the NYT letters, “A Plot Hatched by Pope Francis” —


10/12/15 How do we assess the vast amount of press/media coverage about the pope? Also how was his trip to Cuba and the United States understood? What’s the on-going story of the Synod in Rome? No easy task to give a day to day accounting of these major news events. Instead, let me provide some best examples of “take aways,” from the the pope’s journey to the United States.


And for the moment I will not consider the Kim Davis invitation to the Vatican Nuncio’s residency and how her “meeting with the pope” was deftly handled afterwards, nor the reaction to the Serra canonization here in Carmel/Monterey. Those are incidents of some consequence, but more interestingly if one were to go to the protest coverage of John Paul II’s trip to the United States in 1987, there was plenty more to contend with at that time.

Instead let me provide some “best of”press/media coverage. For me the New York Times had simply the best continuing coverage of the papal visit, and one example alone by Laurie Goodstein is worthy of Pulitizer. Here her background piece “Pope to Find the Church in Upheaval,” (NYT 9/22/15)  goes to places in the United States where Francis did not visit. She write about the vexing challenge of immigrant parishes simply bursting with new parishioners while other parishes struggle to stay open.


In the area of commentary, and there was plenty of “assertion journalism” about the pope both from the right and left of the political spectrum. Here’s an insightful example “The Pope Subversive Message” by Arthur C. Brooks (NYT 10/8/15). A sidebar to the papal visit — like Jimmy Durante’s on stage assertion, “Stop the music, everybody wants to get into the act.” While everyone has a “right to their opinion,”in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan no one has the right to your own facts. So take a look at the readers comments to Brooks’ article.


So how did the pope do in the America? The Pew Research Center conducted polling during and after the papal visit and it’s worth studying, most especially how Francis was able to speak both old and new audiences. If one were to consider the reception of his talks, sermons and personal gestures towards the millions in person, in the broadcast and new social media. Here’s a test case for leadership in the media age, and Pope Francis has few counterparts among world leaders.


9/17/15 “A Guide for Americans to decoding Pope Francis,” is John Allen‘s most recent column in Crux, and provides a helpful glossary of key terms used by Pope Francis.


9/15/15 Talk show host, Aura Miguel of Lisbon’s Radio Renascenca interviewed Pope Francis on September 8th. It’s a very revealing interview, in which the pope talks about himself, what he has learned as pope, also his expectations for his journey to the United States.



9/14/15 “A Pope for All Seasons,” by Anthony Faiola and Michelle Boorstein, appeared in the Washington Post and provides the basic contours of the struggle between Catholic progressives and conservatives. Here’s a pope who has everyone guessing about what he really wants, and these reporters suggest that the pope is concerned “not about ceremony, rather about mission.”


9/13/15 John Allen of the Boston Globe & Crux was once introduced as the “dean of Vatican journalists,”  Of course, he laughed and simply rejected this accolade for a lesser title. At this point, he has not lived in Rome for the past few years; nonetheless, he maintains a very high profile as a religion reporter, and appears on air for CNN.

While most of us are trying to figure out the papal trip to the United States, Allen has been in Africa developing stories and contacts for the pope’s first African visit which is set to take place from 11/25-30. Pope Francis will visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. This current article by Allen both previews the pope’s visit to the United States, and also reports on how the African trip later this year gains importance, “A Media Guide for Pope Francis’s Trip to America and His African Trip Shapes up to be a Reflection on Martyrs.”


8/27/15 Pope Preview Tour — Philadelphia/Day One


From my room on the twenty-ninth floor of the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, you can see the statue of Benjamin Franklin atop City Hall, and in the distance the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the site where Pope Francis will celebrate an outdoor Mass.

I’m attending the 66th Annual RNA (Religion Newswriters Association) Conference meeting here in Philadelphia with most of its scheduled panels geared to the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. The World Meeting of Families is set to begin on September 22, and with city-wide anticipation of Pope Francis’s visit for weekend of September 26-27. From the airport to the hotel, the highway billboards for Hilton Hotels and the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann are already in place to welcome the pope, and the thousands of visitors expected.

Today’s RNA program brought together journalists and scientists, for a discussion entitled “Forefront Science for Religion Reporters: What does it Mean to be Human? Implications of the Search for Life Beyond Earth.” Along with Jennifer Wiseman, director of AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics & Religion, Father Lucas Mix, a Harvard astrobiologist, talked about how the planets in outer space went from a list of 9 down to 8 planets (with the exclusion of Pluto); and by 2015 with the Hubble telescope, satellites with glimpses beyond our solar system, to a list of planets that has greatly increased to 1,887 — with 300 planet-candidates among the most hospitable to life-forms. These discoveries prompt stories for reporters about the boarders of science and religion, questions of ethics, and how astronomy can be a portal of service to uplift the human spirit.

Mix concluded: “We have to make the most of our lives — in memory, reason and skill. Most of all, God’s in charge — as we deepen our curiosity and love. But, in the end, we are not totally responsible, (God is)!”

In the evening, the Marist Poll presented their findings of a recent public opinion survey on the views of Americans and American Catholics at the eve of the pope’s visit. Afterwards, the producer of the new Sony Pictures feature “Risen,”presented film clips. The film is a sequel to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” and continues the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection with the back story of a Roman military officer Clavis, played by Joseph Fiennes. The dinner was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

The Catholic Academy of Communication Professions provided an audio transcript of the key panels that preview the Pope’s visit to the United States. Here’s the link:


8/28/15 Pope Preview Tour — Philadelphia/ Day Two

This morning’s conference gather three-hundred or more journalists and audience members to take in a complete walk-through of the papal visit and the World Meeting of Families. Helen Osman speaking on behalf of the USCCB and the American bishops provided the detailed background to the papal visit as well as the media participation of what is now a press/media corp of 8,000 credentialed professionals covering the visit. Donna Farrell, the executive director of the World Meeting of Families and Ken Gavin, the director of the Office of Communication of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provided background for a gather this will attract the 17,000 families from 100 countries, and projected a million or more for the “Festival of Families.” The last time Pope John Paul II came to Philadelphia was 36 years ago, and Ken Gavin pointed out that “Philly was chosen” this time, for this world event, and “makes it unlike NYC and WDC.”  Among the highlights will be a concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Saturday night — with tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The next day, Sunday Mass will be celebrated on the Parkway where countless thousands (with the potential million in attendance) for the final Mass with Pope Francis presiding.

Greg Erlandson of Our Sunday Visitor moderated the panel “Pope Francis — Myths & Realities.” He forecasted a “tsunami of coverage” regarding the Pope’s visit to the United States. He referenced the pope’s concern that we need to avoid a Church wrapped up in its own world, instead meet the genuine concerns of people. Father John Paul Wauch of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome) addressed the theme of mercy — as the one word that interprets Pope Francis’s papacy. Wauch points to the French Church in Rome, next door to the Casa dell Clero, now famous as the residence where Cardinal Bergoglio stayed while in Rome. The French Church contains two paintings by Caravaggio,  “The Call of Matthew,” and “Martyrdom of Matthew.” Pope Francis prayed before these paintings, and saw these art works as depicting “mercy in action.” This is the central theme of his papacy.

Addressing the question of what the pope may say to the United Nations, Prof. Maryann Cusimano Love (Catholic University) suggested four “P’s” — poverty, planet, people (impact of economy on), and peace. She made the case that all three are people connected issues. The pope is deeply concerned about the “globalization of indifference. He is going to the United Nations on the occasion of the world organization’s 70th anniversary. So the pope looks forward to the upcoming Paris meetings on climate change, and deeply interested in care for the present crisis among migrants and refugees in Europe. So “all hands must be on deck” to address these concerns and others; not a job for the “right or the left,” in his view these ideological divisions have no meaning.

To better appreciated Pope Francis, Alejandro Bermudez (Catholic News Agency) examined his South American cultural and political context, most especially how the immigrant experience best defined him in Argentina. The idea of going out to the people on the periphery is deeply rooted in contemporary Latin American philosophy.

Pope Francis’s concern about “spiritual worldliness” and how the “restoration of mercy” is the best cure for such an illness in the Church are key insight for Austen Ivereigh. For the pope, “mercy unlocks conversion” and forces the Church to focus on mission and evangelization. Here’s where Junipero Serra becomes a model for reaching to the periphery in the New World, and in an effort to build culture. Here is where the South American notion of “patria” also draws on the immigrant experience for him and his family’s own journey to Argentina.


“What to expect from Pope Francis” was the lunch time presentation by Father Thomas Rosica, Salt & Light/Canada. His experience of Francis tells us of a pope that is not pigeonholed. Rosica cites the incident of a penance service at Saint Peter’s where the pope invited the participants to go to confession. Then, the pope himself went directly to a confessional box, leaving a lasting example of his own need for reconciliation. So gestures are an important part of this pope’s appeal. Rosica make a point of reference to #88 in “Joy of the Gospel,” as a “return to normalcy” and the importance of the “revolution of tenderness.” This is a key to Francis’s thinking, relating to people, and his ability to listen to people. His effort is to relaunch the Church’s mission, especially in places like Cuba where he will encourage a church that has suffered greatly.

archbishops and clergy at 2015 rna

archbishops and clergy at 2015 rna

Archbishops Joseph Kurtz (President, USCCB and Louisville, KT), Bernardito Auza (Observer to the United Nations), and Charles J. Chaput (Philadelphia) spoke at the Bishop’s Panel on Pope Francis & his visit.  Father John Wauck was the moderator.

Archbishop Kurtz encouraged everyone to simply “enjoy the visit” of the holy Father; despite the day-to-day preparations for such a massive event. Kurtz had four point to make about the visit. The pope comes as pastor and prophet but with Christ as the center, and not the pope. Second, freedom to serve means to bring out the best in us, a faith the enriches public life. The pope’s gestures tell us that he see and embrace first and foremost the person with conversation and surprise. Lastly, he is interested in the support of families in need.

“Look at things from the proper frame,” Auza told the journalists present. And you will find that Jesus is the center of everything — not the pope, not Peter, not even the Church itself. Rather Christ. Pope Francis comes to the United Nations as a pastor, father, and a religious and moral voice. Issues such as climate change and the very anniversary of the United Nations are ways of affirming the importance of this world organization.

Following the financial debt and morale in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput (pronounced “Chap-you”) admitted he was stunned when he heard of Philadelphia’s selection as the site for the 8th World Meeting of Families. However, four years later the event and especially the visit by the pope give evidence of a “turn around moment.” The archbishop spoke about the challenges such an event creates as well as the opportunity to enlist the larger community of good will, including many non-Catholics as well as government, the business community and generous donors. Chaput hope is that the pope sees the diverse immigrant fabric to American society as well as the deeper social issues that confront us. Most especially how American Catholics share his passion for the “joy of the gospel that comes from the gospel of life.”

In the question and answer period, Archbishop Kurtz is confident that the pope will meet with the survivors of priest sex abuse; but the is no firm advance of this beforehand. Another reply concerning how the institutional services of church and government might better address the issues of poverty in American, provided a reminder that the pope would rather that people were personally involved with the poor. Parish efforts of the Saint Vincent de Paul society are a vital way for people to take responsibility for neighbors.

8/29/15 Pope Preview Tour — Philadelphia — Day Three

greg smith pewFor the lunch session, Greg Smith and Jessica Hamar Martinez presented the findings of a new Pew Research poll which confirmed the finding that U.S. Catholics were open to non-traditional families; while there is deep and wide abiding loyalty among Catholics and those who are connected to Catholics. The Pew Religion & Public Life Project is among the very best research organizations; and the poll drew a sample of 5.122 adults with 1,016 persons who self identify as Catholics. Here is the formal release of the Pew Research poll:


An afternoon session entitled “Church in the City: Thriving, Dying or Just Getting by?” brought together ecumenical and interfaith leaders, Rev. Leslie D. Callahan (Pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist), Shane Claiborne (Founder, The Simple Way), and Alvin Sanders (Senior Vice-President, World Impact). Bob Smietana of “Christianity Today” was the moderator. All of these speakers addressed the visit of the pope as an opportunity for all people of faith. Leslie Callahan sees that the pope’s moral muscle will bring greater attention to racial justice in the USA. “We hold the soul of the city in our hands” Alvin Sanders told us, and asked how do we preserve the souls and at the same time deal with both tradition and innovation?

shane 2

Shane Claiborne noted the pope has thrilled and fascinated the world. Such religious movements help shape all life. Drawing from Matthew’s gospel, Claiborne added that “when you welcome the stranger, you welcome me. So welcome Pope Francis, and know that there are so many popes on the ground.”  The Simple Way, is an intentional community dedicated to social justice and activism in the city of Philadelphia.


Late Saturday afternoon David Gibson (RNS) moderated a group of veteran journalists who have covered the “pope travel beat” for “How to Cover a Papal Trip in Three Easy Steps,” with David O’Reilly (Philadelphia Inquirer), John Travis (CNS), Austen Ivereigh (author, “The Great Reformer”), and Father Thomas Rosica (Salt+Light/Canada). Gibson remarked how the pope travels story comes at you like a swiftly kicked soccer ball, and you have to be ready to react, as the ball comes to you. He spoke about the evolving and changing nature of papal trip and how paralyzing security routines can alter your best intentions as a reporter. For example, the story of John Paul II’s trip to Cuba coincided with the opening days of the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky saga, and how political reporters decamped from Havana and returned to Washington, D.C.


The man with the most miles on papal tours maybe John Thavis who recommended that reporters pay attention to what the pope says and how it connects or disconnects from the long-term story line. He cites the recent example of  a grief-stricken 12-year old girl in the Philippines who asked Pope Francis, “Why does God allow this?” The pope simply embraced here. Here’s the story of the pope’s intimacy and closeness to his people.  Austen Ivereigh address the matter of the scripted and unscripted moments of Francis’s public statements and one that must be carefully understood, so it’s a matter of listening and even waiting to get the full intent of speeches and interactions with people. Since even the unscripted portions of speeches are “on the record,” and thus this drives the story for everyone following him, both in the press and on his Vatican press staff. Also, the press conferences on the airplanes typically come at the end of the journey. However, there is so little time between the Havana stop and the arrival in WDC, that Iverrigh suggests that there may be a pre-Havana on board press conference to highlight the pope’s intentions for the overall trip.

With the most direct personal experience of Pope Francis, Father Tom Rosica has acted on behalf of the Vatican staff, and has edited the pope’s own public statements. Also, Rosica brings into the discussion the religious benefits for such an apostolic journey. He say that as pastor, the pope comes to strengthen and confirm his brothers and sisters in faith. Of course, it’s a complex set of invitations and staff members, including: 2 Swiss guards, 2 Vatican police, security details, papal household members, a liturgical team, a doctor, butler and members of the Secretariat of State, essentially for language translation. Among the Vatican staff, Dr. Alberto Gasbari is in overall command of the trip; and in the planning stages, there is give and take, with the archbishops in dioceses that the pope visits.

Rosica concluded by reaching back to the Acts of the Apostles, stating the “shadow of Peter fall upon them,” as an early sign of how the role of the chief shepherd makes his journey among the faithful. Rosica added: “goodness brings out goodness” when we have the pope in our midst. We’re better for his presence among us.

8/30/15 Pope Preview Tour — Philadelphia/ Day Four


The last few hours of the press/media tour put us into buses — to see first hand the actual sites in the city where the pope will visit. We left the Lowes hotel to pass by the Philadelphia Convention Center where the press/media operation will be housed, and went directly to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, on 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Signage was in place for the pope’s visit as well as a “beehive” structure to the left of the cathedral. This contains the prayer intentions of parishioners written on fabric — and tied in knots to the wooden structure. This is a reference to “Our Lady of Knots,”the particular devotion of Pope Francis. Here, I spoke with Tim O’Sullivan, the contractor, and Henry Crane who was helping to tie the knots, of an art work designed by Meg Saligman.



Later we travel the short distance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the imposing Greek Temple, which is famous for its famous art works but also the movie “Rocky,” where the stature of actor Sylvester Stallone, rests to the right of the museum. This portion of the Franklin Parkway will be the site of the final Sunday Mass for the World Meeting of Families, as well as the Saturday afternoon, “Francis Festival.” Essentially, this area of Philadelphia will be shut down for the weekend, however the relative distance between venues are close to one another.


From the Museum, we headed the offices of the Archdiocese for a box lunch, and the press backgrounder about the World Meeting from Meg Kane. She works for the public relations firm, Brian Communications, and to my observation is the master of logistics and the details for this incredibly complicated weekend of events. She responded to the variety of questions regarding the upcoming events — everything from how to pronounce Archbishop Chaput’s name (“Chap-you”) how to obtain the right credentials, traffic patterns in Philly, and water distribution on the Parkway site. Also too much detail to wrap your head around.

Overall, the Philadelphia Archdiocese under the direction of its Communication Director Ken Gavin has 5 members, along with the World Meeting 501-C3 Non-profit organization with 15 members, and Brian Communications Agency of 22 members, make up the total number of communication professionals. Along with volunteers coming out of the larger Philadelphia area. The Archdiocese is comprised of four counties and has 1.5 million Roman Catholics.

If the 19th century popes were considered the “prisoners of the Vatican,” the current pope is a “prisoner of Secret Service.” The security element to this papal trip dwarfs all other, and it’s fairly amazing to combine both an international meeting of 17,000 families along side the mammoth complication of a papal trip.

Philly’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, were the last stop on our tour. This is where the pope will deliver his address on religious freedom. Brian Finnerty (U.S. Communication Director, Opus Dei) and I walked back to the Lowes Hotel where I waited for my shuttle bus to the airport.

Here’s a final point about the thousands of us in three cities — and who working on behalf of this papal tour. To my observation, Catholics of all sizes, shapes, ages, and even with particular ideologies or coming from differing political camps are pulling together, day by day to welcome the pope, to my mind, the spirit is really working. And this sign of unity is a good thing.

8/17/15 Pope Preview Tour — Washington, D.C./Day One


From the Senate side of the Capitol Rotunda, we take a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol, still under re-construction. A site that is readying the opening of Congress after the summer recess, and there is great anticipation for  Pope Francis’s visit on September 22. His speech to the Joint Session of Congress takes place on Thursday, September 24th at 9:20 AM. According to the Washington Post, this is “D.C.’s Hottest Tix? The pope” (8/17/15). Rep. Dan Lipinski comments: “Even before I knew that the official announcement was made…I received the mail from my wife saying, ‘Don’t give my ticket away.'”


Across from Catholic University of America, and the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception, there is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), where I met with Helen Osman, the Secretary of Communications. We spoke about the papal trip, and I signed on as one of the USCCB media/press representatives for the papal visit. Along side Helen and several others members of her staff, I will help with the 7,600 credentialed reporters and journalists filing stories and provide insight and know how in order to better capture the story of Pope Francis in the United States.

Among the concerns about coverage is the interplay of various agencies of government including the Secret Service, as well as the various entities that make up the Church such as the Vatican, USCCB, Archdioceses of WDC, NYC & Philly. Another aspect of this particular visit by the pope is the altered media landscape of those representing “social media,” and the media platforms that did not exist in the time of Pope Benedict’s visit in 2008.

Additionally, the 2015 visit of Pope Francis brings together many of us who have worked previous papal trips; and in the case of pool producer Mark Kramer, we began at CBS News covering the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Consequently, for me, this is adult “summer camp” and a time to work with old and new friends.


From Helen’s office, I toured the National Shrine, for the purpose of seeing first-hand the site where the pope  will formally canonize Blessed Junipero Serra on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:15 PM. From the back of the church I watched the maintenance staff cleaning the floors and the pews;  and I spoke with Francis Raedel, one of the security guards from Arlington, VA, who told me that the dome high above the main nave will undergo the application of mosaic tiles honoring the Holy Trinity, sometime after the pope’s visit.

Michael Falcone, deputy political director for ABC News, and I had dinner at Proof, nearby the National Portrait Gallery. We talked about the presidential race, and how Washington outsiders like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are taking the early lead in the national polls. Interestingly, outsider status and personal authenticity, even the querky authenticity of Trump’s outsize personality appeals to audiences. So too, perhaps is part of the appeal formula — outsider and personal authenticity — of Pope Francis’s strong following.

8/18/15 Pope Preview Tour — Washington, D.C./Day Two

Hot and humid August days in WDC are not so pleasant. So the morning was spent in my room at the Phoenix Park Hotel, and working my contacts by  telephone.

Over the years, my former students from Saint Mary’s College have joined the ranks of Washington lobbyists, journalists, and those “in the know” around Capitol Hill.

Peter Umhofer was my very first Saint Mary’s student who really aspired to the political life. For the past twenty years Peter has worked in the environmental field, and is a lobbyist for these concerns; and the pope’s recent encyclical has jumped started a whole new set of alliances for Church members and environmental organizations. So the pope’s talk to the Joint Session of Congress, could be a barnburner.

After lunch, Peter took me to the office of Senator Barbara Boxer to pick up a ticket to the U.S. Capitol. I took the afternoon tour of Statuary Hall where the statue of Father Serra is honored under the dome of the original chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. Each of the fifty-states has two statues on view. Ronald Reagan is the other California honored there. Also, there are three Roman Catholic priests and woman religious in the collection including Father (Saint) Damien of Molokai (Hawaii), Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette (Wisconsin), Mother Joseph Pariseau, S.P. (Washington).


Vince Hurley works for Adobe Systems in Washington, and with his wife Jackie, they have three young children. Vince is originally from Aptos, CA and lives on Capitol Hill. Very convenient location for his work. He is presently the president of the Saint Mary’s Alumni Chapter. The Gael alumni are eager to welcome to their ranks Megan Collins, a current junior at Saint Mary’s. She was selected by the Panetta Washington Internship Program for a Congressional Internship which begins in two-weeks.


8/9/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day One 

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On the 51st. Street side of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the restoration continues as the deadline for Pope Francis’s visit on September 22 is in the back of the minds of many — including the Cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie.

On the steps of the church, after the 10:15 Mass, Ritchie is going about the business of pastoring — by greeting person to person, hundreds of guests, and many from around the world. This is the one thing that really tells the story of New York City — how international and global New York has become.

Gearing up just one block away, you could hear in the background the bands preparing for the Dominican Day annual parade. Fifth Avenue stores are mostly the shopping sites for the high priced global brands; on the crowded side walks, there are those selling the knockoffs items from vending carts.

The Cathedral has undergone a major reconstruction, and most of the scaffolding has come down in the past few weeks after two or more years of work. The total cost of the construction has been estimated at $175 million. Enough reason to have a second collection at all the Masses.


8/10/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day Two

I was invited to a day-long editorial meeting of America Media, the publisher of America Magazine, the weekly Jesuit pastoral and thought journal. It was held at Chelsea’s Hugo Hotel. Father Matt Malone led the discussion among editors, writers and staff members about their coverage of Pope Francis’s trip to United States. Chief among their concerns was the “broken and divided” Catholic community, and how the pope’s visit might help to heal the fractured and often polarized positions among the various camps that make up the Church in America. Additionally, they were developing their own strategy to best deploy staff members and effectively cover the papal trip, as well as their new collaboration with ABC News.

Matt Malone and Father Jim Martin will be the on-air commentators for David Muir and ABC News special events coverage of the papal trip to Cuba and the United States. This was a perfect opportunity for me to hear first-hand from Father Jeremy Zipple about the future direction of America in the transition to multi-media platforms. As well as meeting up with old friends, like the veteran reporter and news analyst, Father Ray Schroth.

8/11/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day Three

I was working the telephone this morning, and catching up with old friends who are a great source of news. I took the Lexington Avenue subway up to 89th Street to have have lunch with Father Kevin Madigan, the pastor Saint Thomas More Church. Kevin tells a great story that when Pope Benedict visited lower Manhattan and the 9/11 site, there was an informal arrangement with the NY Chancery staff that the pope with Cardinal Egan would pass by St. Peter’s Church — where Kevin (who was the pastor of St. Peter’s at the time) would be standing in formal vestments and equipped  a holy water bucket,  readied for the pope to bless the Church. This the very first place where the victims of 9/11 were taken after the fall of the Twin Towers. No one had informed the NY City Police and the Secret Service, consequently officers removed Kevin from the front of his own church. So, in the limousine, the Holy Father and the Cardinal sped by, thus nixing Kevin’s  possible encounter with the pope. The NYPD later apologized to Kevin.


Later in the afternoon, I joined Brother Mike O’Hern of Christian Brother Investments, and we went to see “The Best of Enemies,” the recent documentary film about William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal’s debate during the ABC News coverage of the 1968 Republican and Democratic Conventions. The film makes important case about how television news changed from the “news of verification” and news gathering to another news form, namely the “news of assertion” and opinion.

Buckley and Vidal were at their best with ad hominem arguments — where conflicting opinions polarized viewers into particular market segments. Of course, this is the stuff of today’s cable television news. Need I mention Donald Trump and the recent Fox News 2015 Republican Presidential Debate?

Later Mike and I talked about where we were at the time the Chicago Convention, and how as a young Christian Brother he listened to the divided views of his own community watching on TV the unfolding riots in the streets of his city. Also, Mike and I discussed  the pope’s recent encyclical, and how the pope’s views on capitalism might be better understood on Wall Street. Again, friends are very helpful to expanding my own knowledge and vocabulary, Mike introduced me to “impact investing” and the notion of how Wall Street investors could better support specific social needs and also obtain beneficial social/financial results.

8/12/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day Four

Lunch with an old CBS News friend like David Buksbaum ties together the personal pieces to my NYC trip. The meeting place is always Luke’s on 3rd Ave between E. 79 & 80th. The conversation continues back into the 1970’s — when “CBS News was CBS News,” and David was my CBS boss; and a most unconventional boss at that! In those days, I worked on the national political conventions, elections as well as the papal funerals/elections of new popes, and John Paul II’s extensive trips. In the days before Wikipedia and YouTube, I had the job to update the pope handbook, and from time to time review the pope obit, just in case.

David tells me that in early September there will be a memorial for Sandy Socolow at the Columbia J School. “Soc” had been Walter Cronkite’s producer; and back in summer of 1969, I had the “once in a lifetime” chance to work as the”desk assistant” for Sandy when he managed Cronkite’s on air-performance for the Apollo 11 broadcasts. Shortly after the astronauts landed on the moon, Sandy handed me the now-famous NYT’s “Man on Moon” bull-dog edition, which I handed over to the anchor desk, and Walter lifted the newspaper toward the camera’s lens. Well, that TV moment registered into the collective memory of the nation.

In the afternoon, I traveled by #6 Lexington Avenue subway down to lower Manhattan for an interview with Alexis Christoforous at the Voice of America. Their offices at Jacob Javits Building 26 Federal Plaza, and close by Wall Street and the  new “Freedom Tower,” and 9/11 Memorial where the pope will participate in an inter-religious ceremony on September 25th.


For the interview, Alexis asked me questions relating to the pope’s critique of capitalism, the disparity of people’s incomes in the “Third World,” and the Global South. I got in Brother Mike’s ideas about “impact investing”; and yes, I sounded like I know something about finance and economics. I met the VOA staff including Bureau Chief Bob Leverone.

Stay tuned for a cultural news note. On Wednesday evening I attended “An American in Paris.” In reading the Playbill, I noticed that Garen Scribner who plays Jerry Mulligan, the Gene Kelly role in the film, was a former member of the San Francisco Ballet. Then I realized — this is the same Garen Scribner who graduated from the LEAP Program (for dancers) at Saint Mary’s College of CA. What a performance — a Mikhail Baryshnikov who can really sing! At the stage door, Garen told me, “Yes, I am a Gael!” Bravo, Garen!


8/13/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day Five

My time at the New York Athletic Club is coming to a close. I’m staying here thanks to Frank and Joan Maxwell of Orinda — whose membership at San Francisco’s Olympic Club permits me entry to this old institution on Central Park South. After three room changes, I finally landed in a room that is air-conditioned and facing toward Carnegie Hall and Times Square — clearly this location has its benefits.

Funny, however, the NYAC has many arcane rules — especially about dress: No shorts, or sneakers (“siders” in NYAC lingo) in the lobby; and men must wear a jacket with collared shirt in order to enter the main doors. If you are dressed in athletic apparel, you must enter/exit on the 58th street side.

To accomplish this feat, you take the designated elevator to the third floor, nearby the pool (closed for summer repairs, ugh!) and walk now three flights in a circular fashion to arrive at the back lobby. This could be a problem for carrying suit cases (up or down), and I witnessed members of LA’s Jonathan Club trying to do this.

Because so many people use this narrow staircase — you get to meet a whole range of people — going up & coming down. For example, I ran to Ben Biles, a former member of the Navy Mens basketball team; he’s now studying for his MBA at the University of Virginia. I spoke with Pat Cantwell and his son Patrick, a recent graduate of Washington University of Saint Louis where he played four years of varsity football. I took the opportunity to tell them that Jack Stephens our star – QB from Campolindo High, Moraga will be joining the Washington U team for summer camp.

So up and down the back staircase of the NYAC has its advantages!

Marcy McGinnis is another of the former CBS News Special Events veterans, and we had breakfast at Europe Cafe on W. 57th Street. Marcy held several top posts as bureau chief in London where she directed coverage of the death/funeral of Princess Diana; and a senior news director in New York before moving on to higher education as a dean at SUNY Stony Brook. We spoke about the upcoming papal trip and how John Paul ‘s extensive trips around the globe provided rare opportunities for us. Each of these major events brings into the ranks young journalists and producers, and an opportunity to learn the craft first hand. As teachers and educators we know how internships and mentoring are vital to the next generation of young people especially in this new age of social media.

Late morning, I sat on a Central Park bench to speak with one of those exceptionally talented young adults, Chris Duffy, the host of NPR’s “You’re the Expert.” Chris is not yet out of his twenties, a graduate of Brown University, with insights into comedy writing, undergraduate education, and religion. He told me to check out his website, and listen to his experience at a wedding of friends in Greece. An American priest gave a “word for word” translation in English of the very fast paced Orthodox priest performing the wedding. Let’s say some things are too rapid for cogent translation from Greek to English.

We ended our park bench conversation with the idea the we’ll see one another on the West Coast. As we said goodbye — the words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola came to my mind: “It is dangerous to make everyone go forward by the same road, and worse to measure others by yourself.” In Chris’s case, he has picked the perfect route for his unique journey.



Gabriele Bandelli is a native of Florence, Italy and just completed his first year at Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City where he is a member of the varsity soccer team. Gabriele is the grandson of Bernard Hartnett; and along with Fathers Gene Squeo and Francis Schiller, these are my closest friends. All three are lawyers and my support team over these forty years as a priest. Back then I was a “rookie priest” at Saint Aedan’s, a church off Journal Square which is now under the direction of the Jesuits at Saint Peter’s. Hearing the news of this “city on the Hudson” always bring me back to that “attitude of gratitude” that Pope Francis speaks about. Another first, we dined at Komegashi, the Japanese restaurant, where you can see the NYC skyline and the river, at Newport. Gabriele is doing just fine and coaching soccer during the summer months.

8/14/15 Pope Preview Tour — NEW YORK/Day Six

While packing up at the NYAC, Chris Wragge, the WCBS-TV news anchor, telephoned to say that we were off for coffee because he was on-hold for the breaking news of a fireman who had been injured.  However, he asked whether we can do an interview that would go into the “bank” of preparations for the pope in New York City. I changed back into my black suit, and then rode the elevator down to West 58th lobby, and then a fast paced walk to the CBS News Broadcast Center. These back streets are so familiar, and there on 9th Ave., the “Flame Diner” caught my eye; one of the all night places for “take-out.” As a desk assistant in the news room back in the late 60’s. I did the catering for those producers, reporters and editors. Once I knew the menu by heart.

Chris asked whether New York City would be ready for the pope? To my way of thinking, New York and Washington D.C. know how to handle world leaders and large crowds, not so much Philly. In the words of television, stay tuned.


The National Press Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center sponsored this morning’s “Pope Francis — US Visit Preview” for editors and reporters covering the papal visit. It began at 9AM EDT and continued to 12 Noon. Jason Dick of CQ Roll Call moderated the panels. Worthy of careful viewing was the public policy panel on immigration, climate change and poverty, which included Demetris Papademetriou (Migration Policy Institute), Kalee Kreider (UN Foundation), and Lisa Marsh Ryerson (AAUP Foundation). What is remarkable about this panel is how Pope Francis has generated discussions among Washington public policy think tanks — as few popes before him.


Most of the discussion among reporters and policy specialists concerned what the pope will say when he speaks, and especially in his address to Congress. How will he be received by members of Congress, Catholics and Americans generally? And how do you report about the discussion especially at the beginning of an presidential election cycle?

NCR columnist, Michael Sean Winters writes: “Will Pope Francis’s Strong Message Meet Resistance in the US?” It’s worth getting ready for the pope’s personal warmth as well as the heat of the political discussion.



Funeral Services for Cardinal William Baum, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C. take place at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral on Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31. He died at 88 on July 23 and was a cardinal for 39 years, the longest tenure in U.S. Church history. My friend, Tim Farley noted that Baum was named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI. So now there is only one person living from that consistory.

Question: Can name that person?

Answer: Joseph Ratzinger, the retired Pope Benedict XVI. Thanks, Tim!


Gerald O’Connell talks about “Traveling with the Pope,” on his recent trip to South America. In a podcast on the America Magazine website, O’Connell tells Tim Reidy that the pope was in “perfect form” despite the changing temperatures and high altitudes. Moreover, the importance of seeing Pope Francis face to face in the small confines of a jet, makes for a more complete understanding of the man and the goals of his faith journey.


This brings up the case of La Repubblica’s Marco Ansaldo, who has lost his seat on the papal plane for the Cuba/USA tour. He and his newspaper leaked the recent papal encyclical, so for his “penance,” he will be finding alternative transportation to Cuba & the USA — and, consequently, miss the pope’s in-flight press conferences. Rosie Scammell of the Washington Post provides the details:


Now, if I were working for the Vatican Press Office, I would have sent Marco Ansaldo a case of wine for his efforts. In effect, the leak of the encyclical in this day of 24/7 news — is one of very few examples of the anticipation of papal news in the world press. One has to go back to Vatican II and the leaked “Humanae Vitae” encyclical on birth control — to find a similar case.


Here’s an update on the many voices wishing to be heard while the pope is in the United States.

Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times focuses her piece on the LGBT community and how they are finding their voice for the “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia.


Conflict is no stranger to news, less so for religious groups who would rather say “no comment” to the press/media.

One item of the past week — stands out in this era of Edward Snowdon, and “day by day” revelations in the world wide web.

Take note of David Daleiden and how the “citizen journalist” went undercover to investigate Planned Parenthood’s selling of fetal parts.

Here’s how the abortion story may get into the pope’s conversation at the “World Meeting of Families.” And how the Republican candidates like Rand Paul whose criticism of Planned Parenthood is a campaign appeal to anti-abortion conservatives.

Patti Armstrong reports for the National Catholic Register “Why the Catholic Behind the Planned Parenthood Videos went Undercover”:


NYT’s Jackie Calmer writes “With Planned Parenthood Videos, Activist Ignites Abortion Issue”:



Gov. Jerry Brown‘s participation at the Vatican conference on climate change is the subject of today’s “Take Two” program on KPCC, Pasadena.

Alex Cohen interviewed me, along with Sacramento Bee political reporter David Siders who is covering the governor while in Rome.


Also, take note of Father Tom Reese‘s “A Readers’ Guide to Laudato Si'” which was published yesterday by the National Catholic Reporter. This is a most helpful tool when reading the encyclical.



As the pope’s trip to United States builds momentum, individuals as well as organizations are attempting to get the attention of the pope, as well as the press. David Gibson‘s article: “Gay Priest Fired for Chaplain Job Asks Pope Francis to Meet with LGBT Catholics in the US” details the story of Father Warren Hall, and how he lost his job in campus ministry at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. As the pope moves from city to city, community to community — stories like these will abound. These are neuralgic reminders of the deeply conflicted issues confronting American Catholics.



Josh Richman and staff writers of the Contra Costa Times preview Gov. Jerry Brown’s departure for Rome and the meeting of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences. Sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday spell out the impact of Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change/global warming for leaders and elected representatives; including the mayors of San Francisco and New York City. Here I’m quoted on the distinctive Jesuit connection between the pope and the governor.

Also, in reading the comments to the article that are critical of government officials  “traveling to Rome on government expense.” Well, what can I say? Does anyone really turn down an invitation to meet the pope, and get a free ride to Rome?


Check out the Vatican press release, you will see the list of participants. Take note that the theme of human trafficking is an equally important to these deliberations. For this reason, mayors of world cities are of primary import to the pope, since these are the leaders who deal directly with the issues of poverty, the “people on the street,” or the workers in the “slave shops.”


What will the pope say to the joint session of Congress (9/24) and to the United Nations General Assembly (9/25)? Here’s my answer: the two key themes of Pope Francis’s papacy so far, namely modern slavery/human trafficking, and climate change/global warming.


The next big trip to the United States and Cuba are on the mind of the pope and the press corp. This morning the NYT’s reports on the Pope’s mid-flight press conference, as he and the crowded “Shepard One” headed back to Rome. Jim Yardley reports: “Francis Says He’s Overlooked the World’s Middle-Class.”


As part of the press conference, Cindy Wooden of the NCR writes: “Pope Says He’ll read Critiques of his Economic Thought before U.S. Trip.”


Another  assessment of the papal tour to South America appeared last evening in the NYT, with analysis from Simon Romero and William Neuman, “Parsing the Pope’s Words (and Silences).”



As Pope Francis leaves Paraguay for Rome, later this afternoon, fully assessing his South American tour is almost an impossible task. It’s too vast a canvas of personal appearances, speeches, and Masses. Other to say that the New York Times has certainly given board coverage to his pastoral message with the pope’s pleas for the just distribution of wealth, and the failure of global capitalism.

Today NY Times reporters Jim Yardley and Binyamin Appelbaum write: “The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II,” in their assessment “In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism.”


Yardley has employed his “WhatsApp” feed to great effect. Answering questions from readers, and giving his own insights into the pope’s day to day routine and answers why the NY Times has taken such interest in this papal tour of South America.


An item worth mentioning is the recent conversation at the Apsen Ideas Festival — bringing together Gary Wills, Michael Gerson and Father Matt Malone. Take a look:

7/6/15 “It was a windy welcome,” according to Euronews, for Pope Francis as he walked off his jet airplane in Quito, Ecuador. Yesterday (Sunday) he began his seven day tour of South America.

Following the papal trip from North America, there are a variety of news sources.

Take note of NYT’s  Jim Yardley‘s “Whatsapp” reporting. These are “up-to-the-minute” impressions of the papal trip from the Rome-based correspondent, entitled “My Travels with the Pope.” For example, at 8:13 PDT, Yardley commented: “Francis returns to Quito on Monday afternoon for a private meeting with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador….Opponents [of Correa] have used the Francis visit to stage protests against Correa. Let’s see what happens.”Clearly the pope is a global “news maker,” and this fact has caught the attention of the mainstream American press.

Also, read into the difficulties covering the pope, not only does Francis go “off script,” but falls into Argentinian dialect, almost as impossible for Spanish-speakers, as the English-bound American reporters like Yardley.


Several backgrounders are worth noting.

This morning in the NCR, Josh McElwee in his piece “Ecuadorians Hope Pope Give Tough Talk,” quotes a layman Marco Laguatasi, of the Quito Archdiocese Pontifical Mission Society, who states: “The local Church should work to better understand Francis’s missionary impulse….[The local] Church needs to wake up to the pope’s call.”


Also on the papal trip is Crux reporter Ines San Martin whose reporting details how the Jesuit from Argentina knows this region of the world, and speaks their language.



UC Berkeley Professor George Lakoff admits: “I don’t have a pope.” Nonetheless, he has plenty to say about Pope Francis and the encyclical. Lakoff’s book “The Political Mind” considers the merits and perils of “political persuasion,” and employs cognitive psychology to demonstrate how language, metaphor and frames such as “climate change” and “global warming” find their currency in modern politics.

So, in his opinion, Pope Francis has gone after “market fundamentalism” in an effort to bring about greater understanding of our place in the cosmos, and how all humanity is called to a “global empathy.” Lakoff applauds the pope’s efforts and his forwarding a refreshing and new set of social, political and “religious frames.”



The Vatican released the official itinerary for Pope Francis’s trip to the United States (9/22-27).


CWR reports further details of the Pope’s visit to Cuba (9/19-22).



Father Tom Reese was the first to send via Twitter, a June 26th article from the Washington Post by Michelle Boorstein, “An Exclusive Look at the Draft schedule for Pope Francis’s U.S. Trip.” This alert about the pope’s schedule demonstrates the complicated logistics of the pope’s first visit to the United States, and how his visit makes for interesting politics all around.



“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountain: everything is, as it were, a caress of God,” writes Pope Francis in his landmark encyclical “Laudato Si’, On the Care of our Common Home.”

The public roll-out of the encyclical letter on Thursday (6/18) at 11AM in Rome, required many of us in the United States – to wait up and listen (via You Tube) to the Vatican Press Office.

The presentations by Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghana), Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, together with a scientist of Nobel rank, and the head of a NGO tell something about the importance of this occasion. Also, in the writing of the document there has been wide collaboration by the pope that better insures the accuracy, an appropriate theological focus for the worldwide audience.

Despite the press leak by L’Espresso three days before the formal publication of the 191-page document, what is most astonishing that in the so-called “age of transparency” with so much collaboration there were not substantial leaks long before Monday. Nonetheless, any number of news organizations covered the importance of the document, its theological and pastoral message, the scientific and historical import, as well as the press performance in the coverage of the news of religion.

Here are points from my own notes for consideration of the vast array of topics coming from “Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore,” On the Care of our Common Home.

First, the document itself, requires careful reading in an organized faction, this version from EWTN has the outline followed by the document.


Second Father James Martin of America, provides the “Top Ten Take Aways” of the key points in the pastoral letter. This short piece may be read before reading the entire encyclical.


Along side, Father Martin’s summary, another of America editors, Ashley McKinless, has provided an invaluable study-guide, drawing from its own resources of theological and scientific writers, as well as connecting to the very best in the English-speaking world.


Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service provides an help article, “A Defining Moment: Here’s a Glossary of Terminology.”


Most helpful is a short video documentary suitable for study groups and produced by the Catholic News Service, entitled “Catholicism & the Challenge of Ecology.” The 17-minute video is an overview of key theological and scientific findings.


Second, what’s the impact of the encyclical here in the United States?

John Allen in the Boston Globe, “Pope’s Manifesto looks like a game-changer in the US,” makes the case that all the interest for the pastoral letter, and the pope himself are preludes to the pope’s visit to the Unites States in September.


Third, how do the American media pundits take to the new encyclical?

Michelle Boorstein, of the Washington Post, writes: “Pope Encyclical Generates Responses from Over-the-Top Enthusiasm to Harsh Dismissal.”


Here she quotes Jeb Bush, the convert to Catholicism, who appears to take the all too convenient Kennedy-like separation of religion and public policy issues. Well, it’s the presidential election season.

Take note of the comment, at the very bottom of the piece, by John-Henry Westen, editor of the anti-abortion LifeSiteNews. Westen is saying that the pope has allied himself with environmental groups that support abortion policies. What the pope has done, in effect, is to move the global environmental concerns to a top priority for his pontificate. Indeed, the pope has made new alliances, most especially with the United Nations, thereby he is not held hostage by lobbying groups whose one-issue orientation have prevailed for the past thirty-years or so. Needless-to-say, this is the disquieting feature of Pope Francis’s papacy for some.

Fourth, manifest is the dissembling of the American right wing, chief among them, and this is only a sample, is Peggy Noonan’s column from last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “Scenes from a Young Papacy.”


Frankly, it’s a classic, and worth reading. Simply stated: we live in a real world, it does exist, and, in my opinion, she may be from another planet! What’s so misguided about her opinion piece is that is underlies a reality that the Fox oriented news writers and pundits simply don’t know how to handle this pope.

Either Jorge Bergoglio is a socialist and friend of both Castro and Obama; Or Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have already said really much of what he says on the environment.

Could it be that Pope Francis’ personal moral authority and his accessible writing style make for more engaged readers and followers?

Take note of EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and his interview with USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. Another classic from EWTN, this is the network that enjoys Catholic nostalgia, and at time plays the conservative card by not fully understanding Pope Francis. “What is he up to?” Arroyo asks. The Archbishop knows full well the delicate dance they are doing in this interview.

In a very thoughtful piece, historian and writer Ted Widmer states: “The world may be talking about Francis’ treatise for years to come,” that appears in Politico Magazine, “The Pope’s Political Earthquake.” He begins with the quote from Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”


Lastly, I was quoted in a piece that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, entitled: “Pope Blasts California Cap and Trade System,” by David R. Baker with an interview by Joe Garafoli.


6/13/15 Reporting the pope’s forthcoming encyclical, Jim Yardley (NYT) writes: “Given the pope’s widespread popularity, and his penchant for speaking out on major global issues, the encyclical is being treated as a milestone that could place the Roman Catholic Church at the forefront of a new coalition of religion and science.” Isn’t this what leaders do?  At times there is the need for effective messaging that speaks over the heads of critics, and especially those within the church organization and curia. Here’s an updated NYT version with reporting by Elisabetta Pavoledo which details of the “leaked draft” of the encyclical that sparked debate within the Vatican Press Office.


6/10/15 Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gave details for the newly created Vatican Tribunal to investigate the performance of bishops in dealing with cases of sex abuse. Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein report “Pope Creates Tribunal for Bishop Negligence in Child Sexual Abuse Cases,” NYT.


6/6/15 Reuters reports (via NYT) “Pope in Sarajevo urges Lasting Ethnic and Religious Peace.”


And TV news account by Katharine Johnson, “Pope Call for Lasting Peace in Sarajevo.”

5/26/15 Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service is among many reporting today about a recent interview with the pope by Argentinian reporter Juan Barretta. Once again, Pope Francis remains the most quoted and interesting “gets” for press/media. Here he talks about his personal life, including his devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and his promise (in 1990) not to watch television. A miracle in itself, perhaps.


Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez paid a visit to Pope Francis — in Sept. 2013, only six months after his election, signaling a change in tone toward “liberation theology” and how the new pope would address the needs of the poor in South America and around the world. Read “Pope’s Focus on Poor Revives Scorned Theology,” by NYT Rome Bureau chief Jim Yardley and Simon Romero was one among the many items relating to the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romaro in San Salvador on Saturday.


5/18/15 “You are an angel of peace,” or “May you be an angel of peace” are the subject of intense debate, as so much else in Middle East politics. In Pope Francis’ greeting of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority whether the pope used the appropriate form of the verb sei, Italian for “you are,” or sia which means “may you be.” Isabel Kershner and Elisabetta Povoledo parse these words for the NYT:


5/17/15 In Rome, Pope Francis canonized two 19th century Palestinian nuns, Sister Mariam, and Sister Marie Alphonine. Earlier this week, the Holy See gave formal diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine. Next week in Rome there will be the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who died by assassination in March of 1980. Read further about Romero’s case for sainthood in John Allen’s column:


5/12/15 “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” by the Pew Center on Religion & Public Life is a sobering analysis about trends in religious affiliation in the United States. The Catholic Church lost 3 million members since 2007, and 13 % of all Americans describe themselves as “former Catholics.”


5/11/15 CBS News Rome correspondent Allen Pizzey reports on Raul Castro’s Sunday visit to Pope Francis. Pizzey connects the dots of the Cuba/USA thaw in relations; and how the pope demonstrates his own diplomatic skills in bringing about the recent meetings of Castro and President Barack Obama.

5/11/15 The Vatican Press Office (VIS) has released Pope Francis’s schedule for his July 3 to 13 apostolic visit to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay.


5/10/15 The judge in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber of the 2013 Boston Marathon, is presently considering whether to permit the testimony of Sister Helen Prejean who has been asked to testify against the death penalty. Read Michael O’Loughlin’s news account in CRUX. 5/11/15 UPDATE: Sister Hellen Prejean testifies at the Tsarnaev trial.



5/8/15 Stephen Colbert contributes to American Magazine in an article that asks: “What Would You Say to the Pope?” The current issue of the Jesuit weekly magazine previews the the papal visit to the United States. By the way, Colbert is interested in the pope’s “Morning Routine.” http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/five-minutes-francis.

5/7/15 President Barack Obama will participate in Georgetown University’s “Summit On Overcoming Poverty” on Tuesday, May 12th at 11 AM EDT. He will be on a panel with Robert Putnam (Harvard), Arthur Brooks (AEI), and moderator E.J. Dionne (Brookings). University President John J. DeGioia noted: “As Pope Francis has placed a preference for the poor at the center of public life, we bring our resources as a Catholic and Jesuit university in the nation’s capital to engage in dialogue and scholarship that supports the betterment of humankind and the common good.” UPDATE: This event is streamed live on the Georgetown website. http://www.georgetown.edu/news/poverty-summit-2015-with-obama.html

5/5/15 “Vatican Insider” is the English edition of La Stampa, the Italian newspaper. “Junipero Serra and others: the Pope Praises the courage of American Missionaries,” by Andrea Tornielli reports on Pope Francis’s May 2nd visit to Rome’s North American College. Among the participants was Archbishop Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, who attended the one-day conference on Serra’s legacy.  Serra will be formally canonized a saint while the pope is on his visit to the United States.


The article also contains background to the historical controversies surrounding Spanish colonization in the New World, as well as the missionary efforts of the Franciscans and Jesuits.

5/1/15 “Why the Pope is a Feminist,” written by Rebecca Ruiz for Mashable.com, responds to the pope’s comments about providing equal pay to women in the work force. Here the author quotes me from a recent interview. http://mashable.com/2015/04/30/pope-francis-feminist/.

4/28/15 Speaking on the record, Father Tom Reese comments on Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical on “Climate Change and Global Warming,” in today’s NYT’s article by Coral Davenport and  Times Religion reporter, Laurie Goodstein. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/world/europe/pope-francis-steps-up-campaign-on-climate-change-to-conservatives-alarm.html?ref=world.

Reese has the best quote of the day: “I think (Speaker) Boehner is out of his mind to invite the pope to speak to Congress.” If nothing else, this article tells you why the press has to pay attention to the pope’s September visit to the United States.

4/27/15  First among a trio of American news analysts and Vatican insiders is Robert Mickens, the “Roman Observer” for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and editor of Global Pulse. His years of experience for the London Tablet, and his full-time reporting base in Rome make him an important interpreter of the news of religion. Last year, Mickens was the primary interview for Scott Pelley’s 60 Minutes segment on the Vatican. Here’s Mickens’ recent column in the NCR: http://ncronline.org/blogs/roman-observer/fear-real-roman-curia-reform.

John Allen is now with the Boston Globe, and is on-air for CNN. His posts on “All Things Catholic” are found on Crux. http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/04/25/catholics-around-the-world-cant-afford-luxury-issues/?s_campaign=crux:rss?s_campaign=camp:email:ja.

“Whispers in the Loggia,” Philadelphia’s Rocco Palmo’s blog has an American overtone covering the American bishops, and their day-to-day appointments and predicaments. Vastly entertaining for those who watch the Church hierarchy as if on “Hollywood’s Red Carpet.” http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com.

All three of these “wise men” are worth taking note. And helpful to crack the ranks of the full time Roman and European journalists who cover the Vatican full-time, the so-called “Vaticanisti. ”

4/20/15 “Will Pope Francis Break the Church,” by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, was published May 2015 edition of  The Atlantic. In an article that speaks of the “intense uncertainty” among conservative Catholics, the author reviews the growing list of books about Francis and his two-year reign. What’s clear is that Francis, as a leader, is less predictable, and conservatives like Douthat are as surprised by Francis — as everyone else is! Douthat’s take is derivative of the authors he’s attempting to discern, so he has less original reporting about the vastly interesting man who presently occupies the “Chair of Peter.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/05/will-pope-francis-break-the-church/389516/

4/14/15 “The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis,” by Gary Hamel appears in the pages of the Harvard Business Review. What’s most interesting about the piece are not only the pope’s organizational tips, but the fact that the editors of the HBR thought that Pope Francis has something to say to their readership. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/05/will-pope-francis-break-the-church/389516/

4/4-5/15 WSJ reporter Francis X. Rocca presents a very balanced analysis of Pope Francis. The author maintains the pope “has surprised the world with both his style and the substance of his ministry,” in an article entitled “The New Rome.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/pope-francis-and-the-new-rome-1428075101?KEYWORDS=%22the+New+Rome%22+

3/17/15 LA Times writer Louis Salagun profiles historian Ruben Mendoza of CSU Monterey Bay, and his research on Junipero Serra and the California Missions. The article is entitled “Often Criticized Serra Gets a Reappraisal from Historians.” Pope Francis will declare Serra a saint on September 23 while on his visit to Washington D.C.. http://www.latimes.com/local/great-reads/la-me-c1-serra-awakening-20150317-story.html#page=1

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