Gunty is associate publisher/editor of the Catholic Review.


March 2015
June 2014

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

Family of 7 would like to go from Our Lady of the Mountains in Cumberland, MD.


I would love to go. Planning on taking my granddaughter. She is 11.



Annunciation Archbishop William E. Lori Baltimore Bethlehem Bible Bishop Denis J. Madden Catholic Review email Faith Israel Jerusalem Jordan Journalism Mary movies Nazareth News Petra Pilgrimage Pope Francis Prayer Priests Religion Scripture Uncategorized
Behind the Headlines

There's a reason it's called 'Good Friday'

As we move through Holy Week toward the Holy Triduum and Easter, how do we approach with joy events so poignant and sad? The betrayal of Jesus, his Passion and death by crucifixion show the brutal way in which we, humans, treated the greatest gift of all: the Son of God.
In an interview with Archbishop William E. Lori about his new book, “The Joy of Believing: A Practical Guide to the Catholic Faith (Word Among Us Press, 2015), the archbishop talked about the great mysteries of our faith and the sadness of Holy Week. Listen in:
“I think the greatest mystery of our faith is God himself” he said. “It’s the inner life of God. It is God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is that God so loved the world. It is that we would be caught up in this love.
Karen Osborn | CR STAFF
“So, when we talk about our faith, we’re not just talking about a bunch of disconnected truths that are really hard to understand. We’re not talking about riddles, puzzles, or the occult.
“What we are talking about is the hidden life of God, this light inaccessible that has been made accessible because God so loved the world that he revealed himself in history, most fully in his Son Jesus Christ and in revealing himself to us, revealed ourselves to ourselves, showing us our great dignity and our destiny to share that friendship, and that shapes everything,” Archbishop Lori said. “Once you really believe that, once you have fallen in love with this mystery of the God who is love, it just changes everything in your life.”
As we approached Holy Week and the end of Lent, I asked him about all the sadness that comes with the Passion and the Crucifixion – How does the joy come from that?
“You know it’s not for nothing we speak of Good Friday,” the archbishop said, because what is really being revealed “especially in Holy Week is God’s self-giving love. It’s the Lord Jesus who gave himself to us in the Eucharist in anticipation of giving himself to us and to the Father on the cross.
“It’s the revelation of a love that for sure exposes our sins for what they are, but then applies to our sins and the sins of all the world a love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death,” he said.
“And so, even as we mourn our sins, even as we feel sadness over the price of our salvation, nonetheless what should overtake us in Holy Week are joy, gratitude and thanksgiving, and even when we are contrite for our sins as always we must be, at the end of the day it’s always the horizon of hope.
“We’re always able to be contrite because God is loving, merciful and that his love and mercy not only makes us feel better, it actually conquers our sins. Wow! What a gift. God has given himself to us and we get to share in his death to sin so that we might be free and joyful and begin even now to share in his risen life.”
What a gift indeed. As you ponder the readings and prayers of Holy Week, keep in mind that we know the end of the story – and it includes Christ’s resurrection and our salvation.

Photo by Karen Osborne | CR Staff

March 31, 2015 02:43
By Christopher Gunty

Would you ride a bus to see Pope Francis in Philly?

The Catholic Review and the Archdiocese of Baltimore Office of Family Life are working on organizing a day-trip via bus to Philadelphia when Pope Francis celebrates an outdoor Mass Sunday, Sept. 27.

This trip won't be an easy one. Details have not yet been announced. These things are likely:

  • The Mass will be in the afternoon.
  • There's going to be a big crowd. A really big crowd.
  • Anyone who wants to attend will likely have to walk a lot, and sit on the ground or stand for long periods. Expect a lot of waiting in lines – for bathrooms, for food, for getting into the area where the Mass will be held.
  • Buses won't be able to drop you off right next to the altar. Bus drop-off locations will likely be coordinated by the city to improve traffic flow; vehicles probably won't be able to get too close to the site.
  • Even if you're there, you might not actually see Pope Francis. You may see him on a large video screen like the folks in the Philippines or Rio did.
  • And while there likely will be some kind of controlled access, there may be tickets that guarantee seats or any particular location.

This was the scene from earlier this year: An aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site, which a local church official said was more than a mile long. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters).

And yet, with all these concerns, a lot of people want to go to Philly. They want to be in the presence of the pope, the vicar of Christ on Earth. They want to hear his message. They want to be able to say, "I was there."

I've had a chance to see Pope St. John Paul II at major events (and an intimate Mass in his private chapel in the Vatican). I saw Pope Benedict in Washington, D.C.; Rome; and Germany. Being in their presence was always amazing. I have not yet had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis in person.

In September, Pope Francis will visit Washington, where he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, evangelist to the western U.S. mission areas. He will also speak to Congress. In New York, he will address the United Nations. In Philadelphia, he will join the World Meeting of Families and celebrate the big outdoor Mass.

We are in the early stages of planning a bus trip to be a part of the celebration of Mass in Philly. The buses would likely leave from a few designated pick-up spots very, VERY early in the morning and return late at night. No hotel accomodations would be needed (hard to get, anyway). You can sleep on the bus.

Are you interested in learning more? Click here to let us know you're interested, and we will provide you with more details when the final schedule is announced.

March 16, 2015 09:57
By Christopher Gunty

How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening, treatment?

Five children were injured in May in two separate incidents involving bounce houses, those huge inflatable amusement devices often rented for carnivals and parties. Sure, parents should be concerned about allowing their children to play on a potentially dangerous device. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will open an investigation, according to USA Today, in light of the fact that at least 10 inflatables collapsed or blew away in 2011, and injuries more than doubled from 2008 to 2010.

It’s great that a trend was identified, and action taken fairly quickly to look into the aspects of inflatables that might cause harm.

But that doesn’t happen every time someone is injured or killed. Some we get used to.

When two students created a massacre at Columbine School in 1999 – 15 years ago now – killing 13 and injuring at least 24, one would have reasonably expected that Americans – politicians and citizens; parents and children; law enforcement, gun advocates and gun critics – would have all come together to take action to stem such senseless violence. But in the intervening years, names and places such as Tucson, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and the Columbia Mall have added more faces to the tragic stories. Add Isla Vista, Calif., to that list, where 22-year-old Elliott Rodger allegedly stabbed his roommates and then shot three more people while injuring 13 in the area around the University of California Santa Barbara, before killing himself May 23. The ready availability of guns and other weapons, combined with inadequate mental health screening and treatment results in tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.

The evident pain expressed by Michael Martinez, the father of Isla Vista victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, might have been prevented had the law-enforcement authorities who did a “wellness check” on Rodger had done a better background check. Rodger’s parents expressed concern over videos their son had made and posted on YouTube, prompting the visit to the young man’s home. The authorities apparently didn’t watch the videos for themselves, or check a database that showed that Rodger had recently (and legally) purchased several weapons and ammunition. Rodger eventually admitted before his rampage that had they entered his home and seen his weapons, they would have foiled his plans to wreak havoc.

How much more outrage will it take for Congress to act to plug the holes in the universal background check system to eliminate the shield for private sales? When even an attack on a federal congresswoman – doing her job, listening to constituents at a public forum at a grocery store – cannot prompt action, then Congress must be stalemated indeed.

How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening and treatment programs? Life is tough for all of us; for some those challenges can become crippling. And for some, when their disease is not under control, they become dangerous, to themselves and to others.

“When will this insanity stop?” Richard Martinez asked after his son was shot. “When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this’? Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.”

According to Catholic News Service, since the May 23 shooting in California, the state’s lawmakers have been busy re-examining the state’s gun-control laws. A new bill was introduced May 28 in the state Legislature that would allow friends or family members concerned that someone may commit a violent act to notify law enforcement officials. The bill also would allow police to investigate the threat and request a restraining order from a judge preventing the person from purchasing a firearm or keeping one they already own.

Will such laws be enough, without addition public support for enhanced mental health treatment? Who needs to be convinced that this problem begs for a solution? Can we begin today?

June 06, 2014 10:54
By Christopher Gunty

Raymond Arroyo addresses Catholic Business Network of Baltimore

Take 150 or so business people, add the chief executive of a locally-based weight-loss company and the news director of the largest Catholic broadcast network in the world, and you end up with a wonderful dinner that raised $12,500 for a scholarship fund for students in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The third annual Catholic Business Network of Baltimore dinner charmed the attendees with good food and good conversation and a chance to “strengthen faith and business” in accord with the association’s motto.

The group began meeting in February 2010 and was formally organized as the Catholic Business Network of Baltimore in April 2012. The dinner helped the group surpass its five-year goal to raise $25,000 for a scholarship endowment, hitting a total of $27,000 in just three years.

For the first time in its short history, the network presented a Catholic Business Leadership award for service and leadership for archdiocesan programs and organizations. Michael MacDonald, CEO of Medifast, has followed in the footsteps of his brother, Bradley, who was CEO of Medifast before his death in 2012.

Accepting the award, MacDonald said that when his brother, who knew he was dying, asked him to take on the leadership of the company, he also asked him to continue the work Bradley had been doing in support of the church in Baltimore, knowing that Michael already supported the church in New Jersey, where he lived at the time.

“The Catholic Community in Baltimore is very welcoming,” Michael MacDonald told the CBNB group. He noted that the company’s board includes a priest and a nun, and every meeting starts with a prayer. He acknowledged that he supports other faiths, while not being ashamed of his own Catholic faith. “We’re very fortunate in this community to have the Catholic leadership we have,” he said.

MacDonald now chairs the Catholic Community Foundation strategic planning committee and will also chair the 2014 archdiocesan gala, which will be held Sept. 27 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The keynote speaker for the evening, Raymond Arroyo, regaled the crowd with quips and quotes from Mother Angelica, foundress of Eternal Word Television Network, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. Arroyo is news director and lead anchor for EWTN News, based in Washington, D.C.

Raymond Arroyo (Courtesy Mark Gregory Photography)

Occasionally slipping into Mother Angelica’s “voice” to quote the Ohio-born nun, Arroyo explained that she built a studio on the pad of an unfinished garage at her monastery, a sign that God can turn even our failures into something good.

“Sometimes risking everything is the only way to see what God intends for us,” the newsman and author quoted Mother Angelica as saying.

He said that Mother Angelica, who retired from leadership of the network in 2000, got where she was by living in the moment, something we don’t often do in business.

Again “channeling” Mother Angelica, he asked, “What does God want you to do in this present moment? Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.”

She also said, “You will have an eternity to experience God, but only a short time to do his work, so get cracking.”

Arroyo recounted stories of providence delivering what the network needed at exactly the right time, and dispensed some business advice as he did so. “It’s only by moving beyond ourselves and reaching for the impossible that God responds.”

Answering questions from the crowd, he noted that while he has interviewed a lot of celebrities and politicians – and has even liked some of the politicians – he noted that the scholarship fund supported by the network is more important than electing a congressman. “Think about the literature you read as a child. They stay with you all your life,” he said, citing classics such as “Charlotte’s Web.”

That’s one of the reasons he said he is now writing a series of children’s books.

“You have to rebuild from the bottom up,” Arroyo said. “Teach them about God and a sense of faith. About good and evil.

“If you can rebuild the populace, you can save the civilization.”

In the course of working at the Associated Press, working for political columnists Rowland Evans and Michael Novak, and now in his multiple roles at EWTN and writing best-selling books, Arroyo said he has had a chance to meet all his heroes, including St. John Paul II, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and Mother Angelica – “that trifecta is hard to beat” – as well as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Lech Walesa. “It’s a great honor and a gift,” he said.

May 15, 2014 09:34
By Christopher Gunty

‘Son of God’ tells the ultimate ‘Survivor’ story

If you go to see the new movie, “Son of God,” and you have paid any attention at Mass or in Catholic school or religious education, you know the story. You know the stories – the Nativity and the visit of the wise men, the calling of the apostles, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the healing of the lame man, the Last Supper, etc. It is one thing to read the Scriptures; it is another to watch the stories brought to life on screen.

Produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the feature film is culled from portions of the popular History Channel series on the Bible and from alternate shots not used in the TV series, according to Downey. They pulled together the “Jesus” parts of the Bible story.


“Son of God” is told through the eyes of the Apostle John, as he has aged and looks back at how this man from Galilee changed his life and changed the world. Through John’s eyes, we see the life of Christ from his birth through the Ascension.

Downey is best known for her role as an angel-come-to-earth in the long-running TV drama “Touched by an Angel.” Burnett has made his mark with reality television, including the various iterations of “Survivor.” With this film, Burnett and company have made the ultimate “Survivor” story. Jesus of Nazareth overcomes death by crucifixion and not only lives forever, but brings everlasting life to those who believe in him.

This is certainly not he first cinematic look at the life of the Lord. “Passion of the Christ” and even musical versions such as “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” each look at the historical Jesus from a different perspective.

“Son of God” excels in several areas.

The cinematography is beautiful. Shot primarily in Morocco as a stand-in for the Holy Land, the film is rich in vistas of Jesus and his band of early followers walking from place to place. Special effects – among them the storm in which Peter starts to walk on water toward Jesus, but goes under when his faith fails – impress.

Most of the actors bring their characters to life. Greg Hicks and Louise Delamere, as Pilate and his wife, embody the struggle between the Roman occupier and the dream she has that Pilate will have a role in the death of an innocent man. In many biblical films, the high priest Caiaphas is an imposing, bold presence; Adrian Schiller portrays him almost (but not quite) as a weakling, essentially as a man concerned about the effect of the rabble-rouser Jesus on the strained relations between the Jews and the Romans. Nicodemus (Simon Kunz) displays the angst of a member of the Sanhedrin who comes to realize that there is something different about Jesus that is worth following.

Mary and Centurion
Downey herself portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, effectively emoting the anguish of a mother as her son is beaten and hung on a cross. We feel her pain. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado imbues Jesus with the urgency of the call to the disciples, the playfulness of a friend, and the power of a leader. By turns joyful in his teaching and disappointed with the moneychangers, he powerfully brings the emotions of despair at Gethsemane and Calvary to the fore.

Some of the characters are not as effective. For example, the story seems to confuse Simon the Zealot (who is never mentioned here) with Barabbas, letting Barabbas provide the viewpoint as one who seeks a messiah of military might, as well as being the murderer whom Pilate sets free at the urging of the crowd. And by necessity, as the years of Jesus’ life are condensed into 138 minutes of running time, some timelines are compressed, such as Jesus’ appearance to the Apostles after his resurrection.

This film is not for the young, or the squeamish. The story shifts quickly from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the brutality of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Parts of the film are intense. There is an appreciable amount of blood and gore, especially during the flogging, carrying the cross along the Via Dolorosa, and – of course – the crucifixion. It may be too intense for a child under 13 if the child was not mature or prepared for it. Even some adults in the screening I attended averted their eyes during particularly violent scenes.

And yet, the violence is a part of the story. As with “The Passion of the Christ,” when Jesus is beaten and nailed to the cross, it is hard not to realize that my own sins put him there, and that he died for my salvation – and yours.

Like “The Passion,” “Son of God” has been marketed through Christian and Catholic churches across the country, with churches being encouraged to buy out screenings. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori will host such a screening in Hunt Valley March 4, the day before Ash Wednesday. While it is a good way to bring together a community to experience the story, it is also very effective at selling seats. That’s not a bad thing, if it gives more people an opportunity to internalize the message of the Gospel.

As we begin Lent March 5, it is well for us to remember that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” In that context, this movie can be an aid to your Lenten reflections.

For more on “Son of God,” including a video interview with Roma Downey and scenes from the film, see this story from Catholic News Service. Also view their review of the movie.

February 28, 2014 12:01
By Christopher Gunty

A look at Columbia Pictures' 'Elysium'

In the 2150s, earth doesn’t look very good. People on earth are stacked on top of each other (worse than today’s skyscrapers and dense cities). Greenspace? Virtually nonexistent. Pollution, a police state and policies keep the underdog under foot.

But if you are among the planet’s upper crust, you can live off-planet on Elysium, a space station, where all is beautiful and everyone is healthy, thanks to the “medbay” in every home that diagnoses and cures all maladies within moments. As Garrison Keillor might say, “Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Such is the premise of “Elysium,” in theaters today.

Wagner Moura (left) and Matt Damon in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM. (© 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From this dystopia emerges a savior, Max (Matt Damon), who is told as a young boy by a wonderful, compassionate nun (played by Yolanda Abbud L.) at an orphanage that he is born to do something great.

He longs for Elysium, a wheel in orbit around earth that is visible to the naked eye from the scorched planet’s surface.

TriStar Pictures’ ELYSIUM. (© 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.All rights reserved.)

Years later, Max is an ex-felon factory worker, ironically helping to manufacture the police robots that herd and harm the people.
Max gets blasted with a lethal dose (a “maximum” dose) of radiation at the factory, and is given a bottle of pills by a robotic medic and sent home with five days to live.

Elysium is science fiction, but it’s also a political allegory. As 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” was an unabashed portrayal of the dangers of global warming, “Elysium” clearly highlights immigration concerns and the lack of universal health care. It’s no coincidence that most of the earth-bound residents of Los Angeles who seek the ability to migrate to the space station are Hispanic. Even the terminology is clear: the shuttles the earthlings use to attempt to go to Elysium are called “undocumented ships.” It couldn’t be more obvious than that.

The science in “Elysium” is probably as accurate as in “The Day After Tomorrow,” which is to say, not very. In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed the climate change diatribe as one of the “Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies.” Certainly, we can expect advances in medical technology in 150 years, but it’s unlikely that we will achieve the kind of progress Elysium depicts. Cranial reconstruction? It might take a few minutes, but sure, we’ve got that.

The grotesque violence in this film is predictable. Think “Mad Max Beyond the Atmosphere” for a new take on the apocalyptic “Mad Max” movies featuring a young Mel Gibson. For the most part, people left behind aren’t very nice to each other.

In Ancient Greek folklore, Elysium, or the Elysian Fields, was a concept of the afterlife where “admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life,” according to Wikipedia.

The 22nd-century Elysium is similar, except these privileged few aren’t dead. They have beautiful homes, free medical care and room to breathe.

What they don’t have is utopia. We note that in both cases where an undocumented mother makes it to the space station to ensure her child a chance at medbay miracles, they have to break a window to open the door. If life on Elysium were perfect, who would need to lock their doors?

The church supports sound immigration policies and universal health care (as long as it promotes life rather than diminishes it), so this might be a movie about which Catholics have a lot to say.

But my favorite takeaway from the film was the nun. A century and a half from now, I believe there will be Catholic sisters (still wearing a veil and habit) who will carry on the good work of Jesus, as depicted not on the space station but on the dirt-poor planet below. I believe those in church ministry will care for the sick and orphaned. I hope they will all be as kind as that sister, who spoke lovingly and sweetly to a young, lonely boy, and inspired him to be a savior.

August 09, 2013 05:37
By Christopher Gunty

Christian imagery in "Man of Steel" also looks at role of fathers

If you plan to see the Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” released today, bring earplugs. But also bring your New Testament.

You know the Superman story. From TV’s George Reeves and Tom Welling to the big screen’s Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh and now Henry Cavill, it’s a timeless tale of a boy whose parents die in a tragic accident (in this case, their planet is destroyed) and then is adopted by a couple who show him love and affection, and teach him what it means to be part of a family.

This latest edition has a lot of violence – hand-to-hand combat, world destruction, that sort of thing. For a story about someone sent to save the world, a lot of the planet gets battered and a lot of people die in the attacks by the villain (General Zod, played by Michael Shannon) and his cohorts.

The movie also has its share of Christian allegory and family values. It’s also a good look at parents, and especially a boy’s relationship with his father as he becomes a man.

 (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Under the direction of Zack Snyder, “Man of Steel” takes a new look at the backstory of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. A veritable assault on the senses, with loud explosions, imagery that encompasses the viewer and even seat-rumbling bass tones, it can be overwhelming. Add the 3D option, and you could be on sensory overload.

As Clark begins to use his superhuman powers, it attracts the attention of the world, specifically Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. In the newsroom, someone asks, “He’s 33 years old. Why don’t we know anything about him?”

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is the Doubting Thomas in this tale. She sees, but – at least at first – she does not believe the strength and goodness Kal-El displays.

She asks him what the “S” on his outfit stands for. He tells her it’s not an S, that on his planet, it is a symbol for hope (it’s also his “family crest”). Hmmm, a man who symbolizes hope, coming to save the world.

Via Kryptonian technology, his father is able to teach him about their planet, telling Kal that he can be “a force for good; that’s what you can bring them.”

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) also tells him: “You will give the people an ideal to strive toward. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Perhaps he means, “… they will join you in the Son.

Kal-El experiences the angst of knowing that he has been given great skills and great responsibility. He faces the epitome of evil in General Zod, and must battle Zod (Could it be Satan?) for the fate of humanity.

As we celebrate Father's Day, “Man of Steel” also takes a good look at the role of fathers in shaping their sons. Jor-El gives Kal everthing he can, and sends him away, in order to save him. Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) adopts him and teaches him how to deal with his abundant talents.

Jonathan tells him: “You're not just anyone. One day, you're going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it's going to change the world.” He senses – and trusts – that Clark will make the right choice.

If you see “Man of Steel,” look for the Christian imagery and values behind the CGI landscapes and special effects. Decide if you think Kal-El/Clark Kent made the right choice, and think about how he was inspired to become who he is.

Also see: 

Movie Review: Man of Steel

June 17, 2013 11:34
By Christopher Gunty

Participate in Pope Francis’ installation as Bishop of Rome – without leaving home

If you’re planning to get up early to watch the Mass of Inauguration for the Bishop of Rome’s Petrine Ministry for Pope Francis, you’ll want to be prepared to make the most of it.

The Mass begins at 9:30 a.m. Rome time (4:30 a.m. EDT). That’s plenty early enough, but if you want to see the pope circling the Piazza San Pietro in the popemobile before the Mass, you’ll have to set your alarm for even earlier. The pope is expected to come out around 8:45 or 8:50 a.m. Rome time (3:45 or 3:50 EDT). You can expect hundreds of thousands to attend the outdoor Mass for the first chance to see the pope in this setting. The whole square will be filled, as well as most of the Via della Conciliazione, all the way down to the river and Castel Sant’Angelo.

According to the Vatican Information Service (all times local, EDT in brackets) “Between 8:45 and 8:50am [3:45-3:50 am] the pope will depart the Domus Sanctae Marthae and start to move through the crowd in the various sections of the piazza – either in the Jeep or the Popemobile – and greet those gathered. He will return to the sacristy, via the Pietà side, around 9:15am [4:15 am]. Mass is planned to begin at 9:30am [4:30 am].

“Regarding the beginning of the ceremony, the pope, once having entered the Basilica, will head to the Confession (St. Peter’s tomb under the high altar) while trumpets will announce the ‘Tu es Petrus’ [‘You Are Peter’]. The Pope will venerate the tomb of St. Peter, together with the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (10 in number, four of whom are cardinals). He will then be presented with the Pallium, Ring, and Book of the Gospels that were placed at St. Peter’s tomb the night before.

“The Holy Father will then come back up from the Confession to the main floor of the Basilica, from which the procession continues. The ‘Laudes Regiae’ (Christ is King) will be chanted, with some invocations taken from the Vatican II document on the Church, ‘Lumen Gentium.’ In the Litany of Saints are particularly to be noted, after the Apostles, the Holy Roman Pontiffs who have been canonized up to the most recent: St. Pius X. Fr. Lombardi clarified that these are only the pontiffs who have been named as saints, not those who have been beatified. The procession will then make its entrance into the square.”

Many news channels will carry the Mass live, as will EWTN. If your cable or satellite system does not provide a channel carrying the Mass, you can go directly to a live feed from the Centro Televisivo Vaticano at which you can select audio_eng (other other language) from the drop-down box at the lower right for an audio commentary in your preferred language. If that link doesn’t work for you, choose your download speed and format here.

It will be helpful to follow along with the Mass, which is expected to last about two hours (as you’re getting ready for work and/or getting the kids off to school). You can download the official Mass book produced by the Vatican to assist you with this.

Most of the Mass will be in Latin, but the book includes translations in English and Italian, which is very helpful.

VIS notes that before the Mass begins, there will be some specific rites to the beginning of the Petrine Ministry. This follows the practice begun recently by Benedict XVI in which rituals which are not strictly part of the Mass are done in a liturgical context but outside the Mass. The elevation of cardinals and the conferral of palliums on new archbishops are two such rites.

The Imposition of the Pallium: Made of lamb’s wool and sheep’s wool, the Pallium is placed on the Pope's shoulders recalling the Good Shepherd who carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. The Pope’s Pallium has five red crosses while the Metropolitans’ Palliums [such as that worn by Archbishop William E. Lori] have five black crosses. The one used by Francis is the same one that Benedict XVI used.

The Fisherman’s Ring: Peter is the fisherman Apostle, called to be a ‘fisher of men.’ … It bears the image of St. Peter with the keys. It was designed by Enrico Manfrini. The ring was in the possession of Archbishop Macchi, Pope Paul VI's personal secretary, and then Msgr. Malnati, who proposed it to Pope Francis through Cardinal Re. It is made of silver and gold.

The ‘Obedience’: Six cardinals, two from each order [cardinal bishop, cardinal priest and cardinal deacon], among the first of those present approach the Pope to make an act of obedience. Note that all the cardinal electors already made an act of obedience in the Sistine Chapel at the end of the Conclave and that all the cardinals were able to meet the Pope in the following day’s audience in the Clementine Hall. Also, at the moment of ‘taking possession’ of the Cathedral of Rome – St. John Lateran – it is expected that the act of obedience will be made by representatives of the various members of the People of God.

In a news conference, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, noted that the Mass will be the one for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, which has its own readings (therefore they are not directly related to the rite of the Inauguration of the Pontificate). The Gospel will be proclaimed in Greek, as at the highest solemnities, to show that the universal Church is made up of the great traditions of the East and the West. “Latin,” Fr. Lombardi said, “is already abundantly present in the other prayers and Mass parts.”

“The Pope will give his homily in Italian and, as is his style, it probably will not follow the written text strictly, but will contain improvisations,” Father Lombardi noted.

Even if you have to stay here, you can be part of the historic events unfolding in Rome. You just won’t be able to get my favorite Roman gelato afterwards.

March 18, 2013 03:28
By Christopher Gunty

What name might the new pope take?

UPDATED March 19

We learned six days ago that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected by his fellow cardinals as the 266th pope, and took the name Francis I.

Though no pope had ever taken that name before, it was in my list as a possibility.

It could signal, as I noted, that Pope Francis may, like Francis of Assisi, "rebuild my church." It could also be a reflection of Cardinal Bergoglio's humble manner. He is reported to ride the bus, live in a simple apartment and cook his own meals, He is known by many in his archdiocese of Buenos Aires as "Father Jorge.

It would seem obvious that his days of riding the bus are over. Many are not safe from pickpockets and other dangers on Rome's #62 bus that passes by St. Peter's. 

Click here to read about Pope Francis' reasoning behind choosing St. Francis of Assisi's name. We will certainly learn more about the new pope in the coming days and weeks.

Welcome, Pope Francis.


At a Vatican news conference this morning, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the director of Toronto-based Salt + Light TV who is assisting the Vatican press office with English- and French-speaking journalists, noted that there is no way to know the new papal name until he is elected and makes his choice. The new pope does not have to explain why he chose the name, though Benedict XVI did so.

The first pope to change his name appears to be John II, whose birth name was Mercurius. He apparently decided that having the name of a pagan god was not good form for a pope. Most popes since then have taken a new name – either of a saint or a previous pope (sometimes both).

The most common papal name is John, with 23 iterations of that already (and the “September Pope,” John Paul I, honored his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI, and John Paul II honored all three of his predecessors by taking the same name). Benedict and Gregory come in tied for second with 16 each.

Without taking into account every papal name that has been used, here is a list compiled in the last couple of weeks of the possible names for the new pope. Along with the name are some comments on the likelihood of that choice.

·       Benedict XVII: Possible, if the new pontiff wants to honor both his immediate predecessor and St. Benedict. Unlikely, though, because we would have two living Pope Benedicts (one retired, one active) and both the new pope and emeritus pope will want to eliminate any confusion.

·       John Paul III: Perhaps not likely, while we await a second miracle for the canonization of Blessed John Paul; he may wish for his name to not interfere with people’s memory of John Paul II’s long and prolific pontificate, which some people contend will one day result in Blessed John Paul being known as “St. John Paul the Great.”

·       Paul VII: High possibility, as it would pay tribute to the pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council and implemented changes in the liturgy, and honor the Apostle Paul.

·       John XXIV: Pays tribute to Blessed John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, and as noted, is the most common papal name.

·       Pius XIII: Less likely while the debate continues to rage over Pius XII’s role during World War II. If Pius XII is eventually canonized, that might clear the way for the name to be used again, but now might be untimely. By the way, the Irish betting site Paddy Power currently has Leo at 6/5 odds of being selected. (However, it’s not worth putting a lot of stock in that, necessarily, since the site also lists Peter at 9/2 odds; by tradition, out of respect for their historic role, no other pope has taken the name Peter or Linus, the first two popes.)

·       Leo XIV: A good chance for this one. Author and Vaticanista George Weigel notes that the reforms we are currently experiencing in the church did not begin with Vatican II, but with the papacy of Leo XIII in the late 19th century. If the new pope wants to allude to Leo’s charism of change and Catholic social teaching, he could choose to honor him by taking his name.

·       Gregory XVII: Second most common papal name, and lots of reasons to choose it.

·       Clement XV: (see also, O’Malley note, below)

·       Innocent XIV: (unlikely; in these days with the sexual abuse crisis, etc., the name Innocent might be mocked by many in the media and in the streets)

·       Alexander VIII: Low likelihood. Alexander VII commission St. Peter’s Square (a plus), but Alexander VI had a great-great-great grandson who became pope (Innocent X) and that could call attention to past concerns about the papal families in the Middle Ages.

·       Urban IX: Not likely, as this would recall the pope who began the trial of Galileo Galilei, whose persecution by the church was later renounced.

·       Marcellus III: Low possibility. The popes named Marcellinus and Marcellus reigned a long time ago; Marcellus II was the last to use his birth name (Marcello) as his papal name.

·       Julius IV: This line includes a saint (Julius I) but last Julius was in the 1500s. A long shot.

·       Adrian/Hadrian VII: Boosting the odds, Adrian VI was the last non-Italian to be named pope before John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla of Poland), so a non-Italian pope might choose this. Deflating the odds: There is a stage play called “Hadrian VII,” which is about a man who converts to Catholicism, ordained a priest and by a fluke is elected pope. A new pope might not want to encourage comparisons to the fictional Hadrian.

·       Martin VI: The last Pope Martin was in the 15th century, but a pope from Latin America might choose this name, partly to honor St. Marin de Porres, who was born and ministered in Peru.

·       Boniface X: Low likelihood, but Bonifance IV was a Benedictine and was canonized.

·       Celestine VI: this choice could honor Celestine V, who resigned the papacy, and so in some way honor Benedict XVI, who may have telegraphed his intention to resign if he determined it wise by leaving his pallium at Celestine’s tomb on a visit to L’Aquila in 2009.

·       Joseph I: Unusual, because it hasn’t been done before, but it has a good chance for a few reasons. If the new pope wants to pay tribute to Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, but doesn’t want to take the name Benedict, he could be the first Pope Joseph. This could also honor St. Joseph, Universal patron of the church, and it is possible the new pope could be installed on his feast, March 19.

·       Francis I: If the new pope wants to send a message that he plans to “rebuild my church,” as Christ said when the crucifix spoke to St. Francis of Assisi, this could be a possibility. It, too, would be unusual since there has been no Pope Francis before now, although four Franciscans have become pope. If the conclave confirms the buzz in Rome in the last few weeks about Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and elects him, he might choose Francis to honor the founder of his religious order.

·       Three more names come to mind if it’s Cardinal O’Malley or another who wants to honor Francis and the Franciscans: Clement XV, Sixtus VI (there have been two Franciscan popes named Sixtus) and Nicholas VI.

My bet: Leo XIV. Second choice: Joseph I.

Related article

March 13, 2013 05:49
By Christopher Gunty

Reading and getting ready for the conclave

Like most Catholic journalists, I’ve been doing as much reading as possible about the church and the papal transition since Pope Benedict XVI announced Feb. 11 he would renounce the papacy at the end of February. I’ve been through four papal transitions in my life (but only one while working for the Catholic press), so I was eager and curious to know as much as possible.

Having been to Rome about a dozen times over the years, I know where things are and how they work (or don’t work) at the Vatican. I was in Poland when Pope John Paul II was buried and watched his funeral broadcast live for tens of thousands of people in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square, but I’ve never been in Rome during a papal funeral or conclave.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been soaking up all I can about the conclave and the cardinals who might be elected pope. In addition to everything Catholic News Service and our own staff has reported about the reaction to the pope’s resignation, sources of info on the process abound.

A great, quick resource, has been “Conclave: Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum,” a basic outline prepared by Monsignor Charles Burns, O.B.E., Residential Canon of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and Ecclesiastical Adviser at the British Embassy to the Holy See. The 37-page PDF file is available on the internet.

“Selecting the Pope: Uncovering the Mysteries of Papal Elections,” by Greg Tobin has much the same information as Msgr. Burns’ pamphlet, but in book form. The copy I have is from 2003, while John Paul was still pope, in advance of the transition from his papacy to the next. Tobin updated it in 2009, during Benedict’s papacy.

It’s been fun, too, re-reading through “If I Were Pope,” a collection of 40-plus essays compiled and edited in 1987 by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Candida Lund. One of the contributors was my journalism professor in college, and several are Catholic journalists with whom I have worked over the years, including two who were at one time or another editor of the Catholic Review. My favorite line comes from the first essay, by Walter F. Murphy: “My first action after becoming pope would be to immerse myself in a lengthy retreat, complete with much prayer and some fasting, in an effort to regain faith in the Holy Spirit for making such an unwise choice or in the church for misreading the Spirit’s message.”

John Thavis’ “Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church” had a great story about the bell-ringer who was supposed to set the large bell at St. Peter’s Square in motion in 2005 when Pope Benedict was elected. The word to ring the bell finally came about 10 minutes after the white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel chimney.

Thavis’ book, written from 30 years’ experience covering the Vatican, mostly as Rome bureau chief with CNS, has gotten quite a boost from the timing of the conclave. When the pope resigned, his publisher pushed up the release date for “Vatican Diaries” and Thavis has been in Rome, blogging and being interviewed on TV news all over.

Another book that got a boost from the timing of the papal transition is that of Marylander and Catholic Review columnist George Weigel. “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep reform in the 21st-Century Church,” makes the case that the next pope needs to engender radical change in the church, in order to set people on fire for the faith and gather more souls to Christ. The book is ranked in the top 250 on Amazon.

Weigel is a commentator during the transition for NBC and MSNBC and has been interviewed by dozens of news organizations.

I’ve read bloggers and pundits and tons of news sources, secular and Catholic. I’m watching the cardinals take the oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel live via Centro Vaticano Television as I write this.

Predictions abound about who the front-runner is as the cardinals enter the conclave. Names are bandied about and favorites change daily.

And none of it amounts to a hill of beans. What matters is what is in the minds and hearts of the 115 cardinal electors as they listen to the breath of the Holy Spirit and elect the next pope.

In a few moments, the doors to the chapel will be closed and the conclave (from the Latin “cum clave” – with a key) will begin. I expect that we will see white smoke in a day or two.

And then, more research will begin: Who is this man who will be our Holy Father? Where did he come from? What will be his priorities? How will he energize and evangelize the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world and all who seek the Lord?
It’s a fun time to be working behind the headlines.

March 12, 2013 12:26
By Christopher Gunty

« Older Entries