John Paul II Through The Eyes of His Bodyguard

By Edward Pentin
For 12 years, retired Swiss Guard Captain Roman Fringeli was fully trained and prepared to lay down his life for the Pope.Between 1987 and 1999, he protected the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II as one of his five personal bodyguards on papal trips — a period of duty that involved 15 apostolic voyages to Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.For three and a half of those years, Fringeli led the Swiss Guard contingent when John Paul travelled abroad. “If the circumstances were such, I would sacrifice myself for the Pope,” he recalled. “This was always my thinking during the trips.”Originally from Basel in northern Switzerland, Fringeli left the ancient pontifical army over 10 years ago. But his enthusiasm remains and he is eager to share his happy — and sometimes agonising — experiences of those momentous visits.

He vividly recalls struggling to keep back a lunging crowd in Nairobi, shouting at the military in Mozambique to prevent a mass of people from getting too close to the Pope, and facing the daunting task of protecting the Pope in front of a million-strong crowd of faithful in Seoul.

“I remember in Rwanda, during Mass, we had a warning of an airborne terrorist attack,” he said. “Can you imagine? And that was just four years before the genocide that took place there.”

On another papal trip he was with the Pope on an old chartered plane as it made three aborted landing attempts in Lesotho because of fog. After diverting to Johannesburg, the papal party drove the five hours to Lesotho only to arrive to the sound of gunfire as special forces rescued a group of hostages. Pope John Paul II, in the capital Maseru to beatify the missionary priest Joseph Gérard, afterward visited some of the wounded in hospital. “That was a special trip, terrible — John Paul II wanted to offer a message of peace and that happens,” Fringeli recalled.

But perhaps his most disturbing visit was to Berlin in 1996. Anarchists protested wildly, throwing missiles at thePopemobile while others paraded naked as the Pope went past. “Suddenly, these crazy people started throwing the red balloons filled with paint at the windows of the popemobile,” remembered Fringeli who was standing at the back of the Pope’s vehicle, trying to ward the protesters off. “I was ashamed of Germany for what happened — the police allowed the crowd to get too close to the popemobile and I told them to keep them away.”

Benedict XVI will visit Berlin in September and some are concerned the same scenario might be repeated. “You never know with Berlin,” Fringeli said. “You can expect crazy people, [but] the Pope is from Germany so that might help and it depends, maybe the police will do a better job of controlling the crowds.” He said he was surprised that the German police seemed to be afraid to stop the crowd. “They didn’t want to touch them, especially in Paderborn [the Pope’s stop prior to Berlin] — in Africa they used sticks to keep them away.”

But in Africa, he found local security could be too tough. On John Paul II’s 1995 trip to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, he remembers seeing a mentally unstable man who had wandered in front of the popemobile. The police picked him up by his legs, let him drop to the ground “like a sack of potatoes” and then hurled him into the crowd. Fringeli still appears disturbed by it, calling it “terrible” and “a scandal.”

No gun, no vest

Vatican protection for the Pope on papal trips has traditionally been provided by two plain clothed Swiss Guards, a captain and a corporal, and three Vatican Police. The rest of the protection is given over to local authorities who usually offer the Vatican security detail the use of a car.

During his period of service, Fringeli didn’t wear a bullet proof jacket — it would have been too heavy and “my protection was my body,” he said. Nor did he carry a weapon. “What can you do with guns and a crowd?” he said. “You would kill many people, and the same applies here in St. Peter’s Square basilica or at an audience.”

Instead, he relied mostly on his eyesight and personal fitness. The former Swiss Guard showed me a photo of him dressed in a dark suit, walking next to John Paul II on a visit to Romania and squinting, his eyes trained on the surrounding crowds. “I’m always scanning around, looking for a sudden movement, someone running or jumping over the barricades,” he said. “That was my task.”

I asked him what he thought of the security breach in St. Peter’s basilica during Midnight Mass in 2009, when a woman vaulted over the barriers, grabbed the Pope’s cassock, and pulled him to the ground, taking some of the procession with him.

“You need to know that this happens in a split second,” he said. “Normally it’s the responsibility of the person on that side of the Pope, but it happened too quickly.” Fringeli said he didn’t want to teach others what to do, but instead of putting himself onto the woman, he would have tried to block her and keep her away. “It’s a mistake to put yourself onto the person as there’s a risk you’ll take the Pope down with you, which is what happened.” However, he insisted Vatican security is “very good” and better equipped than in his day.

Naturally, he has many fond memories of the late Pontiff, and is delighted at the news of his beatification. “For me John Paul II was a holy Pope — as all popes of the last two or three centuries have been,” he said. He stressed how John Paul II always said he was protected by Our Lady and that he put his survival from the attempt on his life in 1981 down to her intervention.

“He was a messenger for peace,” he said. “Some have said it would have been better if he had stayed at the Vatican more and not travelled so much, but for the Pope these weren’t exciting trips — they had an intense schedule [that] lasted the whole day.” And he remembered how some people walked for days from Zambia to Zimbabwe just to see him. John Paul II’s 104 trips outside Italy, he said as a reminder, were also for those people, especially in poor countries, who would probably never make it to Rome.

Fringeli fondly recalled how John Paul II would always make a point of thanking his security staff at the end of each trip. In his younger days, however, Pope John Paul II’s propensity for making spontaneous walkabouts did not always endear him to his bodyguards. “It wasn’t always easy travelling with the Pope because you didn’t know what he wanted to do that was outside of the programme,” said the former Swiss Guardsman. “But experience helps you very much.”

As for himself, Fringeli said that despite the demands of papal travel, he always found them deeply satisfying and his enthusiasm never waned. “It was strange,” he said. “During the trip you’d get tired but at the end of it, I’d always be thinking: ‘What could the next one be?’ It was like a drug.”

And he paid tribute to two key figures connected with the apostolic voyages: Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the longtime trip organizer whom he called “a great, great man,” and Camillo Cibin, the late Vatican Police bodyguard, who continued to protect the Pontiff until he was 80.

“Without both of them,” he said, “the Pope wouldn’t have been able to make a trip.”

* * *

This article first appeared  on in January 2011
(January 20, 2011) © Innovative Media Inc.

Easter Triduum at the Vatican


Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa preaching at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday in St. Peter’s basilica.

VATICAN CITY — Easter is a time for each Christian to recall the origins of his or her journey with Jesus, to renew his or her service to others and to remember the marginalized and outcast, Pope Francis said during his addresses over the Easter Triduum.

In his message and blessing urbi et orbi (to the city of Rome and to the world), the Holy Father stressed that the good news of Christ’s resurrection “is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love.”

It is about “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast,” he said. “‘Come and see!’ Love is more powerful; love gives life; love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”

Noting this “joyful certainty in our hearts,” the Pope called on the Lord to help mankind to seek him, to overcome hunger and put an end to all conflicts, great or small. He implored the Lord to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, “who are at times exploited and abandoned.”


Peace Talks in Syria ‘Long Overdue’

Turning to particular suffering and tragedies, he prayed for humanitarian assistance in Syria and “long overdue” peace talks there. He asked that hope be sustained for a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians and for an end to conflicts and terrorism in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sudan.

The Pope, speaking under sunny spring skies from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, also appealed for “reconciliation and fraternal concord” in Venezuela.

Noting that this year the Latin Church celebrates Easter at the same time as those who follow the Julian calendar, he called for peace in Ukraine, “so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future.”

Referring to the ebola epidemic in three African countries, he called for care for the victims and for those “suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.”

The Pope also remembered those who cannot celebrate Easter, the persecuted and those who leave their own lands for a better future, often because they cannot freely profess their faith.


Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The Triduum began on Holy Thursday, with the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s and a homily in which the Pope spoke extensively about priestly joy: “a priceless treasure,” he said, “not only for the priest himself, but for the entire faithful people of God.”

He spoke of the smallness of the priest in contrast to the grandeur of his ministry, stressing that “no one is more ‘little’ than a priest” without Jesus and “left to his own devices.”

“I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness,” the Pope said, quoting the Gospel of Luke. “And in that littleness, we find our joy, joy in our littleness.”

The Pope singled out three significant aspects of priestly joy: that which anoints (fills the priest with grace), is imperishable (a joy the Lord has promised he will never take away) and is missionary (deriving from administering the sacraments).

He also said priestly joy has “three sisters” that surround it: the “poverty” of self-denial, the “fidelity” of being ever renewed to the Church as a Bride and “obedience” to the hierarchy, which enables “union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood.”

The Pope closed by asking the Lord to preserve the joy of the recently ordained, to confirm the joy of those who have ministered for some years and to “make better known” the joy of elderly priests.

After the Mass, the Pope had lunch with 10 Roman priests, listened to the challenges they face and encouraged them in their ministry.

In the evening of Holy Thursday, the Pope visited Rome’s Don Gnocchi facility, a rehabilitation center for the elderly and disabled. During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Father again departed from traditional practice by washing the feet of 12 people, including one Muslim and an Ethiopian woman. In his off-the-cuff homily, the Pope underlined the importance of being “servants in love” of each other, as Jesus symbolically showed in the washing of the feet.


Via Crucis

Pope Francis presided at the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord on Good Friday, but as is tradition, the homily was given by the papal preacher. Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, spoke this year about the dangers of idolizing money, Judas’ betrayal and the wonder of the sacrament of penance

The meditations for the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) at the Colosseum were this year given by Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano, a former factory worker and longtime prison chaplain, who has championed the cause of the unemployed and strongly criticized Italian organized crime. His reflections recalled many on the margins of society, condemned sexual abuse and its cover-up and deplored domestic violence.

During his reflection at the end of the Via Crucis, Pope Francis said that, in the cross, “we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of the mercy of God, who does not treat us according to our sins, but according to his mercy.” He also called on the faithful to remember the sick and all those abandoned under the weight of the cross, that they might find hope in the Resurrection.


Return to Galilee

At the Easter vigil in St. Peter’s on Holy Saturday, Francis pointed out that Galilee is where the apostles were first called and that each person has a “Galilee,” where his or her journey with Jesus began.

“To return to Galilee means, above all, to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey,” he said. “From that flame, I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.”

He asked every Catholic to recall his or her Galilee. “The Gospel of Easter is very clear: We need to go back there, to see Jesus risen and to become witnesses of his resurrection,” he said.

“This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

Romans Happy Ahead of Two-Pope Canonization


Reflecting the festive mood in Rome ahead of the imminent canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, the official website on the event, 2popesaints, has released this upbeat video with the soundtrack of the recent hit single ‘Happy’ by singer and producer Pharrell Williams.

The video is made by young Romans and was mostly filmed in the parish of San Giovanni Battista de Rossi in the Appio-Latino suburb of southeast Rome. It’s directed by Maila Paone, edited by Raffaele Pannozzo and is the idea of Chiara Romanzo, Alberto Acuri, Francesca Vertisano, Giorgia Giacomini.

It also features Don Stefano Cascio, a young priest of the parish who has done much to help bring young people back to church.

Rome authorities have been hard at work preparing for what could be the largest crowds the city has ever seen. The interior ministry expects the April 27 double canonization, presided by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, to draw 800,000 pilgrims from all over the world, but others predict far higher numbers, possibly as many as 7 million.

An enormous contingent of pilgrims from John Paul II’s native Poland is expected, as well as significant numbers from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the birthplace of John XXIII.

The Vatican says 19 heads of State will be attending as well as 24 prime ministers from 61 official delegations, representing 54 countries. Tickets are not required but seats will be difficult or near impossible to find and many are expected to camp out overnight to obtain the best places.

City authorities are visibly in full swing, already cordoning off major streets such as the Fori Imperiali that leads up to the Colosseum, repainting road markings and erecting 14 large screens in key areas all across the city. Security will also be tight: Italy’s interior minister has said 2,430 police units have been drafted in to carry out checks and patrol sensitive targets.

Meanwhile, Rome’s many hotels are preparing for one of their best business weekends in years. Most rooms are sold out, and at least one hotel near the Vatican is charging as much as $900 for one night during the canonization weekend.

But despite the logistical challenges, Rome is well practiced in hosting such enormous events and tends to manage them well. Thousands of volunteers will join the protezione civile – Italy’s main body dealing with the management of exceptional events.

Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, said last week the city is “ready, very ready” for the impending arrival of thousands of pilgrims.

Read more: Read More

Faithful Prepare to Celebrate Canonization of 2 Beloved Popes


Newsmax Cover Story on Easter Sunday:

Rome is “ready, very ready” for the canonization of former Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, the Eternal City’s mayor, Ignazio Marino said this week.

9cf62673-fc83-4171-9c6e-780420595cadBut in truth no one really knows how Rome will cope with what some predict will be the largest crowds the city has ever seen.

The interior ministry expects the April 27 double canonization, presided by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, to draw 800,000 pilgrims from all over the world, but others predict far higher numbers, possibly as many as 7 million.

An enormous contingent of pilgrims from John Paul II’s native Poland is expected, as well as significant numbers from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the birthplace of John XXIII.

The Vatican says 19 heads of State will be attending as well as 24 prime ministers from 61 official delegations, representing 54 countries. Tickets are not required but seats will be difficult or near impossible to find and many are expected to camp out overnight to obtain the best places.

City authorities are visibly in full swing, already cordoning off major streets such as the Fori Imperiali that leads up to the Colosseum, repainting road markings and erecting 14 large screens in key areas all across the city.

Traffic is also starting to build, clogging key roads in the city, while Rome’s many hotels prepare for one of their best business weekends in years. Most rooms are sold out, and at least one hotel near the Vatican is charging as much as 700 Euros a night.

But despite the logistical challenges, Rome is well practiced in hosting such enormous events and tends to manage them well. Thousands of volunteers will join the protezione civile – Italy’s main body dealing with the management of exceptional events.

Security will also be tight: Italy’s interior minister has said 2,430 police units will be assigned to carry out checks and patrol sensitive targets.

Festive occasion

Canonizations for the Catholic Church are always great festive occasions and the fact that so many have memories of both popes, particularly of John Paul II, makes this event especially unique. Countless interviews have been released in recent weeks with close friends and associates of the two popes, each offering testimony to their personal holiness.

“Good Pope John,” as he became known, is best remembered for convening the Second Vatican Council that opened the Catholic Church up to the world to better engage with it. He is also praised for his landmark encyclical, Pacem in Terris, which laid out the Church’s vision for world peace in the nuclear age.

“Every chapter of the encyclical starts with a statement dealing with an aspiration of men … to peace, to freedom, to dignity,” said Cardinal Paul Poupard who worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State during Pope John’s papacy, in an interview this week.

John XXIII was a man of simple holiness who strove to bring peace and unity to the Church and to the world, but he was not a simple man.

“He has certainly been a complex figure, much more complex than the cliché of the “good pope”,” said Marco Roncalli, his great-nephew. “His path in life was complex, rich and spiritual, like the example he gave through his Christian virtues, delineated in the history of mankind.”

Reasons for John Paul II’s canonization are better known.

The Polish Pope, who many credit for helping to end Soviet communism, was a man of deep prayer and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Examples of his holiness and concern for others are many, and people were so convinced of his personal sanctity that they chanted “Santo Subito!” – “Saint Now!” – at his funeral.

Two miracles have been attributed to his intercession: a French nun cured of Parkinson’s disease soon after his death, and a Costa Rican woman who was healed of a brain aneurysm.

And yet despite the great adulation for these two Successors of St. Peter, not everyone is happy. Although it’s normal for two or more candidates to be canonized on the same day, many Poles would have preferred a separate canonization for John Paul, believing he deserves such singular attention.

Fans of John XXIII, meanwhile, lament that he’s often playing second fiddle to his better known and arguably more popular successor.

The double canonization has led to organizational headaches for the Vatican and few events are planned around the ceremony. But more significantly, there are those who have strong reservations about the Second Vatican Council, saying it was an imprudent move given the state of the world at the time, the misinterpretations of the Council teachings, and the precipitous fall in Church attendance, vocations, and a general weakening of ecclesial authority that followed.

John convened the Council; John Paul was its leading proponent, and many have noted the speed at which they will be made saints – a process that can often take centuries.

Furthermore, the fact that Pope Francis waived the need for a second miracle for John XXIII has led some critics to accuse the Vatican of simply wishing to “canonize the Council.”

But the majority of Catholics see this event differently. To them, it’s a means of holding up to the world the lives of two men whose outstanding personal holiness and close relationship with God shine like a beacon in a world where a “culture of death” – a term coined by John Paul II – has taken hold.

The light and example of these popes is sorely needed, they argue, in an age when Christ is being increasingly rejected or ignored and secularism is on the rise.
Read Latest Breaking News from
Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!

Campaign Under Way to Introduce Prayer at Mass for Persecuted Christians


Sources report that high-level Church officials are ‘extremely interested’ in having the petition added to the end of all celebrations of Sunday Mass.

VATICAN CITY — A concerted effort is under way in Rome and in dioceses around the world to have Pope Francis introduce a prayer for the poor, persecuted and oppressed at the end of every Sunday Mass.

The Register has learned that Church officials at the highest levels are “extremely interested” in having such a prayer inserted into all celebrations of Sunday Mass in accordance with the liturgical norms of the Missale Romanum 2002, the Missale Romanum 1962 and the liturgical customs and norms of the Eastern Churches.

The initiative is being taken not only because of the increasing persecution of Christians, but also in view of the many victims of abortion, human trafficking, poverty and oppression around the world.

It follows regular appeals from Pope Francis who has urged people to speak out against persecution of Christians, whom he has likened to the Church’s first martyrs. Cardinal Timothy Dolan also made a point of bringing it to people’s attention. In his final speech as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference last November, he called on his brother bishops to champion the cause of people persecuted for their faith and to fight to protect religious freedom.

“Our Christian brothers and sisters [are] experiencing lethal persecution on a scale that defies belief,” he told the USCCB general assembly in Baltimore.

The issue was also raised by cardinals at the extraordinary consistory in February ahead of the October synod on the family.

The prayer would be reminiscent of the former Leonine prayer which called for the conversion of Russia at the end of Mass. Like the Leonine prayer, established by Pope Leo XXIII and which was removed in 1965, the new petition would also include the Prayer to St. Michael, said to be one of Pope Francis’ favorite prayers.

“Those who are practicing Catholics should be conscious of these unacceptable assaults on the God-given freedom and dignity of human persons,” said one source helping to lead the campaign and speaking on condition of anonymity. “You cannot have a Pollyanna view of the world. If nothing else, the faithful can at least express spiritual solidarity with those suffering persecution.” He stressed the proposal has “enormous support.”


Aid to the Church in Need

A number of leading Catholic NGOs are said to have also given the proposal their strong backing. Aid to the Church in Need, which already has a prayer for persecuted Christians, believes such an addition to the Mass would be both appropriate and timely.

“Coming face to face with victims of persecution, as we at ACN do during trips to countries marked by violence and oppression, what we almost always find is that they ask time and again to pray for them,” John Pontifex, ACN UK’s head of press and information, told the Register. “What could be more important an opportunity, than praying for them at Mass?”

Pontifex noted that in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, China, Sudan and Nigeria, many of the worst atrocities suffered by Christians have taken place while at Mass. “For that reason, it’s all the more fitting that we should remember them when we are at Mass ourselves,” he said.

Many Catholics in the West remain ignorant of increasing persecution against Christians. Lord Alton of Liverpool, a pro-life British peer who has fought for the rights of Christians for many years, told an audience April 11 that the West’s failure to understand the “religious dimension to these terrible atrocities” and the “imperative of harnessing thoughtful and moderate religious leaders from all traditions” leads to a failure to “end the persecution and the unspeakable violence.”

“We in the West, who enjoy so many freedoms and liberties, ignore the systematic violent ideology of an Islamist ‘Final Solution’ directed at Christian minorities,” he said in a speech to ACN’s Lenten vigil in London.

At the same event, British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that Christians “are now the most persecuted religion around the world” and said “we should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”


‘The Most Persecuted Religion’

Pontifex, who believes the prayer would “work best if it were short and clearly worded,” said it “would be great if it acknowledged that Christianity is the most persecuted religion.” He also would like it to show “that our compassion and God’s mercy are sorely needed at a time when in parts of the world, the Faith is at risk of being effectively flushed out by oppression, bigotry and other forms of intolerance.”

Some argue that drawing attention to persecution runs the risk of making it worse, and can fuel the fear of those who suffer from it most. Pontifex recognizes the risks, but believes these concerns “are in themselves nothing compared to the value of praying for persecuted Christians at Mass.” He also believes the prayer should not be confined to victims of religious oppression, but that it would be part of “coming together as a family of faith” because prayer is “the most natural expression of our compassion.”

Lela Gilbert, co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians and adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, said she found it “hard to think of anything objectionable” about a prayer for the persecuted Church at the end of every Sunday Mass.

“Not only does it raise awareness and combat ignorance — which is plentiful in places where the media is disinterested in issues related to Christianity — but it also lifts our struggling brothers and sisters before the Lord and invokes His power and grace and comfort into their lives,” she said.


Adoration, Fasting and Almsgiving

A separate proposal being forwarded to the Holy Father also suggests adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays for the intentions of the poor, oppressed and persecuted. It further aims to introduce the other two spiritual weapons: fasting and almsgiving.

The Pope, campaigners propose, should bring back abstinence from meat on Fridays, as the bishops of England and Wales did a few years ago. They would also like the Holy Father to call the Church to a renewed practice of charity and almsgiving in the face of these many evils, all of which are of great concern to the Pope.

In this context, Pontifex said the words of ACN’s founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, are highly appropriate: “They are being tested in faith,” Father van Straaten once said. “We are being tested in love.”

Following is a draft text of prayer being proposed for the poor, persecuted and oppressed, which would be followed by the Prayer to Saint Michael.


Almighty, ever-living God,

Your incarnate Son taught us that those who suffer for Your name are blessed.

Give love for their neighbor to all people of good will.

Inspire rulers and governments to work tirelessly for peace, justice and freedom for all.

Give us a spirit of solidarity and of service for those who suffer and who are poor, that we may bring to them that love Your Son made manifest by His suffering and death on the Cross.

Help us to recognize the face of the Evil One in our day and give us the strength and means to confront his many works.


 Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

Strong Rebuttal to Metropolitan Hilarion’s “Offensive Remarks”


In a recent interview with this newspaper, a senior Russian Orthodox official had some harsh words for the Oriental Catholic Churches – particularly Greek Catholics – which many found offensive.

Among the most cutting remarks of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, was his charge that “’Uniatism’ was and is a special project of the Roman Catholic Church, aimed to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism”.

He also claimed that, with the help of the secular authorities, “the ‘Uniates’ have acted for many centuries to the detriment of the Orthodox Church, capturing Orthodox churches and monasteries, converting ordinary people to Catholicism and oppressing the Orthodox clergy in all possible ways.”

The Orthodox prelate was especially hard on Greek Catholics, including those in Ukraine, accusing them of launching a “crusade against Orthodoxy.”

In response, an organisation seeking to promote greater appreciation of Eastern Christendom and foster Catholic-Orthodox unity has given a strong but carefully reasoned and researched rebuttal to Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks.

Signed by Father Mark Woodruff, vice chairman of the Society of St. John Chrysostom, a group largely made up of Catholics of the Latin and Eastern Churches, he began by pointing out that Metropolitan Hilarion “is not speaking objectively, or in a spirit of  dialogue.”

“His job consists in: skilfully advancing the interests of the Patriarchal See of Moscow and the Churches over which it presides in the task of prevailing over those which it does not; presenting itself as the de facto leading See of Orthodoxy, in parity with the leading See of Catholicism, namely that of Rome,” he said.

“Thus he characterises Catholicism only as Roman-Latin and characterized Byzantine Christianity as distinctively and essentially Orthodox, rendering Greek-Catholics as unauthentic products of so-called Uniatism.”

He added that “unfortunately his expressions of ecumenism towards the Catholic Church are  neither ecumenical in method or spirit, nor are they based in evidenceable fact.”

Fr. Woodruff further explained that the term “Uniatism” is “offensive to Eastern Catholics” and an “inaccurate description of their integrity, history and ecclesiological principle – union with the See of Rome in good conscience.”

“This has no place in Christian ecumenism,” he wrote. “Dialogue begins with respect that is mutual – respect for the Russian Orthodox Church presupposes Russian Orthodoxy’s respect for others. Each Church has a right both to describe itself in its own terms and for its profession to be accepted in good faith, even if disagreed with. If this is not starting point, then other avenues of dialogue cannot proceed very far.”

He stressed that the practice of proselytising among Orthodox, with a view to convert them either to Latin or to Eastern Catholicism, under the immediate jurisdiction of the Roman Curia, “has been repeatedly forbidden even if, admittedly, belatedly in some cases, and finally repudiated as a method of proposing ecclesial communion.”

Fr. Woodruff covers much ground in his 12 point rebuttal, drawing heavily on historical research and the Orthodox’s past troubled relationship with Greek Catholics, especially in Ukraine.

He asserted that the “true problem” for the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine is that it “does not command the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful, any more than its actions have won over the Ukrainian Catholics, whose collective memory is of Russian state oppression and foreign control in religion.”

The society’s vice chairman ended by saying it is “unworthy of the Metropolitan not to tell the whole of this truth and to cast his fellow Christians as though they were agents of discord or dissension, when they are demonstrably vocal ministers of reconciliation.”

The response is worth reading in full here.

Read more:

Pope’s Holy Week Schedule Both Traditional and Innovative


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will celebrate all the traditional ceremonies of Holy Week this year, but he will again depart from tradition on Holy Thursday by washing the feet of elderly and disabled residents in a Roman care home.

Before the Easter Triduum, the Holy Father, who began Holy Week by celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, will first wish a happy birthday to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who turns 87 on Holy Wednesday.

It’s not clear how Francis will send his birthday wishes, but he may visit the pope emeritus at his Mater Ecclesiae residence in the Vatican Gardens before or soon after he holds his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The same day, the Pope will distribute 1,200 pocket-sized copies of the Gospel to detainees in the Roman prison of “Regina Coeli”. The booklets will be given out by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner.

On the morning of Holy Thursday, the Pope will celebrate his second chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop, and, as is tradition, the Holy Father will bless three oils (holy chrism, catechumens and the infirm) to be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.

Last year, Pope Francis gave one of his most memorable homilies to date when he exhorted priests to “go out” to the outskirts of society in order to “experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy.” He said priests who are managers, who don’t put their own skin and heart on the line, grow dissatisfied, instead of being shepherds “living with ‘the smell of the sheep.’”

Then at 5pm on Holy Thursday, the Pope will leave his St. Martha residence and be driven to the Centro Santa Maria della Provvidenza Don Carlo Gnocchi care home. Once there, he will celebrate the In Coena Domini Mass (Mass of the Lord’s Supper) with residents, staff and their families, and he will wash the feet of the residents, many of whom are elderly and have disabilities.


A ‘Powerful’ — and Controversial — Gesture

The foot-washing ritual is rooted in the story of the Last Supper, when Jesus humbles himself and washes the feet of his apostles on the eve of his death. Traditionally, priests have washed the feet of sub-deacons, clergy or laymen, as an example of service.

Last year, the Pope caused controversy when he washed the feet of 12 young people at a Roman Juvenile Detention Center, especially because two were young women, and two were Muslims. The Code of Canon Law states that only men (viri selecti) can have their feet washed.

It’s not yet clear whether the Pope will again wash the feet of women this year, but speaking on behalf of the Vatican, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica stressed to reporters on April 15 that the washing of the feet is a gesture of “ultimate humble service, not of power or privilege.”

“One can easily understand that, in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot-washing, because Jesus himself washed the feet of the Twelve Apostles, who were male,” he said.

But recalling that the Pope washed the feet of young men and women when he was cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Father Rosica said, “To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in a Roman prison-detention juvenile detention center last year would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society.”

“That Pope Francis washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as pope should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gestures of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy that have been the hallmarks of the current Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions and debates among those who do not yet understand Pope Francis’ love for and outreach to those on the peripheries of society,” continued Father Rosica.

Pope Francis has “taught the world profound messages over the past year,” he added, and he said he “has brought many to Jesus Christ through the simplicity of his messages and gestures.”

“Let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear understand the powerful ritual and gesture that the Vicar of Christ is offering us,” Father Rosica said.

The Vatican has said that, like last year and in previous years in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’ choice of venue for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will have a “special nature, from a pastoral point of view.” For this reason, it added, celebration in a basilica (in the past, the washing of the feet took place in the Basilica of St. John Lateran) or the participation by a large number of faithful won’t be possible. The prefecture of the papal household also won’t be distributing tickets, nor will it be televised live.


Busy Schedule

On Good Friday, at 5pm, the Holy Father will attend the celebration of the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica, with the homily given by the papal preacher, Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa. At 9:15pm, the Pope will then lead his second Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum.

This year, the meditations of the 14 Stations of the Cross have been written by Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano, president of the Italian bishops’ Commission for Social Problems, Labor, Justice and Peace.

The introduction cites the Gospel of John: “He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken.’”

Referring to another passage of Scripture — ‘‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah, 12:10) — Archbishop Bregantini writes: “Loveable Jesus, you climbed Golgotha without a moment’s hesitation, the fulfillment of love, and you allowed yourself to be crucified without complaint.”

On Holy Saturday, at 8:30pm, in the Papal Chapel of the Vatican basilica, the Pope will celebrate the Easter vigil. And on Easter Sunday, at 10:15am in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope will celebrate Mass, followed by giving his message and blessing urbi et orbi (to the city of Rome and to the world) from the loggia of the basilica.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

The Pan-Orthodox Council, Ukraine Crisis and Christian Unity


Where does the Russian Orthodox Church stand on the crisis in Ukraine? And why is a Pan-Orthodox Council planned for 2016?

To find out answers to these and other questions, the Register interviewed Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

A noted theologian, Church historian and composer, Metropolitan Hilarion also shared in this April 2 email interview his thoughts on the current status of Catholic-Orthodox relations.


How important for the Orthodox Church is the Pan-Orthodox Council planned for 2016? Is it to be seen as something similar to Vatican II in the history of the Catholic Church?

The Pan-Orthodox Council is important in that, after the era of ecumenical councils, it will be the first council representing all the Orthodox Churches recognized today. For the last 12 centuries, there were councils of various levels attended by representatives of various Churches, but this one will be the first Pan-Orthodox Council to be convened in this period.

This council is a fruit of long work carried out by local Orthodox Churches for over 50 years. It is hardly appropriate to compare it with Vatican II, because their agendas are utterly different. Besides, we do not expect it to introduce any reforms making a substantial impact on the life of Orthodoxy.


Patriarch Kirill said that the Pan-Orthodox Council should deal with such issues as the expulsion of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa, the cult of consumerism, the destruction of the moral foundations and the family, cloning and surrogate motherhood. How important are these issues for you, and would you also like other themes, such as unity with the Catholic Church, included in the council’s agenda?

These statements by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill reflect the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, whereby the Pan-Orthodox Council’s agenda needs to be supplemented with themes topical for today’s society and requiring a response from the world Orthodoxy. Besides, there is a list of 10 themes on which documents have been drafted by the local Orthodox Churches during the many years of preparatory pre-council work. All Orthodox Churches have already reached unanimity on eight of them, and, after some improvement, these documents will be submitted to the council. Among them is also the theme of the Orthodox Church’s attitude to the continuation of dialogue with other Christian confessions, including Catholicism.


Could you further explain why this council is needed, and why now?

The development of conciliar mechanisms on the pan-Orthodox level is desired by all Orthodox Churches. This desire motivated the Churches from the very beginning to participate together in preparations for the council, which began in 1961, at the Pan-Orthodox Conference on Rhodes Island. Now, as this preparatory work is approaching completion, the council is planned to convene in 2016, if some unforeseen circumstances do not prevent it.


Russia’s policy in Ukraine has provoked serious protests in the West. What is the position of the Orthodox Church? Do you view the West’s policy over this issue as wrong?

The Russian Orthodox Church embraces Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and people of many other nationalities. The spiritual unity of our nations has stood the test of time for centuries. The present political crisis in Ukraine can hardly change anything, in this respect. The position of the Russian Orthodox Church cannot be conditioned by a particular policy: Indeed, the faithful of our Church are adherents of various political views; they are citizens of many states.

The closer we are to God, the closer we are to one another. The faith in Christ and love of Christ unite, not divide, people. We have never divided our flock on national grounds.

What is a tragedy for Ukraine is the blood of many people spilt in February in Kiev. Both divine and human justice demands that this disaster should be put under immediate and comprehensive investigation. However, European politicians have no unity of opinion on this issue, just as on many other issues concerning the further destiny of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. In this situation, the role of the Church is not to pronounce big words, but to pray and be compassionate.


Some maintain that the Orthodox Church and the Russian state are too close to each other. How true is that, and in what measure do these relations affect the life of the Church and its wholeness (or the opposite), especially in such matters as Ukraine’s sovereignty?

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state maintain mutually respectful relations, based on the principles of cooperation and non-interference in each other’s affairs. But similar relations are maintained by our Church with many other states as well, in whose territory she carries out her mission. The Church is the body of Christ that lives according to God-established laws and follows the spiritual and moral values manifested in Divine Revelation. Her ministry is focused on the care for her flock, protection and promotion of traditional moral principles in private and social life and on religious education.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the state do not interfere in each other’s affairs. It does not mean, however, that the Church can be indifferent to the development of the situation in Ukraine. Kiev is the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy and its original center, since it is the place from which Eastern Christianity began spreading. … The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while being fully independent administratively, is an integral part of the local Russian Orthodox Church. That is why the pain of the Ukrainian faithful is our own pain. We are deeply disturbed by the manifestations of aggression towards our Ukrainian brothers and sisters perpetrated by extremists. In these days, we lift up prayers that the civic confrontation in Ukraine may be stopped as soon as possible, so that the Ukrainian people may return to peaceful life.


You have done much with regard to the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations. What are your hopes for the future? Could a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch take place under the present Pope Francis, or was it more probable under Pope Benedict?

True, I had to be engaged a great deal in the dialogue with the Catholic Church both in the years when I headed the Secretariat for Inter-Christian Relations in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations and when I, in my capacity as bishop of Vienna and Austria, served in a Catholic country, maintaining relations with representatives of the Catholic Church in Austria and Hungary. Now, as head of the Department for External Church Relations, I come to Rome each year, where I met first with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and, now, have met twice with Pope Francis. I also regularly meet with leaders of various units of the Roman Curia.

Today, we, as the Orthodox and Catholics, encounter similar problems in the world, and our positions on many issues coincide, to a considerable extent.

The Orthodox-Catholic dialogue has been carried out on various levels: pan-Orthodox in the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches and in the bilateral format as the Moscow Patriarchate conducts dialogue with Catholic bishops’ conferences in some countries. Theological dialogue has been held for 33 years now, and its achievements are obvious, as is obvious the existence of certain differences in our doctrines.

However, the most important, though not the only, issue dividing the Catholics and the Orthodox concerns the problem of primacy in the universal Church. The difference in its understanding, once, was one of the reasons that led to a division between the Western and Eastern Churches.

In the East, the pope of Rome was recognized as the successor of St. Peter, and the See of Rome occupied the first place among patriarchal thrones, in accordance with ecumenical councils’ actions. However, at the same time, the Eastern Church saw the bishop of Rome as “the first among equals” (primus inter pares) and never ascribed to him special powers, as compared to those of primates of other Churches.

Along with theological differences proper, there is the so-called “non-theological factor of the division.” These are the historical memory of the past controversies and conflicts and a great deal of mutual prejudices, and, unfortunately, some problems which have arisen in the modern period of history.

Still, the Orthodox and the Catholics can work together on many issues. There is a mutual understanding between the Russian Church and the Roman Catholic Church in social and economic ethics, traditional morality and other problems of today’s society. Our position on the family, motherhood, the population crisis, bioethical issues, on problems of euthanasia and many other issues basically coincide.

This agreement makes it possible for our Churches to bear, already now, our common witness to Christ in the face of the secular world. We have a very positive experience of organizing Orthodox-Catholic events, both in the area of the protection of moral values and the area of cultural cooperation.

Today, there is a real interest that both sides show in the fruitful development of bilateral dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. As for a meeting of the primates of our Churches, it is quite possible, but it needs to be carefully prepared. We did not exclude that we could arrange it under Pope Benedict, but we had no time to do it. I do not see why it could not be arranged under Pope Francis.

Already, last autumn, it seemed to me that the sides were ready to begin preparing it. But the events in Ukraine have thrown us much back, first of all, because of the actions of the Greek Catholics, who are seen by the Roman Catholic Church as a “bridge” between East and West, whereas we see them as a serious obstacle to dialogue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

It is no secret that the “Uniatism” was and is a special project of the Roman Catholic Church, aimed to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism. With the help of the secular authorities, the “Uniates” have acted for many centuries to the detriment of the Orthodox Church, capturing Orthodox churches and monasteries, converting ordinary people to Catholicism and oppressing the Orthodox clergy in all possible ways. This was the case in the Polish Lithuanian Principality after the 1596 Union of Brest, and this was the case at the end of 1980s and the beginning of 1990s in western Ukraine.

In the present civic confrontation, the Greek Catholics have taken one side, entering into active cooperation with the Orthodox schismatic groups. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, together with the head of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate, paced the U.S. State Department offices, calling the American authorities to interfere in the situation and to put Ukraine in order. The Greek Catholics have in fact launched a crusade against Orthodoxy.

In the Vatican, we are told that they cannot influence the actions of the Greek Catholics because of their autonomy. But to distance itself from these actions is something the Vatican is reluctant to do. In these circumstances, it became more difficult to speak of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow in the near future. We need to wait until newly inflicted wounds are healed. Nevertheless, we do not lose hope that the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics will be normalized.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

Pope Francis-Queen Elizabeth Meeting: ‘Welcoming, Warm and Friendly’


VATICAN CITY — “They clicked in a very warm, personal and non-protocol fashion,” said British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker, when describing Thursday’s meeting between Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth II.

The encounter, the first between Francis and the British monarch, was very relaxed and informal compared to the 87-year-old monarch’s previous four visits to the Vatican.

Accompanied by her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the queen’s motorcade entered the Vatican at 3.20pm, 20 minutes later than scheduled after a prolonged lunch with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” the queen said on greeting the Holy Father. “We were having a very pleasant lunch with the president.”

The three spent just under 20 minutes in private conversation in a studio annex of the Paul VI audience hall. The original plan had been to welcome the queen in the St. Martha residence, but the number of officials, diplomats and media personnel present meant the venue had to be switched.

The subjects discussed remain secret but Ambassador Baker stressed it “wasn’t a political visit and wasn’t about politics.”

“These are two people of great experience of the broader world,” he told the Register. “They are both great upholders of values, from the family and the faith to social values, and I can imagine — though I really don’t know — that the conversations would have touched on some of these issues, but certainly not political issues.”


Political Issues Not Discussed

A Vatican official also said political issues were avoided, and stressed that the sensitive subject of the British-ruled Falkland Islands, whose sovereignty has long been disputed by Argentina, was not a topic discussed. Prior to the meeting, the Holy See stressed it was neutral on the issue.

“I don’t know but I imagine Anglican-Catholic relations would have been discussed, matters relating to Britain, how much they appreciate the work of the Pope,” he said.

Baker stressed it was a “personal, welcoming, warm and friendly” meeting and that was witnessed “in the exchange of gifts.”

The queen presented the Pope with a basket filled with traditional English goods, including produce from the Royal Estates and items specifically chosen by her. She said she also brought “two extra bits which would not fit in the basket” — a bottle of whiskey and apple cider. The Holy Father seemed a little surprised but pleased to receive the whiskey, according to reporters present.

Drawing attention to a jar of honey sitting in the basket, the duke explained it was from Buckingham Palace, to which the queen added that “it is from my garden” and that “I hope it will be unusual for you.” The queen is said to be very proud of her beehives. She also offered the Holy Father two signed copies of a photo of herself and her husband, telling him “I’m afraid you have to have a photograph. It’s inevitable.” The royal couple always give signed photographs to heads of state they visit.


Gift of Lapis Lazuli

Pope Francis presented Queen Elizabeth, who will mark the 61st year of her reign June 2, with an orb made of lapis lazuli with a silver St. Edward’s cross, very similar to the one atop the queen’s coronation crown. The orb of the blue semi-precious stone was for the Queen’s great-grandson, Prince George, and also contained an engraving on its silver base with the words: “Pope Francis to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.”

“This is for the little boy,” the Pope told the queen in Spanish, to which she responded: “That is very nice. He will be thrilled by that when he’s a little older.”

The Holy Father also gave Elizabeth a copy of the original 1679 decree adding St. Edward of England’s feast day to the Church calendar, which is celebrated every year on Oct. 9, as well as a set of three large medals marked with the face of Pope Francis, one of gold, one of silver and one of bronze.

Upon receiving the gifts, the Duke of Edinburgh, famous for his wisecracks, joked that St. Edward “was canonized, wasn’t he?” and said of the medals: “Oh, it’s the only gold medal I’ve ever won.”

Many noted the visible break with protocol. Queen Elizabeth has met every Pope going back to Pius XII with the exception of Paul VI and John Paul I, and on each visit to the apostolic palace she has worn black, as is customary, and the Duke of Edinburgh has been in uniform. On this occasion, they were in their “day dress”: the queen wearing a lilac dress and hat, and the duke in a standard suit.

The relaxed protocol “was very much a mutual preference,” said Baker. “We know Pope Francis doesn’t like protocol and formalities and this was very much something that the queen was keen on as well for this particular visit.”

“Everything about the visit was in keeping with that mutual preference for an informal, light protocol occasion,” he added. “The Holy See lived up to that absolutely which was great.”
Meeting Pope Pius XII

Queen Elizabeth’s audience with Pope Francis marks her fifth encounter with a pope, the first being with Pope Pius XII while she was still a princess in 1951, the year before her ascension to the throne. She met John XXIII in 1961 before the Second Vatican Council.

In 1982, she was the first monarch since the Reformation to welcome a pope to Britain when she received John Paul II during his pastoral visit to the country. In 2010, she also received Benedict XVI in Scotland during his visit to the United Kingdom.

The Vatican official stressed that the visit would “certainly” be of great help to British-Holy See relations, and was a sign of how close they are, especially as the queen’s visit to the Vatican is just one of two overseas visits she has planned for this year.

Some speculated the queen might ask the Pope to come to Britain, but Ambassador Baker said “no formal invitations were extended on this particular occasion.”

On leaving, Pope Francis said to the queen: “Please pray for me, don’t forget,” to which she replied: “I won’t forget.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

Pope’s Strategy on Leading the Church


IMG_8058 (1024x683) (640x512)

Pope Francis is very intuitive, prays, and meditates a great deal, but lives in the present and doesn’t know where he will lead the church, a close friend of the pontiff for 20 years told Newsmax.

“He’s a very intuitive person and he develops a strategy with a lot of prayer and meditation,” said Jose Maria del Corral, who led diocesan educational projects when Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. “Every day, from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., he’ll meditate, no matter how tired he is.”

Del Corral, who now runs an educational project inspired by the Pope, said Francis is one of only a few world leaders “who really don’t check the time when they’re talking with you. He sees you, listens to you, and at that very moment, there’s only one person on earth, and it’s you.”

“His time is the present,” he added. “He doesn’t really miss the past, the glories of the past. He’s not distracted by the future and the world ahead.”

Asked about where he thought Pope Francis would lead the Church, del Corral said: “I believe he doesn’t really know. He lives in the present; he’s going to make the right decisions, but in the here and now.”

As Archbishop Bergoglio, Francis underlined the importance of education, and as Pope he has inspired del Corral to set up “Scholas Occurentes” — a charity that aims to improve education worldwide and make it more inclusive, especially for pupils of low-income families and schools with few resources.

“There’s total commitment,” del Corral said. “He himself launched the project in August. He took advantage of his experience as archbishop of Buenos Aires; he led similar projects when he was archbishop.”

Del Corral, who is updating the Pope monthly on the expansion of the program, said Francis believes that without education “it’s not possible to change the world.” The Pope strongly advocates education as the most effective means of achieving peace, he said, and believes it is the only way to “really finish with war as an institution.”

An economist who gave up a life in the corporate world to study theology and become a teacher in Catholic schools, del Corral said he and Archbishop Bergoglio became close friends for over two decades.

“I don’t want to consider myself as just a friend,” he said. “I consider him as a father.” Asked to expand on why he felt that way, he became emotional and at a loss for words, eventually saying it was because of Francis’ pastoral sensitivity and that he always takes a great interest in the person to whom he’s speaking.

Del Corral’s insights into the Pope’s character — especially his attitude to decision making — echo those of Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro who conducted the first interview Pope Francis gave last August to the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.

Speaking with Spadaro last month at the launch of a new book on that now-famous interview, he said the Pope takes decisions in a very “Jesuitical” manner.

“He doesn’t make decisions balancing reasons [but] by discernment, so praying and trying to feel the spirit, trying to be inspired, balancing the emotions of the spirit, not reasons or logic,” he said.

“It’s a completely different way of proceeding, a different way of thinking.”

Read Latest Breaking News from


Consultancy and Educational Services on the
Papacy, the Vatican and the Catholic Church