Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PopeTrip Notes

With the Triduum behind and precisely three weeks to go til the papal touchdown in Redskins' Nation -- which, for three days, will really be more like "Redhats Nation" -- the drumbeat now begins in earnest toward the 15-20 April Ratzipalooza (aka "Apostolic Journey to the United States and United Nations") with stops at Washington, New York and the UN Headquarters.

Among other notable developments, the "set" for the climactic Sunday Eucharist at Gotham's Yankee Stadium -- commemorating the bicentennial of American Catholicism's first "expansion teams" -- has been revealed...

...and B16's first Stateside host has been working the newsroom circuit:
[Washington] Archbishop Donald Wuerl said Americans should expect something different from the man than what they saw when he served in his previous job as longtime head of the Congregation for The Doctrine of the Faith. That role required being a watchdog for Catholic doctrine.

Back then, Wuerl said, one of Benedict's key responsibilities was "to throw a flag if someone went out of bounds. If you're going to have intellectual ferment, intellectual discussion, you also have to have someone who throws the flag."

As pope, Wuerl said, Benedict has a different role - to be the living link to the Apostle Peter, to the earliest days of Christianity and to spread a message of hope to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, "that we are capable of a personal relationship with God." That, Wuerl says, is something many Americans want to hear, particularly at a time when religious practice and belief are in dramatic flux. He believes recent data showing one in ten Americans is an ex-Catholic simply reflects normal American "drifting," and "shopping around." The history and truth of Catholicism, he says, will bring them back eventually.

"In our country we are so taken up with the individual. Everyone wants to realize their greatest potential, and that's good, but there are some things we do as a family," he said. People want to know: "How do I verify that what I believe is more than just what I think about things? Our function is to make people realize it's in this 2,000-year-old family that you find that verification."

Articulating the core agenda of Pope Benedict, Wuerl said Catholics drifted in recent decades because the church failed to teach the basics of their doctrine. "We were trying all kinds of new things, and outreach was to be personalized. We didn't tell the next generation what we actually believed."...

Wuerl was vague about some hot topics, including whether the pope will discuss the church's sexual abuse scandal and/or speak with sex abuse victims. "I'd assume somewhere he will address that topic. One thing I'd like to renew again is the sorrow of church leadership that this happened."
Still Issue #1 on the public mind, don't be surprised if Benedict's first comments on the abuse storm come on Wuerl's home-turf... and not just because the 17 April Mass in Nationals' Park will have a special focus on the young, who'll fill the prized seats closest to the center-field altar.

One of the first US bishops to "throw a flag" on predator priests, the DC prelate was singled out for praise in a new book by a key player in the church's first response to the crisis.

As bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl famously went to battle over a Vatican ruling that would've forced him to keep a thrice-accused priest in ministry, finally winning a rare reversal in 1995. And so, in the opening pages of a first-of-its-kind study exploring how the bishops already had the canonical tools to remove accused clerics at their disposal long before the scandal exploded in 2002, author Nicholas Cafardi dedicates Before Dallas to Wuerl -- who, he writes, "did the right thing the first time."

An Angelicum-trained canonist and former dean of Duquesne Law, Cafardi was a founding member of the US bishops' National Lay Review Board for the protection of children and young people, serving as the body's chair from 2004 to 2006.

Also from the District, a notable eight-column catechesis on the "Keys to the Kingdom: From Peter to Benedict" has been making the rounds courtesy of the capital's Catholic Standard.

* * *

In matters fiscal, The Don -- Benedict's most-prominent US appointee to date -- recently estimated that the Potomac leg of the PopeTrip will light up the ledgers to the tune of "at least" $3 million... plus a reported Uncle Ted-style parting gift.

As for furniture, while Pharaohtown -- still the capital... of Wojtyla Country -- never figured in the visit plans, the PapaChair for the 16 April Vespers with the US bishops at Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the work of a local firm. And at least one PopeThrone is being recycled; the seat the late Great used for a 1995 liturgy at Brooklyn's Aqueduct Racetrack will get an encore at the interreligious encounter at the capital's John Paul II Cultural Center (or, as it's known to veteran readers, "Maida Temple"). Both chairs will be X-rayed by the Secret Service before taking their places in the limelight.

From the vesture desk, correcting an earlier notice, liturgical vestments are being produced on these shores for the Pope's use on the trip, with the garb's preliminary designs said to have met the muster of the pontiff's (invariably cassock-clad) MC, Msgr Guido "Ecco!" Marini.

The Star isn't even wheels-down yet, but the trek claimed its first "casualty" over the Triduum when its lead Stateside organizer -- the papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi -- canceled out of both Good Friday and Holy Saturday at the DC Shrine, citing illness and said to be looking "run down." Particularly given Sambi's role as communicator-in-chief of the visit and its purposes thanks to an unprecedeted gauntlet of major interviews -- as effective and provocative as they've been high-profile -- here's hoping Big Boss has a tank of soup, whatever else he needs; keep him, his mission, and his quick and complete bounce-back especially in your prayers.

And lastly, you know the business is hard-up for talent when your narrator gets called on to do a quarter-hour block of Easter morn major-market TV. (Per usual, just the work our betters declined.)

Apologies for the notice, but it gives me another chance to say thanks to all of you for reading, all your kindness, support, encouragement and, in the most literal sense, thanks for the shirt on my back. Gammarelli it ain't -- no ontologically-deficient bargain rack there... but what matters is that it fits... and it gets the job done... just like these pages. I hope.

Pray for me, church, and get ready... it's gonna be one doozy of a month.

PHOTO: National Catholic Register/Pope2008.com/SEG Events