The Pope’s Cats

6 October 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Vatican

Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat (Ignatius Press, 2008) is a children’s book written by Chico with the “aid” of Italian journalist, Jeanne Perego. popecat.JPG

The book, which has been translated into 10 languages and has sold 12,000 copies in the U.S., tells of young Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood love for all furry animals and the adult cardinal’s deep bond with the narrator, who lives in the Bavarian village of Pentling.

Chico’s owner, Rupert Hofbauer, confirmed the substance of the book and said that Chico, now 10, misses his old friend, who has not been back to visit since becoming pope.

“Sometimes Chico goes over there on his own,” Hofbauer said in a telephone interview, “and sits on the door sill or walks through the garden.” chico.JPG

When Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he tended to the cats that frequented the garden of the congregation’s building in the Vatican and bandaged their wounds.

But he could not bring his two beloved cats when he moved into the papal palace. Rome’s animal rights commissioner protested the ban on pets, and urged the Vatican to “give the two papal cats access to the Apostolic Palace.”

Though Benedict is the first pope to be written about by a cat, he falls squarely within a long Vatican tradition.

According to The Papacy: An Encyclopedia by Philippe Levillain, Pope Paul II, in the 15th c. had his cats treated by his personal physician. Leo XII, in the 1820s, raised his grayish-red cat, Micetto, in the pleat of his cassock. And according to The Times of London, Paul VI, from 1963 to 1978, is said to have once dressed his cat in cardinal’s robes.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has two silver tabbies named Raphael and Gabriel. Mahony believes that cats are perfect pets for clergymen “because they are wonderful companions. There is a spirituality about them. Their presence is very soothing.”

Pope Benedict’s publicly announced fondness for cats has resulted in one of Rome’s hottest selling tourist momentos–a little cardinal hat for cats.  The hat goes for $15 in stores such as Barbiconi, which specializes in clergy robes and accessories. 

Cardinal Mahony’s cats both have cardinal hats, given to him during a recent trip to Rome.

But currently, Pope Benedict XVI must abide by the rule against pets in the Vatican apartments, “although one cardinal has a dog and everyone in Rome knows it,” said Cardinal Mahoney.

Roman Triptych: The Stream

24 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Spirituality, Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI may go down in history as the greatest papal advocate for the environment, but Pope John Paul II started things off. He made statements in support of creation, but his major contribution is his example–he loved nature, and found God there.

My favorite image of Pope John Paul II is a snapshot during a camping trip. A vigorous and robust man, he liked camping, hiking and relaxing outdoors. roman-trip.jpg

His nature experiences found their way into his poems. The Poetry of John Paul II: Roman Triptych: Medications begins with “The Stream.”

I. The Stream


The Spirit of God hovered about the waters

1. Wonderment

The undulating wood slopes down to the rhythm of mountain streams.

To me this rhythm is revealing You, the Primordial Word.

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side unveils the created world around us..all that, like the undulating wood, runs down every slope…all that is carried away by the stream’s silvery cascade, rhythmically falling from the mountain, carried by its own current–carried where?

What are you saying to me, mountain stream? Where, in which place do we meet? Do you meet me who is also passing–just like you.

Read the poem here.

Pope Benedict’s August Prayer Intention

2 August 08 | Posted in Global Catholic, Spirituality, Vatican

Benedict XVI will be praying this month that all may be more aware of the gift of creation.

The Apostleship of Prayer announced the August intention chosen by the Pope: “That the human family may know how to respect God’s design for the world and thus become ever more aware of the great gift of God which Creation represents for us.” logo.gif

Nicknamed “the Pope’s own prayer group,” since the 19th century popes have asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray for specific intentions each month.  Members pledge to pray for them every day. 

I had never heard of the Apostleship of Prayer before finding them on Google yesterday.  After reading their mission statement, and reading the August reflection for the environement, I joined. I was pleased to see the Prayer for the Month is St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, the prayer of this blog.

Their mission is straightforward: “Whatever your walk of life, the Apostleship of Prayer offers you a simple, profound way to live it. We ask you to pray every day for the good of the whole world. That’s our whole mission. We believe prayer is the way to hasten the Kingdom of God on earth. Even if we don’t understand how it works, prayer itself changes things for the better. We also know that those who pray open themselves to loving service of others.”

The Pope’s Green Message at World Youth Day

17 July 08 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic, Vatican

Environmentalism is emerging as one key theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Australia for World Youth Day.

Even before he left Rome, the pope struck a “green” note.  In a message to the people of Australia and the youth from around the world converging on Sydney, Benedict listed environmental concerns among the global phenomena faced by young people. pope-australia.jpg

“They see great damage, done to the natural environment through human greed,” the pope said in his message, released July 4. “They struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.”

The pope was asked by an Australian journalist about religious indifference in his country. Benedict replied that while religion does face something of a crisis in the Western world, various forces today illustrate the need for religious faith — among them, environmental challenges.

“In this historical moment, we begin to see that we do need God,” the pope said. “We can do so many things, but we cannot create our climate. We thought we could do it, but we cannot do it. We need the gift of the Earth, the gift of water, we need the Creator; the Creator re-appears in His creation. And so we also come to understand that we cannot really be happy, cannot be really promoting justice for all the world, without a criterion at work in our own ideas, without a God who is just, and gives us the light, and gives us life.”

Among other things, Benedict XVI sees the environmental movement as a promising route for the recovery of a strong sense of “natural law,” meaning the idea that moral limits to human behavior are inherent in nature. In fact, the pope believes ecology could hold the key to teaching young people about Christian morality.

If people are willing to accept that idea about the environment, Benedict may hope they will be more open to the claims of natural law in other areas of life, like sexuality and gender.

Expo Zaragoza 2008

21 May 08 | Posted in Vatican

The Holy See will participate in an international expo on “Water and Sustainable Development.” Expo Zaragoza 2008 will be held June 14-September 14, 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain. The Vatican pavillion will offer reflections on the divine and human dimensions of water.logo_expo.gif

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, emphasized that “clean water and safe sanitation are acknowledged as essential elements in the lives of every human being.”