A new “travelling Pope”

f96763944f2eb5b73f91fea96bbf01a4-690x450Pope Francis returns from his visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia today, and so concludes his 29th international journey. He has visited all continents except Oceania and Antarctica (hey, if the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow can do it…), and more than a few of his travels have been the first papal visits to the countries in question. And with those data, it is clear that the title of “Traveling Pope” should now be given to the current pontiff.

Pope John Paul II Visit to Ireland, Shannon Airport

Pope Saint John Paul II is the traditional holder of the moniker, and not without reason. In the 31 years if his papacy he made 104 international visits to 129 different countries. Pope Francis has been pope for a little more than six years, so any useful comparison must take that into account. Comparing it with the first 6 years (and two months) of St. John Paul II’s papacy, Pope Francis comes out on top, with 29 visits, five more than the late pontiff’s 24 (Pope Benedict XVI, in comparison, made 20 international visits in the same timespan).

Like St. John Paul II, Pope Francis immediately struck out far abroad, with visits to Brazil, Israel and South Korea before visiting a country closer to Italy, Albania, on his fourth visit. St. John Paul II went to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas before heading to a European destination (in his case Poland), although those first three countries were visited on a single trip, whereas Francis made three separate journeys. Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, first focussed on Europe, visiting Poland, Spain and Germany (twice) before visiting Turkey and Brazil.

Both Benedict XVI and Francis inherited their first papal visit from their predecessor, and both were made in the context of the World Youth Day. Benedict XVI visited Cologne and Francis Rio de Janeiro.

Unlike his two predecessors, Pope Francis did not include his native country among his first visits. In fact, he is yet to visit Argentina. St. John Paul II visited Poland on his second visit and Benedict XVI went to Germany on his very first, although, as mentioned above, he inherited that visit from St. John Paul II. His fourth visit was again to Germany.

In comparing Popes Francis and St. John Paul II, one more thing must be noted: their age. St. John Paul II was between 58 and 64 in his first six years as pope. Francis was 76 when elected, and is now 82. That makes him being the new “travelling Pope” all the more remarkable.

Photo credit: [1] AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, [2] Tim Graham/Getty Images

 

The fight against abuse – more than words and politics

global_nienstedtThose that were wondering if Pope Francis’ actions against sexual abuse in the Church would be limited to establishing tribunals and commissions are likely to change their minds today. After Bishop Robert Finn, two more American bishops saw their resignation accepted, resignations they tendered for failing to protect children under their ultimate responsibility. Archbishop John Nienstedt (pictured) and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis were removed from office one week after new criminal proceedings were launched against the archdiocese. Neither bishop is himself guilty of abuse, it must be stressed, but they are investigated for their actions after a priest of the archdiocese, now laicised, was arrested and convicted for sexual abuse. He now serves a prison term.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will be administred by Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, and the sole remaining auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Andrew Cozzens, who was appointed in 2013, well after the abuse case that resulted in today’s resignations.

Also today, the Holy See announced a starting date of the process against Mr. Józef Wesolowski, former archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic, who has been charged with sexual abuse of minors while in Santo Domingo and the possession of child porn when he had returned to Rome in 2013. He had his priestly faculties and titles removed in 2014, and the expectation that he will be convicted in the face of overwhelming evidence.

It appears that Pope Francis is not waiting for the establishment of the tribunal which can charge bishops with negligence in the face of abuse, but is removing bishops who have failed. We can’t know if the resignation of Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché was the result of their own deliberations or a response to the advice of others. Pope Francis, however, has been clear that bishops must be critical of themselves and take their responsibilities for their actions or inactions when faced with painful and difficult abuse cases.

As a citizen of Vatican City, Mr. Wesolowski can be tried in that country (in close cooperation with the Dominican Republic authorities), while Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché will likely remain under investigation by American authorities as part of the larger investigation into the conduct of the archdiocese.

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Baldelli passes away

Erstwhile diplomat and retired Major Penitentiary Fortunato Cardinal Baldelli passed away yesterday at the age of 77. The College of Cardinals now numbers 205, of whom 116 are electors.

Fortunato Baldelli was born in 1935, as one of eight children in the mountains of Perugia in Italy. He entered seminary in Assisi in 1947 and was able to continue his priestly formation despite the death of his parents, thanks to his brother priests and Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini of Assisi. It did take until 1961 before he was ordained for the Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino. In those 14 years he studied at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, earning a licentiate in theology, and at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, where he studied diplomacy.

Following his ordination, Father Baldelli became vice-rector of Assisi’s minor seminary. In 1966, he earned a doctorate in canon law and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service. After assignments in Cuba and Egypt, Fr. Baldelli returned to Rome, where he worked at the Secretariat of State and later at the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church. In 1979 he was tasked to be a special envoy, with the duties of a permanent observer, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

In 1983, Blessed Pope John Paul II consecrated Fr. Baldelli as titular archbishop of Bevagna, and sent him to Angola as apostolic delegate. In 1985 he also became Apostolic pro-Nuncio to São Tomé and Principe. In 1991, he left Africa to become Nuncio in the Dominican Republic, where he was succeeded in 1994 by one Archbishop Bacqué, who would later become Nuncio to the Netherlands. From 1994 to 1999, Archbishop Baldelli was Nuncio in Peru, and after that in France. In 2009 he returned to Rome, and was appointed as Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic penitentiary.

Archbishop Baldelli was created a cardinal in the consistory of 2010, and became cardinal deacon of Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino (incidentally the seat of the Primate of the Benedictine Order, Notker Wolf, re-elected as such today). In January of this year, Cardinal Baldelli retired as Major Penitentiary.

Cardinal Baldelli was a member of the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.