Media Watch

The Pope's Right-Hand Men

THE WASHINGTON POST, Dec. 23 — Pope John Paul II's physical infirmities are well known and heavily covered in the press. Less well publicized is the team of advisers and trusted aides that helps the ailing but still mentally vibrant Pope govern the Church.

The Washington Post reported just before Christmas on this group. Since their base of operations is the papal residence in the Apostolic Palace, they are widely known in Rome as “the Apartment.”

Those who populate the Apartment, according to the Post, are Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state; Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Pope's chief of staff; Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul's private secretary; and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

The paper cited Catholic historian Giorgio Rumi, who said, “It's like a family in which the patriarch is tired. The rest of the family helps out, but always respecting the fact that the patriarch is in charge. It would be odd if it was any different.”

The Post also suggested reports about the Pope's health are mistaken, citing papal biographer George Weigel, who had dinner with the Holy Father the week before Christmas and found him “strikingly stronger than in October.”

Pope Unafraid of Terror at Vatican

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 29 — Reacting to reports that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had received terror threats against the Vatican — which Berlusconi later denied — Cardinal Renato Martini, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Pope John Paul II is not worried.

“This Pope has never been afraid of anything. Otherwise, he never would have done and said all that we have seen and heard” throughout his pontificate of 25 years, Cardinal Martino said, according to the Associated Press.

The cardinal admitted security in Vatican City had been increased in response to global terrorism but insisted the phenomenon of terror also must be attacked at its roots — in the political conflicts and inequities that drive men to resort to such evil means.

Holy See Tightens Up Liturgical Norms

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Dec. 21 — The Holy See is clarifying some terms and setting some new conditions in the practice of the liturgy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

For instance, the popular term “Eucharistic minister” is no longer to be used but rather the original, correct title, “extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.” The intent is to emphasize the doctrinal fact that the priest saying a Mass, acting in persona Christi, alone effects the mystery of transubstantiation.

In the new 100-page “General Instruction for the Roman Missal,” the Vatican has attempted to impose more order and consistency in the worldwide practice of the liturgy.

The Latin version of the document was approved by Pope John Paul II three years ago, but the English edition approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship was only issued in March 2003, the Inquirer reported, and is just now beginning to be implemented in dioceses such as Philadelphia.