Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Light is On for You

An old joke among priests is that stealing is always wrong--except when it comes to sermons. 

If you hear a good sermon, or a great story which helps a sermon, steal it for yourself.

The same is true of pastoral ideas.  I don't know who first started this one, but several years ago someone had the bright idea to just open the church, announce that a priest would be there for several hours during the evening, and see what happened.  What happened is that people appreciated the opportunity to visit with a priest--whether to formally receive the sacrament of reconciliation, or just talk over something troubling on one's heart.  (This is sort of the same idea of professors on university campuses who have "open office hours," when you don't need to make an appointment.)

I have to admit we tried this in the Diocese of Pittsburgh a few years ago, and it was less than a success.  But  when then-Archbishop Wuerl moved to Washington, he tried it again, and it was a big hit.  A couple of parishes expanded it from the once a Lent night to every Wednesday evening throughout the year.

So this Lent once again Bishop Zubik has asked every parish and church in the diocese to be open on Wednesday, March 6, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.  A priest will be available in the confessional, for the sacrament or for what I like to call "holy conversation," also known as spiritual direction.

In our neighborhood of New Castle, here's the lineup:

Mary Mother of Hope Church, Father Nick Vaskov
St. Joseph the Worker Church, Father Bill Siple
St. Vincent de Paul Church, Father Frank Erdeljac
St. Vitus Church, myself.

The Archdiocese of Boston has a nice website which gives background on confession/reconciliation, .  It has Q&As on confessions, testimonials, examinations of conscience for various vocations (adults, married couples, teens, young adults, priests, religious), a listing of pastoral letters by bishops on penance, and more.

I'll take a book to read for the three hours, but I'm hoping I never open it.  I hope enough folks come out to talk, to pray, and to receive the sacrament.

Check the parish nearest you for the opportunity to pray, receive the sacrament, and draw closer to Christ during this wonderful season of Lent.

Circle of Protection

Every once in a while, when you've given up hope that anybody can get anything done in this country, it's nice to hear about a breakthrough.

One very modest effort I learned about recently is "Circle of Protection."  This is a joint effort by almost 100 national Christian leaders to address the stupid stalemate in Congress over the budget and the fiscal deficit.

From their website ( ) they lay out the principles of their coalition:  

In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political—and moral.

As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice.

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

Catholic leaders who have signed the letter to President Obama and congressional leaders include three bishops from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are the chairs of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, International Justice and Peace, and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.  Also among Catholic signers are the presidents of Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Health Association, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and Network.

Our Mission

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

Read their whole letter, and the programs they want to protect from idiotic sequestration, online.  This effort deserves our support.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Splinter, the Missionary, the Martyr

Three priests from around the world died this week, all with a connection to Pittsburgh, all whom I knew.  They witness to both the human and divine dimensions of the Catholic Church.

C. William Hausen died on Sunday, February 17.  He was 77.  Ordained by Bishop Wright for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1965, he served in several parishes.  For 12 years he was the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Mt. Oliver, in the city of Pittsburgh.  I followed him in that neighborhood, years after he was transferred and years after the parish was merged (with three others) into St. John Vianney Parish.  Even though Bill had been out of the area for a decade, there were many parishioners who spoke about his kindnesses, his visits to the hospital and shut-ins, his homilies.  In the four years I was at St. John Vianney I bumped into him several times at local funeral homes, as he came to pay his respects to parishioners he knew who had died, and their families.

In 2002 Bill gave an inflammatory sermon at St. James Parish, Sewickley, calling for changes in the Catholic Church and threatening to start a new church.  He was removed from the parish, and turned up at Sacred Heart, Shadyside, where he served for the first time (and so well) after being ordained.  Then two years later he left Sacred Heart, and publicly broke from the Catholic Church.  He started "Christ Hope Ecumenical Catholic Church," holding services that looked very much like a Catholic Mass in a Sewickley motel.  

Bill got some press, some positive, some not, after his breakaway.  The diocesan legal eagles issued a "Notification" stating that Father Hausen incurred an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church "having refused all offers of reconciliation extended by the Diocesan Bishop."  Father Ron Lengwin, diocesan spokesperson, said that reconciliation was always possible.  We never throw anyone out of the church, he said.  Father Hausen has removed himself.

A lengthy article about Bill and the Christ Hope Church in the Pittsburgh City Paper, dated November 6, 2008, caught what had been well-known clerical gossip.   Bill was an alcoholic, and had been in recovery.  The merger of the parish which he loved, he said, turned his moderate drinking into heavy drinking.  On a sabbatical at Notre Dame University in 1993, he came to admit his problem with alcohol, sought treatment, and joined AA.  

But one paragraph is brutally honest:  "Hausen remembers the next years as a difficult time filled with introspective study and questions about his faith.  He became further involved in AA, and attended meetings more frequently.  But he also continued to battle alcohol abuse."

Bill's first Mass at Christ Hope Church drew 300 people.  But I heard after a few months attendance dropped to a few dozen loyal friends, never increasing.

Two summers ago I was participating in a minor protest on the South Side.  I was the only Catholic priest, among several Christian clergypersons--all the usual suspects.  As we were having the pre-meeting to go over the ground rules of the protest, to my surprise into the room walked Bill Hausen.  His hair was disheveled,  he wore a ordinary black shirt with some kind of white paper stuck across his neck, evidently imitating a clerical collar--and he was drunk.  It was 11 am.  I greeted him, introducing myself.  But it was obvious he didn't remember me.  The other clergy avoided him.   The next day I called Ron Lengwin to tell him about my encounter.  Ron said to me, if you only knew how many times and in how many ways Bishops Wuerl and Zubik have tried to reach out to Bill these past years.  

On Monday all the parishes in our diocese got a "blast fax" from our bishop.  It read:  

"My dear brother priests and deacons:  I was notified over the weekend that Bill Hausen had died.  As you know, Bill left the Church nine years ago to establish his own community.  I always held out hope for his reconciliation, but unfortunately that did not happen.  Bill left instructions that there be no viewing and no religious service at his death and that he be cremated.  Please remember Bill Hausen in your Masses and in your prayers."

As I was writing this blog, I checked the website of Christ Hope Church.  There was no mention of Bill's death.  Only an invitation to their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses.

Bill, may you find the peace you so longed for and could not find here on earth. 

Jules Roos died on Saturday, February 16, in Chimbote, Peru.  He was 82.   Ordained in 1956 by Bishop Dearden, his first priestly assignment was here in New Castle, at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. In 1964 he received permission to join the St. James Society, a Boston-based group of diocesan priests who did missionary work in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.  He was assigned to Chimbote.  It was his last, and best, assignment.

Two years later, upset by the many emergency baptisms he was performing for babies dying after being born in the local hospital in unhealthy conditions, he and another missionary priest from San Diego opened a maternity hospital.  Later he expanded the hospital to include a social works center.  He received the help of several Pittsburgh Sisters of Mercy over the years, and in particular worked closely with two Dominican Sisters from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bockheim.  

Jules was indefatigable   He lived a very simple life, moved out of a parish into a tiny apartment adjacent to the maternity hospital, and devoted himself to the poor of Chimbote.

Jules's good friend was Father (now Msgr.) John Kozar.  John was running annual mission trips to Chimbote in the 1970s and 80s, to encourage support for Roos and the maternity hospital.  In 1983, I approached John to go on the next one.  

I still remember our first meeting before our trip, and introduction to the "Wild West" life of missionaries.  Kozar had instructed the two dozen of us pilgrims to bring a bottle of alcohol to the meeting.  He would use it to assist (a.k.a. bribe) customs officers in Peru, as he shipped enormous quantities of medicine and medical equipment to the maternity hospital.  

The maternity hospital in Chimbote itself was merely a Quonset hut, with 32 single iron beds.  No walls or curtains separated the beds.  A bathroom was at one end of the hut.  The compound had various storage rooms and a laboratory which might have been state of the art in the 1930s.    But the hospital itself was sparkling clean,  the aides were very friendly, and the smiles of the moms said they were glad to be there.  

Jules was humility itself, always self-deprecatory, with an ironic and cynical sense of humor.  Jules's humility was legendary.  The story goes that once in the 1970s he flew up to Pittsburgh, to do some fundraising.  Then Bishop Leonard heard he was in town, called him and invited him to the bishop's house at Warwick Terrace for dinner.

Jules arrived in typical black suit and clergy shirt.  The bishop expressed surprise when he saw Jules and exclaimed, "Jules, I didn't know you owned a black suit or clergy shirt!"

In 1991 I went back to Chimbote on another Kozar mission trip.  The compound had grown, but the same spirit remained.  It was the 25th anniversary of the maternity hospital, and in the second week of the trip Bishop Wuerl flew down for a celebratory Mass and banquet in the biggest hotel in Chimbote.  

I treasure those trips, because from those experiences I know that all the kind words said about Jules Roos in his lengthy obituary in the Pittsburgh Catholic are true, true, true.

A few years ago Bishop Wuerl surprised Jules at one of the annual fundraising dinners for the Chimbote Foundation to support the maternity hospital by announcing that the Vatican had honored him with the title of  "Monsignor."  Jules squirmed in the spotlight, but accepted it.  A couple of days later, I bumped into Jules in the diocesan building.  I greeted him warmly, and said, "Monsignor, it's great to see you."  Without missing a beat Jules said, "Frank, let's not let a title come between our friendship."  

Jules, may you enjoy the reward of your missionary labors, with all the saints in heaven.

Evaristus Mushi was murdered on Sunday, February 17, in Zanzibar, East Africa.  He was 56.  His bishop said that two men on motorcycles  followed Father Mushi, blocked his way, shot and killed him near his parish church.  

Zanzibar is a group of Indian Ocean islands which are part of Tanzania.  

A Protestant pastor, Rev. Matthew Kachira, was killed February 10, the Vatican's Fides news agency reported.  Also another diocesan priest, Father Ambrose Mkenda, was shot and seriously wounded on Christmas Day, and is still in the hospital.

A group called "Muslim Renewal" claimed responsibility for the shootings.  

I would not have paid any attention to this killing, I'm sad to say, except when I saw in this morning's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Father Evaristus had done studies at Duquesne University.  He earned a master's degree in education in 2001.  He resided at Incarnation of the Lord Parish, Observatory Hill/North Side, and St. Pius X Parish, Brookline, during his stay in Pittsburgh.  Later he served for a time in two parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.  

Although I can't pinpoint any encounter, after seeing Father Evaristus's photo I have a vague recollection of having met him.  My friend, Father Jim Garvey, used to hold an annual "goat dinner" for all the priests and sisters from Africa who were studying in Pittsburgh.  He would cook the goat himself, and enjoyed seeing the  clergy enjoying food from "back home."  It may have been at one of these gatherings that I met him.  Again, it's only vague, but my recollection is of a gentle and soft-spoken man.

In the Tribune-Review article this morning, Jack Miller, a parishioner at Incarnation, and now a deacon at St. Teresa of Avila Parish, Ross, "said he and Mushi discussed the possibility that being a Catholic priest would make him a target in Zanzibar.  'Here we have our squabbles, but when you think about the possibility of being killed for your faith, it puts things into perspective.  I think, even then, he knew that could happen.'"

In a posting on his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg 
wrote, "We remember Father Evaristus as an extremely kind, generous, and genuinely holy priest who helped us out here for three years before returning to his country of Tanzania.  He may well be a martyr for the faith.  But for now his parishioners, family and friends mourn this senseless act of violence and pray for the peaceful repose of his soul."

Evaristus, may the angels lead you into paradise, and may the martyrs welcome you home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Pope Resigns, VII (The Name)

Names are important.  Names tell us about ourselves, those whom or what we name.  Names reveal, as well as hide, who we are.   

I have had the privilege of submitting suggestions of names to the bishop for the two parishes I founded.  (Incarnation of the Lord and Saint Juan Diego parishes)  When I solicited the parishioners in both cases for suggestions, I got almost no response.  Nobody thought the name of the new entity was important, or at least as important as I thought it was.  I said, we're making history.  We're saying a lot about ourselves.  The people shrugged.  Maybe they had too much experience naming their own children, and the children rejecting their names in adulthood.

When Nativity grade school was going to transition to becoming Incarnation school, a parent approached me. She said, Catholic schools are special.  We invest a lot into them.  And they offer an excellent education.      Instead of just calling the school "school," can't we call it "academy"?   (She was probably influenced by the Perry Traditional Academy, a magnet high school in the City of Pittsburgh school district, which was just down the street.)  I thought it was a splendid idea.  I ran it past the principal and the PTG leadership.  They thought it was good, too.  So it became "Incarnation Academy."  Pride in the school (er, academy) went up among the parents because of the name.

One parent said, aren't you going to ask the permission of the diocese.  I said, why?  They'll learn about it soon enough.  (As my classmate taught me so well, it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.)  We started to use it, the name was well received and caught on, and within six months all the diocesan mail was addressed to "Incarnation Academy."  A few other schools in the diocese also started calling themselves academies, too.

All this is to say that the name the new pope picks says a lot.  About him, his ancestry, his vision for the church, his hopes and dreams.  In 1958 Angelo Roncalli, the unexpected seat-warmer of the papacy (and student of history), reached back to the 14th century to call himself "John."  (John XXII was Bishop of Rome from 1316-34.)  He wanted to express a biblical name, and identify with the one who was the beloved disciple of Jesus.  (I think he also wanted to remember his father, Giovanni.)  His successor, Giovanni Battista Montini, also reached back in the history of the papacy, to the 17th century, to call himself "Paul."  He wanted to express the missionary spirit of the extraordinary apostle, and did, becoming the first pope to travel to all six continents of the world during his papacy.

Albino Luciani, elected in 1978, created a new, two-sainted name for himself, John Paul I.  He wanted to recognize the popes who called, and concluded, the Second Vatican Council.  His successor, Karol Wojtyla, the first non-Italian in 455 years, probably would have preferred to take the name of his martyred predecessor as bishop of Kracow, Stanislaus.  But give the circumstances of his election, after the all-too-brief 34 day reign of John Paul I, he took John Paul II.  I don't think we'll have a "John Paul III" for a long, long time, if ever.  

So, what name will the new pope take?  Let's start with what names he should not take.  Here's a list of some non-starters, and the date of the last pope with that name:

  • Pius XII (1939-58)
  • Innocent XIII (1721-24)
  • Sixtus V (1585-90)
  • Marcellus II (1555)
  • Celestine V (1294; another pope who resigned)
  • Agaptus II (946-55)
  • Lando (913-14; from Star Wars?)
  • Formosus (891-96)
  • Valentine (827)
  • Donus (676-78)
  • Pelagius II (579; who wants to be named after a heresy?)
  • Hilarius (461-68; we want a laughing pope, but nobody would take this name seriously)
  • Fabian (236-50; after the 1950s TV hunk?)

Here are some better names from the history of the Bishops of Rome, worthy of a pope for the 21st century. Each of them offers insights into various visions for the future of the church and the new papacy.

  • Paul VI (1963-78; brought Vatican II to a successful conclusion)
  • Leo XIII (1878-1903; the pope whose encyclical Rerum Novarum began the modern Catholic social teaching)
  • Gregory XVI (1831-46; an abbot who was not a bishop at the time of his election)
  • Nicholas V (1447-55; a good name, but he wrote to support the institution of slavery)
  • Martin V (1417-31) 
  • Paschal II (1099-1118)
  • Stephen IX (1057-58)
  • Adeodatus (672-76; in Latin, "gift of God")
  • Eusebius (309)
  • Linus (67-76; the successor to St. Peter the Apostle)

The newly elected pope doesn't have to look to papal history for a name.  It's not as if there are not a lot of names of saints to choose from.  Just off the top of my head, here are the names of prominent male saints whose names have not been taken by a pope.

  • Spouse of Mary:  Joseph
  • Apostles:  Andrew, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Barnabas
  • Evangelists:  Matthew, Mark, Luke
  • Early bishops:  Timothy, Titus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Cyprian (for an African),  Cosmas & Damian, Basil, Athanasius, Augustine
  • Missionaries:  Francis Xavier, Cyril & Methodius (for an Eastern Catholic), Patrick (for an Irishman)
  • Theologians:  Jerome, Bonaventure, Albert, Thomas Aquinas, Dominic
  • Later bishops:  Francis de Sales, Charles Borromeo
  • Priests: Ignatius of Loyola, Vincent de Paul, John Bosco, John Vianney
  • And my #1 pick for the new pope--Francis.  He is the humble one, patron of ecology, lover of the poor, mendicant, preacher extraordinaire, mystic, artist of the creche, bearer of the stigmata, founder of a spirituality of peace which endures to today, most Christ-like saint.

You can bet that more than a few Cardinals right now all over the world are reviewing the list of popes, their names, their histories, and reflecting:  If the impossible happens, and I am elected, when the Cardinal Dean asks, "Quo nomine vis vocam?"  ("By what name do you wish to be called?"), what will I answer?

If you were elected pope, what name would you take?  Why?

A Pope Resigns, VI (Canonical Opinion)

There has been much speculation about some of the consequences regarding the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI on February 11 that he intends to step down from his responsibilities as "Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff."  What do we call an "ex-pope"?  Does he go back to being a Cardinal?  What, precisely, did he do in his announcement?  To whom did he send it?  

Bishop Thomas Paprocki is the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, and a noted canon lawyer (and civil attorney as well).  He offers his own "humble canonical" opinion about some of these questions.  I copied his notes from the blog of Dr. Pia de Solenni ( ). 

Since Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement last week, there has been much discussion about what to call a Pope who steps down from office. The confusion is understandable since a Pope has not left office alive for almost 600 years. It might even be said that a Pope has never stepped down quite under these circumstances in the 2,000 year history of the Church.

What seems to have been overlooked so far in these discussions is that the word “Pope” does not appear in the Code of Canon Law. Canon 331 defines the office held by the Pope: “The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the of­fice given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, first of the Apostles, and to be trans­mitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the uni­versal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is al­ways able to exercise freely.”

From this canon, we can draw several titles for the office held by a Pope: Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Vicar of Christ, and Pastor of the Universal Church. Other canons give us the title most commonly used for the Petrine office throughout the Code: “Roman Pontiff” (e.g., canons 330, 332, 333, 334, 337, 338, 341, 342, 343, 346, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 358, 361, 362, and 363). The title “Supreme Pontiff” is also used frequently in the Code (e.g., canons 340, 355, 360). The Code even eschews the popular and colloquial term “Papal Legate” when referring to the ecclesial diplomats who act as representatives of the Holy See, calling them officially “Legates of the Roman Pontiff” and “pontifical legates” (see canons 362-367).

Accordingly, Benedict did not use the word “Pope” anywhere in his spoken announcement or letter of resignation, in which he said that he would step down from “the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff . . .” As such, he used the titles for the office listed in canon 331 and 340. He signed that letter “BENEDICTUS PP. XVI,” which simply means that he is the sixteenth Pope by the name “Benedict.” That is a historical fact that will never change.

How then are we to understand the word “Pope?” It is an honorific, even a term of endearment (“Papa” in Italian). It is not the title of an ecclesiastical office. We make this distinction all the time. We still call a priest by the honorific “Father” even after he has resigned from the office of Pastor. Having lived in Italy for three and a half years when I was studying canon law, and having a sense of the culture, I have a feeling the Italians will continue to call Pope Benedict Papa Benedetto even after he leaves office as the Bishop of Rome. So I don’t think people will have a hard time wrapping their minds around having a Pope who is no longer the Roman Pontiff, Bishop of Rome, etc. Certainly, in direct address, one would never address him as anything but, “Your Holiness.”

Of course, it would be best to know what Pope Benedict himself wants to be called after February 28 and I hope he will tell us. We can get some idea of that from the name under which his books about Jesus of Nazareth have been published: “Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI.” In his forward to the first volume, he made it clear that “this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but solely an expression of my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (Cf. Ps 27:8).” So, writing in his personal capacity and not as Supreme Pontiff, he called himself, “Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI.”

Some have suggested that he should return to being “Cardinal Ratzinger.” That does not seem correct. If he had resigned before reaching the age of 80, after which a Cardinal may no longer vote in a papal conclave, I do not think he would have, should have or could have donned a red cassock and entered the conclave in the Sistine Chapel to vote for his successor.

Instead, at 8:00 PM Rome time on February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will have a new identity to which we will have to become accustomed: His Holiness, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, former Roman/Supreme Pontiff, Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

There has also been some discussion about whether Pope Benedict “renounced,” “resigned” or “abdicated” the office of Roman Pontiff. The official English translation of the Code of Canon Law translates “renuntiatio” in canon 332, §2 as “resignation.” (“If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his of­fice, it is required for validity that the resigna­tion is made freely and properly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.” In Latin: Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad va­liditatem requiritur ut re­nuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.”)

Accordingly, I believe “resign” is a more accurate translation in this context than “renounce” and certainly not “abdicate” (a term used by royalty when a monarch steps down from the throne). It does seem odd that someone could resign without submitting that resignation to anyone, so the canon specifically addresses that question by saying that for validity it is required that the resignation must be “made freely and properly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.”

Although “renounce” has been used even in the Holy See’s translation of his announcement and letter of resignation, I think that “renounce” is a literal but not necessarily accurate translation of “renuntio” in this context. Since the Pope wrote and spoke in Latin, it is a question of translation. Parallel passages in canon law regarding bishops and pastors stepping down from office use the word “renuntiatio,” but we never speak of a bishop sending in his letter of “renunciation” when he turns 75 or a pastor “renouncing” his office. So my interpretation as a canon lawyer is that “resignation” is the proper translation of “renuntiatio” in this context.

These observations are my humble canonical opinions and interpretations, so I willingly defer to more learned experts in these matters. Of course, this could all become moot if the Holy Father tells us clearly his wishes. In any event, I pray for Pope Benedict XVI during this time of transition and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the election of his successor.

Bishop Paprocki, a native of Chicago and former auxiliary bishop there, is a lifelong fan of hockey, and has played goalie for many years.  He thereby acquired the nickname "the holy goalie."  Here's a photo of him in a different uniform.

I find his opinions persuasive and sensible.  He doesn't mention the comparisons with our American experience of "ex-presidents" or other office-holders.  We don't seem to have any problem addressing Bill Clinton or the George Bushes as "Mr. President," even though they years ago left the office they served.   Similarly for mayors, governors and senators.

Let's see if others pick up on Bishop Paprocki's thoughts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Pope Resigns, V (The Candidates)

I learned a long time ago, when it comes to authority and bishops in the church, "dems that know ain't talkin', and dems that talk don't know."  

There is also the well-known saying of Italians, "The pope who enters the conclave, exits a cardinal." 

With the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI a week ago, the field for a new pope seems wide open.  He has not put his arm around any particular Cardinal.  The discussions among the Cardinals will include these questions:

What is the temperament of the candidate?  Can he (and his age) stand up to the strain of the ministry?  Does the candidate have the intellectual ability to teach at a papal level?  After two academics, do we want a pastor, or a evangelist, or manager of the unruly Vatican bureaucracy?  Can the candidate bring together various stripes of Catholics?  How well can the candidate relate to the decline of Catholicism in the West, and the growth of Catholicism in Africa and the  Southern Hemisphere?
With the caution that nobody really knows the thinking of 117 Cardinal electors, here are some names of prominent candidates who are being mentioned in news reports.  John Allen, the longtime Vatican reporter for National Catholic Reporter, is beginning a series of in-depth articles on papabile today.  Find his excellent reporting at , under "Benedict Resigns" section.  

In alphabetical order.

Marc Ouellet.  68, Canada.  Earned doctorate in theology from Gregorian University in Rome.  Served as professor in seminaries until named Archbishop of Quebec in 2002.  Appointed by Pope Benedict to Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in 2010.  

Gianfranco Ravasi.  70, Italy.  President of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2008.  Well known for charismatic personality, who relates well with young people.  Was a professor of Scripture in Milan.  This week he was chosen by Pope Benedict to give the annual Lenten retreat to the pope and all chief Vatican officials.

Leonardo Sandri.  69, Argentina. Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.  A lifelong papal diplomat, he is of Italian ancestry yet born in Buenos Aires.  Formerly third in command in the Secretariat for State.  

Angelo Scola.  71, Italy.  Holds doctorates in philosophy and theology.  Ordained a bishop at age 50.  Appointed Patriarch of Venice in 2002, and Archbishop of Milan in 2011.  Was president of the Italian Bishops Conference.  Known for open style.  Probably the most prominent and visible of the Italian Cardinals.  

Peter Turkson.  64, Ghana.  President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009.  Appointed a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003, the first ever for Ghana.  Studied in the U.S. prior to priesthood ordination.  Earned a doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  Named Archbishop of Cape Coast at age 44.  

Here are some media darlings.  I don't think that they have as much chance as the above mentioned Cardinals, but they relate well to the Vaticanistas, and so get the press.

In alphabetical order:

Timothy Dolan.  63, U.S.A.  Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Affible former rector of the North American College in Rome, and former Archbishop of Milwaukee.  Enjoys his beer and brats.

Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga.  70, Honduras.  Has doctorates in philosophy and theology.  Has been Archbishop of Tegucigalpa since 1993.  Has done many speaking engagements in U.S.  He has served as papal representative to the International Monetary Fund.  

Christoph Shonborn.  68, Austria.  Archbishop of Vienna.  Was principal writer of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Another intellectual heavyweight.

Luis Antonio Tagle.  55, The Phillipines.  Just elevated to College of Cardinals in November 2012, after appointed Archbishop of Manila.  Received his doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  Known as humble and caring for the poor.

Long shots.  These are just guesses of mine.

Odilo Scherer.  63, Brazil.  Archbishop of San Paulo, the largest diocese in the largest Catholic country.  Has Roman doctorate in theology, and served in Congregation of Bishops before returning to his home diocese.  Could be a compromise candidate from outside Italy.

Diarmuid Martin.  68, Ireland.  Archbishop of Dublin since 2004.   A Vatican bureaucrat, he worked in the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Peace and  Justice.  Was the Vatican's chief representative to the U.N. at Geneva for five years.  He has become known for addressing forcefully and thoroughly the clerical abuse scandal in Ireland.  He is not a Cardinal, and would be the first non-Cardinal elected pope since 1831.

A Pope Resigns, IV (Timing)

"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens."  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

"Timing is everything."  Anonymous

Why now?  Why did Pope Benedict XVI resign now, within two months of his 86th birthday (April 16), and within two months of the 8th anniversary of his election as pope (April 19)?  

Nobody knows.  As mentioned in a previous post, it has been revealed by media that Benedict fell and hit his head in the middle of the night, looking for the bathroom while on pilgrimage in Mexico last May.  And that he was exhausted after the trip, which also included a stop in Cuba.  And that sometime this winter, his doctor told him that he was too weak to consider any more trans-Atlantic flights (such as to Brazil for World Youth Days this summer).

His spokesperson has said that the pope is not terminally ill, and not with disease.  Father Lombardi takes the pope at his word, that age has made him weak and unable to carry out his duties as he wishes. I do too.

One report said that the pope was going to announce his resignation, and make it effective the next day.  But whomever he confided in said, no, that would be a bad idea.  Give the church, and the College of Cardinals, some time to digest the momentous decision.  Again, Father Lombardi said he did not know there was any particular significance to the date of resignation being Thursday, February 28.  He speculated that the pope thought this would be enough time for a new pope to be elected, celebrate his "Mass of installation into the Petrine Ministry," and celebrate the many liturgies of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and the Sacred Triduum.

In that light, there are reports going around that the College of Cardinals (which have not yet set a date for the beginning of the conclave) may use a generous interpretation of the rules.  Under rules set out by Pope John Paul II in 1996, a conclave is to commence between 15 and 20 days after the death (or resignation) of the reigning pope.  The presumption in this is that it could take six to nine days from the actual date of death of a pope, to his funeral Mass (as in the case with Pope John Paul II).  A literal interpretation of this would set the beginning of the conclave between March 15 and 20.  

But a looser interpretation could be that the Cardinals will have had 17 days to discuss (outside of Rome, mostly) from the announcement on the 11th to the effective date of resignation.  John Allen reported speculation that the Cardinals, gathered in their General Congregation on March 1st, will take a vote, to begin the conclave, say, on Sunday, March 10.  This would give them all week to elect a pope.  Also, in this thinking, the Cardinals would try to have the election concluded by, say, the 17th, the Feast of St. Joseph, which would be a celebratory day in the midst of Lent for an inaugural Mass.

Maybe Benedict will tell us more about the timing in his memoirs, if he chooses to write them in retirement.  Or maybe, he woke up one day, and said, This is It!

"Time will tell."  Dad, and philosophers everywhere.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Pope Resigns, III (Controversy)

You don't usually find astute commentary on the Catholic Church in the online magazine, "Slate."  But such was the case in a post by regular reporter William Saletan  two days ago.  The headlines make his point:  

"John Paul II Was a Hero for Serving to the End.  Benedict Is a Hero for Quitting.  Catholics who eulogized Pope John Paul II for serving to the bitter end now praise Pope Benedict for quitting.  Make up your minds."

Saletan did his homework.  Eight years ago the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this statement on the death of John Paul II.  "The elderly and infirm have been inspired by his indefatigable perseverance as his own physical limitations mounted."  On Tuesday Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, said of Benedict's announcement, "His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church."

From Saletan's reporting, Peggy Noonan said this in 2005, upon John Paul II's passing.  "He held on to life as if to show us what he had for so long told us--life is precious, love it, use it, pour yourself out.  Spend yourself."  Noonan continued, John Paul "reminds us it is crucial to see beauty in the old, the infirm, the imperfect....  He showed us this truth by presenting himself to the world each day as he was....  Repeatedly pressed to retire, to give himself some rest after his might labors, he refused.  He said, 'Christ didn't come down from the cross.'"

But now with Benedict Noonan takes a different view:  

"Benedict is old, 86 [sic; he only turns 86 on April 16, 2013], and for 24 years, as John Paul's Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was one of the few to see, up close and day by day, the price the Vatican as an institution paid for the otherworldly courage of John Paul, whose last few years were one long goodbye, and whose ability to administrate was diminished as he became physically disabled....And he is older than John Paul was when he died at 84.  Perhaps in Benedict's decision we are seeing not a witness to suffering but an act of self-sacrifice and humility that in its own way too is other-worldly."  

Saletan quotes other bloggers and commentators who try to reconcile the two popes's very different decisions.  I found most interesting the critique of Benedict's resignation by Ross Douthat of The New York Times.  Almost unique among the commentators on Benedict's decision, Douthat disagrees with the resignation.  He argues that popes should die in office for three reasons.  First, the pope is "a spiritual father more than a chief executive."  Second, he serves God, and "if God wants a new pope, He'll get one."  Third, "the church is still supposed to be the church even when its human leadership isn't at fighting trim."  


Douthat actually goes on to say Catholicism must even endure "leaders who are wrongheaded, incompetent, senile or corrupt."

As if we haven't already been enduring them over the centuries.

What we witness in most secular commentary on the Catholic Church in the U.S. is the reflex to judge its leaders according to the political axis of "liberal/conservative", with a dollop few who are moderates.  This is really wrong.  Doctrines are not up for grabs in the choice of a pope (or in the choice of a bishop for a particular diocese).  There are so many other, less theological, more attitudinal and practical, considerations at work.

And the one here which divides the honorable decisions of both John Paul II and Benedict is how you conceive of the papacy.  

John Paul II was quoted as saying, "Paternity cannot be resigned."  By that he primarily saw the papacy as a spiritual fatherhood (just like Douthat).  You cannot resign from paternity, from fatherhood, from spiritual leadership.  In this way, his vision of the church was equally (and almost completely) spiritual, otherworldly.  

Benedict's vision of church is more complex.  Certainly Benedict sees and knows that the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, embodied in its institutions and structures.  In this "both-and" perspective, the church is both spiritual and material, both of grace and within a world-wide institutional organization, both evangelical and on-the-ground.  If this is his vision of the church, so must his vision of the papacy be similarly understood.  Yes, the pope (Bishop of Rome; Supreme Pontiff; Servant of the Servants of God) must be a spiritual teacher and leader.  But at the very same time the pope must attend to the needs of that institutional structure--appointing bishops, deciding on the allocation of resources, leading the major liturgies of the liturgical year, directing the dicasteries of the Holy See, being the head of the Vatican City State.  

To carry out these all-too-human responsibilities, one must not only be breathing, but also full of energy, ability, and communication skills.

Interestingly, Benedict's vision has already been validated in past Vatican and local church decisions.  Most dioceses (at least in the U.S. and Canada) have clergy personnel policies that specify what skills and competencies are needed to be a pastor, dean, vicar, and chaplain.  They also deal with those delicate situations when a priest (by reason of disease, lack of mental health, moral turpitude, or shear incompetence) fails to carry out the primary spiritual and administrative duties of a particular office.

The Vatican decreed a generation ago that diocesan bishops were to submit their resignation by the age of 75, and earlier if ill health prevented them from carrying out their many duties.

Even the reform of the College of Cardinals issued by Pope Paul VI back in the 1960s said that Cardinals lose their power to vote in conclave as soon as they reach their 80th birthday.

With these sensible precedents, why should we surprised by Benedict's decision to retire at age 85?  Why should we be anything but thankful that he has the great good sense to recognize when he can't do the job God (and the 2005 conclave of Cardinals) has given him.   

I still remember my reaction the first time I heard that quote by John Paul II, "paternity cannot be resigned."  (Which, I learned this week, was first expressed by Pope Paul VI.)  My dad was in the nursing home at the time, unable to walk or to go to the bathroom because of a massive stroke he suffered in 1990 at the age of 69.  Yet he was alert and a joy to converse with.   I thought, Geez, Dad is and always will be my father.  I know that because of his stroke, he can't cut the grass around our home in Baldwin, or pay the bills, or change the oil in his Honda, or shovel the driveway of snow in winter.  But that doesn't take away his paternity.  What he can do and who he is are two different realities.   Didn't the pope with all his intelligence and wisdom understand that?
I think we have to consider that Benedict's decision is a quiet, subtle, yet real rejection of John Paul's vision of the papacy.  Not a rejection of John Paul's decision not to resign--that is a decision of conscience which I believe we have to honor and respect, and even in a certain sense admire.  But a rejection of the "spiritual only" vision of church office.  (I don't believe for a second this was the primary, or even secondary, reason why Benedict resigned, or that he would publicly articulate this rejection.) 

In an eight year papacy with its share of controversy, inept politics, successes in bringing some accountability to the world's bishops, and wonderfully mature sermons and encyclicals,  the final act of Benedict's term in office may be its most important one:  resignation from the office of leadership, when that leadership cannot be carried out adequately and humanly, for the good of the church.

A Pope Resigns, II (History)

It didn't take long after Pope Benedict revealed his intention to resign the papacy on Monday for church historians to find the historical precedents   He is certainly not the first to do so.  Father Tom Reese,  S.J., had this list up on the internet by mid-morning:

Historical evidence for papal resignations is limited, especially if one eliminates resignations that may have been forced.
  1. Clement I (92?-101): Epiphanius asserted that Clement gave up the pontificate to Linus for the sake of peace and became pope again after the death of Cletus.
  2. Pontian (230-235): Allegedly resigned after being exiled to the mines of Sardinia during persecution of Maximinus Thrax.
  3. Cyriacus: A fictional character created in the Middle Ages who supposedly received a heavenly command to resign.
  4. Marcellinus (296-304): Abdicated or was deposed after complying with Diocletian's order to offer sacrifice to pagan gods.
  5. Martin I (649-655): Exiled by Emperor Constans II to Crimea. Before he died, clergy of Rome elected a successor whom he appears to have approved.
  6. Benedict V (964): After one month in office, he accepted deposition by Emperor Otto I.
  7. Benedict IX (1032-45): Benedict resigned after selling the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI.
  8. Gregory VI (1045-46): Deposed for simony by Henry III.
  9. Celestine V (1294): A hermit, elected at age of 80 and overwhelmed by the office, resigned. He was imprisoned by his successor.
  10. Gregory XII (1406-15): Resigned at request of Council of Constance to help end the Great Western Schism.
Source: Patrick Granfield, "Papal Resignation" (The Jurist, winter and spring 1978) and J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986).
In Light of the World, (1910) Pope Benedict responded unambiguously to a question about whether a pope could resign: "Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."
On the other hand, he did not favor resignation simply because the burden of the papacy is great. "When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say someone else should do it."
The most "recent" of the resignations, by Pope Gregory XII, ended an 85 year period in which two, and sometimes three, men all claimed the office of Pope.  Not a very edifying century in the Catholic Church's history.  

Many have noted that Pope Celestine V, who resigned in 1294, is pictured by Dante in Hell for his act.  

What strikes me as you look at this list is that just about all the resignations were done for less than virtuous reasons.  Only the last one by Gregory XII, could be said to have had intention which served the church, not the man.
What is more fascinating to me is not the history, but the future.  By his resignation at age 85, Papa Ratzinger has effectively given "permission" to all future popes to do the same.  That is, he has freed his successors to determine if they have the energy, mental acuity and stamina to carry out the responsibilities of spiritually leading the 1.2 billion souls in the Catholic Church, as well as being a leading figure on the world stage.  
Benedict has also freed up the College of Cardinals, as they prepare to move into the Conclave in early March, to widen their search.  The 117 electors will not have to limit their thinking to the "sweet spot" of ages 68 to 72 (not too young, or else you get another 27 year reign such as with John Paul II; not too old, or else you lose the effectiveness of the man to must respond to the huge demands of our contemporary world).  If the Cardinals elect, say, a 63 year old, or even a 55 year old, such a new pope could in his mind say, I will give it everything I can, for as long as I can.  But he will also know that if his body gives out (or his mind; how many previous popes had Altzeimer's disease and their aides and doctors didn't know it?) he can -- for the good of the church -- resign and not leave the church leaderless.

A Pope Resigns

By now the whole earth knows about the surprising announcement by Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning (E.S.T.) that he is resigning as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church effective Thursday, February 28.  

Pope Benedict XVI, 2013

For the first time in almost 600 years a pope resigns.  In his brief notice (delivered in Latin, such that most of the Cardinals in attendance, at a consistory for new saints in the Vatican, did not understand the import of his words) he said that after repeated examinations of his conscience he had to step down because of his declining health.  He was not able, in his mind, to carry out his responsibilities as pope as he could or should.

Notable in his announcement is that the pope does not need any "acceptance" of his resignation.  By canon law, all that is required is that he be of sound mind and body (as he expressly stated), state that he is acting freely, that his resignation be in writing, and witnessed.  (Canon 322, #2)

Pope Benedict XVI, April 19, 2005

In words that have been repeated over and over, Benedict's announcement humbles me tremendously.  He has chosen to give up the "power" of his office, in striking contrast to politicians of every stripe and on every continent, who  fight to the end to maintain their position.  It is impossible to do anything other than take Benedict at his word:  that he values the church more than his role as leader of it. 

News reports after the Monday announcement have shed a little more light on his decision.  He was exhausted after his pilgrimage to Mexico and Cuba in April.  His doctor told him he was too weak to contemplate any more overseas flights (including a potential trip to Brazil for World Youth Day later in the year or to Philadelphia in 2015).   He had publicly contemplated such a resignation in a 2010 book-length interview with a German reporter.  And then there are his remarks to nursing home residents in November, as reported by Rocco Palmo on his "Whispers in the Loggia" blog:

I come to you as Bishop of Rome, but also as an old man visiting his peers. It would be superfluous to say that I am well acquainted with the difficulties, problems and limitations of this age and I know that for many these difficulties are more acute due to the economic crisis. At times, at a certain age, one may look back nostalgically at the time of our youth when we were fresh and planning for the future. Thus at times our gaze is veiled by sadness, seeing this phase of life as the time of sunset. This morning, addressing all the elderly in spirit, although I am aware of the difficulties that our age entails I would like to tell you with deep conviction: it is beautiful to be old! At every phase of life it is necessary to be able to discover the presence and blessing of the Lord and the riches they bring. We must never let ourselves be imprisoned by sorrow! We have received the gift of longevity. Living is beautiful even at our age, despite some “aches and pains” and a few limitations. In our faces may there always be the joy of feeling loved by God and not sadness. 
In the Bible longevity is considered a blessing of God; today this blessing is widespread and must be seen as a gift to appreciate and to make the most of. And yet frequently society dominated by the logic of efficiency and gain does not accept it as such: on the contrary it frequently rejects it, viewing the elderly as non-productive or useless. All too often we hear about the suffering of those who are marginalized, who live far from home or in loneliness. I think there should be greater commitment, starting with families and public institutions, to ensure that the elderly be able to stay in their own homes. The wisdom of life, of which we are bearers, is a great wealth. The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life. Those who make room for the elderly make room for life! Those who welcome the elderly welcome life! ... When life becomes frail, in the years of old age, it never loses its value and its dignity: each one of us, at any stage of life, is wanted and loved by God, each one is important and necessary. 
Dear friends, at our age we often experience the need of the help of others; and this also happens to the Pope. In the Gospel we read that Jesus told the Apostle Peter: “when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). The Lord was referring to the way in which the Apostle was to witness to his faith to the point of martyrdom, but this sentence makes us think about that fact that the need for help is a condition of the elderly. I would like to ask you to seek in this too a gift of the Lord, because being sustained and accompanied, feeling the affection of others is a grace! This is important in every stage of life: no one can live alone and without help; the human being is relational. And in this case I see, with pleasure, that all those who help and all those who are helped form one family, whose lifeblood is love. 
Dear elderly brothers and sisters, the days sometimes seem long and empty, with difficulties, few engagements and few meetings; never feel down at heart: you are a wealth for society, even in suffering and sickness. And this phase of life is also a gift for deepening the relationship with God.... Do not forget that one of the valuable resources you possess is the essential one of prayer: become interceders with God, praying with faith and with constancy. Pray for the Church, and pray for me, for the needs of the world, for the poor, so that there may be no more violence in the world. The prayers of the elderly can protect the world, helping it, perhaps more effectively than collective anxiety. Today I would like to entrust to your prayers the good of the Church and peace in the world. The Pope loves you and relies on all of you! May you feel beloved by God and know how to bring a ray of God’s love to this society of ours, often so individualistic and so efficiency-oriented. And God will always be with you and with all those who support you with their affection and their help.
All that I, or we he church, can do, is admire Benedict's bravery in tendering his resignation, and pray for good health as he approaches his 86th birthday in April, and a new chapter in his life, as a "retired pope."

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, circa 1995

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Bark of Peter (?)

This past Sunday, the Fifth in Ordinary Time (C), offered the story from the Gospel of Luke of Jesus asking Peter to "put out into the deep" and try again for fish, after striking out all night long.  Initially, Simon Peter resists, but then caves to Jesus's request.  And he and his business partners are rewarded with a boatload of fish, almost to the point of their boat capsizing.

About twenty-five years ago, during a drought in the Holy Land, some locals found the remains of a boat that emerged from the mud, as the Sea of Galilee receded   Radio carbon dating has determined it is from the first century A.D.  Some have called it "Peter's boat."  There is no evidence that it IS Peter's boat.  But it does give one a very good visual image of what the boats Peter, and his partners James and John, used in their fishing enterprise.

Being excavated, with the Sea of Galilee in the background.

Now in the  the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.

According to Wikipedia:

The Sea of Galilee Boat also known as the "Jesus Boat" was an ancient fishing boat from the 1st century CE (the time of Jesus Christ), discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The remains of the boat, 27 feet (8.27 meters) long, 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 meters), first appeared during a drought, when the waters of the Sea (actually a great fresh-water lake) receded. There is no evidence connecting the boat to Jesus or his disciples.

Ginosar BW 6.jpg
Ginosar BW 8.jpg
The remains of the boat were found by brothers Moshe and Yuval Lufan, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginnosar. The brothers were keen amateur archaeologists with an interest in discovering artifacts from Palestine's past. It had always been their hope to one day discover a boat in the Sea of Galilee, where they and generations of their family had fished. When drought reduced the water-level of the lake, the two brothers examined the newly exposed beach and stumbled across the remains of the boat buried in the shore.

The brothers reported their discovery to the authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to investigate. Realising that the remains of the boat were of tremendous historical importance to Jews and Christians alike, a secret archaeological dig followed, undertaken by members of Kibbutz Ginosar, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and numerous volunteers. Rumour spread that the boat was full of gold and the dig had to be guarded night and day. Excavating the boat from the mud without damaging it, quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again, was a difficult process which lasted 12 days and nights. The boat was then submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it could be displayed at the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.

Physical parameters

The boat's construction conforms to other boats constructed in that part of the Mediterranean during the period between 100 BC and AD 200. Constructed primarily of cedar planks joined together by pegged mortise and tenon joints and nails, the boat is shallow drafted with a flat bottom, allowing it to get very close to the shore while fishing. However, the boat is composed of ten different wood types, suggesting either a wood shortage or that the boat was made of scrap wood and had undergone extensive and repeated fixes. The boat was row-able, with four staggered rowers, and also had a mast allowing the fisherman to sail the boat.

Dating the boat
The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radiocarbon dating,  and 50 BC to AD 50 based on pottery (including a cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, as well as hull construction techniques. The evidence of repeated repairs shows the boat was used for several decades, perhaps nearly a century. When its fishermen owners thought it was beyond repair, they removed all useful wooden parts and the hull eventually sank to the bottom of the lake. There it was covered with mud which prevented bacterial decomposition.

[edit]Historical importance

The Sea of Galilee Boat is historically important to Jews as an example of the type of boat used by their ancestors in the 1st century for both fishing and transportation across the lake. Previously only references made by Roman authors, the Bible and mosaics had provided archaeologists insight into the construction of these types of vessels.  The boat is also important to Christians because this was the sort of boat used by Jesus and his disciples, several of whom were fishermen.  Boats such as this played a large role in Jesus' life and ministry, and are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels, though there is no evidence connecting the Sea of Galilee Boat itself to Jesus or his disciples.

It's nice to have this image of the boat, as we hear the Gospel story.