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Archive for April 15th, 2008

Today is Pope Benedict’s 81st birthday. Please remember him in your prayers in a special way today.


Ad multos annos!*


*A traditional birthday greeting, translated loosely as “May you live many more years!”

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Shepherd One, the Holy Father’s plane, landed at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland shortly before 4:00 p.m. EDT today (April 15). The cockpit of the plane was decorated with U.S. and papal flags waving in a strong breeze. The Holy Father disembarked with a huge smile and waves about ten minutes after the hour.

The Holy Father was met by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush and Church dignitaries, including the President and Vice President of the USCCB, the Apostolic Nuncio, and the Archbishops of Washington and of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. A colorguard representing each of the military services welcomed the Holy Father. President and Mrs. Bush were accompanied by their daughter, Jenna.

The Holy Father exchanged greetings with the welcoming party, but no public statements were made. The Holy Father then traveled by motorcade to the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio where he will spend the night.

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The Papal Coat of Arms

For at least 800 years, each pope has had a personal coat of arms. Pope Benedict XVI’s coat of arms was created by Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo. It includes many symbols that speak of his understanding of his ministry as Pope, including a miter and a pallium. The miter has three gold stripes to symbolize order, jurisdiction and magisterium. A vertical gold band connects the three stripes in the middle “to indicate their unity in the same person,” Archbishop Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said.

Other symbols in the coat of arms include the Holy See’s insignia of two crossed keys, which symbolize the powers Christ gave to the apostle Peter and his successors. The gold key on the right represents the power in heaven and the silver key on the left indicates the spiritual authority of the papacy on earth. The cord that unites the two keys alludes to the bond between the two powers. Nestled on top of the keys lies the shield of Pope Benedict, based on his coat of arms as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany.

The shield is divided into three sections, each with its own symbol. The central element on a red background is a large gold shell. The shell recalls a legend in which Saint Augustine came across a boy on the seashore who was scooping water from the sea and pouring it into a small hole he had dug in the sand. When the saint pondered this seemingly futile activity, it struck him as analogous to limited human minds trying to understand the infinite mystery of the divine. In addition, the shell symbolizes the pilgrim. It is also present in the coat of arms of the Schotten monastery in Regensburg, Germany. The Holy Father is close to this monastery.

The upper left-hand section of the shield depicts a brown-faced Moor with red lips, crown and collar; it is a symbol of the former Diocese of Freising dating back to the eighth century. Though it is not known why the Moor came to represent Freising, in Milestones, the pope said for him “it is an expression of the universality of the church which knows no distinctions of race or class since all are one in Christ.”

Finally, a brown bear loaded with a pack on his back lumbers up the upper right-hand section of the shield. The bear is tied to an old Bavarian legend about the first bishop and patron saint of the Diocese of Freising, Saint Corbinian. According to the legend, when the saint was on his way to Rome, a bear attacked and killed his horse. Saint Corbinian punished the bear by making him carry the saint’s belongings the rest of the way to Rome.

Source: From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI, 2005 USCCB.

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The Holy Father’s delegation on his trip to the United States is scheduled to include five Americans who currently work in the Vatican.

Cardinal Wiliam J. Levada is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was named to this post by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2005. He was named a cardinal in February 2006. Prior to becoming Prefect, Cardinal Levada served as Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles (1983-1986), Archbishop of Portland (1986-1995), and Archbishop of San Francisco (1995-2005).

Cardinal James F. Stafford is the Major Penitentiary. He became a cardinal in 1998 and was named to his current post in 2003. From 1996 to 2003, he was President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Before he left the United States to serve in Rome, he was Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore (1976-1982), Bishop of Memphis (1982-1986), and Archbishop of Denver (1986-2003).

Archbishop James. M. Harvey is Prefect of the Papal Household. Among other things, he is responsible for the Pope’s schedule and for arranging audiences. Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, he has served in his present role since 1998.

Monsignor Peter B. Wells is the head of the English-language section in the Vatican Secretariat of State. A priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, he previously served in Nigeria as part of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

Monsignor William V. Millea works in the English section of the Secretariat of State. In addition, he works for the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. He is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

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If you are attending one of the papal visit events, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Read any instructions received with your ticket very carefully and follow them exactly.
  • Make sure you have government-issued photo identification with you.
  • Allow extra time to get from place to place and bring plenty of patience.
  • If you are attending the Mass at Nationals Park or the Mass at Yankee Stadium, gather the religious articles that you would like to have blessed by the Holy Father.
  • Prepare for your journey with prayer and reflection.
  • After the visit, share your experience with people in your parish and diocese.  You can also share your experience in the comments on this blog.

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