Category Archives: Papal History

#253 – Traveling With Angels

During his papacy, Pope John Paul II made several visits to the United States. Needless to say, getting everything ready for the Pope’s plane travel was a lot of work but as one TWA employed attested, “it was a labor of love.”

Photos of the air travel of Pope John Paul II on his visits to the United States
Personal accounts by TWA employees of their time with the Holy Father can be found here and here.
Photo of the exhibit at Strawberry Hill Museum including the Pope’s bed.

Photo of Pope John Paul II in front of plane by Ted Koston. Copyright Kosten Photography. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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podcasticon#253 – Traveling With Angels


#250 – Papal Zouaves, Part II

The increasing threat to the Papal States by the Kingdom of Italy will lead to new calls for Catholics to come to the aid of Pius IX. Catholic in Canada respond eagerly. Catholics in the United States are much more hesitant.

Canadian and American Zouaves in the Papal Army, 1868-1870 by Howard R. Marraro, PhD
Last Crusade by Dr. John C. Rao
The Pope’s Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican by Charles A. Coulombe

Image of Canadian Zouaves leaving for the Papal States.

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#249 – Papal Zouaves, Part I

In 1860, faced with threats of Italian nationalism, the Pope appealed for help. Thousands of Catholics traveled to Rome to protect Pius IX and to give their lives for their faith.

The Vatican Rifles

The Pope’s Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican by Charles A. Coulombe

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Today in Catholic History – Henry VIII is declared the Defender of the Faith

On 17 October 1521, Pope Leo X declared King Henry VIII the Fidei Defensor or Defender of the Faith. This title was given to honor Henry for his book Defense of the Seven Sacraments which attacked the theology of Martin Luther and was dedicated to Leo. This title was added to the full royal title of Henry as “Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith and Lord of Ireland”.

After Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry and rescinded the grant of the title “Defender of the Faith” in 1538 but the English Parliament declared that the title remained valid.

Henry’s book was very popular and went through twenty editions in the sixteenth century.

Today in Catholic History – Pope Urban V returns to Rome

On 16 October 1367, Pope Urban V returned the see of the papacy from Avignon to Rome.

Urban had been urged to return to Rome by Petrarch and St. Bridget of Sweden, but he also hoped that a return to Rome would help restore the status of the Papal States. His decision to leave Avignon met with great opposition from the French cardinals who feared the loss of their influence as well as the departure from one of the richest cities of Europe to one that had fallen on very hard times.

When Urban returned to Rome, he was met with great hopes and expectations from the Roman people and quickly began work on restoring the condition of the city. However, Urban ran into conflicts with Roman citizens who found their independence had been somewhat curtailed by the newly arrived pontiff who wished to exercise a much stronger control over the city. Poor conditions in the city combined with continued complaints from the French cardinals and revolts in the Papal States persuaded Urban to leave Rome for a return to Avignon on 5 September 1370. This was despite a warning from St. Bridget that Urban would die if he returned to Avignon. On 19th of December, about three months after returning to Avignon, Urban died and was succeeded by Gregory XI who would permanently return the see of Peter to Rome.

Today in Catholic History – The Papal Conclave of 1978

On 14 October 1978, the conclave which would elect Cardinal Karol Wojtyła as pope to succeed Pope John Paul I began. It would last until 16 October 1978.

Pope John Paul I died on 28 September quite unexpectedly. While Wojtyła was not initially seen as a likely candidate for the papacy, but neither of the two initial names put forward – Giuseppe Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, and Giovanni Benelli, Archbishop of Florence, were able to get the sufficient two-thirds plus one for election. Cardinal Franz König of Vienna suggested Wojtyła as a compromise. When he was elected, Wojtyła, taking the name John Paul II, said, “With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.” He was the first non-Italian pope since 1523.

Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to visit the White House

On 6 October 1979, Pope John Paul became the first pope to visit the White House when he met with President Jimmy Carter. The Pope and President met privately for about an hour where they discussed the importance of human rights as the “compelling idea of our times”.

Pope John Paul II and President Carter discussed many issues and President Carter particularly wanted the pope to speak about the situation in Israel. For his part, Pope John Paul II asked the president to work to safeguard human rights, dignity and peace in the world. Pope John Paul II gave a silver sculpture with the words “Peace Unto Thee” to the president but a parchment copy of his first encyclical letter to the President’s mother, Lillian.

Photo of the meeting between President Carter and Pope John Paul II and President Carter’s notes about the meeting.

Today in Catholic History – The Institution of the Gregorian Calendar

On 4 October 1582, the Gregorian Calendar reform took effect and the next day was 15 October 1582.

Pope Gregory XIII in his bull Inter Gravisimus on 24 February 1582 issued his decision to implement a calendar reform. He wanted a calendar that was more scientifically accurate and which placed the celebration of Easter more closely to the vernal equinox from which it had been drifting ever since the Council of Nicea in 325.

The decision to implement the new calendar on October 4 was because there were not as many days dedicated to saints in the period between the 4th and the 15th. Those saints whose days were skipped were celebrated after the 15th.

While most of the Catholic Countries adopted the new calendar, many Protestants objected believing that to accept the Gregorian calendar would be akin to accepting the authority of the papacy. Protestant countries would later use the calculations of Kepler to justify their change to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is still not accepted by many Orthodox Christians who continue to use the Julian calendar.

Today in Catholic History – Universalis Ecclesiae

On 29 September 1850, Pope Pius IX re-established the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in Britain with the bull Universalis Ecclesiae.

Ever since the death of the last Roman Catholic bishop during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Catholic hierarchy had gone underground and been replaced by Apostolic Vicars. With Universalis Ecclesiae, thirteen dioceses were established under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Westminister.

The new bishops in England did not occupy the traditional dioceses which had been taken over by the Anglican church but rather new dioceses were created. So, there was no Archbishop of Canterbury but rather the Archbishop of Westminster. However, the Archbishop of Westminster was seen as the successor of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In Scotland, where the established church did not have an episcopate, the earlier dioceses were re-established.

Today in Catholic History – The Obelisk before St. Peter’s is blessed

On 28 September 1586, the obelisk known as “The Witness” was blessed in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The obelisk, originally taken from Rome and erected at the Circus of Nero in 37 AD, was the second largest standing obelisk at 130 ft including the base and the cross and weighing 330 tons. Pope Sixtus V wanted the obelisk moved and so arranged a competition among three hundred architects, engineers and others. Domenico Fontana won the competition and spent seven months gathering supplies and building a ramp and on April 30, the project of transporting the obelisk began with 907 men, 70 winches and 145 horses. However, as the obelisk was being raised disaster almost struck when the ropes holding the obelisk started smoking from the friction. A voice cried out “Acqua alle funi!” or “Water the ropes!. Fontana followed the advice and the daylong process of raising the obelisk and lowering onto the platform for moving was completed successfully.

The man who cried out was a sailor from Bordighera and in gratitude Pope Sixtus granted Bordighera the perpetual privilege of providing the palms to St Peter’s for Palm Sunday.

Due to the summer heat of Rome, the obelisk remained on its side and on the morning of September 10th the obelisk was raised in St. Peter’s square. Domenico Fontana was made Cavalier della Guglia – or Knight of the Obelisk. On the 28th the scaffolding of the obelisk was removed and Pope Sixtus blessed the obelisk.

It is said that Fontana had horses prepared for a quick escape should the transport have failed.