‘Portable Vatican’ – Pontiff brings it with him when he leaves for U.S.
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – When Pope Benedict XVI comes to the United States in mid-April, he won't exactly be leaving the Vatican behind.
Traveling with the pope is a 30-man entourage of Roman Curia officials, liturgical advisers, doctors, media experts and security personnel, all of whom have highly specialized assignments.
This "portable Vatican" has accompanied popes since Pope Paul VI first hopped on a plane in 1964. They represent the Vatican's interface with the host country, and at the same time keep the pope in touch with the Vatican and the world.
Some are Vatican frequent flyers, having traveled the globe with popes over the last 30 years. Others are making their first trip on Pope Benedict's "Volo Papale" (papal flight) to Washington and New York.
Key Vatican officials include Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and his assistant, Archbishop Fernando Filoni. Both will stay in close contact with the Vatican and its diplomatic network throughout the papal visit.
Five Americans are traveling with the pope, including Cardinal William J. Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal F. James Stafford, head of the Vatican office that deals with penitential issues.
Archbishop James M. Harvey, a Milwaukee native who serves as prefect of the papal household, also will make the trip. His Vatican job involves overseeing the pope's daily schedule of audiences and meetings; he is a familiar figure at papal altars, too.
Two others round out the U.S. contingent: Msgr. Peter B. Wells, a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla., who heads the English-language section of the Vatican's Secretariat of State, and Msgr. William V. Millea, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., and another official of the Secretariat of State who also works for the Vatican's liturgy office.
One thing is clear: On his first trip to an Anglophone country, Pope Benedict will have plenty of people with him who speak the language.
While English may not be their forte, other major players on the papal roster know the pope, his habits and his needs. They include:
- Msgr. Guido Marini, the pope's new master of liturgical ceremonies. Along with Msgr. Millea, he's made a preparatory visit to Mass sites in Washington and New York and has gone over the liturgical details with a fine-toothed comb.
- Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the pope's personal secretary. The sandy-haired German is usually at the pope's side, even when he rides in his popemobile.
- Alberto Gasbarri, the chief papal trip organizer. A tall man who never seems frazzled, he's on the playing field from start to finish, making sure the best-laid plans unfold without too many surprises. Gasbarri is the Vatican's chief liaison with local church planners, and as a longtime veteran of papal travels, he knows the drill better than anyone.
- Domenico Giani, director of Vatican security. Along with four Vatican policemen and two Swiss Guards, Giani coordinates the close-to-the-pope protection during papal trips. They're the ones who, dressed in suits and ties, surround the pope when he's entering or leaving a venue.
- Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Although Father Lombardi has gone on record as saying the pope doesn't really need a spokesman, the soft-spoken Jesuit has occasionally found himself explaining or fine-tuning papal remarks to reporters – most notably after the pope's speech in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006. For the most part, Father Lombardi prefers to let the pope hold the spotlight and to let the pope's words speak for themselves.
- Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, the pope's Italian doctor. As personal physician to Pope John Paul II, Buzzonetti knows the health hazards of papal travel and how to avoid them. The white-haired doc with the black bag can be seen on the sidelines of papal events, observing carefully. He's assisted by another doctor from the Vatican's health services.
- Francesco Sforza, the Vatican's main photographer. A young man who took the place of the legendary Arturo Mari, he's a slim figure in a black suit who generally stays within 20 feet of the pope, snapping away and making the most of his unparalleled access.
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