Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coming to America

Much has been made of B16's as-yet-unscheduled trip to the UN (likely in fall '08). Yet, in his first major foreign swing as the Pope's top aide, next month will see the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB heading to, of all places, Nashville.

Announced in late June, the purpose of the unusual visit in the dead of Roman summer is to convey the papal solicitude to the 125th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, which meets at the country capital's Opryland from 7-9 August. Always a megawatt event on the global Catholic calendar given the KofC's considerable manpower and support of innumerable church initiatives, the unprecedented addition of the Vatican's prime minister to its roster has shot the annual gathering into an even greater stratosphere. The order counts 1.7 million members worldwide, with its largest concentrations in the States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Poland.

Bertone will celebrate the convention's opening liturgy on the 7th, carrying with him a special message from the Pope. The 72 year-old cardinal will also receive the Knights' Gaudium et Spes award.

While the last-minute addition of the SegStat highlights the solid link between the Knights and the Holy See, it also reflects mightily on the Vatican's personal regard for the Order's head. More active in the Roman Curia than most of the American Cardinals, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson serves as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and a consultor to the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, the Family, and Social Communications.

Especially in light of its 125th anniversary, an added emphasis has come to the fore on the cause for canonization of the Knights' founder, Fr Michael McGivney. An investigation into a reported healing attributed to McGivney's intercession, deemed miraculous by a local panel in the archdiocese of Hartford, was forwarded to the Holy See in 2004, its response still to be given.

As the Holy See's chief diplomat, Bertone will likely return to the States to deliver the Vatican's major address for the peak week of the UN General Assembly in early autumn. Whether he maintains the Secretariat of State's traditional patronage of Le Cirque, however, remains to be seen.