Friday, April 17, 2009

"Thank You"... and Nothing More

At the close of Wednesday's General Audience, the Pope received New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson... but not for a repeat airing of the "Pelosi treatment."

Presented by his ordinary, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, B16 met the pro-choice Catholic Democrat to acknowledge his recent signing of a ban on capital punishment -- a move the former Cabinet member and UN ambassador termed "the most difficult decision in my political life."

The bacimano preceded an evening ceremony arranged by the Sant'Egidio Community at which the Colosseum was lit up in tribute to the moratorium's passage:
Richardson, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, led a state delegation to Rome for the evening lighting ceremony, which was sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic group whose activities include a world-wide campaign against capital punishment.

Earlier in the day, Richardson attended Benedict's weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square, where he was seated in the front row of spectators, along with Sheehan.

Following the audience, Sheehan introduced the governor to the pope, saying "Holy Father, this is our governor and he just repealed the death penalty," to which the pope "nodded very happily in agreement," the archbishop later told reporters.

According to Catholic News Service, Richardson asked Benedict to bless a silver olive branch, a gift from Sant'Egidio honoring his decision last month to sign the state law repealing the death penalty.

A spokesman for Richardson told the Reuters news agency that the governor and the pope spoke for "several minutes," and discussed the death penalty "among other issues."

There were no reports that either of the men mentioned legalized abortion or embryonic stem-cell research, both of which the church forbids and Richardson supports.
The governor was the second high-profile guest Sheehan's brought to Rome in recent months.

In late 2007, the archbishop looked on as New Mexico's former Episcopal bishop, Jeffrey Steenson, formally "swam the Tiber" in the Eternal City, making his profession of faith in the Basilica of St Mary Major.

In February, Sheehan ordained Steenson -- a married father of three -- to the Catholic priesthood back in the "Land of Enchantment." After a summer assignment in a parish, the bishop-turned-priest will head to Houston, where he'll teach at the University of St Thomas and St Mary's Seminary.

PHOTO: Reuters