Saturday, April 22, 2006

Easter Joy, Easter Sadness

Word's come via the nation's capital that Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the recently-retired apostolic nuncio to Washington, has been hospitalized in Rome with the final stages of lung cancer. He is in critical condition.

Montalvo, 76, served as the Holy See's representative to the United States from 1999 until his retirement last December. Before his appointment to the diplomatic plum of Washington, the archbishop guided the next generation of the San Damaso corps as president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy -- known universally as the Accademia -- where promising clerics from around the world are prepared for careers in the church's vaunted diplomatic service, which is currently present in 195 countries and widely sought as an interstate arbiter.

Late last year, after reaching the age limit as set in canon law, Montalvo became the first US representative to retire from the post, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi was named to succeed him. The Colombian-born archbishop chose to retire to Rome, where friends who saw him during last month's consistory celebrations were concerned at his appearance, saying that he looked notably ill at the time. Montalvo has long been known for his affinity for hand-rolled cigarettes.

Ordained to the episcopacy in 1974, Archbishop Montalvo served the Holy See as its chief of mission in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Yugoslavia and Belarus before being named to head the Accademia in 1993. In the United States, he presided over a return to native-son appointments to dioceses -- an option his two predecessors shirked. The "Montalvo bishops" were by and large younger than those appointed by any nuncio since the controversial Jean Jadot in the 1970s and, in the aftermath of the abuse revelations which rocked the American church, Montalvo's shortlists signalled a marked departure from the traditional path of naming high chancery officials to the episcopacy.

Also from DC, one of the city's most prominent religious priests died earlier today. Bernard Dooley, SJ, whose work went a long way toward the renaissance of the District's Gonzaga College High School, suffered a massive heart attack while enjoying one of his beloved rounds of golf. Dooley, who served as Gonzaga's president for 17 years, was long a trusted and widely-admired leader in the city's Catholic circles and beyond, so much so that Gonzaga's main building -- which had been dedicated by Baltimore's James Cardinal Gibbons in 1912 -- was renamed in Dooley's honor.

Gonzaga, founded in 1821, has been called Washington's "premier Catholic high school" by no less than the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.