Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Papal Farewell for L'Abbe

In token of the fame and reputation of Abbe Pierre, no less than Pope Benedict has flouted the usual rules of Vatican protocol to send a telegram of condolence at his death.

Papal cables are usually sent only for the deaths of bishops, cardinals, heads of state, and clerics who've been murdered. Given some of the Abbe's more unconventional pronouncements, the Holy See's condolences -- signed by the Secretary of State -- are especially worthy of note.

Here's the English translation of the telegram to Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, as translated in the daily summary of the VIS:
"Informed of the death of Abbe Pierre, the Holy Father gives thanks for his activity in favor of the poorest, by which he bore witness to the charity that comes from Christ. Entrusting to divine mercy this priest whose whole life was dedicated to fighting poverty, he asks the Lord to welcome him into the peace of His kingdom. By way of comfort and hope, His Holiness sends you a heartfelt apostolic blessing, which he extends to the family of the departed, to members of the communities of Emmaus, and to everyone gathering for the funeral."
In Geneva, fans of the late cleric queued to sign a condolence book at the Emmaus outpost there.

A day of "national homage" has been declared to mark the Abbe's Friday funeral at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral, which'll be attended by President Chirac and other government leaders. The last Frenchman to receive such a tribute was the explorer Jacques Cousteau at his death a decade ago.

AP/Salvatore de Nolfi