Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Pope's "Stewards"

Speaking of the John Krol legacy, one of its more prominent fruits is back in the Roman spotlight this week as the trustees and members of the Papal Foundation undertake their annual pilgrimage to the Eternal City.

Established by Krol shortly after the late Pharaoh's 1988 retirement, the Philly-based foundation aids the Holy See in its ability to lend a hand to worthy ecclesial projects (e.g. churches, seminaries, schools and hospitals) in struggling local churches, with a particular focus on the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Its grants are decided on the basis of requests sent to the Vatican and green-lighted by the Pope, which are then forwarded to the foundation by the Secretariat of State.

Dubbed the "Stewards of St Peter," the group's members -- price of admission: $1 million... eternal reward: priceless -- converge for the weeklong pilgrimage led by its two-tiered board, the top half of which is comprised of all the US' resident cardinals as ex officio members. Like his predecessor, the foundation is the prime work of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua's retirement; he chairs it, and Washington's archbishop-emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick serves as its president.

The ecclesiastical fund-raiser of the epoch, it's become part of his rainmaking legend that McCarrick -- who was instrumental in the effort's beginnings -- once scored a cool $15 million for it... in one night. With an eye to the next generation of what, at last year's pilgrimage-capping audience, no less than B16 himself lauded as "the help you give me in carrying out my mission to care for Christ’s flock in every corner of the world," the board recently welcomed to its number Bishops Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston and Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, native Philadelphians both.

This year's Foundation Week happily coincided with the Pontifical North American College's annual Rector's Dinner earlier tonight. As the Holy See's top American was honored and cardinals curial and otherwise made their much-heralded "grand entrance," word swirled that... well, let's just say word swirled.