Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Seeing Red. Finally.

"Our day will come... and we'll have everything."

The locals have been singing that for a long time... and, well, here it is.

He may not be its ordinary but, for not a few in the town he loves more than Rome, John Patrick Foley is Philadelphia's archbishop.

And this morning, as first reported here ten days back and in the current edition of The Tablet, the church's own Phillie Phanatic was named Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. As the "Pro" part owes itself to the tradition that the Grand Master (senza il "Pro") enjoys membership in the College of Cardinals, the years of anticipation for a consistory pilgrimage en masse to see Foley receive the red hat are, at long last, within striking distance of their fruition.

All of a sudden, the impending milestone of the Phils' 10,000th defeat -- which, Philly being Philly, has become cause for local pride -- doesn't feel so bad.

Head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications since 1984, the 71 year-old alumnus of St Charles Borromeo Seminary and Columbia University's School of Journalism, where he earned his master's, was the longest-serving head of a Roman dicastery until this morning's appointment. As also reported here last week, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, secretary of the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and one of the Holy See's top experts on China, was named to succeed Foley at the Curial organ whose brief includes the church's engagement with (and commentary on) the world of mass media.

The Roman Curia's longest-standing vacancy -- that of the PCCS' secretary, open since February 2005 -- was not filled in this morning's changes.

Affectionately described as a "goober" for his folksy manner, Foley -- a teetotaler who recently outed himself as a "chocoholic" in a speech to executives of Nestlé -- will be the first non-European to head the order of chivalry first recognized by the Holy See in 1113. Born in the suburbs of Delaware county just over the city line, he was ordained for the archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962, served for many years as a seminary professor, editor of the Catholic Standard & Times, and was the chief media liaison for Pope John Paul II's first US trip in 1979 before heading to Rome.

In leapfrogging Foley to the front of the line for the cardinalate, Benedict XVI -- who was elevated to the College thirty years ago today -- rights another perceived elision of his predecessor's pontificate. Toward the end of his reign, John Paul II was pressed by several senior hierarchs to give the American archbishop his due for his long and diligent service. Though the late pontiff promised to do so, he never carried it out.

"Remember," Foley's mentor told the young priest on sending him to Columbia J, "you're a priest who just happens to be a journalist -- not a journalist who just happens to say Mass."

And somewhere up there, in that extra-deluxe section of the Heavenly Kingdom reserved for the Pharaohs of Philadelphia, John Krol is smiling... forty years and a day after receiving his own red hat at the hands of Pope Paul VI.