Dr. Haas Completes Successful Trip to Rome, Meets Pope Francis
Dr. Haas serves on the Directive Council of the Pontifical Academy for Life and had to be in Rome for its meeting on Friday, September 27. He took advantage of being there to follow up on a number of projects of the NCBC in its service to the Holy See and the Church. As a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care to Health Workers, he met with its President, Archbishop Zymunt Zimowksi, to discuss some of their projects.
Dr. Anthony Tersigni, President and CEO of Ascension Health and a member of the NCBC board, was appointed by Archbishop Zimowski to head the International Association of Catholic Hospitals. Dr. Tersigni will be addressing the assembly of the Council that meets in November.
Dr. Haas with Archbishop Zimowski
Dr. Haas also managed a visit to the Bioethics Center at the Gemelli Hospital of the Sacred Heart University. The Bioethics Center was founded by Cardinal Elio Sgreccia and is now headed by Dr. Antonio Spagnolo, a physican who works at the Gemelli. Dr. Haas was able to deliver a number of volumes of Cardinal Sgreccia’s Personalist Bioethics which was translated and published by the NCBC. The English translation of Cardinal Sgreccia’s book by the Center’s John Di Camillo and Michael Miller is in heavy demand for course work there in bioethics as well as at the Regina Apostolorum. Dr. Spagnolo, President of the Bioethics Center, is also Chairman of the Board of the International Federation of Bioethics Institutes and Centers of Personalist Inspiration (FIBIP). Dr. Haas also serves on that board and helped plan and to raise money for its most recent conference held in Havana, Cuba.
While at the Vatican, Dr. Haas also met with members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including Archbishop Luis Ladaria, S.J., its Secretary, about a number of issues. After the meeting, Cardinal Sgreccia graciously invited Dr. Haas to lunch to discuss further distribution of the English language edition of book. That evening Dr. Haas was privileged to have dinner with several moralists from the Santa Croce University, including Father Pau who had served for a number of months at the NCBC.
Friday morning was the meeting of the Directive Council of the Pontifical Academy for Life which met at the headquarters of the Academy at the end of the Via Concilizione down from the Vatican and beside the Tiber River. A number of issues were addressed including the admission of new members and the planning of future conferences. There are eight members of the Council which meets under the direction of the President of the Academy, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco, a Spanish physician, moral theologian, and former university rector. At 11:30 the meeting was adjourned so that the Governing Council could meet with Pope Francis.
Dr. Haas enjoys lunch with Cardinal Sgreccia
Dr. Haas described the meeting below:
“I thought perhaps we would meet with the Holy Father in the Domus Sanctae Martae, the Vatican ‘hotel’ which is used for guests on official business – and to house the Cardinals during a conclave! I had seen the Holy Father in the Domus where he has chosen to live. He would casually come in for breakfast with guests – and leave just as causally! However, I must say that the atmosphere in the Domus is no longer so casual as it used to be since the Pope has taken up residence there. Barricades are now in front of the building with two Vatican police officers at their posts. After passing between them, one makes one’s way between two Swiss Guards standing at the door of the hotel; and plainclothes policemen are a new feature in lobby! But at least the Holy Father is closer to the people as he has said he wants to be.
In any event, we were told to report to the apostolic palace, not the Domus, for the meeting. We passed by Swiss Guards standing at attention with their halberds, we climbed vast stair cases, crossed a large sun-lit piazza, entered another large building, mounted more stairs, and walked through one palatial room after another, a couple with papal thrones. I thought to myself, ‘Well, Francis may want to live simply, but he is the pope.’ Every time we were taken into an ornate room and told to wait I thought it would be the room for the audience. But then we would be fetched and taken to another room. Finally we were ushered into a large room by Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the head of the papal household who had faithfully served Pope Benedict and continues his service to the Vatican.
Dr. Haas with the Head of The Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein
Dr. Haas and the rest of the Governing Council prepare to meet the Pope
Awaiting the Pope
I have not received my copies of the photos from our meeting just yet, but you can see the digital proofs from the Vatican below:
Dr. Haas meets His Holiness, Pope Francis, for the first time.
Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of the Vatican Photography Service
Que Poco!Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of the Vatican Photography Service
Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of the Vatican Photography Service
Soon, the lighthearted nature of Francis turned serious and sober as he spoke to us about our work. He said we would have to struggle against the current. ‘In fact’, he said, ‘you will spend the rest of your lives working against the current.’ He told us to remember that every step forward we were able to make, the forces of the Culture of Death would also take a step forward. He said there was a death penalty abroad in the world, taking many forms; abortion, capital punishment, warfare. He said we had to struggle against it to bring about a Culture of Life. He spoke softly, looking down, and he chose his words carefully and deliberately. When he finished, he gave each of us a rosary and then bestowed on us his blessing to carry on the struggle.
As we left the room, I encountered Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who was to be received next by the Holy Father. He greeted me warmly, and we reminisced briefly about his having addressed the bishops gathered at our Workshop in Dallas in February. We all returned to the tasks of the Council and the Pontifical Academy for Life greatly encouraged! And I was personally most gratified at the critical role the NCBC is privileged play in the life of the Church.”
That same afternoon Dr. Haas was interviewed by EWTN for a television program the network was preparing on the Pontifical Academy for Life. He did one interview in English and then one in German. He was then interviewed by Catholic News Agency (CNA) about the work of the Academy. As with all of his trips to Rome, every minute was filled with meetings and activities on behalf of The National Catholic Bioethics Center and its service to the Church.
If you wish to see the full slideshow of the visit of Dr. Haas and the rest of the Governing Council, you may do so by visiting the Vatican Photography Service website and scrolling to page 10, HERE.