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Friday, November 21, 2014

Dr. Haas Reports from Rome -- Day 3 of the Colloquium

The President of The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Dr. John Haas, is in Rome this week to attend an international colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Dr. Haas will also be attending the annual assembly of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care for Healthcare Workers, for which he serves as a Consultor. 

Dr. Haas is providing daily reports of the proceedings of both those meetings for the benefit of those who are visitors to our website and social media sites. We will provide regular updates to you here on the Blog this week!

Click here to read about day 1 of the Humanum Colloquium.

Click here to read about Day 2 of the Humanum Colloquium


The third day of the conference was a radical shift from the two previous days.  There were no papers in the morning.  Instead there was the Wednesday audience with Pope Francis for participants in the colloquium – and a few hundred other people.  It was a beautiful, clear day with a bright blue sky.  The participants in the conference were taken as a group and placed in chairs near the Pope.  Francis lived up to his image of being outgoing and freewheeling with the crowd, taking one baby after another in his arms and kissing them.  I asked a Swiss Guard if his job were more demanding now with this Pope, and he responded diplomatically, “It is certainly more interesting!”

A Swiss Guard checking credentials

Spotted at the Colloquium: The Honorable Mary Ann Glendon,
Professor of Law and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See

Also spotted: Dr. John Garvey, President of Catholic University

Dr. Haas got to meet the new Archbishop of Sydney,
His Excellency Anthony Fisher, OP, at the Colloquium.

Father Scott Borgman (driving) was kind enough to take Dr. Haas to one of his appointments!

At 12:15, as others were heading to lunch, I reported to the Swiss Guards at St. Anne’s Gate of the Vatican to keep an appointment with my mentor, Pope Emeritus Benedict!  The Swiss Guards checked  my passport and then had a driver take me up to the convent in the Vatican Gardens which had been renovated to accommodate the Pope Emeritus.  We were first taken to a sitting room and offered a seat.  Shortly a religious sister came in and visited with me, asking me how I knew the Holy Father.  She said that Pope Emeritus would see me for 10 or 15 minutes.  

After a short time I was taken in an elevator to his apartments.  As I came in, he entered through a door across the room, walking slowly but steadily.  It was a great joy to see him again.  He sat on a couch in the room and I sat in a chair beside it.  He was very alert.  He asked about the work of the NCBC and even remembered projects with which we had collaborated.  He remembered having twice addressed the Bishops’ Workshops which are organized every other year by the NCBC and underwritten by the Knights of Columbus.  I showed him the material we had prepared for the next Workshop planned for February 2015, and he seemed most interested.  He has a remarkable memory.
He asked me about the HUMANUM conference I was attending and so was quite aware of what was going on.  He said it would have been inconceivable thirty years ago that there would be the need to defend marriage against the assaults of something such as same-sex marriage.  He said the current situation was a result of the collapse of Christian culture.   He spoke of the beauty of Catholic folk customs, so dear to him in Bavaria, which helped to nurture sound family life.  Indeed, he said it was important to nurture such customs in our day lest they die out.  We visited for about 40 minutes after which he gave me a commemorative medal and a holy card.  The convent sits on a hill above the dome of St. Peter’s.  The walk down the hill provided stunning views of the basilica – and the opportunity to reflect on the significant contributions Benedict XVI made to Catholic thought and practice.    

Dr. Haas and His Holiness Benedict, Pope Emeritus

The View of Saint Peter's Basilica from the residence of the Pope Emeritus

After lunch with some friends I headed back for the conclusion of the Humanum conference.

Passing Saint Peter's on the way to lunch

 Archbishop Luis Ladaria, SJ, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, chaired the afternoon session.  The Archbishop made it clear that marriage of a man and a woman is a natural institution for which there is no substitute.  In the Church this natural institution becomes a supernatural, sacramental reality.  Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke with his customary clarity on the nature of marriage and the plans of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.  As a conclusion to the colloquium, the Pentecostal minister Dr. Rivers and his wife Mrs. Jacqueline Cooke-Rivers delivered a rousing “Affirmation of Marriage”, taking turns in making declarations on the beauty of marriage and the unique and essential contribution it makes to society.    There was tremendous enthusiasm on the part of participants as the program concluded with renewed commitment to work in defense of marriage.


Check the NCBC Blog this week, and keep your eyes on our Facebook or Twitter accounts for notices of new posts. You won't want to miss these glimpses into the daily life of the Church in service to the world!

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