Gunty is associate publisher/editor of the Catholic Review.


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Family of 7 would like to go from Our Lady of the Mountains in Cumberland, MD.


I would love to go. Planning on taking my granddaughter. She is 11.



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Behind the Headlines

Hand-delivered magazine comes with a request for prayers from Pope Francis

We don’t often hand-deliver copies of the Catholic Review, but for some people, that seems to be the best option.

I had the privilege of accompanying Archbishop William E. Lori and a group of interfaith leaders from Baltimore to Rome for a two-day pilgrimage to pray for peace and healing in the city.

As part of that pilgrimage, the archbishop arranged to introduce the members of the group to Pope Francis at the end of the pope’s general audience March 2 in St. Peter’s Square. We had ideal seats for the audience, in the front two rows, between famed tenor Placido Domingo and his wife, and two other small groups.

I know from past experience that such introductions – called “baciamano,” the Italian word for “kiss” – are brief. I had the occasion to meet St. John Paul twice, in Rome in 1984 and when he visited Phoenix in 1987.

For the opportunity to meet Pope Francis last week, some of the members of our group brought gifts for the Holy Father.

The Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, bishop of the Delaware Maryland Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, gave a stained-glass “Luther rose” to the pope. “The Luther rose is kind of a symbol of Lutheranism, it’s the emblem of Martin Luther and we have a writing by Luther from 1530 in which he explains what the Luther rose stands for and the symbolism of it,” Rev. Herz-Lane said after the papal audience. “It has a black cross in the middle of it, and the outline of a rose. Luther has explanations for the colors and for the shapes, all really focused on Jesus and how Jesus is the center of our lives.”

Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom brought Baltimore-themed food: Old Bay seasoning, Utz crab-flavored chips, Berger Cookies and chocolate chip cookies baked by his own mother. The mom-baked cookies were very good – the rabbi shared a few with us before we headed to the papal audience, but still had enough to give the pope.

The Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, pastor of Union Baptist Church, handed the pope CDs of his church’s youth choir and senior choir.

William J. McCarthy Jr., executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore, presented to Pope Francis an apron commemorating the 35th anniversary of Our Daily Bread, a ministry whose meal program has provided hope to the poor for 12,700 consecutive days, with more than 7.2 million meals served. McCarthy said that when he met the pope, “talking about our work in West Baltimore, talking about the work of Catholic Charities, particularly Our Daily Bread and our 35 years, I could see a smile on his face, a firmer handshake and ‘continue,’ the word ‘continue.’”

For my part, I wanted the pope to know about our new magazine and ask him to pray for the important work we are doing in the Catholic press here in Maryland. Fortunately, our March issue featured a cover photo of Pope Francis praying before St. Juan Diego’s tilma at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I presented the magazine to him, and he looked at it and said, “Oh, ‘The Shrine of God,’” referring to the headline that quoted from his homily at the Marian shrine, in which he said, “The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day.”

I was awestruck to meet the pope and to be able to ask for his prayers. Up close, you can sense his humility. He focuses on you and – even for just a minute – he engages with you. Popes are not God – but they do represent our Lord as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. It’s a blessing to be in his presence.

The moment is over in an instant, but it stays with you forever.

Read coverage of the pilgrimage Day 1 here, and Day 2 here.

Listen to a radio report on the pilgrimage. Click on the March 13 edition of
"Catholic Baltimore."

March 11, 2016 03:15
By Christopher Gunty

Roman holiday makes for unusual celebration day for pallium group

ROME – Archbishop William E. Lori capped off an eventful day after receiving the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI with celebrations large and more intimate.
The Baltimore archbishop, along with other archbishops from the Unites States – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver – were joined by hundreds of well-wishers at the Pontifical North American College for a reception.
Each archbishop greeted relatives, friends and members of their old and new dioceses under a canopy in the NAC’s courtyard. Despite Rome’s 90-degree heat, a nice breeze and the shade of the courtyard actually felt fairly comfortable.
In the evening, Archbishop Lori and about 50 guests enjoyed a celebration dinner at a large restaurant outside the city of Rome.
Due to the fact that June 29, the fest of Sts. Peter and Paul is a city holiday in honor of the city’s patron saints, the streets and the restaurant were nearly empty, making for an unusual experience in Rome – an easy transport and a non-crowded banquet hall.
Archbishop Lori said the evening would be short on speeches, and just an expression of his gratitude for those who celebrated his big day, including cousins, and pilgrims from the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
He quickly doffed his suit coat, and made his way around the room, thanking all the guests for coming to Rome for the pallium ceremony. Consensus was that the Mass was extraordinary.
In the Roman tradition, dinner was a six-course affair, featuring a roast pig that was paraded around the dining room, sparklers and all.
After dinner, the archbishop indeed kept his remarks very brief, noting that he was “honored by your prayers with me and for me,” before thanking those who had organized and coordinated the pilgrimage details.
“And what about that pig!” he added, to much laughter.
The celebrations continue with Mass June 30 at the Altar of the Tomb of St. Peter, near where the palliums were stored the evening before the pallium ceremony. After that, the new archbishops and their pilgrim groups will join Pope Benedict in the Paul VI Hall for a special audience.
For the pilgrimage group, a tour of the other major basilicas in Rome – St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major – will complete the touring July 1, ending with Mass at St. Mary Major.
And then, for most, they say goodbye to Rome and head home to the States in tiem for the Fourth of July.

June 29, 2012 06:24
By Christopher Gunty

Baltimore archbishop prepares for pallium in Rome


ROME – Pilgrims joining Archbishop William E. Lori in the Eternal City to witness the ceremony in which he will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI had a busy first couple of days. The group includes some folks from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as some of the archbishop’s former flock in Bridgeport, Conn.

Several priests from the archdiocese and other lay leaders joined the group for some Masses and a couple of other events.

The archbishop began the pilgrimage by welcoming the pilgrims at the Pontifical North American College, the seminary in Rome for students from the U.S. (and Australia).

The next day was packed with a tour and Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente, a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, and then a reception at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

The archbishop used the Mass at the NAC to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood. Praying “in the shadow of the dome which rises above the tomb of St. Peter,” Archbishop Lori said that Peter, the first pope, responded to Jesus’ call to “feed my sheep,” and he noted that Christ has extended that call “down through the centuries, so that the Gospel can be preached to us, and the sacraments of salvation can be celebrated for us.

“After all,” he continued, “without priests, there’s no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, there’s no hope.”

Before the Mass at San Clemente, Dominican Father Terrence Crotty, rector of the basilica, provided a tour of the basilica, which is unique in that it is a functioning church for the faithful of today of today within a 12th-century church, built upon a 4th-century Christian church, which itself was built upon the remains of a 1st-century Roman building. With the 90-degree heat sweltering Rome, the pilgrims appreciated the cool respite on the tour of the foundations of the church and Roman building below ground.

During his homily, Archbishop Lori made reference to the special connection San Clemente has to the Archdiocese of Baltimore and his own ministry, as it was the titular church of his predecessor in Baltimore and Bridgeport, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. He also made reference in his homily to the spectacular 12th-century frescoe above the altar of the Cross as the Tree of Life, gesturing frequently to the artwork that shows Jesus standing with his arms outstretched in the manner of a priest celebrating Mass.

Archbishop William E. Lori delivers his homily from the pulpit of the Basilica of San Clemente, the titular church of the late Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)

In the afternoon, pilgrims got a whirlwind tour of the Vatican Museums with one of the finest museum guides available, art historian Dr. Elizabeth Lev. Pointing out that the Vatican museums are considered in the class with the Louvre and other great museums in the world based on the strength of their collections and the number of visitors, she said the reason for the Vatican’s collection is what sets it apart – its proximity to the dome of St. Peter’s, above the tomb of the saint.

Referring to Peter’s death at the hands of the Romans, she said they dumped him in a hole and filled it with dirt, and covered it with bricks to make sure another Christian’s body didn’t walk away.

“They thought they were throwing away the trash; instead they planted a seed,” Lev said.

In a tour that brought to life the scultures, tapestries and paintings of the museum, the Sistine Chapel – not the Sixteenth Chapel, Justin Bieber – and St. Peter’s Basilica itself, Lev reminded the pilgrims continuously that the art within constantly expressed a deeper message about humanity’s relationship to God.

Completing the tour in St. Peter’s Square, she pointed out the sculptures of saints lining the top of Bernini’s colonnade, whose “arms” reach out to embrace the piazza and all who visit. All kinds of holy men and women are represented there, she noted, each one providing us “someone you can look up to, someone you can emulate, some you can relate to.”

Taking away a message like this is essential to such a visit; it’s what a pilgrimage is about, Lev insisted. “It revitalizes you – sends you back into the world.”

As evening drew on, the pilgrims had a chance to join all four of the U.S. archbishops receiving the pallium at Vila Richardson, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, currently Miguel H. Diaz.

Archbishop William E. Lori chats with Miguel H. Diaz, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and his wife, Marian, who hosted pilgrims at their residence, Vila Richardson. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)


The other archbishops are Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (Ruthenian).

Ambassador Diaz and his wife, Marian, hosted the outdoor reception for the archbishops and their guests. Chatting informally with the guests later on, the Diazes discussed the role of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, not as one who makes trade deals or other typical roles of an ambassador, but as one who seeks a convergence between the Holy See and U.S. foreign policy. Issues such as human trafficking, global health, peace-building and support of religious minorities carry over from administration to administration, Diaz said.

Having been a theology professor and dean at a Catholic seminary in Florida before entering the diplomatic corps, he told Archbishop Lori that it’s unusual for a diplomat to have the background in philosophy and theology that he brings to his post.

He told the archbishop that academic life still beckons, but that he considers his diplomatic service “a break (from academia) out of service to his country.”

Speaking of the theology and philosophy he encounters at the Vatican, he later told guests, “I was teaching this stuff, and now I’m part of it.”

Archbishop William E. Lori chats with U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, who serves as prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)


June 28, 2012 08:20
By Christopher Gunty

Christmas at the Vatican

There are two places that I always dreamed it would be great to be for Christmas midnight Mass: Bethlehem or Rome. This year my wife and I got the chance to be in Rome, at the Vatican for Christmas, and it was amazing.

As a schola chanted hymns before Mass, the basilica filled up with cardinals, bishops and dignitaries, and people who had waited in St. Peter's Square as early as 2 p.m. to enter the basilica at 8:30 p.m. for the 10 p.m. "midnight" Mass. Those who were in the square early got to hear an hourlong concert around 5 p.m. that accompanied the unveiling of the Vatican's outdoor Nativity scene.

The outdoor crèche features figures that stand about 15 feet tall in a grotto next to a Christmas tree lit with green and blue lights and gold ornaments. Pope Benedict appeared silhouetted at his window toward the end of the concert for less than a minute and held one lit candle. Notable, the manger was empty, since the Christ child has not yet arrived.

Inside the basilica for the Mass, the altar is decorated with thousands of white flowers and assorted greens. A statue of the Madonna and Child against a red velvet background adorned the left side of the altar.

A Nativity scene inside the basilica, smaller than the one outside, also features an empty manger. The pope traditionally blesses the statue of the infant at the end of the midnight Mass.

Though the Mass is in Italian, the first reading, from Isaiah (Is 9, 1-6), was proclaimed in English and the second, from Titus, was in Spanish. Some responses were in Latin. The crowd came from all over the world.

Walking out of the basilica, a young woman cradled her child in her arms, and gently hummed "Silent Night" into her baby's ear. Perhaps, a couple millennia ago, Mary herself would have been humming to the infant Savior on this very night.

It was an incredible privilege to be a part of this international celebration of the birth of Christ at the heart of the heart of the church.

Someday ... Bethlehem.

December 24, 2011 07:03
By Christopher Gunty

What’s in a headline? 15 million reasons to get it right

One of the underappreciated jobs for those of us in the news business is writing headlines. Sometimes it’s fun, as when we get to write clever little puns, such as “Love and Loyola go hand in hand,” over a story about Loyola University alums renewing their marriage vows; it accompanied a photo of couples holding hands. Sometimes it’s straightforward: “Archdiocese announces first STEM schools” for the unveiling of curriculum aimed at science, technology, engineering and math.

Sometimes, we think it’s straightforward, but people get confused because – well, because it’s hard to sum up 600 words in five or six words. You can only emphasize one element of the story in the headline.

Such is the case with a recent story about the annual archdiocesan finance report. Our story carefully analyzed the news about the archdiocese’s most recent fiscal year numbers, noting in the headline: “Archdiocese posts $15.4 million surplus.” A subheadline in the print edition (but not the Web version) noted, “Two years of cutbacks help turn the tide.” That’s good news and that was the upshot of the report. Hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people over the last year, plus an improved stock market, led to the gains.

The story noted that the archdiocese utilized furloughs, made staff cuts and cut costs in other ways. Stock market gains also helped contribute to the bottom line, but those aren’t available in liquid form. It’s not like the archdiocese is flush with cash. Senior staff writer George Matysek did a good job of analyzing the information, bolstered by an interview with Mark Fetting, chairman of the Archdiocesan Board of Financial Administration and CEO of Legg Mason in Baltimore, who provided important context.

A surplus of $15.4 million in one year is great news, especially in a recovering economy. What needs to be kept in mind – and what the story noted – is that this gain comes on the heels of two very rough years for the archdiocese. The deficit for fiscal 2009 was $34.3 million; in 2008 it was $22.4 million. Faced with those figures, this year’s surplus covers less than 30 percent of the previous two years’ negative balances. So, the archdiocese is not flush with cash.

But some people saw the initial headline and think: “If there’s a surplus, why can’t the archdiocese go back to funding this ministry or that project?” It’s not that simple.

Fiscal 2010 ended well; that’s what the headline said. It took a lot to get there and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien and those who work at the Catholic Center will continue to be vigilant stewards of the resources entrusted to the church. That’s the rest of the story, and it was all right there, in George Matysek’s report.

The church continues to need our support, in the parishes and in the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. One good year doesn’t change that.

Could we have done a better job with the headline? Possibly, but I think the headline and the subhead provided the key information. Also remember that the complete archdiocesan finance report, with charts and graphs and the story, took up nearly two pages of the newspaper. The details were there for all who chose to see them.

February 23, 2011

February 24, 2011 11:33
By Christopher Gunty

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here's a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2010. That's about 11 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 29 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 103 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That's about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 13th (coincidentally, this blogger's birthday) with 372 views. The most popular post that day was Looking for Jesus in the Holy Land.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were (no surprise there),,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for marc lanoue, father stephen hook, bishop denis madden, father paschal morlino, and where do most judaism people stay. Apparently some of the priests on pilgrimage had followers searching for them. That last search string yielded some interesting results.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

Looking for Jesus in the Holy Land October 2010
Praying at the Western Wall October 2010
1 comment
Father Martin's reflection: “The God of Surprises met me” October 2010
1 comment
Prayers come alive for pilgrim travelers October 2010
1 comment

January 03, 2011 11:48
By Christopher Gunty