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

Archbishop Sambi, papal nuncio, dies July 27 at age 73

UPDATE, July 28: Catholic News Service reports that Archbishop Pietro Sambi passed away July 27, apparently from complications from lung surgery three weeks ago.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio to the United States, has been placed on assisted ventilation after “delicate lung surgery” according to Catholic News Service. The Baltimore Sun reported today that the nuncio, who is essentially the Holy See’s ambassador, was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien passed along a request from the apostolic nunciature in Washington for prayers for Archbishop Sambi, and asked that parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore include an intention for the nuncio in the prayers of the faithful. I’ve met Archbishop Sambi on several occasions, at meetings of the U.S. bishops’ conference and at various dinner functions. He has always been gracious and humble. The most recent occasion was a chance encounter, at Washington’s National Airport, as my wife’s family was dropping off her brother to return to Arizona after the funeral of a family member. My wife and I – both Catholic journalists – recognized Archbishop Sambi, reintroduced ourselves, and asked him for his prayers and a blessing for the family. He agreed, and as he headed off for his own flight, asked us to pray for him as well. We did, of course, and will continue to do so. The Vatican diplomatic corps plays a unique role around the world. The church is “in the world,” but not “of the world.” One goal, certainly, of church diplomacy is to uphold the dignity of people and to ensure religious freedom, and to make sure that people have the rights to which they are entitled by God and natural law.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks at the opening session of the Catholic Cultural Diversity Convocation at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana May 6, 2010. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, courtesy University of Notre Dame)

Over the years, I’ve had occasion to visit the Vatican nunciatures in Malaysia and Haiti, countries with unique needs for diplomacy. Haiti, a predominantly Catholic nation, had overwhelming humanitarian needs, in which Catholic non-governmental organizations and the church played a huge role. My 2004 visit there was just after a tropical storm had ravaged the country, but its poverty was ongoing, even before a 2010 earthquake caused even more devastation. In Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, the nuncio served several southeast Asian countries, and dealt with issues that had to do with religious freedom and other topics unique to the culture. The Vatican diplomat plays a delicate role in balancing the concerns of the Holy See and the pope, and it was a role that Archbishop Sambi has filled in many places; the United States assignment followed responsibilities in Israel, Cypress and Palestine. Keep Archbishop Sambi, and all Vatican diplomats in your prayers. Their task is never an easy one.

July 27, 2011 08:35
By Christopher Gunty

Wishing Space Shuttle Atlantis all the best

I'm a little wistful today, as I watch media coverage of the final launch of the space program. As a college journalist, I covered the very first shuttle launch, STS-1, April 12, 1981.

STS-1, Columbia, clears the tower at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, April 12, 1981. Photo © 1981 Christopher Gunty

I had followed the shuttle program all through high school and college, and as the launch date came closer, I realized I really wanted to be there for this historic occasion. I called NASA PR in Florida and learned how to get media credentials. I convinced our editor, also our best photographer, that we should make a road trip. We convinced our school advisers that the trip was worthwhile. And we talked my parents into loaning us a car. We rented camera equipment and were on our way within a day.

We arrived in Florida the night before the scheduled launch and were met with a long line of traffic. Stuck outside the media gate, we nearly missed the launch, until it was scrubbed because of a mechanical problem. With the two-day delay, we picked up our credentials, found a hotel room 60 miles away, and then came back the night before the launch, spending the night on the ground in the press area.

We set up our cameras next to Time magazine with its six-camera rig, and Imax, with its new technology camera for high-definition, large-screen movies.

As the shuttle lifted off, we witnessed history. We could not only hear the rumble of the powerful engines, we could feel it in the ground.

Eventually, I saw several more shuttle launches over the years, on visits to Florida, and while I lived there.


The tragedies of the losses of the Challenger and Columbia crews marred the program, and it never fulfilled the dream/vision that it would be a weekly "space truck" ferrying cargo 50 times a year to low earth orbit. But the benefits that came from exploration and experimentation in space have been great. The views of the cosmos from the Hubble Telescope make it difficult to not believe in a supreme Creator who has an intelligent design for the universe. The advances in medicine and other technology serve us in many ways.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said last week that human space flight will continue. At the National Press Club July 1, he said the foundation is set for space exploration for the next half-century, "and for us at NASA, 'failure is not an option,'" echoing a line often attributed to former Apollo program flight director Gene Kranz that has come to reflect NASA's can-do attitude.

NASA's reach, and the shuttle's reach, is everywhere, even in Maryland, where Goddard Space Flight Center plays an important role.

Today is a chance to salute all those who perished in human space flight, and all those who have been part of this endeavor in which we strive to explore and learn.

At this point, with launch scheduled about an hour from now, the crew awaits a "Go for Launch" while they wait for weather to clear.

And I recall that day in April when the "Go for Launch" sent Columbia into the heavens, and started this incredible journey for all of us.

Godspeed, Atlantis.

July 08, 2011 10:38
By Christopher Gunty

Astronauts get a "popespace" page

The Endeavor Shuttle and International Space Station astronauts had a chat May 21 with Pope Benedict XVI. They talked about science, courage, violence and world peace, and the beauty of the planet.

What a great opportunity for both the scientists and the pope to share their views.

Here, from NASAtv, is the 17-minute link-up.


May 23, 2011 04:26
By Christopher Gunty

Rite of Beatification: John Paul is "Blessed"

Though Karol Wojtyla spent the better part of his life and priesthood in Poland, his cause for beatification was led by the Diocese of Rome, which he led as bishop for more than a quarter century.

Today, the beatification rite will be led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome. At the beginning of the celebration, he asked the Holy Father to declare as Blessed the Servant of God John Paul II. He began in Latin with: "Most blessed Father, Your Holiness' Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome humbly asks Your Holiness to beneficently deign to inscribe the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II in the number of the Blessed."

He then read a fairly detailed biography of Karol Wojtyla, beginning with his 1920 birth in Wadowice, Poland, and ending with his death on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday 2005.

The biography, to be read in Italian, is printed in Italian and six other languages in the Mass booklet distributed along the via della Conciliazzione.

It closes with these words: "A touching testimony of his life was seen by the participation of delegations from all over the world and of millions of men and women, believers and non-believers alike, who recognized in him a clear sign of God's love for humanity."

In Latin, Cardinal Vallini then thanked Pope Benedict XVI, saying, "Most blessed Father, the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, gives thanks for conferring the title of Blessed to the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II."

The pope responded in Latin and formally declared John Paul II, pope, "Blessed" and set his feast day as Oct. 22 (the anniversary of his liturgical inauguration as pope in 1978).

From Vatican City, Christopher Gunty The Catholic Review

May 01, 2011 03:01
By Christopher Gunty

This is the day!

A dawn of a new day and throngs are heading to St. Peter's Square. Singing, waving flags and generally being tolerant of the direction of the gendarmes and carabinieri who point the way. Some try for a short cut, only to be pointed back the way they came when they hit another blocked street.

From my vantage point now, on top of the collonade -- Bernini's great colmns shaped like "arms" that embrace Piazza San Pietro -- the Square and Via della Conciliazzione are filling up in anticipation of the 10 am Mass, two and a half hours from now. From Vatican City, Christopher Gunty The Catholic Review

May 01, 2011 01:27
By Christopher Gunty

Why can’t you be holy?

ASSISI, Italy – A lot of people think they can’t be holy. They believe they cannot get close enough to Jesus because they didn’t live in his time and can’t get to really know him. Father Richard Cash, of Fancy Farms, Ky., disagrees with that point of view. In the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, April 28, Father Cash asked a group of 50 pilgrims from the United States if they thought that St. Paul was any holier than St. Francis, just because Paul lived at the time of Jesus, and Francis didn’t. The priest, with his kindly Southern drawl, explained that Francis was as close to Christ as anyone could be. We can all be that close to the Lord, he said. We need not renounce everything, as Francis did, but we do need to listen to Jesus when he speaks to us, as he spoke to Francis and asked him to “rebuild my church.” Francis thought he meant the physical building, and set about rebuilding, stone by stone, the Portiuncola, a small church now housed in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi. He later realized the call was to rebuild the church from within with humility, radical poverty and a new order of friars and brothers, and eventually sisters with the Poor Clares. The next day, at Santa Croce (Holy Cross) Church in Florence, he spoke about the reading for the day in which Jesus, waiting on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias in the darkness of early morning, calls to the disciples to cast their nets after a night of fruitless fishing.

Father Richard Cash preaches about the light of the Lord at a Mass April 28, 2011, at the Santa Croce Church in Florence, Italy, as part of a pilgrimage for the beatification of John Paul II in Rome May 1. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)

Grasping the paschal candle, lit for the Mass because it is the Easter season, he said, “Working without the Lord, it is darkness – you have nothing.” He noted that Jesus sought out the disciples, not waiting for them to find him in the early days after the resurrection. He asked them to cast their nets, even as they were probably already heading back into the shore and had stowed all their gear. The great catch shows “If we obey the Lord, we will have great blessings. Trust the word of the Lord.” Then on April 30, the group heard the readings for the Saturday within the octave of Easter, in which they heard about how the apostles would not believe Mary Magdalene and the disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus and when they said, “He is risen,” (“He is truly risen!”).

April 30, 2011 05:40
By Christopher Gunty

The Pilgrim's Way

Beatification bound Or, "Roamin' to Rome" ORTE, Italy – Coming from Kentucky and Tennessee, Florida and Ohio, Maryland and Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, a group of 50 pilgrims from the eastern United States gathered in Rome to join hundreds of thousands of others expected to witness the beatification of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. Most in the group – coordinated by The Catholic Review and other Catholic newspapers from Wilmington, Del.; Arlington, Va.; Washington; and Cincinnati, Ohio; with spiritual leadership of a priest from Fancy Farms, Ky. – had never met before convening in the Rome airport, but they quickly developed a camaraderie. They quickly learned to respond in this octave of Easter to Father Richard Cash’s declaration, “He is risen,” with the response, “He is truly risen!”

Pilgrims from US participate in Mass April 28, 2011, at the Santa Croce Church in Florence, Italy, as part of a pilgrimage for the beatification of John Paul II in Rome May 1. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)

Our Italian tour guide explained the difference between • tourists, who take pictures, but who often miss the experience of the culture they visit; • travelers, who desire a deeper experience than tourism when they visit other places, and take the time to explore and understand the places and people; • and pilgrims, who visit, sometimes seeing sites that tourists enjoy, and soaking up experiences as travelers do, but whose primary goal is to have a spiritual awakening along the way. Even in the first few days, in the land of St. Francis and St. Clare, the group began to experience the purpose of pilgrimage, with the clarity of context I first heard last year from Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, when he referred to a passage from Paul Elie’s book, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage”:

“A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken in light of a story. A great event has happened; the pilgrim hears the reports and goes in search of the evidence, aspiring to be an eyewitness. The pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience. “Pilgrims often make the journey in company, but each must be changed individually; they must see for themselves, each with his or her own eyes. And as they return to ordinary life the pilgrims must tell others what they saw, recasting the story in their own terms.”

Already, our pilgrims are telling their own stories. Stories of their experiences with the spirituality of St. Francis and St. Clare, or their own connection to the life and faith of John Paul II, and why it brought them to take this journey, despite the projected crowds. Estimates at this point are wildly uncertain, ranging from 300,000 to 2 million other pilgrims, with stories of their own. People are already reported to be camped out on the Via della Conciliazzione in front of St. Peter’s Square the afternoon before the ceremony (later confirmed to be true by the time I was able to get to an Internet connection to post this).

April 30, 2011 05:17
By Christopher Gunty

They're waiting for Blessed John Paul

Thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- are already waiting along the Via della Cociliazzione, near St. Peter's Square, hoping for the best access to the square when the gates open on Sunday morning around 6 a.m. The Mass begins at 10 a.m.

A large crowd is expected but no one knows how large. Almost all hotel rooms were booked immediately after the beatification was announced but many of those reservations were released when tours did not sell, so estimates were revised down. This week the fervor seemed to revive. We'll see tomorrow what the crowd looks like, but the Vatican and Rome are prepared with video screens and sound system set up all the way down the Via della Conciliazzione, the street that extends from St. Peter's to Castel Sant'Angelo.

From Rome, Christopher Gunty The Catholic Review

April 30, 2011 02:49
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

Hallelujah! What a chorus

Matt Palmer's take on the worst holiday/Christmas songs got me thinking about two versions of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah" making the rounds of e-mail and internet posts this time of year. Both bring a smile.

One features a well-organized "flashmob" that brings the chorus to a mall food court. At some point, some of the food court patrons join in the singing, and at the end, much applause rewards the singers. [youtube=] You cannot hear one young man's comment, but you can read his lips as he says, "That was beautiful."

The other, an interpretation of the familiar song by the "silent monks" of Winter Park High School in Florida, has the song played overhead as berobed students display placards with the words. [youtube=] It's fun and full of joy, don't you think?

Which one, if either, do you prefer? Or do you have another recommendation? [polldaddy poll=4218178]

– CG

December 08, 2010 06:02
By Christopher Gunty

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