No news becomes the news story of the day when you have news but cannot publish it. Sunday, as always happens before a papal speech or homily, the Holy See Press Office emailed an embargoed copy of the papal remarks to the media accredited to the press office. Embargo means we cannot publish or even hint at the content until the moment the Pope actually speaks the words in the text.

What happens when our embargoed text contains words the Pope does not say?

That happened last Sunday.

The original Italian-language text arrived at 11:15. Shortly before the Pope spoke at the Angelus the media was informed that a certain part of the text regarding Hong Kong would not be read by the Pope, and the eventual daily bulletin, in fact, did not have that part of the text, nor did the English and Spanish translations.

A non-text or deleted text, especially if somewhat sensitive, provokes many questions. The questions about the Sunday text are still being asked and explored and parsed today.

The embargo was broken and once that happened, other media felt free to go with the story, citing not the original Vatican text but the story as reported by the one who broke the embargo. I could not and did not say a thing until I knew that I would be working within EWTN’s standards, as well as those of the press office. I got clarification last night. Rather than re-tell Sunday’s story, here’s a link to John Allen’s piece in Crux as he tells the story and aftermath very well.

If we had been able to publish the original text Sunday, I’d have written a very long column. Pazienza! Maybe some day…..!


ROME (July 7) – Reporters covering the Vatican find ourselves in a frustrating bind right now, because we’ve got news we can’t fully report — in part because we’re bound by journalistic ethics, and in part because we don’t know ourselves what happened. That vacuum hasn’t stopped the left v. right ideological sausage grinders from swinging into action anyway, running the risk of making it less likely we’ll ever get the full story.

I realize that sounds terribly cryptic, so let me try to break it down.

On Sunday, Pope Francis was set to deliver his usual noontime Angelus address, which often features a brief comment or two on the international situation. As it always does, the Vatican circulated a draft of the address in advance to help reporters prepare, which comes with a strict embargo: We can’t refer to its contents before it’s delivered, and only what the pope actually says is considered official. Anything he skips, therefore, is regarded as having never existed.

Normally popes don’t veer terribly far from the prepared text, sometimes injecting a word or two here or there, skipping a random line for one reason or another, and so on.

However, it’s now a matter of public record that yesterday, Pope Francis omitted a sizeable chunk of text on Hong Kong. I can’t report what the text contained, because I’m bound to honor the conditions under which I received the information. I can report, however, that several Italian news sites have published the text or commented on why it was omitted, and there’s certainly no embargo on their content.

In a nutshell, commentators and news outlets known to be critical of Pope Francis are styling the omission as the latest chapter in what they see as the Vatican’s appeasement of China and its Communist leadership, generally linking it to a deal signed two years ago and shortly up for review that afforded Chinese authorities a role in the nomination of Catholic bishops.

TO CONTINUE: https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2020/07/distinguishing-reporting-from-spin-on-the-pope-and-hong-kong/


Pope Benedict was able to watch the funeral of his brother Georg via live-streaming from Rome yesterday. Following is a letter he wrote about his brother that was read in the Regensburg cathedral by Abp. George Gaenswein, Benedict’s longtime private secretary. Benedict remembers his brother as first and foremost a priest, a man of God and a cheerful soul.


By Vatican News

The funeral of Father Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, was held on Wednesday at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Regensburg, Germany.

Fr. Georg Ratzinger died at the age of 96 on 1 July after being hospitalized in Regensburg, the city where he lived the greater part of his life. His death came just over a week after the Pope emeritus made a visit in mid-June to Regensburg to be with his ailing brother.

Following his brother’s death, Pope Francis sent a personal note of condolences to his predecessor, assuring the Pope emeritus of his prayers both for his brother and for Benedict himself.

During the funeral celebrated by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Archbishop Georg Gänswein read an emotional letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI for the occasion.

“At this hour when you offer my brother the final brotherly service and guide him on his final earthly path, I am with you,” the Pope emeritus assured in his letter.

Pope emeritus Benedict also said that people “from many countries, social and professional backgrounds” had written to him in a way that touched his heart.

Lamenting his inability to reply to each one of them personally, he nonetheless thanked them for accompanying him at this time. He also thanked all those who have been with his late brother “visibly and invisibly” during these past weeks.

“The echo of his life and work, which I have received in these days in the form of letters, telegrams and emails, goes far beyond what I could have imagined,” he wrote, adding that Cardinal Newman’s quip “cor ad cor loquitur” has become true for him, as hearts speak to each other beyond words on paper.

Priest and musician
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI said three characteristics came up in his recollections about his brother.

The first – wrote the Pope emeritus – is that his brother “received and understood his vocation to the priesthood as a musical vocation at the same time.”

He recalled that already in the early years of his elder brother’s life at Tittmoning, Georg took the personal initiative to train himself thoroughly in music. These studies led him to become the Kapellmeister of Regensburg Cathedral and guide of the Regensburger Domspatzen (The Regensburg Cathedral choir) – a title that Georg would not have accepted – the Pope emeritus said, if their Mother was still alive. The Pope emeritus recalled that their mother died around the same time as Kapellmeister Schrems, the predecessor of Georg Ratzinger as Domkapellmeister of Regensburger Domspatzen.

He remarked that this service became “more and more of a joy” for his late brother, adding, however, that “hostility and rejection were not lacking, especially in the beginning.” At the same time, he noted that his brother became a father figure to the many young people who remained with him in the choir.

“My heartfelt thanks also go to all of them at this hour when I was allowed to experience again how he had become and always realized himself again as a priestly person, being a priest and musician,” he wrote.

The second characteristic about his brother that the Pope emeritus remembered is “his cheerfulness, his humor, and his joy for the good gifts of creation.”

“At the same time, however,”  he wrote, “he was a man of direct speech as he expressed his convictions openly.”

He said that despite living in almost total blindness for more than 20 years, his brother “accepted” his situation and “overcame it inwardly.”

A man of God
The Pope emeritus pointed out that “sobriety and honesty were the true center” of his late brother’s life, adding that, “in the end, he was always a man of God.”

Recalling his last visit with his brother, the Pope emeritus said that, when he said “goodbye” to his brother on June 22, he “knew it would be a farewell from this world forever.” Yet he expressed surety in the fact that “the good Lord, who has given us this union in this world, reigns in the other world and will give us a new union.”

“In the end, I would like to thank him for allowing me to be with him again in the last days of his life,” he wrote. “He did not ask me to visit him. But I felt it was time to go see him again. I am deeply grateful for this inner sign that the Lord has given me.”

In conclusion, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI thanked his brother. “Thank you, dear Georg, for all that you have done, suffered and given me.” He also thanked Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer for his assistance.

(A good friend, author and fellow journalist, Michael Hesemann from Dusseldorf, Germany, posted some photos of the funeral of Pope Benedict’s brother, Georg on his FB page but there was no possibility to share. That has been remedied so click below to see those pictures. Michael knew Msgr. Georg and knows Benedict XVI as well. He wrote a terrific book, an interview with Georg, called “My Brother the Pope.” https://www.facebook.com/michael.hesemann/posts/10158464482432270?comment_id=10158464573717270&reply_comment_id=10158469852797270&notif_id=1594285160976192&notif_t=comment_mention