Sep 132011

by Anura Guruge

John Paul II and Deskur

Cardinal Wojtyła (John Paul II) with Bishop Deskur FROM the Deskur family Web site at

On September 3, 2011, 87-Year Old Polish Cardinal Priest Andrzej Maria Deskur [dob: February 29, 1924], President emeritus, Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, died in Rome, at 6 pm Rome time. Louis Epstein, our frequent contributor, gave me an heads-up on the news and even informed me that John Paul II (#265) had given his compatriot his old ‘title’ in 1985; this ‘title’ (albeit to a deaconry) having been left unassigned since the pope’s election in October 1978.

The name was vaguely familiar to me. Given that he was Polish and had received the pope’s old ‘title’ denoted that he was a ‘AFOTPP‘ — A Friend off the Polish Pope. So the first things I did, when I got Louis’ heads-up, was to see whether Cardinal Deskur had been at the pope’s side, at the pope’s death in 2005. I had chronicled the pope’s last day in Appendix F of ‘The Next Pope 2011‘ — and as such had a complete and verified list.

Page 311 from 'The Next Pope 2011' book by Anura Guruge

Page 311 from 'The Next Pope 2011' book by Anura Guruge. Click to ENLARGE.

As you can see, it was very much a Polish ‘affair’ — BUT Cardinal Deskur was not there. [It was later that I learnt that he had been wheel-chair bound, since the election of John Paul II, having suffered a stroke on the eve of the conclave.] He is also not listed as having visited the papal chamber that evening, following the death. The two notables that arrived shortly after the first wave of official prelates were Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Dean of the College and future pope] and 81-year old, Czechoslovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, a 46-year curial veteran.

That puzzled me a bit. So, I promised myself that I would do a bit of digging. It is possible that Deskur, by then retired from the curia, may not have been in Rome. He may have been visiting Poland. He might have had health issues or it might just have been an issue with mobility. A cardinal in a wheel-chair might have got in the way in what was a crowded papal bed chamber. I do not know why he wasn’t there.

[The Polish contingent present at the end, helped me clear up something that had ‘bothered’ me since 2005. In 2005, I had heard that the pope asked for the ‘Stations of the Cross‘ to be read to him on his deathbed. I had wondered in which language this might have been read to the pope. There were a few choices: Latin, Polish, Italian and possibly French. English was never an option, though all Americans that I questioned, even if they were of Polish descent, immediately maintained that it would have had to have been in English! It must have been read in Polish — by Dziwisz (who would then go onto play Judas after the pope’s death). Even the pope’s last words, ‘Let me go to the house of the Father,’ were in Polish. Here are two good ‘articles’ on the last hours of the pope: article 1 & article 2.]

It had also puzzled me why it took seven years for the pope to create Deskur a cardinal given that he was AFOTPP. I will get to that. Quite fascinating.

[The Deskur family Web site with an informative post on the deceased cardinal.]

Wojtyla and Deskur go back a long time. Deskur is 4 years younger than Wojtyla. It appears that the two knew each other and were friends as of the early 1940s, when they were both very young.

Fr. Andrew Greeley, in his ‘The Making of the Popes 1978,‘ on page 200, alludes that the Prince-Archbishop of Kraków [Poland] from 1925-1946, Cardinal Adam Stefan Stanisław Bonifacy Józef Sapieha, was Deskur’s uncle! I have not been able to confirm this. Even if he wasn’t his uncle per se, Deskur, who is of blue blood, and was born is a palace, may have been related to the ‘Prince’ in some form (that being the norm of those times). What is significant here is that Sapieha was Wojtyla’s protector during WW II. Wojtyla, at some stage, stayed with the Prince, at his palace, c. 1942 — studying, at night, for his priesthood. It is known that Wojtyla and Deskur were friends by this stage. Deskur would follow Wojtyla to the seminary in Kraków after the war. Around this period, Deskur became the secretary of an influential student organization, called Bratniak, at the time, whose president happened to be Wojtyla.

In 1948, at the Mass at which Karol Wojtyla was ordained a priest, Deskur was tonsured to mark his entry into the clerical fold. So the two definitely have a intertwined history.

In 1952 Deskur was summoned to the Vatican to work in the Secretariat of State. Soon he had moved to the ‘public relations’ sector of the Vatican — and would work in the ‘communications’ side till his retirement in 1984.

Deskur was very active in the lead-up to and during Vatican II — as was his friend Wojtyla. Deskur also traveled extensively on behalf of the Vatican and it is said that in the first half of the 1970s he visited over 70 countries in five continents. He obviously got to meet a lot of useful prelates. This was to come in handy when he set out to be pope maker for his friend.

Come the second sede vacante of 1978, Deskur’s 26 years in Rome as a high-profile curialist as well as all the contacts he made during his travels were to pay dividends.

Giovanni Benelli, Paul VI’s (#263) hatchet-man, who skillfully engineered Albino Luciani’s election was well and truly spent — in every sense. He had not anticipated that there would be a need for another pope so soon, particularly given that John Paul I (#264) was, at 65, notably young. It is said that early on in the sede vacante Benelli agreed, through Deskur, to promote Wojtyla’s prospects — though Benelli, himself, was being talked of as a papabile.

The story is that Deskur parlayed all his contacts and influence during the sede vacante to put together a coalition that would garner his compatriot enough votes.

On the eve of the conclave (i.e., Sept. 13) Deskur suffered a major stroke which left him paralyzed on his left hand side.

On the afternoon of his first full day as pope (i.e., Sept. 16), the pope visited the Gemelli Clinic, in an open car, to see his friend. He is said to have cried at Deskur’s bedside. During the visit the pope is said to have told the medical staff that Deskur had taught him how to be pope. This message was echoed in a letter the pope sent to Deskur’s mother — within 10 days of his election.

We know that Deskur recuperated in Switzerland after leaving the Gemelli. He must have made quite a good recovery given that on January 27, 1979, he visited Mexico for a 2 week Latin American Episcopate Conference. His friend promoted him to Archbishop in February 1980. He, noted for his humor and joke telling, is said to have had Sunday lunch with the pope on a regular basis.

So this begs the question as to why it took 7 years for him to be created. He was the 48th cardinal created by his friend — at the 3rd of John Paul II’s nine cardinal creating consistories. This was on May 25, 1985.

I could be wrong BUT I have a feeling that the delay had to do with Deskur’s disability. Again this is but a hunch, but I get a feeling that creating a cardinal in a wheel-chair was thought not to be cricket — given that cardinals, the Princes of the Church, are supposed to be able to shed their blood defending the Church. It is also important to remember that until John Paul II changed Canon Law with his 1983 Code you couldn’t have a priest who was physically impaired. I think the pope waited until the 1983 Code was Law before he created his friend. If somebody could research this, I would be very grateful. So the issue is, what other cardinals have we had who were disabled at the time of creation.

So that is the Deskur story in a nut-shell.

Thank you.


Sep 132011

The Next Pope 2011 by Anura Guruge at Amazon

This is Amazon’s doing. Not mine, though I am tickled. Amazon works with some healthy margins on new books. In this case, given that the book is published, print-on-demand (PoD) by Amazon’s subsidiary CreateSpace, they must have even better margins. So, this discounting, like the free shipping, is all their doing, at their prerogative, without any input from me or any consultation with me. It is there way to try and promote sales. I love Amazon (I think).

So just passing this along.

You are paying US $0.03 a page. I don’t think you can beat that.

Thanks. Cheers,


Sep 072011

by Anura Guruge

1/ Latest post on pro hac vice (with links to earlier posts) — September 6, 2011.

Which pope held a pro hac vice title when elected?

John Paul II (#265), when elected pope on October 16, 1978.

From what I can see (and I confess I have not done exhaustive research into this topic) John Paul II was the only pope who has had a pro hac vice title.

Again, from what I can see, there is an easy explanation as to why other popes did not hold pro hac vice titles. I really haven’t had a chance to research the history of pro hac vice (and doubt whether I will get a chance to do so in my lifetime). I had assumed that pro hac vice usage came to be with  Paul VI (#263) given that I could not recall seeing any pro hac vice prior to Paul VI (and my memory isn’t that great when it comes to the histories of individual cardinals). I also thought that the reason why Paul may have come with the idea was rather straightforward. I have now been informed that pro hac vice pre-dates Paul VI — though I don’t have a detailed analysis of its prior usage; i.e., was it mainly in the case of jus optionis promotions. If somebody could do this research, I will be extremely grateful.

Sixtus ‘iron pope’ V (#228), the Franciscan, ex-inquisitor general, on December 3, 1586 in his landmark Postquam verus constitution that set the parameters and tone for the College and curia for the next 350 years did as follows. Four months later, in his Religiosa constitution, he clearly articulated that that there should not be any inter-mingling of titles [i.e., churches] and deaconries.

Page 112 of The Next Pope 2011 book by Anura Guruge

Page 112 of The Next Pope 2011 book by Anura Guruge


Between 1586 and 1963, the College was maintained at or below, 70 and there was never a shortage of titles and deaconries. So there was no need for pro hac vice — which is mainly used when a pope runs short of cardinal priest titles (though there is nothing to stop a pope creating a cardinal deacon with a pro hac vice title ‘demoted’ to a deaconry)

page 306 from Anura Guruge latest 'The Next Pope 2011' book

Increase in the size of the College, from page 306 of 'The Next Pope 2011'

San Cesareo in Palatio

The plain exterior of San Cesareo in Palatio, John Paul II's deaconry

The came John XXIII (#262). He was a pope in a hurry, with a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. Without ever putting down anything in writing that he was overriding Sixtus V, he just waived aside Sixtus V’s time-tested edicts re. the College creating titles and deaconries, in a rush, to accommodate his desire to enlarge and diversify the College. Succeeding popes (other than poor John Paul I (#264) who, alas, didn’t get a chance) have followed John’s example with gusto — with none having, at a minimum, the moral fortitude (if not the necessary anatomical appendages) to set a maximum size for the College (and the orders within it) as did the iron pope — given that setting a ceiling would be seen by prelates as an impediment to their progress up the Church ladder.

So, Paul VI resorted to pro hac vice, when he was short on titles.

At this stage it is worth clarifying that the distinction between Pro hac vice, which means for this occasion, and pro illa vice for that occasion. Given this subtle difference in tense, pro hac vice is said to apply to currently living cardinals, while pro illa vice applies to deceased cardinals. But, this convention isn’t strictly maintained and one can think of both terms as being equivalent.

This now brings us to Cardinal Priest Andrzej Maria Deskur’s death on September 3, 2011 — he having been a cardinal with a pro hac vice title. The next day, our frequent contributor, Louis Epstein left a comment that started: ‘Cardinal Deskur (the Pole to whom JP II gave his own old cardinalitial title after a seven-year vacancy) died yesterday.‘ But, there was an interesting twist here not fully reflected in Louis’ comment. Cardinal Deskur died a cardinal priest, but had been created, by his friend, as a cardinal deacon. Karol Józef Wojtyla (John Paul II) could not have been a cardinal deacon since he was mainly a pastoral cleric with only ‘visiting’ roles in the curia. And that was the rub. Karol Wojtyla was created with a pro hac vice title. At the age of 47 years and one month, Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Kraków since 1964, was the 3rd but last cardinal priest named by Paul VI in his June 26, 1967 consistory at which he created 27 new cardinals. This was Paul’s 2nd cardinal creating consistory, he also having created 27 in his first one in February 1965. Quite a few others at this consistory also got pro hav vice titles.

Altar wall of San Cesareo in Palatio

The deaconry assigned to the future pope was San Cesareo in Palatio (in the palace). The Italians (who should know) claim that this is the wrong name! They say, in the Italian version of Wikipedia: ‘The church of San Cesareo de Appia, commonly and erroneously known as San Cesareo in Palatio , is a church of Rome, in the Celio district , near the port of San Sebastian.’ Hhmmm. You would think that the Vatican (though not in Italy per se) would get this right.

The church, whose current structure is from the 17th century, is not very prepossessing from the outside, does, however, have a rather striking mosaic on the altar wall of God the Father among the angels.

As deaconry, it was left unassigned to a cardinal from April 1939 to December 1958 (those being the good ol’ days when there was no mad scramble for titles to accommodate the never ending Red Tide). Then it was assigned to an Italian cardinal, Francesco Bracci. He held it until until his death on March 24, 1967.

Three months later it was assigned to the Archbishop from Poland. He had it for 11 years. When he became pope, he left it unassigned until May 25, 1985 when it was given to Deskur. In January 1996, Deskur chose to be a cardinal priest per jus optionis given that he had completed the requisite 10 years. He then got San Cesareo pro hac vice.

Will be interesting to see who gets it next. I bet it will be a Pole.


Sep 062011

by Anura Guruge

1/ Prior post on pro hac vice, April 19, 20011.
2/ Post before that on pro hac vice, on February 21, 2011, when all six cardinal deacons created in 2001 opted to seek promotion.

The Next Pope 2011 book by Anura Guruge now at Amazon

On September 3, 2011, 87-Year Old Polish Cardinal Priest Andrzej Maria Deskur [dob: February 29, 1924], President emeritus, Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, died in Rome, at 6 pm Rome time. When he opted, per jus optionis, in January 1996, to become a cardinal priest his deaconry was elevated to a title, pro hac vice. That was an interesting twist. Because this was the deaconry that had been assigned to his friend and compatriot, Cardinal Wojtyla. It had been left unassigned for 7 years when the polish cardinal priest was elected pope. [I will talk more about this in another post shortly. So stay tuned.]

With Cardinal Deskur’s passing we now only have 21 instances of pro hac vice.

The current list is as follows:

pro hac vice titles by Anura Guruge


Sep 062011

Berlin Olympic Statidum as it looked in 1936

by Anura Guruge

On September 22, 2011 the pope, Benedict XVI (#266), will be visiting his homeland, Germany, for his third trip there as pope — though this will be the first State Visit by him and his first visit to Berlin as pope. The pope will be in Germany for 4 days in total — till September 25. In addition to Berlin he will also visit the Erfurt diocese [central Germany] and the Freiburg archdiocese [in the southwest].

On arriving in Berlin, on September 22nd, the pope will meet with Catholic, German President Christian Wulff at the Bellevue Castle, the president’s official residence. The Pope will then proceed to the headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference in Berlin. He will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel there (and that should be an interesting meeting, with a non-Catholic, given the pope’s ‘insensitive’ comments of late about European markets while Germany has been struggling to keep the Euro from becoming toast).

That afternoon (hopefully after taking a nap), the pope will address the German Parliament. He is also scheduled to meet with members of the local Jewish community. [That also should be an intriguing meeting.]

That evening, starting at 6:30 pm, the pope will celebrate Mass in the Berlin (1936) Olympic Stadium — where Jesse Owens showed up Hitler.

The Next Pope 2011 book by Anura Guruge now at Amazon

As has now become a rather cute and welcome custom, the Vatican, ahead of the visit, published their statistics for the Catholic Church in Germany. See that stats for Spain (and Croatia) that were published ahead of the August trip to Spain. The data provided is accurate as of December 31, 2010 and is from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Angela Dorothea Merkel, born 1954. Her father was a Lutheran Pastor.

Germany has a population of 81,751,000 of whom 24,675,000 (30.2%) are Catholic.

There are 29 ecclesiastical circumscriptions and 11,483 parishes.

Currently there are 113 bishops, 17,274 priests, 28,651 religious, 1,657 lay members of secular institutes and 10,060 catechists. [7 cardinals, 5 of whom are electors, though that includes the tactless Kasper.]

Minor seminarians number 2,303 and major seminarians 1,151. A total of 1,031,981 students attend 9,439 centres of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities.

Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Germany include 444 hospitals, 1,368 clinics, 2,804 homes for the elderly or disabled, 1,172 orphanages and nurseries, 2,176 family counselling centres and other pro-life centres, 2,204 centres for education and social rehabilitation, and 468 institutions of other kinds.

Sep 032011
St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, of Cloyne, Ireland

St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, of Cloyne, Ireland

by Anura Guruge

All relates posted on this link referenced below.

Having immediately muddied the waters by recalling their nuncio as soon as the damaging report came out, the Holy See, today, formally responded to the ‘Cloyne Report‘ — with what struck me as their much practiced superciliousness.

Here is a summary of the Holy See response as it appeared in today’s Vatican Information Service (VIS) bulletin. I created a pdf of the entire bulletin that you can easily view. Click here for the pdf. You can read the entire report, in English, here.

Suffice to say, I was not the only one that was not too impressed with the Vatican response (though I was not expecting anything more or anything less from them).

The Irish Times called it ‘legalistic and technical’. I think ‘supercilious’ was the word they were searching for.

The BBC said, quite correctly (as ever), that the ‘Vatican rejects cover-up claims over Cloyne report’.

Well, you can read it up and make up your own mind. Thanks.

1/ July 23, 2011 post on — Ireland’s Magee, Secretary to Three Pope, Now In Very Hot Water, Does Indeed Do A Bolt — Thought To Be Hiding In the USA.
2/ July 25, 2011 post on — Vatican Aggravates Irish ‘John Magee’ Sex Abuse Brouhaha By Recalling Nuncio.
3/ July 26, 2011 post on — Irish Press Openly Accusing John Magee Of Falsehood.
4/ July 27, 2001 post on — The Small Irish Schism?
5/ August 4, 2011 post — The Irish, at last, take decisive action against rogue bishop, John Magee.
6/ May 21, 2010 post — John Magee, the alleged discover of John Paul I’s body, resigns over the Irish clerical scandal.

Sep 022011

by Anura Guruge
The Next Pope 2011 by Anura Guruge
When I published ‘The Next Pope‘ in February 2010, I made a point of noting that I would endeavor to update the book, on a regular basis, using today’s cost-effective ‘print-on-demand’ (PoD) technology. I had always felt that PoD gave me an edge over those that had published ‘next pope’ books using conventional channels — where ‘x’ copies of a book are printed in one print run and stored in a warehouse awaiting orders.

The 2011 version has a completely new Chapter 1 with a new slate of papabili and an explanation of my current thinking; e.g., the next pope is likely to be ‘older than ‘younger’ etc.

I also added a whole new 29-page (15,632 word) appendix titled ‘Sede vacante minutiae‘. Those that have read it, which included Father John (whose full name appears in the book), Darien Clark, ‘Fitz’ et. al. said that they enjoyed this addition given that it contains a day-by-day account of what happened during the 2005 transition starting the day before John Paul II’s death.

I published this version (with expanded, unrestricted distribution) via CreateSpace — Amazon’s PoD arm. This is my third book with them. Going through CreateSpace enabled me to significantly reduce the price of the book — as much as 46%! Amazing. So, this book, though bigger, is $13.65 cheaper.

The list price for the new book, through all channels, will be US $16.00.

For readers of this blog I am providing an additional US $2.00 discount so that you can purchase it for $14.00 from CreateSpace (albeit before shipping). To get it for US $14,00 go to CreateSpace and use this Discount Code NJY2B4SE.

It will be available on Amazon (US) within the week. There are also some new pictures.



Sep 012011


Next Prefect, Doctrine of the Faith?

by Anura Guruge

According to ‘Rome Reports‘ (which has good sources within the Vatican) US Cardinal Deacon William Joseph Levada [dob: June 15, 1936] has expressed a desire to step down from his current, high profile post, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (to which he was appointed in May 2005, shortly after Benedict XVI (#266) became pope), in 2012 — after he celebrates his 50 years as a priest on December 20, 2011. In June of this year, he turned 75 and per the requirements of Canons 354 & 401 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law would have been required to tender his resignation to the pope — 75 being the nominal retirement age, at the discretion of the pope, for curial and pastoral cardinals. Thus, Cardinal Levada’s retirement is already on the cards and an early 2012 acceptance of it by the pope would not raise any eyebrows.

I think that Cardinal Priest Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don of Sri Lanka, who I dubbed ‘Tanned Ratzinger,‘ given his ideological affinity with the current pope and the Spanish Cardinal ‘Little RatzingerCañizares Llovera, is the obvious choice for the post.

That the pope likes the Sri Lankan is without doubt. His creation, though widely anticipated in Sri Lanka, caught most experts by surprise. There had only been one prior cardinal from Sri Lanka and that creation had been 1965. The prior longtime Archbishop of Colombo, the stately, approachable and popular Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis, never got a looking  [Read the reaction on this blog. Good article by a Sri Lankan agency on the cardinal. Here is a link about Dr. Oswald Gomis and a video of him talking about non-violence on the eve of Christmas 2008.]

The ‘Tanned Ratzinger’ has all the right credentials, conviction, commitment and character for the post — one that this pope held for 24 years as John Paul II’s (#265) ‘enforcer of the doctrine.’ He has spent a lot of time in Rome and was the popular Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from December 2005 to June 2009. He has also been a papal nuncio.

The Sri Lankans who correctly anticipated the cardinalate have also been convinced that the pope would ‘soon’ be summoning his ‘protégé’ back to Rome for an important curial post. Well, this would be the ideal post and the Sri Lankans will be elated.

I do not think that the Sri Lankan will be pope in my lifetime (and I am 6 years younger than my compatriot, though I am nowhere as healthy as he is), but I can definitely see him stepping into the shoes of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Doctrine of the Faith.

Appointing the Sri Lankan will also add some much needed color to the higher echelons of the curia, which like the College in noway represent the demographics of the Catholic world. [Another possibility, though not as satisfactory, would be a total reshuffle of the ‘cabinet,’ with the Sri Lankan getting something other than CDF.]

So, mark this post and if this comes to pass, just remember where you read it first.

German Bishop Gerhardt Ludwig Muller has been mentioned again as another contender for CDF.

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