Phoenix, Ariz., Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Phoenix, Ariz., priest has invented a computer system intended to help Catholics who are deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired to make their confessions.
Father Romuald P. Zantua, the system’s inventor, told CBCP News that his invention will help increase the practice of confessions, especially for deaf people who have limited access to priests who know sign language.
The website for the system, called St. Damien’s Confession Box, says it is primarily aimed at the deaf and those with speech impediments who may not be able to communicate well to the priest hearing their confession.
“Most priests are also not trained or proficient enough in sign language conversation,” the website said.
About 500,000 Americans use sign language as their principal means of communication.
The system runs special software that uses two dedicated, secured computers. All network connectivity options are disabled except for an Ethernet connection, which connects the devices with a network cable.
The penitent and the priest each have their own computer. They communicate through typed messages on a chat program. The messages are erased at the end of each confession.
The system is still awaiting approval from the Holy See. The National Catholic Office for the Deaf and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability have helped assess and revise the system in its development.
Church law recognizes that the deaf may confess through written communication or an approved interpreter, though all confessions must be made in person.
A video presentation for St. Damien’s Confession Box said there will “always be a need” for priests who know American Sign Language, but the system provides an alternative in the absence of such priests.
The system is named for Saint Damien of Molokai, a priest who ministered to Hawaiian lepers and contracted leprosy himself. He was forbidden to leave the island of Molokai and faced great difficulty making his own confession.
The St. Damien’s Confession Box website is http://stdamien.org.
Lincoln, Neb., Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Father Joseph Faulkner, a priest of the Lincoln diocese, is teaching Latin to his high school students by actually speaking to them in Latin and “throwing them in a little bit above their heads.”
“I'm trying to lower the fear level; I use the language of John Paul II, 'be not afraid', getting people to not be as fearful of the language,” Fr. Faulkner, who teaches at Hastings' St. Cecilia High School, told CNA Dec. 10.
“And I don't generally correct them at this point; we don't correct three-year-olds when they use incorrect grammar, we applaud them for using the right words, and we give them the grammar eventually.”
The priest has been giving simple commands in Latin in his classroom; using a lot of demonstrative definitions – pointing and gesturing; tossing balls, indicating who threw to whom; and is now adding in simple reading comprehension, using both pictures and English sentences.
Fr. Faulkner's method of teaching Latin is meant to be an approximation of a “toddler intuition of teaching,” which was inspired by a discussion had in seminary about the inflection of Latin words – the fact that their endings change depending upon their function in a sentence.
“The problem is, the word is the word, it is the way it is originally written, but then it really does decline, it breaks down, and gets chewed up and spit back out mama bird-style,” as the word is used different ways in sentences. “So when I pick up the ball, I have to change it. When I give it someone, I have to change it.”
To deal with this challenge that Latin has, Fr. Faulkner is “trying to 'trick' kids in to learning declensions without knowing they're doing it,” because “declension just blows an English speaker's mind … all we've done so far is the nominative (the subject case), but the students don't even know that.”
This is how children begin to learn their first language, he said. “Kids acquire nouns first; then they begin to get possession: 'my ball'; then 'me do (something)'; and finally 'I do (something).' They get there bit by bit, and you slowly add more.”
By sneaking declensions past the students, Fr. Faulkner hopes to avoid a dual problem: either losing students who are frustrated by the task, or students “just beginning to translate” word-for-word without intuiting the function of the word in a sentence. “It's getting people to begin to read it, not (just to) translate it.”
“If we do that, then they can actually understand their own language better; because really this isn't just about Latin. It's probably as much about learning your own language, such as a English, better. The reason we can't speak a foreign language, is that we cant speak English.”
Fr. Faulkner said, “it's funny, because all our kids understand how to do 'he, him, his', they just don't think they're doing anything. They can't explain what's different, they just do it. The difference among who, whose, and whom is lost on them, but once someone gets that, they can go back and say, 'that makes sense, now I understand why that's doing that.'”
Learning how Latin works allows this better understanding of English. “It allows a person to recognize this is going on in our language, and you start to speak better English, making better sentences – putting ideas together better – and that's even without the vocabulary boost, which Latin will also do.”
The students have recently started making family trees, and composing simple sentences in Latin expressing familial relationships. Fr. Faulkner considers it important to have his students have experience speaking, hearing, and writing the “dead” language because “if you skip the listening and speaking part, then you're just translating.”
“The brain grasps a language better when it's speaking, and reading, and writing.”
Fr. Faulkner's class is called “Classical Languages”, and this is his second year teaching it. The previous year was limited to etymology and word roots from Latin and Greek, “but I found last year that you have to understand that crazy little thing declension to understand why the name for king is 'rex', but the adjective in English is 'regal'.”
In this second year of teaching the class, he said, “we started with a discussion of linguistics and phonetics” so that the students could understand how languages work and change, and then began “the Latin 'immersion' path … but it truly is a section of a bigger class that involves word origins and the classical tradition in the English language.”
“I can't say it's working yet; we're just starting it. It's an adventure.”
The current class is composed of 10 students, most of whom are seniors. “ We'd like to have sophomores taking this class so they have room to grow” into a second year of the class. “And we want them to do it before they're seniors, because it will help their ACT/SAT scores – that's just the general helpfulness of Latin. But if you want to get to second year, sophomore year is really the time to start.”
The current effort at the school to introduce Latin is an attempt to “get the ball rolling with interest” in having a richer Latin program at St. Cecilia’s, as the school is working to “widen our culture base, our academic and intellectual bona fides.”
The small school is working to revitalize itself, offering a Latin program that won't be found at other area schools, “and it's an exciting thing for us to do that … we have this new little program cropping up, but I know Bishop Conley has said 'can we get this rolling in other places.'”
Bishop James Conley told CNA that “Fr. Faulkner's Latin class is a wonderful idea,” saying that while “education is becoming rote and mechanized … Catholic schools can engage the imagination and the creativity of students.”
“Catholic schools can engage the soul. St. Cecilia’s is doing that. So are all the Catholic schools in our diocese. Catholic education offers worldviews and opportunities you can't find anywhere else.”
The Bishop of Lincoln went on to discuss the value of learning Latin, noting that “classical languages open our minds to classical ideas, to the cornerstones of western culture. Latin is the key to encounter with St. Thomas Aquinas, with St. Augustine, and with Virgil. Knowing Latin helps us to know ourselves, and Fr. Faulkner has found a way to get students excited about Latin.”
Fr. Faulkner affirmed that in “learning Latin, you get this skeleton key that helps you understand so many things: not just Latin texts, and the modern languages that come from it; but there are a ton of little cultural things, in English conversation: Latin phrases, or references that only really make sense in their original Latin context.”
“Having that skeleton key to open that up is an amazing gift” that is rarely offered students today, he said.
“We should be trying hard not to lose … the common possession of Roman Catholics for thousands of years,” a cultural treasure that opens up the tradition of the Church. “Even a little more knowledge of what's happening in our prayers, in our history, would be huge.”
He considers the class a success so far: “I've heard the kids love going home and showing off to their moms that they can speak Latin. That's good. If you're bragging on your Latin at home, I'm feeling good about this class.”
“One that has struck me, as we sit on the floor, play games, giving simple little instructions … what I really like, is in the beginning they said, 'learn Latin? not only is that not useful, but that's got to be really hard and awful.'”
“And suddenly to see them having fun – they were tweeting something funny in Latin the other day … they want to share that, and are just getting excited about the language, playing with it on their own. It's so great to watch them do that, especially having gone from fearful, and this is useless and impossible, to this is fun and cool.”
Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Entertainment analysts with major media outlets are questioning whether the recent suspension of a major character from the record-breaking show Duck Dynasty was the right move.
“It appears from A&E's own comments that the last thing they want interfering with Show Phil is Real Phil,” said NPR's pop culture blog editor Linda Holmes.
On Dec. 18, the A&E network announced Phil Robertson, star of the major cable hit Duck Dynasty, would be placed on an indefinite hiatus, following a recent interview with GQ magazine in which he said that he believes homosexual behavior is sinful and illogical.
The announcement drew significant attention, as Duck Dynasty has broken records for the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. The show follows the lives of a Louisiana bayou family that became wealthy with a duck call business that was started in a family shed.
Holmes pointed to the statement released by A&E, which said that Robertson’s comments to GQ “are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.”
She questioned “what kind of sense this makes” for A&E to distance itself from Robertson’s personal beliefs, when those beliefs “are part and parcel of the religious faith that has been one of the show's selling points.”
The network “is explaining that Phil's personal beliefs are not reflected in the show that is ostensibly about Phil,” she observed.
Holmes also suggested that “it seems vanishingly unlikely that A&E has filmed Phil for 50 episodes and didn't know he felt this way.”
“That makes it hard to believe the suspension is meant to send Phil off to rethink his position on gay people or learn to be more tolerant if they haven't done so before,” she said. “It seems that Real Phil is instead being suspended for opening his mouth to GQ and fussing with the carefully maintained image of Show Phil by telling people what he actually thinks.”
While the network “has every right to suspend him,” she continued, it now faces a problem with pleasing its audience, who tune in to the show that is promoted as offering “real, genuine, cinema beardite stars who simply can't stop keeee-razy things from coming out of their mouths.”
“By putting (and keeping) the show on the air, the network seems to be acknowledging that people appreciate the opportunity to see a family like Phil's, but by suspending him, the network seems to be acknowledging that at least some of the audience wants a partially obstructed view,” Holmes said.
She questioned the real effects of suspending Robertson indefinitely while continuing the show.
“(T)he suspension itself seems to consist of little more than the announcement – little more than the obligatory ‘we acknowledge that we have to put out this statement and we therefore hereby put this statement out’ kind of announcement,” she said, wondering what its real effects would be.
This point was also raised by James Poniewozik, television critic for Time Magazine, who questioned why precisely Robertson had been disciplined by the network.
“Was he suspended for believing that being gay is a sin? For saying it out loud? For saying it in those terms?”
The conservative Christianity of the Robertsons “was a selling point” of the show, Poniewozik observed. But when these conservative Christian views are spoken openly, “the stuff Phil thinks and says creates an irreconcilable problem.”
The show may appeal to comedy fans and people with cultural nostalgia, the writer acknowledged. “But for at least part of the huge Duck Dynasty audience, the Robertsons’ faith is part of the appeal: the fact that they’re public, devout Christians with a public platform, even if their faith was mostly background to the zany family antics.”
Therefore, there will be pressure on the network from both sides – those upset with his comments and those who will be upset at any move to punish him for what he believes, and what many viewers may also believe.
Poniewozik suggested that perhaps A&E is using a vague “hiatius” to solve the problem.
“Is A&E going to put out a season of Duck Dynasty in which we just kind of forget that one of the family members exists?” he asked. “Or is this a “hiatus” that blows over once everyone forgets about this, Phil puts out some kind of crafted statement, and allows for the shooting of a full normal Duck Dynasty season? You know, like the exact same thing we would get if A&E didn’t do anything at all?”
Protests of A&E's decision quickly sprung up. Within 18 hours, a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the network had gained half a million likes. More than 46,000 people also signed an online petition labeled #IStandWithPhil.
Vatican City, Dec 20, 2013 (CNA) -
Pope Francis reflected on in the importance of silence in his daily homily, noting that God’s plan of salvation always includes moments of mystery and quiet.
“Silence is really the ‘cloud’ that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, our holiness and our sins. We cannot explain this mystery, but where there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guard the mystery with silence!” said the Pope on Dec. 20.
The Pontiff considered today’s gospel passage containing the story of the annunciation, in which Mary is “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit in conceiving Jesus.
The mystery of God becoming man is carefully protected, he noted.
“This is what happened to the Virgin Mary when she received her son: the mystery of her virginal motherhood is covered. It covers all of her life, and she knows it.”
“How many times did she keep quiet and how many times did she not say how she felt in order to guard the mystery of her relationship with her son,” Pope Francis reflected.
Particularly when Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, “the gospel doesn’t tell us anything - if she said a word or not...she was quiet, but in her heart how many things was she saying to the Lord!”
“Our Lady was human!” insisted the Pontiff, so perhaps she wanted to say to God, “‘you told me that he would be great, you told me that you would give him the throne of David his father, who would reign forever and now I see him there!’”
“But she, with silence, covered the mystery that she did not understand and with this silence allowed the mystery to be able to grow and flower in hope,” he said.
Just as Mary lived the power of silence, every Christian “knows the mysterious work of the Lord in our hearts, in our souls.”
Silence “helps us to discover our mystery: our mystery of encountering the Lord, our mystery of walking through life with the Lord,” encouraged Pope Francis.
The Pontiff then concluded his homily in the chapel of the Saint Martha guesthouse by praying that “the Lord would give us the grace to love silence, to seek it and to have a heart guarded by the ‘cloud’ of silence.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A researcher at Washington D.C.'s Georgetown University has found that impoverished women in India are more likely to improve their economic circumstances after converting to Christianity.
“Conversion actually helps launch women on a virtuous circle. A woman feels better, she's part of an active faith community, she works more, she earns more money: the extra money she earns and saves encourages her to earn more and save more and plan and invest in the future,” said Rebecca Samuel Shah, research fellow at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
Shah presented her initial findings of a pilot study looking at “patterns and directions where conversion had an impact” on Dalit women in Bangalore, India at a conference on “Christianity and Freedom” held in Rome on Dec. 13-14.
Shah and her team studied 300 women who lived in a Dalit slum community over the course of 3 years. When they began their research, they did not know that 23 percent of the women being interviewed were actually converts to Christianity.
Dalits are considered the “outcasts” of or “pariahs” of society in India.
“One is actually born a Dalit, you cannot leave a Dalit status. You’re born and you live and you die a Dalit,” Shah explained. “Dalits are employed in the some of the worst jobs…they scavenge, they sweep, they’re tanners. They do the smelliest, dirtiest work, and therefore they 'polute'... they’re 'untouchables.'”
Moreover, “Dalits are not allowed to go near a (Hindu) temple, or touch a religious object that is used in worship.”
Because “they don’t want to live on the margins” of society, “they are converting to Christianity,” she noted.
Shah's study yielded some surprising results about the impact of Christian conversion on the lives of Dalit women in “a very violent urban slum.”
The majority of Hindu, Muslim and Christian Dalit women interviewed were illiterate. Many belong to a microfinance program which gives them access to loans which they then use towards their children's education or to run a small business.
The first “unexpected pattern” Shah encountered was in housing. “The converts converted their loans to purchasing houses, and turned dead capital into resources to generate additional capital.”
Housing is an exceptionally important issue because “these people live in a slum community. It’s a transient community, they’re originally migrant workers, they had de facto rights to the property, but did not have legally enforceable title,” said Shah.
The impact of home ownership is crucial, since “by being able to own a house, these poor women were able to get bank loans, commercial loans, which they didn’t have access to before that. When you have a house you can get a loan at 3 percent, instead of from a money lender at 18 percent. So having a house is a very important investment in your future, so you can have access to very affordable credit.”
The second “dramatic” finding in Shah’s study concerned domestic violence.
A national family health survey in India in 2005-2006 indicated that 86 percent of the women interviewed nationally had never told anyone that they had been abused.
According to Shah, this large scale study indicated that a woman’s religion was an important indicator of whether or not she would seek help. “Only 24 percent of Hindu women sought help, and 22 percent of Muslim women, but 32 percent of Christian women sought help,” she noted.
Shah’s own study “echoed” the national health data, in that “57 percent of women – a very large number of women – actually tell their pastor” about domestic violence.
She pointed to two key factors in the higher reporting of abuse. “These women are very closely involved, very actively involved, in their faith community. When they arrive in their weekly prayer meetings and they’ve got a gash across their face, or they’re lacking a few teeth, they get noticed.”
Furthermore, “pastors that are usually male visit the homes, and they repeatedly visit the homes, so at some point, the husband who’s beating up his wife is shamed into stopping beating his wife.”
This indicates a “very interesting connection” between home ownership and seeking help for domestic abuse, “because many of those women literally open the doors and bring their pastors into this very violent and very dark situation of their homes.”
“It was a unique finding. We were not looking for this,” added Shah.
The Georgetown researcher then pointed to the underlying factors that accompany an improvement in circumstances after conversion.
“Conversion activates in the converts a powerful new concept of value and initiative,” she explained.
It offers “a radically different way of seeing themselves: seeing themselves as a new creation, a new identity, made in the image of God, seeking a better life for themselves.”
“Poverty is inherently depressing. It’s discouraging. It’s debilitating. It breeds hopelessness: ‘why bother?’” she reflected.
Yet with a new Christian vision, “The future is not terrifying. It can be achieved. Because God is with them, they can invest in the future. It’s not something to ignore, not something to be terrified of.”
Moreover, through the combination of a new sense of identity and access to credit in microfinance, “the converts may harness their agency and capability into investing in the future to improve their lives.”
Conversion, then, first “changes who they believe themselves to be, it changes their self-conception, their belief in who they are, and secondly, it changes how they can change their family’s future and themselves.”
Shah noted that although she has completed a pilot study, “we’re in the process of doing more rigorous research which will confirm these findings.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Velasio de Paolis told 31 new priests of Legionaries of Christ that their perseverance shows “the love of Christ” that can overcome the past scandals of their congregation and purify and renew it.
“You have suffered, and you have realized the suffering that other Legionaries – beginning with the founder – have caused in the lives of others. And the suffering of others has helped you to understand and carry your own suffering,” the cardinal said in his homily before the priestly ordinations Dec. 14 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
“By your decision and by your faithfulness, by your suffering and by bearing the shame of other Legionaries’ sins, you have enabled the purification and renewal of the congregation itself, and you have made it more beautiful in its service to Regnum Christi and to the Church,” he said, referring to the congregation’s lay association.
In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI removed the Legion of Christ’s founder Father Marcial Maciel from ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The priest has been the subject of accusations that he sexually abused seminarians. He was also revealed to have led a double life in which he fathered children and allegedly abused some of them as well. Fr. Maciel died in 2008.
Cardinal de Paolis, a papal delegate overseeing the reform of the Legion, discussed the scandal and its aftermath in his homily.
“There was a moment in the Legion when sin oppressed it, when sin became so visible and clamorous that it reached monstrous proportions and filled the media throughout the world,” he said.
“The Legion’s survival seemed uncertain. The world looked at it with a pitiless gaze that uncovered the indigence and the shame. It was truly a difficult moment. For the Legionaries it was certainly an unpleasant and difficult time.”
The cardinal said that many Legionaries’ call to their congregation was “sorely tested,” with some feeling “lost and distrustful.”
“Some – fortunately only a few – have left.”
Those who remained, he said, did so “because they believe that they chose Christ, who did not betray them and can never betray them.”
“They have entrusted themselves to the God of goodness and of mercy, who is able to renew man’s heart and bring forth children of Abraham even from the very stones.”
He stressed that those who remained with the Legion are “not personally responsible for the painful facts” of the last three years. The men about to be ordained, he said, have “admitted the truth and tried to correct what is wrong.”
“You have persevered in your congregation and today you will receive the priesthood in it; trials have buffeted the Legion, and you have experienced them all. If you’re here today, it’s because you have overcome them; and if you have overcome them, it’s only because your hearts have preserved the certainty of a love, the love of Christ.”
The cardinal noted that the new priests’ preparation for ordination “coincided with the path of purification and renewal” of the Legion.
The Legion’s extraordinary general chapter will begin on January 8, 2014. It will elect new superiors and approve new constitutions.
Cardinal de Paolis said he trusts that a new Legion of Christ will arise that is “reconciled with itself and with others” and “able to forgive and ask forgiveness.” He reminded them that Jesus Christ showed “the merciful face of the Father.”
“May this be the face of your priesthood too,” he said.
He said the priest’s “entire meaning” is found in celebrating the Eucharist. To celebrate this worthily, he added, “the priest must be ready to repay Christ’s love with the gift of his own life.”
The cardinal told the men to be ordained that God gives them a “great gift” and asks that they give this in turn: “the gift of your life, a life lived out in total, generous and joyful love.”
Vatican City, Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis encouraged teens to be living witnesses of their faith in his remarks during an audience with young members of the Italian Catholic Action movement.
“Dear young people, Jesus loves you, he wants to be your friend, he wants to be the friend of all young people,” the Pope said Dec. 20. “If you are convinced of this, surely you know to spread the joy of this friendship to all: at home, in the parish, at school, with your friends.”
The Pope said he had heard the Catholic Action movement’s theme for this year is “to discover (in) Jesus the presence of a friend in your life.”
“Christmas is really the celebration of the presence of God who comes into our midst to save us,” he explained, emphasizing the reality of Christmas.
“The birth of Jesus is not a fable! It is history that really happened, at Bethlehem, two thousand years ago. Faith makes us recognize in this baby, born of the Virgin Mary, the true son of God, who for love of us was made man.”
The pontiff further reflected on the importance of Christmas.
“In the face of the little (baby) Jesus, we contemplate the face of God, who does not reveal himself in strength, in power, but in the weakness and fragility of an infant. This baby shows us the faithfulness and the tenderness of the boundless love with which God envelops each one of us.”
“For this reason we celebrate Christmas, reliving the same experience of the shepherds of Bethlehem,” he noted.
“Together with many fathers and mothers who work hard every day, dealing with many sacrifices; together with children, the sick and the poor, we celebrate this holiday.”
The Pope then urged the youth to “witness” to the love of Christ, “carrying yourselves as true Christians: ready to lend a hand to those in need, without judging others, without speaking badly.”
“I encourage you to always be ‘living stones’ in the Church, united to Jesus,” he said.
Pope Francis closed by thanking the members of Catholic Action for their Christmas greeting. He offered his well-wishes and blessing to them in return.
Washington D.C., Dec 20, 2013 (CNA) -
Camille Paglia, a feminist, lesbian professor, harshly criticized the suspension of Phil Robertson for his statements supporting the traditional Christian view of sexuality, saying such condemnation rejects the freedom of speech.
“If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right of religious freedom there,” Paglia said in a Dec. 19 radio interview on the Laura Ingraham Show.
Paglia is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and has described herself in the past as a “dissident feminist” as well as lesbian.
She spoke out against the treatment of the treatment of Robertson, who was placed on “indefinite hiatus” from Duck Dynasty, a reality show about his family, by A&E for his statements calling homosexual behavior sinful and illogical in an interview with GQ Magazine for its January edition, released online Dec. 18.
Robertson’s comments led to vocal opposition from many LGBT organizations, including GLAAD, which called the statements “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication.”
Paglia asserted that “people have the right to free thought and free speech in a democratic country” to express themselves in interviews, adding that she thinks “that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility.”
“In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I one hundred percent do,” Paglia stated.
She said the call for censorship of Robertson by some groups is a demonstration of the “punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist” trends within left-leaning organizations “over the last several decades,” saying “the whole legacy of free speech” had been “lost” by these groups.
People should foster respect for opposing viewpoints, Paglia commented.
“I’m an atheist, but I respect religion.”
Harsh criticism and condemnation of some points of view “is not the mark of a true intellectual life,” Paglia went on.
“This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S.,” she said, adding that the major media and elites “are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points.”
“There is a dialogue going on human civilization, for heaven sakes. It’s not just this monologue coming from fanatics who have displaced the religious beliefs of their parents into a political movement.”
“And that is what happened to feminism, and that is what happened to gay activism, a fanaticism.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Benny Lai, known in Italy as “dean of the vaticanisti”, died Dec. 12 at the age of 88, following a lengthy illness. Before his death he shared with CNA in a series of interview a look back at the past 60 years of covering the Vatican.
Lai was born in 1925 in Aprigliano in far-southern Italy, and he started his career as a journalist in 1946.
He was accredited with the Vatican City State press servce in 1952, and he long carried with him his first accreditation card as something of a “relic.”
It had been signed by then-Fr. Giovanni Montini, who was a deputy in the Vatican State Secretariat, and who would be elected Bishop of Rome in 1963, becoming Paul VI.
In 1952, the Vatican press office was located inside the city-state's walls, where L'Osservatore Romano's headquarters are currently located. It had existed since before World War II, but it was the workplace of three correspondents only, who had something of a free reign within the Vatican.
That access was restricted under John XXIII, but the number of accredited journalists was increased when the Second Vatican Council was announced. Fr. Roberto Tucci, a Jesuit who is now a cardinal and 92, served as a “general relator” of the council, holding in the press room a near-daily discussion of the events of the ecumenical council.
During the pontificate of Paul VI, the press office was moved, “with the excuse we journalists needed more space,” outside the Vatican, onto the Via della Conciliazione, the boulevard leading into St. Peter's Square, Lai recounted.
It was during this era that Lai became friends with Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, who was Archbishop of Genoa from 1946 until 1989 and became one of his major sources.
Bl. John Paul II, Lai said, “was open to the world, he knew how to communicate,” but his inner circle was closed to journalists.
Gianfranco Svidercoschi, another Vatican journalist and a long-time friend of Lai, told CNA Dec. 15 that Lai would “study, and get documents before writing anything. He was an example for any journalist. He was generous, with that kind of generosity that comes from having deeply learned things.”