Papal preacher trusts God’s message

| October 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

Capuchin Franciscan Father Ran­iero Cantalamessa, prea­cher to the papal household since 1980, will be in the Twin Cities Oct. 29-Nov. 3 to speak at the Catholic Charis­matic Renewal na­tion­al conference and to various other groups. (See accompanying schedule.) He responded by e-mail to the following questions from The Catholic Spirit.

What is your specific role as the preacher to the papal household?

Father Cantalamessa

Father Cantalamessa

My specific role as preacher to the papal household is to give a meditation in the presence of the pope, the cardinals, bishops and prelates of the Roman Curia and the general superiors of the religious orders, every Friday morning during two periods of the year, Advent and Lent. This preaching is distinct from the annual retreat the pope and the Curia make during the first week of Lent and which is preached every time by a different person, usually a cardinal or a bishop.

How did you get the job of preacher to the papal household?

The general superior of the Fran­cis­can Capuchin Order, to which the office is traditionally assigned, presents to the pope three names and the pope chooses one. I have been doing this job for the last 31 years, being appointed by pope John Paul II at the beginning of 1980. It has been the longest period in charge of a preacher in history, which shows the heroic patience and endurance of our two last popes!

Is it intimidating preaching to the pope?

Yes and no! I felt a little anxious just the first moments of my first sermon back in 1980, then the Lord gave me a great peace. What has helped me is to know that I don’t have to preach a message of my own, but the word of God, and I am convinced that the message of Jesus deserves to be heard by everybody. It also helped me tremendously the fact that, before being appointed, I had received (in the States, in New Jersey) the baptism in the Spirit. The Holy Father, on the other hand, makes the task easier doing his best to make the preacher at ease.

What Scripture passage do you most enjoy preaching about?
In 31 years, I had the opportunity to deal with countless passages of the Scripture. Scripture is always the backbone of my preaching. I usually start from a quotation of the Bible, trying to focus on the core message and then apply it to the concrete and present situations of the church and the world. I am free to choose the topic of my sermons. Only once, during the day of penance and reconciliation following Sept. 11, did John Paul II express his desire of a particular topic, fasting. Usually in choosing the theme of my preaching, I try to be guided by the particular problem or grace the church is living in a certain moment. For instance, in the year of St. Paul, I commented on some passages of his letters, especially those expressing his ardent faith and love for Jesus; in the past year of the priests, the theme has been the passage where St. Paul defines the ministers of the New Covenant: “Servants of Christ and administrators of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). In the next Advent preaching, I am planning to use some spiritual and theological insights of Cardinal John Newman, recently beatified by the pope.

Has your preaching style been different for Pope Benedict XVI than it was for Pope John Paul II?

Not really. Of course, I try to keep in  mind the special interest on theology of Pope Benedict and, at the occasion, insist more on the doctrinal aspect of a particular subject, as I insisted more on the pastoral aspects while speaking to Pope John Paul II. Already as cardinal, Pope Benedict, while in Rome, he was always present at the preaching, sitting in the first row, and I can assure you that it gives a certain shiver to speak while the prefect of the Congregation of Faith is looking at you.

What is Pope Benedict’s favorite Scripture story?

This I can’t really say. Pope Bene­dict is a very discreet and respectful person and doesn’t show openly his feelings and preferences. One thing I can say, in a sermon I delivered last Lent, while quoting Jere­miah 15:19-20: “I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you,” I had a sudden inspiration to turn toward the pope saying: “Holy Father, this word is for you!”

What message do you most want to share with all of the groups you will address in Minnesota: priests and deacons, lay leaders, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, seminarians, college students and ecumenical groups?
I want to be consistent with my deep conviction that Christian preach­ing is not a communication of doctrine, but a communication of life; better, it is a communication of life even when it is a communication of doctrine. Life means for me the life and the love of Jesus Christ, through the power of his Spirit. My  hope and my prayer is that there will be a “strong wind” blowing over Minnesota and “tongues as of fire” to be seen as leaders of the Char­is­matic Renewal nationwide, local clergy and Christians of different denominations gather in the Twin Cities from the end of October and beginning of November.

Speaking schedule

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, will address the following events:

Oct. 29-31: Catholic Charismatic Renewal national conference, Oct. 29-30 at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul. Presentations set for clergy, lay leaders and young adults.
Oct. 31: Fundraiser dinner for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal office, Crowne Plaza, St. Paul.
Nov. 1: Retreat with Father Cantalamessa and Father Timothy Nolan: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Brooklyn Center.
Nov. 2: Ecumenical gathering at 7 p.m., All Saints Church, Lakeville. Free.
Nov.3: Ecumenical gathering at 7 p.m., North Heights Lutheran, Arden Hills. Free.

For conference information and registration, call 1-800-338-2445 or visit

For information or registration for the fundraiser dinner or the retreat on the Holy Spirit at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, call (763) 571-5314 or visit


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