January 20, 2017

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

A couple more of my press visits with Pope John Paul II

John F. FinkThe 1980 World Congress of the Catholic Press was held in Rome. My wife Marie and I and another couple from the United States found a hotel called the Valadier between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo. We stayed there mainly because it was cheaper than the congress hotel. We found the hotel charming, but quite small. It was decorated with a lot of red, and the location of the rooms seemed unusual. It finally dawned on us that we were staying at a former brothel.

At the end of the Rome congress, we had what was supposed to be a private audience with Pope John Paul II. Those who attended the congress were given tickets and told to report to the bronze doors that lead to the Apostolic Palace. We walked up all the wide marble stairs to the audience room but, when we got there, we found it full of Italians. The Romans who organized the congress simply printed enough tickets for all their friends. The audience turned out to be not as private as we had expected.

In 1985, as I was finishing my time as president of the International Federation of Catholic Press Associations and after I became editor of The Criterion, my federation had a symposium in Rome. At its end, we had a private audience with Pope John Paul II that turned out better than the one we had had in 1980.

Here’s part of what I wrote in my diary about this audience: “The pope arrived right on the dot at 12:45. He appeared thinner than he was last year when I last saw him [when he came to the United States in 1984]. Others remarked that he looked older, but I didn’t notice that. He seemed his usual self, just thinner.”

I continued in my diary: “His talk to us was in English, probably written by John Foley [that’s Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, who had been my close friend for decades], although John didn’t tell us that; the speech just seemed to be in John’s style. He praised the Catholic press for the way it informs, forms and instructs the faithful and said that lives can be changed by the printed word (the same thing Archbishop Foley said in his Catholic Press Month message that year). He said we should search for ways to tell the story of God’s servants serving God’s people—the poor, the sick, the hungry.

“After his talk, he greeted each of us personally and then posed for a group picture. I happened to be standing right where he came for the group photo, so I ended up right behind him. The whole audience went very well and was not the mob scene that there was five years ago when we had an audience during the World Congress—but there were many more people then, and the Italians had all their friends and relatives in the front seats. There was none of that this time. We were with the pope for a half hour.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!