Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pietro Sambi - "Making the Pope Comfortable"

U.S. Vatican envoy prepares way for the pope - USA TODAY's Cathy Lynn Grossman profiles Archbiship Pietro Sambi, who as the Holy See's U.S. Ambassador will be lending his expertise in guiding the Pope's interactions with the American people:

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the veteran Vatican diplomat who serves as the Holy See's U.S. ambassador, knows exactly why the world will see — but not hear — Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the bedrock at Ground Zero during the pope's first visit to the USA.

The silence is Sambi's idea.

"This will be a moment of solidarity with those who died and their families. He will walk alone to indicate the loneliness of those who went to their deaths and the loneliness of the survivors. He will light a lamp. He will pray silently and make a public prayer (the only portion to be broadcast) for the remembrance of those who died, and for peace.

"There must be only silence and prayer here because not a single word will be enough to be convincing. Nothing will be adequate to touch the loneliness of those who died there and those who lost someone. Silence and prayer are what is required."

It is Sambi's job to know what is required, spiritual or political or trivial, to make a success of the shy, scholarly pope's visit. When Benedict comes to Washington and New York April 15-20, he will be reaching out to all Americans, not only Catholics.

On the general theme for the papal visit:
"Hope is the transcendent theme. A person or a people without hope is already dead," Sambi says. "In his humble, simple, kind way, this pope is bringing us this clear message: that the way to happiness is to know that God loves you, and because God loves you, you love your neighbor."

The pope also will confront the ugly wounds of clergy sexual abuse. The scandal, which involved nearly 5,000 priests and more than 12,000 victims, rocked the nation in 2002. Settlements and legal bills have surpassed $1.5 billion.

The pope "will address this — and more than once," Sambi says.

But he does not elaborate on when or where, or whether the pope will meet with abuse victims. On that, the voluble Sambi falls diplomatically silent.

Neither will the pope say anything about the contentious U.S. presidential elections, Sambi adds.

And making the Pope comfortable in his surroundings:
The shining black Yamaha baby grand piano is tuned in case the pianist pope wants to relax playing Mozart. It stands in one of the upstairs reception rooms at the nunciature, the Vatican Embassy's home and offices, across busy Massachusetts Avenue from the vice president's residence.

If Benedict wants to take one of his twice-daily walks, Sambi has mapped out a sylvan route where birds will drown out urban clamor.

But there are no plans for the German-born pope to have Bavarian pastries for his birthday luncheon. This will be an Italian meal, Sambi says, catered by Cafe Milano, a trendy Georgetown restaurant.

It's one more taste of American life for Benedict, who keeps an astute eye on popular culture.