Pope Benedict XVI has named U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley pro-grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a fraternal organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.
The 71-year-old Philadelphia native had been head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for "23 years and three months," he said June 27.
Naming Archbishop Foley "pro-"grand master, Pope Benedict seemed to indicate that he would be named a cardinal during the next consistory, which likely will be held in November.
Archbishop Foley, who will remain in Rome, succeeds retired Italian Cardinal Carlo Furno, 85.
The Vatican also announced June 27 that Archbishop Foley's successor at the social communications council would be Italian Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who will turn 66 in July.
Archbishop Celli had been a Vatican diplomat and was the Vatican's point man for contacts with the communist governments of Vietnam and North Korea in the early 1990s when he was an undersecretary in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Since 1995, Archbishop Celli has been secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of Holy See, the office overseeing Vatican investments, and also the Vatican's Web site and Internet office.
Archbishop Foley told Catholic News Service he had met with Cardinal Furno and the governor general of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher shortly before his appointment was announced, but he has not visited the Holy Land since the 1970s.
The grand master's task, he said, is "to try to strengthen Catholic institutions in the Holy Land, work with (Jerusalem's Latin-rite) patriarch, encourage more members and promote the spiritual lives of the knights and dames."
The new position will be the archbishop's first in more than 35 years that is not concerned primarily with the media.
Archbishop Foley told CNS he hoped he had accomplished two primary goals: "First, that the church recognize the importance of the media for communicating the good news of Jesus Christ"; and second, that church leaders understand "the communications media are not threats, but opportunities."
The archbishop said he always tried to take "a positive approach toward the means of communication and toward the people who run them."
"That pretty much has worked," he said, citing interest even from secular broadcasters, filmmakers and advertising agencies in engaging in a dialogue with council officials. He is a graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York and former editor of the Philadelphia archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard and Times.
As president of the Vatican's social communications office since 1984, he has helped media gain access to cover or rebroadcast Vatican events, and he has done the English-language commentary for worldwide broadcasts of major papal ceremonies.
The council also is responsible for articulating Catholic policy with regard to the media and, under Archbishop Foley's leadership, it has issued separate documents on ethical standards in advertising, communications and the Internet.
The council also produced a document denouncing pornography, saying it and sadistic violence "debase sexuality, corrode human relationships, exploit individuals -- especially women and young people -- undermine marriage and family life, foster anti-social behavior and weaken the moral fiber of society itself."
His media-friendly style and quick sense of humor shine in person and throughout the numerous speeches and homilies he has delivered around the world. He often speaks of the joys of working for the church, telling his audiences that while the pay often is not great, "the benefits are out of this world."
When the Vatican started to investigate the possibility of going online, Archbishop Foley lobbied tirelessly for the Holy See to be given its own top-level domain. "We were first told that we should be part of '.it' for Italy; I told them we were surrounded by 'It'; that in another sense, we were 'It,' but we were not in 'It.'" After refusing to settle for ".it" and ".org," he succeeded in getting the Vatican the top-level domain of ".va," he said in a May 10 speech to former classmates from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
He said he loves being able to merge his love for God and the media.
"In my work as a priest and as an archbishop, I am able to do two things I love very much: to be active in communications and to tell people about Jesus," he said in May 6 commencement address to students of the University of Portland, Ore. Born in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby, Pa., in 1935, he was ordained a priest in Philadelphia when he was 26 years old.
Archbishop Foley said his media experience dated back to the seventh grade when he started writing radio plays on the lives of saints. Not only were his plays aired, but at age 14 he was asked to be an announcer for Sunday morning programming for what was then WJMJ in Philadelphia.
Between stints as assistant editor of Philadelphia's archdiocesan paper in the 1960s, he completed his graduate studies in philosophy in Rome, where he also worked as a news reporter.
His beat included covering the Second Vatican Council from 1963 to 1965. In 1970, he was appointed editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, a position he held until Pope John Paul II named him an archbishop and appointed him head of the Vatican's social communications council in 1984.
Archbishop Foley has received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Catholic Press Association's highest prize, the St. Francis de Sales Award.
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