By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After 25 years doing the English-language commentary for the pope’s Christmas midnight Mass, Cardinal John P. Foley is stepping away from the microphone and hanging up the headphones.
“I guess I’m truly the Ghost of Christmas Past now,” he told Vatican Radio Nov. 24.
The cardinal, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and a former editor of the Catholic Standard and Times, was first asked by the television network NBC to do the broadcast in 1984. He continued guiding U.S. audiences through the Mass and, eventually, other media outlets began getting his commentary as well.
His voice was heard in the Philippines, Nigeria, Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana and occasionally some Scandinavian countries, he told Catholic News Service Dec. 2.
“For a while, the Australians would not take me because I had an American accent,” he said, but eventually his commentaries were broadcast there as well.
Cardinal Foley noted that his absence is not the biggest change broadcasters and viewers will notice with Pope Benedict’s Christmas Eve Mass this year. The Vatican announced in late November that the Pope would begin his “midnight” Mass at 10 p.m. Rome time.
Looking back on 25 years of midnight commentary, the cardinal said, “It was quite an honor and a thrill to bring so many people around the world together in prayer.”
Doing the commentary was not a matter of taking a cushy, front-row seat in St. Peter’s Basilica and telling people what was happening. In fact, during the Mass the cardinal wasn’t in the basilica at all.
The various commentators watch a closed-circuit video feed of the Mass from the Braccio Carlo Magno, an unheated exhibition space at the end of the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. But Cardinal Foley, who trained as a journalist and for 14 years edited the CS&T, would go into the basilica before Mass and find any English-speakers who were serving, reading or receiving Communion from the Pope. He’d share their names and stories with viewers during the broadcast.
Instead of doing the commentary this year, the 74-year-old cardinal plans to spend Christmas in Philadelphia, he said.
He is scheduled to serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the 11:30 a.m. Mass Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25, at Sacred Heart Church in Manoa, Delaware County.
“I thought 25 years was a good time to round it out,” Cardinal Foley said.
Cardinal John P. Foley is scheduled to serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the 11:30 a.m.
Mass Christmas Day at Sacred Heart Church in Manoa, Delaware County.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103