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Raniero Cantalamessa

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Raniero Cantalamessa

Preacher of the Papal Household
Cantalamessa in 2020
ChurchLatin Church
Appointed23 June 1980
PredecessorAlfredo Marchesi
Other post(s)Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Apollinare alle Terme Neroniane-Alessandrine (since 2020)
Ordination19 October 1958
by Gaetano Malchiodi [it]
Created cardinal28 November 2020
by Pope Francis
Personal details
Born (1934-07-22) 22 July 1934 (age 89)
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma mater
MottoVeni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit)
Coat of arms

Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap (born 22 July 1934) is an Italian Catholic cardinal and priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and a theologian. He has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Cantalamessa is a proponent of the Catholic charismatic renewal. Pope Francis raised him to the rank of cardinal on 28 November 2020.


Early life and education[edit]

Raniero Cantalamessa was born in Colli del Tronto, Italy, on 22 July 1934.[1] He was ordained as a priest in the Franciscan Capuchin order in 1958.[2] He holds doctoral degrees in theology and classical literature. He formerly served as a professor of ancient Christian history and the director of the Department of Religious Sciences at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, resigning in 1979. Cantalamessa also served as a member of the International Theological Commission from 1975 until 1981.[3]

Preacher to the Papal Household[edit]

Cantalamessa was appointed the Preacher to the Papal Household by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and has been confirmed in this position by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. In this capacity, he provides meditations to the Pope and other high-ranking officials each Friday during Lent and Advent,[3] and is "the only person allowed to preach to the Pope."[4]

Cantalamessa, a frequent speaker, is a member of the Catholic Delegation for the Dialogue with the Pentecostal Churches.[3][4] He currently hosts a weekly program on Radiotelevisione Italiana.

Pope Francis, who had hoped to make a visit in person, and the bishops of the United States (through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese), had chosen Cantalamessa as the preacher, homilist, and spiritual director for their retreat, at Mundelein Seminary to deal with the 2017–2019 sex abuse and concealment crisis in the US Catholic Church. This gathering took place in advance of a February 2019 meeting of the presidencies of all the world's Catholic episcopal conferences with Pope Francis at the Vatican about the abuse crisis and cover-up worldwide, after which the US and other conferences will revise and establish new guidelines, statutes, and commissions for dealing with the crisis, especially as it pertains to abuses and concealments by bishops themselves.[5][6][7][8][9]


On 25 October 2020, Pope Francis announced he would raise him to the rank of cardinal at a consistory scheduled for 28 November 2020.[10] On his request,[11] the pope granted Cantalamessa dispensation from the requirement that he be consecrated a bishop.[12] At that consistory, Pope Francis made him Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Apollinare alle Terme Neroniane-Alessandrine.[13]

Aged more than 80 at the time of his elevation to the cardinalate, Cantalamessa is not a cardinal elector. Before the 2005 and 2013 papal conclaves, he was requested by the Holy College of Cardinals to take one of the two public exhortations that introduce any conclave.[14]

Notable statements[edit]

In 1988, Cantalamessa, in his book The Mystery of Christmas (Sydney: St. Paul's Publications, 1988) made a statement on Jewish–Christian relations, acknowledging that the church must reassess its identity based upon its Jewish roots: "Quite a few in the Jewish religion have started to acknowledge Jesus as 'the glory of Israel.' They openly acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and call themselves 'Messianic Jews.' ... These help us to overcome certain gloomy prospects of ours, making us realize that the great original schism afflicting the Church and impoverishing it is not so much the schism between East and West or between Catholics and Protestants, as the more radical one between the Church and Israel." He then wrote: "We are not saying this in a spirit of proselytism but in a spirit of conversion and obedience to the Word of God because it is certain that the rejoining of Israel with the Church will involve a rearrangement in the Church; it will mean a conversion on both sides. It will also be a rejoining of the Church with Israel." (101)

In December 2006, Cantalamessa urged Pope Benedict in an Advent sermon to declare a day of fasting and penitence in response to child sex crimes by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. There was no reported reaction from the Pope.[4]

In 2010, Cantalamessa caused controversy with his sermon during Good Friday prayers in St Peter's Basilica. According to media outlets, he implied that the sensational coverage of alleged child abuse and cover-ups within the Roman Catholic Church was evidence of anti-Catholicism, and bore similarities to the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism".[15] Cantalamessa responded that he was reading directly from a letter received earlier in the week from a Jewish friend; the unidentified letter writer was expressing his contempt for what he considered a blatant media assault on the Pope.[16] A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, later gave a statement saying that Cantalamessa was not speaking as a Vatican official. The statement added that Cantalamessa's comparison could "lead to misunderstandings and is not an official position of the Catholic Church".[15]

On 29 March 2013, in a Good Friday homily delivered in St Peter's Basilica, Cantalamessa preached in favor of clearing away "the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris." He then referred to Francis of Assisi as exemplifying the creative destroyer of ecclesial traditions:

As happens with certain old buildings, over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church".[17]


Cantalamessa is the primary subject of the award-winning[18] documentary The Preacher to the Popes: Raniero Cantalamessa from CMAX Media and Awakening the Domestic Church. The film premiered in December 2021 in Norfolk, VA. As of January 14, 2022 the documentary has won 8 awards in 12 different festivals.


Cantalamessa is the author of several books on theological and spiritual topics. A selection follows:[19]

  • Glorify God in Your Bodies: Our Call to Horizontal Holiness (1986)
  • The Mystery of Christmas: A Commentary on the Magnificat (1988)
  • Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (1991)
  • The Holy Spirit, Soul of Evangelization (1992)
  • The Eucharist, Our Sanctification (1993)
  • Easter in the Early Church (1993)
  • The Mystery of Easter (1993)
  • The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, The Mystery of Christ's Baptism (1994)
  • The Mystery of God's Word (1994)
  • Virginity (1995)
  • The Power of the Cross (1996)
  • The Ascent to Mount Sinai (1996)
  • Poverty (1997)
  • Life in Christ: A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (1997)
  • The Mystery of Pentecost (2002)
  • Spiritual Healing (2003)
  • Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator (2003)
  • Loving the Church (2005)
  • Sober Intoxication of the Spirit (2005)
  • This Is My Body (2005)
  • Contemplating the Trinity (2007)
  • Beatitudes: Eight Steps to Happiness (2009)
  • The Gaze of Mercy: A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy (2015)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap". Cantalamessa.org (in Italian). Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  2. ^ Hocken, Peter D. (2002). "Cantalamessa, Rainero". In Stanley M. Burgess (ed.). The New International dDctionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Rev. and expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub. House. p. 454. ISBN 0310224810.
  3. ^ a b c "Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap". Cantalamessa.org. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Call for Church sex abuse penance". BBC News. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Father Cantalamessa preaching to US bishops on retreat this week". Catholic News Agency. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Letter sent by the Holy Father to the Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (1st January 2019) | Francis". www.vatican.va.
  7. ^ "U.S. Bishops Receive Letter from Pope Francis As They Gather for Spiritual Retreat; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo Offers Message to Holy Father on Behalf of U.S. Bishops | USCCB". www.usccb.org.
  8. ^ "Pope to U.S. bishops: Abuse crisis requires conversion, humility". Archived from the original on 3 January 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Chicago: US Bishops Gathered for Spiritual Retreat". 3 January 2019.
  10. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (25 October 2020). "Pope Francis names 13 new cardinals, including Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington D.C." America. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  11. ^ Sanfrancesco, Antonio (11 November 2020). "Cantalamessa chiede al papa di non essere ordinato vescovo: "voglio morire con il saio"" [Cantalamessa asks the pope not to be consecrated bishop: "I want to take till the end the tunic"]. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  12. ^ Glatz, Carol (19 November 2020). "Majority of cardinals-designate expected to attend consistory". Crux. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Concistoro Ordinario Pubblico: Assegnazione dei Titoli, 28.11.2020". Holy See Press Office (in Italian). 28 November 2020. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Concistoro: padre Cantalamessa chiede la dispensa dall'ordinazione episcopale, "Voglio morire con l'abito francescano"" (in Italian). AgenSIR. 19 November 2020. Archived from the original on 19 November 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Pope's preacher compares abuse row to anti-Semitism". BBC News. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  16. ^ Pentin, Edward (2 April 2010). "What Fr. Cantalamessa Really Said". National Catholic Register. Archived from the original on 6 April 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  17. ^ Cantalamessa, Raniero. "Good Friday 2013, Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord, Homily of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap". Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  18. ^ Zahorian, Ashley (18 December 2021), The Preacher to the Popes: Raniero Cantalamessa (Documentary, Biography), CMAX Media, retrieved 14 January 2023
  19. ^ "Bibliography". Cantalamessa.org. Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2011.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Alfredo Marchesi
Preacher for the Papal Household
23 June 1980 – present
Preceded by Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Apollinare
alle Terme Neroniane-Alessandrine

28 November 2020 – present