Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (born July 22, 1934) is an Italian Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and theologian. He has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
Early life and education
Raniero Cantalamessa was born in Colli del Tronto, Italy on July 22, 1934. He was ordained as a priest in the Franciscan Capuchin order in 1958. 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.
Preacher to the Papal Household
In 1980, Cantalamessa was appointed the Preacher to the Papal Household by Pope John Paul II. He has remained in this position under the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. In this capacity, he provides meditations to the Pope and other high-ranking officials each Friday during Lent and Advent, and is "the only person allowed to preach to the Pope."
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.
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". 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. A Vatican spokesman, Father 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".
On March 29, 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 St 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'." This representation of St Francis is controversial, given that Francis of Assisi was not a reformer, and neither liturgical reform nor canon law was a particular focus of his missionary work. St Francis is better known for founding three religious orders, including an enclosed religious order for women.
Father Cantalamessa is the author of several books on theological and spiritual topics. A selection follows:
- 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)
- "Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap". Cantalamessa.org (in Italian). Retrieved March 13, 2013.
- Hocken, Peter D. (2002). "Cantalamessa, Rainero". In Stanley M. Burgess. The new international dictionary of Pentecostal and charismatic movements. (Rev. and expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House. p. 454. ISBN 0310224810.
- "Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap". Cantalamessa.org. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
- "Call for Church sex abuse penance". BBC News. December 15, 2006. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- "Pope's preacher compares abuse row to anti-Semitism". BBC News. April 2, 2010. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- Pentin, Edward (April 2, 2010). "What Fr. Cantalamessa Really Said". National Catholic Register. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- Cantalamessa, Raniero. "Good Friday 2013, Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord, Homily of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap". Retrieved March 30, 2013.
- "Bibliography". Cantalamessa.org. Retrieved January 3, 2011.