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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Sunday, April 06, 2008  

Merry del Val: Cardinal, Fan

From the NY Times, Feb. 12, 1914:


Cordially Greets Giants and White Sox and Praises Athletic Sports.

By JOHN J. McGRAW, Manager New York Giants.
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

ROME, Feb. 11. -- The American world's touring baseball party, comprising the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox, with a number of friends, had a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican at 11 o'clock A.M. to-day. It was an impressive affair, all the men being in full dress and the ladies attired in black. They assembled in the throne roome and were escorted to the private chapel, where all knelt.

Then the Pope entered, smiled beneficently, and pronounced a blessing on all present and their families. The Pople thanked the Americans for their visit, and in a short address praised the practive of athletic sports for the strengthening of the body and at the same time the practice of religion to strengthen the soul. After imparting the Apostolic Benediction, the Pope placed his hand on the heads of the children of James Callahan and then left the room.

Dr. Charles O. Hern of the American College interpreted for the Pope. After the audience the party was escorted to the chamber of state, where they met Cardinal Merry del Val, who spoke knowingly of baseball. He expressed the opinion that it was more interesting and spectacular than cricket, and said he was pleased at meeting the stars of the American teams. The Cardinal wished all a pleasant stay in Rome and a safe return. The party was then escorted to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum...

* * *

Todd Flowerday notes Pope Benedict XVI will be saying Mass at the new ballpark in Washington, DC, and wonders when a sitting pope last saw a major sporting event in person.

If Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914) never saw a baseball game, he received some of the greatest baseball names of the age in private audience, including a honeymooning Connie Mack.

As it happened, Pius' secretary of state, Cardinal Merry del Val, pictured above, was a great fan of the game.

From the NY Times, July 15, 1913:


Manager of Giants' World Tour Finds Papal Secretary Well Posted.

CHICAGO, Ill., July 14. -- Dick Bunnell, manager of the Chicago White Sox-New York Giants world baseball tour, is in Berlin, preparatory to returning to the United States. According to a cablegram to The Chicago Daily News, Bunnell told that paper's Berlin correspondent that he found baseball "fans" in a most surprising place -- the Vatican.

"Through friends," said Mr. Bunnell, "I was introduced to Cardinal Merry Del Val, the Papal Secretary of State, and I was astonished to discover that the Cardinal was an ardent 'fan.' Though he is a Spaniard, he is acquainted with the names of the big League teams and those of most of the players. He knows the relative value of the men, the standing of the teams, and is keenly interested in the coming of the players to Rome. He told me that he believed he baseball well enough to umpire a game.

"I believe the Cardinal became acquained with baseball largely through Bishop Kennedy and Mgr. O'Hern of the American College. Through them he became interested in Charles A. Comiskey of Chicago, who, in a quiet way, has aided many charities. When the ball teams come to Rome they will certainly meet with success, as the games have influential backing.

* * *

While baseball had the Vatican's blessing, some in Rome had been wary, according to the Long Island Star-Journal of Feb. 1914:

In Rome, Pope Pius expressed the liveliest interest in baseball to a delegation of baseball dignitaries from America and laughingly regretted that the Vatican grounds were not big enough to permit an exhibition game for his benefit. After asking innumerable questions and having the fine points of the game explained to him by the experts, the Pontiff turned to Cardinal Merry del Val and ordered him to introduce baseball in all Catholic clubs where it was not already played.

Prior to this meeting, authorities in Rome had been alarmed by a too faithful translation of the vivid language (e.g., "Doyle died at the plate.") used by American baseball writers in describing the game to such an extent that they feared that any game between rival teams would outdo in horror and brutality anything that the old wall of Rome ever witnessed in the days of gladiators.

* * *

Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) was a remarkable figure who rose at an early age to the highest councils of the Vatican. Two items from Time Magazine in the '20s describe the cardinal who never -- as was widely expected -- became Pope himself:

"Del Val's Jubilee" (July 6, 1925)

"Merry del Val Jubilee" (Jan. 7, 1929)


The cardinal's Litany of Humility is posted by Tea at Trianon.

Zadok the Roman discovers a Merry del Val holy card.

The cardinal in stereoscope.

Print out your own Merry del Val holy card -- in Latin.


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