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Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (born July 22, 1934) is an Italian Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
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.
In 1980, Cantalamessa was appointed the Preacher to the Papal Household by Pope John Paul II. He has remained in this position under the pontificate of 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 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: